JOY GAAMANGWE MOGAMI - Founder/Managing Editor AfricaInDialogue

1 What was the first book you read?


Uhm, total honesty? I actually don’t remember the first book I ever read. Sadly, I am one of those people who have a very selective memory. I am often shocked when people tell me events that happened three years ago. I don’t remember people’s names and faces and directions. It's really terrible. My memory works like this, I remember things that significantly shift me. I must have great feelings for that memory for me to easily pull it up.

So back to the book. The first book I ever read is actually my uncle’s dream book. He had this trunk filled with books where he wrote his dreams and interpreted them. At the time, I lived with my grandmother in rural Botswana. So my access to books was either the prescribed school texts or the few children’s book I could find at the village’s small library. So I spend the best part of my eighth solar return reading my uncle’s dream books. Does that count as a first book?

Otherwise, the first book outside that, that moved me or shaped my interest in literature is  Across the Bridge by Mwangi Gicheru. One time, still staying with my grandmother, I visited my rich cousins, who were also avid readers and had a couple of books. I saw this book, coverless and with a couple of tattered pages, abandoned in their yard. I borrowed  it and they told me I could have it forever. I went home and read it, I think more than a hundred times. It was the only book I had as my own, and also the only book that  had  people who looked and sounded like people I knew.

2. What’s your favorite quote from a book?

This one is also so difficult to answer. I don’t have a specific favorite quote  from a book. I am the kind of person who gets moved in the moment, and then moved some more by something else. If anything, I have favorite lines from movies, because I am a film-enthusiast. And this usually doesn’t necessarily reflect some deep, universal message. I like things because of the state I am at when I am experiencing them.

So for example my favorite film-line is “You are my favorite thing, my very favorite thing” from Fringe. It is my favorite TV series and I binge-watched it with my sister and the line means a lot to me because my sister is my very favorite thing.

3. Which book would you recommend to everyone?

I think everyone should read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is simply the greatest novel of all times. It is by far the most magical, expansive and holistic exploration of the realities and possibilities of human nature, experience and history. It has everything that we can call human experiences. It must be prescribed text for every human being!

4. What do you prefer reading: fiction or non-fiction and why?

Can we add the third option for both? Because I honestly prefer reading them both. The two nourish my creative soul differently but equally; I love the incredible, expansive, imagination of fiction and the direct, deeply searing humanness in non-fiction. I time-travel and live outside the time-space continuum with fiction and I am within the moment of now and inside time-space continuum with non-fiction. All these experiences are vital for my humanness.

5. What’s your favorite place to read a book?

I love reading in my bed, especially within the silence of midnight. A little light coming through, like I am the only person in the world, left to witness and become part of the world of the characters in my magic story book. 

6. What’s your favorite word in your native tongue and why?

My favorite word in Setswana is Loapi, which means Sky. I was that kid who was always rolling in the sun-burnt ground, moving my legs like an airplane, then lying sprawlessly there, looking up above the sky, for what seemed like forever,  wondering what lies there. What or who lives there? I was six or seven,  so I thought and spoke in Setswana only. I would say “Mme loapi, ke bo mang ba ba nna ko go wena?” --Ms Sky, who lives inside you?”.

I have since been haunted by a character named Loapi. I will write about her one day.

7. Which author, dead or alive would you like to have a conversation with?

Jane Roberts. She was an American poet, author and psychic. Her collection of forty and some philosophy books have been deeply shifting and transcendental for me. I think of myself as a mystic and so I saw myself in her work. I would love to ask her a dozen questions about what has been true for her about the nature and experiences of her psyche and reality.

8. Which three books should be mandatory for everyone?

1. The Nature of Personal Reality by Jane Roberts

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Marcia Marquez

3. Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma

9. Can you name a book that you’ve never read but always planned on reading some day?

Beloved by Toni Morrison. I got it a couple of years back after reading the great reviews from everyone. I planned on reading it and I always tell myself I will read it before end of year but somehow we are here and I still have not read it. I have this thing of where I have to be intuitively drawn to a book, where I know it's time to read it. It still hasn’t happen with Beloved. 

10. What do you look for in a book?

I want to be transcended. I want a book that deeply shifts me, alters how I see something; our everydayness, our humanness and our collectiveness. And perhaps and always, the alternative of things. The quantum of things. The mystery of things.  I love experiencing something I have never consciously thought of in a before. I like exploding my mind with expansive things.

11. Which book would you take with you to a deserted island?

The Nature of Personal Reality by Jane Roberts. It has everything I love in a book. Every page feels like someone is ripping my mind off with truly mind-boggling and altering alternatives of what I think is reality. The book is essentially about what this whole life reality thing is about. It goes down to all the constructs of life. From time to the consciousness. What are they? What are they for? And why are they here? I can spend my whole life reading and studying that in my deserted island.

12. What would the title of your memoir be?

That God Girl: The Life of Gaamangwe Joy Mogami. This title might change next year. I am currently all about God and being a good girl this year.

13. Which person do you know personally is the best storyteller, and why?

I think my dear friend, Gbenga Adesina is the best storyteller I know. The way he captures, as he likes to say, our everydayness is pure genius. I deeply connect with the lucidity and vividness of all his work. Even the way he speaks sounds like a dream. I am in awe of him.

14. What do you prefer: audio book or e-book?

I prefer an e book. I like the sound of my voice in my head as I read. I am more emerged in the story when I read myself.

15. What was your favourite African story growing up, and why?

I used to love the African mythology stories. I still do. My favourite story was told to me orally by many people. It was about a girl who fell in-love with a half-man, half-snake being. I loved it not so much for the details but rather for its mysticism. I used to order people to tell me the story, over and over again. My thought: how will that half-man, half-snake look like? What will it be like if this was real? And that how my love  for fantasy started.


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