Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

This is... Petina Gappah

Discover more about this outspoken prizewinning writer ahead of her talk this Brighton Festival (Sun 21 May)

On being labelled

“I’m not the voice of Zimbabwe; I can’t speak for every person in the country. I’m just a writer who is writing stories about Zim at the moment. I would like to be seen as a much more nuanced writer than just one who speaks truth to power. Plus, I don’t think terms like African writer or woman writer are helpful. It’s better just to focus on the content of the work.”

(from this 2015 interview)

On criticising NGOs in Zimbabwe

"I felt almost guilty about that because they are such an easy target – all these people who mean well but get it so awfully wrong! I am very cynical about the way Zimbabwe has become a project – it sometimes feels like the situation exists just so certain people can keep their jobs... One of the most abused job descriptions is that of “human rights defender” – we need to stop and ask, what is being defended, and what is not?"

On how her work as an international lawyer has influenced her writing

"...when I moved back to Zimbabwe in 2011 after years living in Geneva, I was amazed by the amount of space all the newspapers devoted to reporting crimes – both serious crimes and more opportunistic ones. It struck me that the criminal justice system links everyone together, from the top politicians to the street vendors – it cuts across the boundaries of race and class. So it was a theme that allowed me to build up a whole panorama of Zimbabwean society."

(from this 2016 interview)

On becoming a published author

"My first book, An Elegy for Easterly, was a collection of stories that sprung from a mini-life crisis. I had written all my life, I had just never shown anyone what I wrote, until 2006. That year, I woke up one day and panicked that, at 35, I might never achieve my dream of becoming a published author. So I forced myself to wake up early and write before I went to work. About 18 months later, I had a complete manuscript."

(from this 2016 column)

Petina will be discussing her works and writings on Sun 21 May, at Brighton & Hove High School, 3pm