Welcome to Amanya Maloba

Today I’d like to welcome a young American writer, Amanya Maloba, to the blog. Amanya’s book HARVEST was a grand finalist in the 2014 Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Award. Harvest-final-cover_frontI love the way Amanya uses food to explore a variety of topics about life and relationships. She has written a post about the different elements in the book, and how and why she came to write it.

Over to you Amanya (photo courtesy of Amongst the Wolves)Maloba120114

Harvest began as a checklist of all the foods that had powerful memory association, whether from my personal life or from stories I’ve heard and read. Though I didn’t set out to write a collection of vignettes, I found myself churning out short, highly sensory pieces that fit under the thematic umbrella of food. Though I started from a highly personal perspective, many foods have cultural and historical associations much richer than my own narrow scope.

I have always felt that time is a fluid concept and that as humans we have insight and responsibilities to time and spaces other than the ones in front of us. This sense of transience is exemplified with food—the cycle of planting, waiting, and harvesting shows continuity of life and how at any moment in the cycle there is a past and a future.

Throughout Harvest I played with the passage of time, setting the main character, Sukari, in times that reflect her personal and historical past. Since one of the goals with Harvest was to illuminate the anthropology of certain foods, there was a great deal of research involved in the process. At the time of writing, I had just finished reading a good deal about continuities between African and American cultures. I had unearthed for myself a wealth of seemingly national secrets about where so much of our everyday foods, music, and words came from and wanted to find a way to naturally integrate that into the sensual and colorful narrative. One such piece, “George Washington’s black-eyed peas,” blends together the historical facts that the first American president did use his slaves’ teeth for his dentures and did in fact plant 40 bushels of the crop on his plantations, with the emotional reactions of the President and the slave.  While the character voice remains the same despite crossing time and space boundaries, I made a deliberate effort not to take liberties with the facts. It was critical to me that this buried history of the people of the African Diaspora be preserved and presented in its true form.

I’m not the type of writer to set out with defined goals for characters or an exact storyline, so I gave myself a lot of freedom in penning Harvest. I encouraged myself to explore the corners of my creativity and treated the book as a total experiment. The only standards I held myself to were that Harvest must be honest at the personal, cosmic, and cultural levels, and that the stories and culture of the African Diaspora be honored. Recently, much attention has been justly given to the fact that in the United States there exists a war on black bodies. This war is as old as the stories in Harvest, and I’m proud to offer stories of abundance and love especially now as the 500-year-old whip continues to crack loudly on our backs.

If you’ve enjoyed Amanya’s post and would like to check out her book, you can find purchase links here

Amanya Maloba is a fashion writer, stylist, and published author. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. Her fashion writing and photography has appeared in numerous print and online publications including the Huffington Post, Refinery29, and CollegeFashionista. Amanya has also participated in style campaigns with Finish Line and eBay. Harvest, published in July 2014 by Vine Leaves Literary Journal, is Amanya’s first collection of fiction. Amanya’s style and writing is influenced by her Kenyan heritage as well as her time living in London and miscellaneous travels.

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5 Comments

  1. Debbie Young says:

    Interesting insights there, Lindsay, because I’ve got this book on my bedside table and am half way through it now! Great to “meet” you here, Amanya!

  2. Polly says:

    Not keen on the thought of a 500 year old whip continuing to lash…
    Interesting post and good to ‘meet’ Amanya.

  3. Maureen Hall says:

    I really didn’t believe that such prejudice could still exist in the 21st Century. That image of the 500 year old whip is so powerful! I didn’t think I’d be interested in a book about food, either. It’s now on my reading list! Thank you, Lindsay, for introducing me to another new book, and thank you, Amanya, for such an interesting, insightful blog. Looking forward to reading the book!

  4. Amanya says:

    Thank you, ladies! It is nice to ‘meet’ you all as well. The image of the whip is disturbing, but is the most accurate. Sad, yet true. I tried to illuminate the immense pain of this knowledge as well as the opposing, equally immense joy of the culture in Harvest.

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