Robert Sharp, comms manager at English PEN, warns that threats against authors are felt by the whole literary community: “It is always shocking when an author is threatened because of a character they have created. The threat against Chinelo Okparanta for creating gay Nigerian characters is not only an attack on the LGBTQ community, but on the creative imagination as well.”
He encouraged readers, translators and publishers outside Nigeria to support human rights by publishing, translating, reading the work of Nigerian authors who are writing about this issue: “That is a practical and targeted form of international intervention that avoids being patrimonious, and instead enriches literary culture everywhere.
“Throughout history, literature has always played a crucial part in campaigns for equality, and will do so again in the struggle for LGBTQ rights in Nigeria. Novels and short stories offer us the opportunity to empathise, reminding us of our shared humanity.”
One of my favourite examples of a book that inspires us to empathise is by another Nigerian-born writer, Buchi Emecheta. In The Ditch is the astonishing story of a black single mother, struggling to get by on a London council estate.