Tourists planning to visit the new Museum of Black Civilization in Dakar, Senegal should also take a moment to check out Chez Alpha Books, an English bookstore committed to writers from The Diaspora, fiction /
Chez Alpha Books is an African-American/Senegalese venture led by Angela Franklin-Faye, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio living in Dakar. Historically Senegal is a Francophone country, yet several years ago Franklin started selling books in English. She comments, “It was never about one language having priority over another. At that time, there was a growing interest in English, and we wanted to be able to provide a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction books to that audience as all the bookstores in Dakar were selling books in French. Also, the diverse and empowering stories we wanted to share were more easily accessible in English. At present, Chez Alpha Books is adding more titles in Wolof, French, Arabic and other languages that reflect the stories and images we want to share with our reading community.”
Committed to community engagement and outreach, Chez Alpha Books works hard to coordinate activities that further encourage reading. In 2018, they organized book launches for two new novels that have achieved great acclaim, The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Haruna Attah and Fisherman’s Blues by Anna Badkhen. School visits, public readings, discussions with book clubs and radio interviews were just a few events coordinated around these novels.
Franklin adds, “We are fortunate to have authors and publishers from different countries on the continent reach out to share information about their books. Then we work hard to try to find a way to get those books on our shelves.”
In addition, Chez Alpha Books intends to expand their ability to distribute books to other organizations in Senegal. Client feedback and positive response has been core to the ongoing growth of Chez Alpha Books. Shelves are lined with African classics by Chinua Achebe, Mariama Ba and Cheikh Anta Diop while also displaying works from new writers, along with hard to find novels and fiction/nonfiction books that “decolonize” history and provide an authentic perspective on African civilizations.
In her book store, books like African Cosmos, The Blacks of Premodern China and Luta Continua Introducing Amilcar Cabral to a New Generation of Thinkers intermingle with Frantz Fanon’sBlack Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth. Fiction works of Alain Mbanckou, Vamba Sherif, Laila Lalami, Nadifa Mohamed, Nisi Shawl
Chez Alpha books credits the works of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie for encouraging an increased interest in African fiction and also works by women writers. Ramatoulaye Ka, a staff member at Chez Alpha Books is excited to see the community responding to the fiction literature saying, “We wanted to grow an audience of people who read for pleasure and not just for business or academic studies. Our reading audience is incredibly diverse including Senegalese, African expats, readers from The Diaspora along with an international community that spans Finland, UK, the Middle East, US and Spain to name a few.”
Chez Alpha Books also feels their role is growing as an agent of intercultural discourse. Senegalese come in requesting Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, titles by James Baldwin, Orientalism by Edward Said or American Marriage by Tayari Jones, while visiting African-Americans arrive looking for books by Aime Cesaire, Amos Tutuola, and Mariama Ba along with stories about Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: The African Princess, Florida Slave, and Plantation Owner.
The Museum of Black Civilization began as an idea proposed by Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal’s first president over 50 years ago, therefore it is only fitting that in the children’s section at Chez Alpha Books there is a beautiful book about his life. The museum is dedicated to “decolonizing African knowledge” and hosts artifacts and exhibitions representative of both continental Africa, and its diaspora. The museum’s first exhibitions showcase works of artists from Mali and Burkina Faso as well as from Cuba and Haiti. The diaspora in Brazil and the United States are also represented in the museum’s collection.
Director, Angela Franklin is also a noted visual artist with her work being selected for DakArt 2018 and exhibits both in the US and internationally. An avid reader and innovative entrepreneur, she earned her Bachelor in Art at Xavier University, Cincinnati; a Master in Fine Arts from Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois; and a Master in Education Leadership and Online Education from Hamden Bin Mohammed Smart University in Dubai. She states, “Dividing my time between the US; Dakar, Senegal and Abu Dhabi, UAE has exposed me to a wealth of great books and my goal is to share each and every one of them.”
Proud of what she has accomplished, Franklin believes that if you visit Dakar for one week or one month, adding Chez Alpha books to your “places to visit list” is a must!
For more details, visit Chez Alpha Book’s official web site at www.chezalphabks.com or contact Ramatoulaye Ka via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.