Aspen’s Summer Words ushers in the origins of storytelling |

Aspen’s Summer Words ushers in the origins of storytelling

summit daily news

ASPEN ” Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival always has been a treat for readers and writers alike, but since organizers began adding a cultural theme, it’s become even more of a moving experience.

Whether it’s spending days listening to the lilt of Irish authors or hearing the rugged stories of American West writers, the festival brings people into new dimensions ” ones where they begin to hear themselves think with an Irish accent or with the thunder of a pioneer.

This year, June 24-28, the festival brings together some of the most compelling modern-day African storytellers. The five-day celebration of words will honor “Africa: The Origin of Stories” at the Belly Up in Aspen.

It will feature Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and legendary exiled author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and since music is such an integral part of African culture, the festival will offer a new musical component with world music phenom Habib KoitE.

“As the cradle of civilization, Africa has given birth to some of the richest and most diverse culture in history,” said festival executive director Lisa Consiglio.

“The Aspen Writers’ Foundation is proud to bring the stories and sounds of Africa to our local stages as we welcome the biggest names in African literature to Aspen.”

Recommended Stories For You

One of the authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer and Commonwealth Writers’ Prizewinner, just won one of Britain’s biggest literary prizes for women ” the 12th Orange Broadband Prize for her fiction book, “Half of a Yellow Sun.” It is a love story set in post-colonial Nigeria in the 1960s that revolves around a servant boy from a poor village, a middle-class woman who gives up her privileged life for a university professor and a shy Englishman who falls for the woman’s twin sister.

“It is astonishing, not just in the skillful subject matter, but in the brilliance of its accessibility,” said broadcaster Muriel Gray in a press release. “This is a moving, important book by an exciting author.”

Other festival-featured authors, Soyinka and Thiong’o, have been hailed as “giants of letters” on a scale with Hemingway and Faulkner. Soyinka is a Nobel Prize-winning playwright, poet and activist. His attempts for peace during his country’s civil war landed him in jail in 1967. Thiong’o has suffered for his writing as well; his criticism of colonial rule and abuses have led to trouble from Kenya’s authorities. Both speak for their relatively voiceless people.

Summer Words also offers booklovers opportunities to engage in intimate discussions with authors, gives behind-the-scenes glimpses into the publishing industry and offers after-parties, open mic events, concerts and book signings. For more information, visit

When: June 24-28

Where: Belly Up, 450 S. Galena St., Aspen

Single Tickets: $15-$20; five-day pass is also available

More info:

Aspen Summer Words will feature 26 authors, artists and speakers, including:

– Leila Aboulela: Sudanese author of The Translator” and winner of the inaugural Caine Prize for African Writing

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Nigerian author of “Purple Hibiscus” and Commonwealth Writers’ Prizewinner

– Alexandra Fuller: Best-selling author of the African memoir “Don’t Lets Go To the Dogs Tonight”

– Habib KoitÈ: Malian acoustic musician, an international star on the contemporary world music scene

– Binyavanga Wainaina: Kenyan-born, Caine Prize-winning fiction writer and author of “Discovering Home”

– Eight award-winning and best-selling authors who make up the Writing Retreat faculty

– Nine literary agents and editors from top publishing houses, agencies and magazines

– Two special guests: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Ken Adelman