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There Are Two Nigerian Authors On President Obama’s Favorite Tradition’s List!

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When it comes to books, there are multiple characteristics that make them someone’s favorite. It is not just about the cover but the quality of content and the message it delivers. The rising trend of reading has taken over the globe during the last two years.

Sharing your favorite books on social media has become the “new cool” and gives a whole new idea of someone’s personality. Many public figures have been keeping up with the new trends.

While the whole world has been sharing their special memories of 2018, the former American president is no exception. On his Instagram last year, Barack Obama shared his list of preferred books and called them a “favorite tradition”.

The list includes two Nigerian books, ‘Americana’ by Chimamanda Adichie and ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe. Being the only two authors from Nigeria hitting the list, they caught the attention of the public eye worldwide.

Critiques across the globe highly praise “Americana”. The other one “Things Fall Apart” is considered as the king of African literature. This 60-year-old publication is the most well-read book in African prose.

The crown of a favorite book of the year goes to ‘Becoming’. An autobiography written by his beloved, Mitchel Obama, is without a doubt, captivating. Obama mentioned the title with a side note “obviously my favorite”.

“It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books, movies, and music that I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved,” noted the former U.S president during his announcement.

“It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors, artists, and storytellers – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before.”

The annual lists posted by Obama reflect an extensive range of films, movies, and books from around the planet. Hitting multimillion likes and views, these posts give people a chance to encounter the famous personalities’ preferences.

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Arts & Culture

Interview with Tim Crothers, Author of ‘Queen of Katwe’

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Ugandan national chess champion Phiona Mutesi arrives at the world premiere of Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” at Roy Thompson Hall

Ugandan national chess champion Phiona Mutesi arrives at the world premiere of Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” at Roy Thompson Hall

Africa in general has its fair share of underdogs who rise up above tough circumstances to do extraordinary things and Phiona Mutesi is one of them. Her living situation was dire, she smelled so badly as a survival tactic to avoid the possibility of getting molested in the street. Today her story will be gracing the silver screen.

Queen of Katwe is a 2016 biographical sports drama film that depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess player from Katwe who becomes a Woman Candidate Master after her performances at World Chess Olympiads. The film stars David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, and Madina Nalwanga.

The film is produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN Films, and will be released in North America today, September 23, 2016, and will be followed by a general theatrical release on September 30.

Phiona Mutesi’s story would not have gotten the attention it deserved if it were not for Tim Crothers, a former Sports Illustrated senior writer who wrote Mutesi’s story in an article that appeared in ESPN Magazine’s Jan. 10, 2011 edition.

When Tim Crothers first met Phiona Mutesi in Uganda, she was very shy and not comfortable with talking about herself. It took a game of chess between Crothers and Mutesi in Siberia, where the 2010 Chess Olympiad was taking place, to break the ice.

“To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. And finally, to be female is to be an underdog in Katwe.”

Tim Crothers, ESPN the Magazine, “Game of Her Life”

Today, what was once an article of an underdog in the slums of Uganda has morphed into a book and a movie. Proceeds from both mediums have changed Phiona’s life for the better as has the lives of those who draw inspiration from her story.

AV: What inspired you to write a story about Phiona Mutesi?

Tim Crothers: When I first heard the story of a 9-year-old girl who was basically homeless in a Ugandan slum, couldn’t read or write and was essentially homeless suddenly stumbling upon the game of chess, a game so foreign there is no word for it in her native language, and four years later becoming an international chess champion I couldn’t wait to find out more details. I love stories of underdogs and Phiona is the ultimate underdog.

AV: Why is the book titled “Queen of Katwe”?

Tim Crothers: It’s a play on the game of chess and the fact that the queen is the most powerful piece on the board, but I had no idea when I wrote the book that Phiona would actually become an important female voice in Katwe and all over Uganda, really. So she really could become the queen of Katwe.

AV: Did Mutesi’s story change you?

Tim Crothers: Of course. Just having the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time changed me. The experience has redefined the meaning of the word “hope” in my eyes. Phiona had no reason for hope, yet she never gave up, never surrendered despite her desperate circumstances and I love to visit Katwe because of the hope I always see there despite the trying circumstances.

AV: With the movie coming out this week, what will you like the audience to take away from this story?

Tim Crothers: I hope audiences will see that you should always dream big. Most girls in Katwe aren’t encouraged to dream, but Phiona was given a chance to dream by Robert Katende and his chess program and once she was allowed to have a dream, she has pursued it relentlessly even when it seemed impossible. All of us should pursue our own dreams with that level of hope and faith

AV: Did you approach Disney or did Disney approach you on this story?

Tim Crothers: Disney approached me to option the story for the film. At first, I wasn’t sure that it would ever be made into a film, but Disney obviously saw the power of Phiona’s story and transformed my book to the screen expertly and beautifully.

AV: How will you describe the transformation you now see in Phiona as compared to your first encounter?

It is hard to believe that Phiona is the same girl that I first met in 2010. At that time she was a shy 14-year-old who wouldn’t look me in the eye and answered my questions with one word whenever possible. At that time she had only left the Kampala area once in her life. Now she is a poised, confident, curious 20-year-old who asks me more questions than I ask her. She has traveled to Russia, Norway, Turkey, Dubai, Azerbaijan, all over Africa and several times to the U.S. All of that travel has helped her mature very quickly.

Tim Crothers' family with Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi

Queen of Katwe Author, Tim Crothers’ family with Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi

 

The Movie

 

Disney Queen of Katwe Production

Tendo Nagenda

Queen of Katwe comes out in select theaters today. The authenticity of the story on the big screen was made possible by Disney’s senior executive, Tendo Nagenda, whose father is Ugandan. After Disney optioned the rights to do the movie, it was Nagenda who developed the project into production working with Director Mira Nair. This is Disney’s first feature film that is not about animals in the jungle.

‘Queen of Katwe’ movie Trailer

Editor’s Note

Africa has it’s fair share of strife but with it comes stories that will inspire, stories to be celebrated, people to be revered. This is one such story and it is our hope that it will encourage many others to be told, stories that are uplifting and shift from the typical themes that often shape how the continent is perceived. While the responsibility remains primarily ours as Africans, it is important to also celebrate those who trouble themselves to tell our stories authentically, showing how we as Africans pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make the most of our circumstances.

– Belle Niba

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