By Bridget Ankunda
The third edition of the book event Books and Brunch happened, two Sundays ago, on Valentine’s Day. I was attending for the second time, and I finally identified the specific quality it had to it, that had should not have surprised me and yet it did. It is the idea that books are cool.
Let me explain.
I can remember vividly, the painful moments from my teenage years, when I had to literally bite my tongue rather than let it slip that I read for leisure in front of whatever pimply fifteen-year old boy I was trying to impress. If you were a teenager who loved to read, that last sentence rings a bell.
A few years have passed and dear reader; both you and I have changed. Gone are the days when the girls who read books apparently did so because that was the only place where their butterflies amounted to anything and the boys hid behind pages because they were too shy to approach girls (unless the boy was also part of the Debate Club. Of course, that changed everything. That kind of boy was usually a hybrid; comfortable in a library and comfortable when they said “Now mix up! Sit boy/girl, boy/girl”).
Now we have grown. Our pubescent stages make for uncanny memories; our confidence has ‘kind of’ elevated and we are slightly more mature (we understand that we are more than the books we read and other people are more than the books they do not read). Yet events like Books and Brunch still manage to surprise me.
I realise that books are cool. Stylish people read them too; they walk into the gates at Brisk Lounge and head for the tables set up by local book exhibitors like FEMRITE, Mahiri Books, The Creaking Bookshelf, Enjuba books, African Writers’ Trust and Kitara Nation.
Cool people come in with lists of the books they wish to purchase and are accosted by the variety: novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, biographies, children’s books, most of them African. This re-defining of ‘coolness’ is probably not what one expects to hear when they ask me about Books and Brunch, but it is what I say. I say, “Loving books is normal. These beautiful people do it. It might even be cool; Canary Mugume does it too.” And for me, that is no minuscule utterance. It is a grand statement that my inner child jumps at.
Before you ask, there were also attractions that appealed to the (elusive) adult in me. The fact that the Books and Brunch events provide a physical space for online bookstores to display their books cannot be appreciated too much. (The Creaking Bookshelf and Mahiri Books operate online, mainly on social media platforms).
Secondly, the bar at Brisk Lounge came up with amazing drinks special for the event. The menu boasts of cocktails named after great African books; ‘No Roses From My Mouth’, ‘Things Fall Apart’, ‘The River Between’ obviously make the list. So you can read ‘Kintu’ by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, but you can also drink it. (‘Kintu’ is, of course, served in a calabash. Impressive, no?)
There. Now you know who my Valentine was and you have a few reasons to pass by Brisk Lounge the next time you hear about Books and Brunch. I should add that you will not only stock up on lovely bookmarks (which you usually get with your purchase) but the setting is perfect for meeting the kind of people you may have longed for in secondary school. And there is food. Did I mention that? There is food!
(Bridget Ankunda is the author of the poetry collection DON’T LOVE ME IN ENGLISH (kitara Nation, 2020).
Canary Mugume with the much anticipated: Anthem for Africa by Professor Timothy Wangusa