Books for Africa

I collect books. In fact, I spend more on books than on anything else. And so I’m interested in people who work with books. Especially books for Africa.

Enter Books4Cause: an organization that collects books from the States to distribute in Africa and similar regions. It is crush-worthy.

Except we learn: Older books that are a few years out of date are perfect for Africa. Newer books are often sold to raise money and cover the cost of shipping and running the book drive.

Poor Africans. Not quite now.

Do folks who write these things know that we have internet in Africa? And that we actually read what they write?

I’m too exhausted by this shit to be pissed.

9 thoughts on “Books for Africa

  1. My friend, the world is full of such “good” will. Not sure whether it would be better for everyone to stick to their own devices. There is a simple solution, though. Don’t accept second hand gifts, or any gifts for that matter. Thus we avoid idiots getting to feel good about their stupidity, at least.

  2. I should note that I came across this site because a group affiliated with it sent an email to my campus address–and I’m assuming other faculty at UMD–to announce they were collecting books to donate to Ghana. I’m struck that I didn’t go searching for this; it wasn’t entirely random; it was a targeted email sent to university faculty in the U.S. There’s something about the politics of that I’d probe had I time, but, as I said, this shit makes me tired.

    I think it’s relatively easy to advocate refusing such gifts, but that does not account for massive inequities in power. i can afford to refuse such gifts because I buy my own new and used books. But the various structures of aid and donation (see my friend Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg’s blog on this) make such gifting unavoidable.

    Hey, Wanjiru, where are you? Want to chime in on this?

  3. huh? oh hi there!
    (wakes up from dozing at the back of the classroom :)

    I could say at least its not underwear!
    There is an org that is giving Africans underwear!

    And there was the 1 million Tshirts debacle on Twitter.

    Even worse for me is the philathrocapitalist trend of buying additional crap in the guise of giving to the needy. Anyone seen the youtube Video of Zizek titled first as tragedy, then as farce? Its amazing!

    My own thoughts on the topic are evolving. I’ve blogged about power and privilege last year: https://savingafrica.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/power-and-privilege-in-philanthropy/

    I think I would temper some of what I wrote/said a bit but likely not by much.

    Honestly, it does get exhausting to play whac-a-mole with bad philanthropy towards Africa. And mind you Africans are also guilty of reproducing the same messed up power dynamics!

    Recently I’m focusing a lot more on building African change agents through my work with Akili Dada (www.akilidada.org). It seems to me that young women like Faith, Gloria, and Sharon are the best antidote to this mess! (http://www.akilidada.org/what-we-do/our-impact/)

    • This is true, books are better than underwear. I suppose the main problem I have (apart from the logistical inefficiency of collecting anything in this way, even if it could be proven to be needed) is the randomness of it.

      I have hundreds of random, mostly used, books on my shelves. And I do enjoy browsing through really old books. But the very idea that a community somewhere could get by with a big pile-a-books on any random subject is just absurd.

  4. I wish we didn’t have to have conversations like, “sending books is better than sending underwear”! Ew.

    As everyone on this thread knows, sending either of those things (and most things donated as gifts in kind) overseas is the *least* efficient way to use the money and time of people who genuinely want to help support these communities. Donating books to your local library or selling them to raise funds to support a cause are both more productive options.

    We know this, but clearly that’s not enough. How do we get the people running and supporting these initiatives to know it too?

  5. Several of you sound like some well fed………… Someone provided you with the books that you used for your education. It would be a great act if you could provide someone else with similar oportunity. The language used in this thread indicates that you (all) are not acquinted with the effort being made by many, internationally, to create a reding culture in Africa.May I invite all those interested to come to Kenya and view the Activities of the Rural Reading Centers Africa.(RRCA)

    Mr. Joe Turner, I will take all the books you have. Just let me know where they are and I will come for them. Angela, if providing easy access to books, second hand or otherwise, to readers in rural Kenya makes me an idiot, I will be one any time. Samantha Burton, you can trust that whatever you may contribute to the efforts of RRCA will be adeptly used to create a reading culture in Kenya. Wanjiru Kamau, I would like to know more about “www.akilidada.org”. May be we can team up.

    Really, I do invite those of you who are serious to come and see what RRCA has accomplished. I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is. After all it is our duty tyo assist those who are less fortunate.
    COME AND SEE.

    • [blockquote]Several of you sound like some well fed [/blockquote] This is an assumption. You know nothing about me, Phillip.

      [blockquote]Someone provided you with the books that you used for your education. It would be a great act if you could provide someone else with similar oportunity. The language used in this thread indicates that you (all) are not acquinted with the effort being made by many, internationally, to create a reding culture in Africa.May I invite all those interested to come to Kenya and view the Activities of the Rural Reading Centers Africa.(RRCA) [/blockquote] This is an ad hominem argument. Nobody is disputing the value of books in Africa. What is being disputed is the value of collecting used books in one country and shipping them to an African country. Even if you could get to me in my country and even if the books on my shelf were of value to someone, the money you have spent to collect and sort my books, to transport and to distribute them could have been spent on new and relevant books. Isn’t this obvious?

      [blockquote]Really, I do invite those of you who are serious to come and see what RRCA has accomplished. I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is. [/blockquote] And I challenge you to take your fist out of your mouth as you’re not making any rational sense at the moment.

      By all means collect money and buy the books that are needed in Africa. But do not try this old-and-tired line that suggests shipping any-old-crap to Africa is somehow angelic, sustainable or cost-effective when any idiot could tell you why it was none of those things.

  6. Philip,

    Thanks for your comment. May I add some context?

    I know some of the commentators on this thread are teachers, and we know that knowledge changes over time. Books with outdated knowledge can do more harm than good. History books from the U.S. south in the 60s were still peddling the lie that slavery was fun for slaves. And it does not benefit students to read books that claim the world has two superpowers: the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. or that Ronald Reagan is president. Indeed, outdated knowledge can be very harmful, even and especially to the underprivileged, because it maintains a knowledge gap that reifies class distinctions.

    More broadly, I do believe in books for Africans. But those books should be the same ones that *I* am reading and that the middle classes around the world are reading. When I donate books–and I do–I buy new books–because I think it’s important for those being served with books to have the pleasure of owning and using new books, not old, out of date, or even used ones. Now, I certainly also own a lot of used books, mostly of works out of print, but, we are arguing against the idea that Africans do not merit new books or new ideas or new items.

    I’m glad your association exists and I’d like to learn more about it.

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