Afia Atakora Recommends...

“Read. That’s the advice we give to writers, whether they’re young, or just starting out, or stymied by writer’s block. I’ve gotten this advice a lot, I’ve given it too, but for the longest time I took it to mean that I had to collect classic stories and well-critiqued narratives, horde the respected and unknown. The best book was the one I hadn’t read yet and only with a brimming awareness of everything written could I then go ahead and add my own humble scribbles.

It was, of all things, binge-watching, that disabused me of my habit towards ‘reading widely,’ and ultimately blindly. Particularly in quarantine, I found myself turning on my TV with the same aspirational expectations: Why not watch all those old black-and-white classics that film scholars laud? I did no such thing. I put on my standbys, the timeworn rewatches that have sat faithfully in my queue. My personal classics felt like reuniting with the old friends I can’t see right now. So I say this: Reread, or pick up something new for the sake of loving it. I won’t call it a guilty pleasure because there ought not be guilt. A comfort read. There’s a lot to be learned from the things we personally enjoy, and an important lesson for writers that can only come from the honest effort of reading something just for the love of it.”
—Afia Atakora, author of Conjure Women (Random House, 2020)