Author and climate change scholar, Habiba Ahut Daggash, is producing African scholarship in a field otherwise dominated by Western scientists. ‘A Eurocentric perspective of what is possible and acceptable,’ she explains, ‘has dominated the discourse and this has led to many books proclaiming “global solutions” to climate change.’
Our questions are italicized.
What books or kinds of books did you read growing up?
My daily schedule growing up in Maiduguri, in north-eastern Nigeria included attending school in the daytime, Islamiyya (as Islamic schools are called in the north of the country) in the late afternoon, and extra lessons at home for either or both in the evenings. As you might expect, there wasn’t much time to develop a reading habit outside my textbooks. Ideal weekend afternoons that weren’t spent in lessons or playing with friends were spent flicking through the publications I could find around the house. My dad is an architect and was a public servant for many years. He often returned from work or travel with troves of newspapers, architecture and lifestyle magazines—Conde Nast publications, The Economist, GQ and the like—and stacked them in his sitting room or private study.
My parents also invested in a lot of general knowledge books (encyclopaedias, factbooks, National Geographic) that filled the shelves of our playroom. My mum’s library consisted mostly of biographies, world history and Islamic theology volumes which looked clunky and boring; only the most uninspiring of Maiduguri days compelled me to skim through them. Unfortunately, it took the completion of my Master’s degree—my final departure from the world of engineering textbooks—to begin to read for pleasure. Despite my younger self not being an avid reader, the stacks of books that now litter my bedroom—from Gai Eaton to William Dalrymple to Lang Leav—show that the few moments that I had with books in my childhood may have instilled a latent curiosity that is finally being satisfied.
If you could rewrite a classic book/text, which would it be and why?