‘I Want My Writing to Sound on Paper How It Sounds in My Head and Heart’ Oluwatomisin Olayinka Oredein’s First Draft

Academic and author of The Theology of Mercy Amba Oduyoye: Ecumenism, Feminism, and Communal Practice, Oluwatomisin Olayinka Oredein, tends to pay less attention to books that fail to enhance her work: ‘I would leave behind any book that denies the diverse richness of African perspectives and various forms of Blackness, that relegates Christianity to Western forms, and that tries to suffocate the poetic and its expressive reach.’

Editor’s note: This essay is available in our print issue, An African Feminist Manifesto. Buy the issue here.

First Draft is our interview column, featuring authors and other prominent figures on books, reading, and writing.

Our questions are italicized.

What books or kinds of books did you read growing up?   

As someone who identifies as Nigerian-American, growing up in the US, I loved reading American mystery books! There was something about the problem-solving inclinations, the cleverness, and the attention to detail in these books that resonated with who I was: someone who was always trying to solve something about my own life or about what was happening in the life (internal and external) of another. Though I felt pressure to read classic literature such as Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, the Illiad, or any and all Shakespeare in order to be considered a ‘proper’ student of English, I could never convince myself to engage books, literature, and poetry that did not first draw me to itself. In my teenage years, I also felt compelled to read books about Black girls, books that even if I did not understand them completely, I could sense were important to my development, such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye 

In your earliest days as a theology student, what books were foundational to your study and research?   

I entered divinity school knowing that I had questions about the Christian faith, especially from my identity as Nigerian-American. Exposure to womanist theological, ethical, and biblical scholarship from voices such as Delores S. Williams (Sisters in the Wilderness), Emilie Townes (Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil), Katie Geneva Cannon (Katie’s Canon), Kelly Brown Douglas (Sexuality and the Black Church), M. Shawn Copeland (Enfleshing Freedom), and Renita Weems (Just a Sister Away) literally changed my life and perspective. Black liberation theology also opened my eyes! James Hal Cone’s works (A Black Theology of Liberation; God of the Oppressed; The Cross and the Lynching Tree) gripped me and did not let me go...

This interview features in our print issue, ‘An African Feminist Manifesto’ and is only available online to paying subscribers. To continue reading register for a free trial and get unlimited access to The Republic for a week!Already a subscriber? Log in.