Vitabubooks Interview | Rosemary Ekosso
Rosemary Ekosso was born and grew up in Buea, Cameroon. She trained as a translator and interpreter. After working for Cameroon government bodies from 1996 until 2003, she joined the international civil service. The House of Falling Women is her first novel.
Vitabu Books: What are you working on now?
Rosemary Ekosso: I am working on my second novel which is about a woman who drifts into a Pentecostal church and then changes it in ways that neither she nor anyone else could have imagined. I enjoy thinking about the book and its plot and characters much more than I enjoy writing it! I am particularly interested in exploring how well the main character knows herself. I also want to depict a neighborhood in my hometown where we lived for a while and where I was very happy, so that’s largely where the novel is set.
My first novel, House of Falling Women, was published in 2008 and talks about a woman who wants to do good but who keeps coming up against her own personal needs and the opposition of society. It was nominated for the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize.
Vitabu Books: Tell us about some of your favorite books and characters.
Rosemary Ekosso: When I was growing up, there was always a dog-eared copy of a book by an African author somewhere in my circle of friends. I remember reading Jumai and the Dodo by Dorothy Wimbush and feeling that Jumai should not be punished for being too curious. That was, of course, because I was an inordinately curious child myself. But the most important book for me when I was growing up was Cyprian Ekwensi’s Burning Grass. I felt sorry for Jalla, who had the wandering disease, the sokugo. Even today, I still refer to any uncontrollable impulse as sokugo.
I read many other books, Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Jagua Nana, Weep Not Child, The River Between, The Passport of Mallam Illia, etc., and some of these I liked a lot and others no so much, but the saddest, most poignant book I’ve every read is Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine.
To be condemned, as Ihuoma is, by a jealous god to be his bride, not to know it, and therefore to condemn to death any man who loves you is to me, the greatest possible tragedy. It is like one of those diseases where your own immune system attacks you. And the feeling of powerlessness this engenders is unimaginable. Ihuoma will always embody, for me, the combination of great beauty and great sorrow that characterizes the women in true epics.
I read a great many Pacesetters in my teenage years but I can’t say a particular character stands out from that collection. It’s not that I did enjoy them. I did – immensely.
I read Mongo Beti’s The Old Man and The Medal, a translation of an original written in French. I liked Ebogo, the goat, for no other reason than that he has a name.
I am currently reading Eberekpe Wao’s Number Tense Dawning Street (only just started) and J. Nozipo Maraire’s Zenzele, and I am struck by the dignity of the mother character’s writing.
What attracts me most to a story is not so much the characters as situations and problems and how the writer crafts the characters so that they can deal with these situations and problems. Beauty of language is also a major factor in my enjoyment.
I feel much encouraged by the excellent showing of young African women writers of recent – Aminatta Forna, Ngozi Adichie, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, and others who follow in the footsteps of towering baobabs like Ata Aidoo, Yvonne Vera, and others.