Which books have been important in your life? And how did you, the son of a peasant, get to write one in the Kenya of the ’60s?

While growing up, we had no books in Gĩkũyũ, my mother tongue. The Bible’s Old Testament became my book of stories. In high school, when I saw a library for the first time, I had the ambition to be able to read all the books in the world. But guess what? I couldn’t even finish reading all the books in that library! Later, in 1959, I went to Makrere University College in Kampala (Uganda) that was part of the University of London. In 1962, at the first conference of African writers coming together on the African continent, called the Makrere Conference of Writers of English Expression, Chinua Achebe looked at my manuscript of Weep Not… and made a few comments. Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart had been published a few years ago. He told his publishers about my book. It was an important moment in my life. George Lammings’s [an important figure in Caribbean literature] work has also been important for me.

Source: ‘My god is more of a god than your god is ungodly – the same applies to languages,’ says writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o | art and culture | Hindustan Times

Gwendolyn Brooks on Langston Hughes:

“I met Langston Hughes when I was sixteen. When I went to Metropolitan Community Church to show him some of my poems at the behest of my mother who accompanied me and saw to it that I did this. He was most kind and read the poems right there after his reading and told me that I had talent and that I should keep writing. Later I met him again because he came to a poetry workshop that a reader on the staff of Poetry Magazine had started at the Southside Community Center. Her name was Inez Cunningham Stark. And he attended one of the meetings. People who belonged to this group were Bill Couch, Margaret Burroughs, Fern Gayden, Margaret Cunningham, who is now Margaret Danner and Edward Bland. Langston Hughes was mostly excited about the work that we were reading and he predicted a beautiful future for all of us. Later on still I gave a party for him when I lived at 623 Sixty-third Street and there were about seventy-five people or so crowded into our little two room kitchenette, and nobody had a better time than Langston Hughes who was real “folk”. Never any airs or pomposities from him. And as you say, he has helped a great many young people. Showing interest in their work and encouraging them.”

Excerpted from Conversations With Gwendolyn Brooks