First Time

When I was a sophomore in college, our class was assigned Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People for our African Literature course. I went to get my copy at the English Bookshop, which back then was on Zanqat Al-Yamama, across from the train station in downtown Rabat, right behind what used to be the British Council building. The bookseller had ran out of new copies, so I bought a used one–printed by Heinemann in 1982. A Man of the People was a revelation for me; it spoke to me like few books had until then (or since, for that matter.) I went back to the store and bought the other works of Achebe’s that I could find, including, of course, Things Fall Apart.

I’ve been scavenging bookstore shelves for titles from the Heinemann African Writers Series for a while, but I finally gave up and ordered many of the ones I hadn’t yet read from an online site. But what’s strange is that I tend to prefer to buy the orange-covered editions–maybe because I’m hoping to replicate that feeling of discovery I had with Achebe or because I’m hoping to fall into these books in the same way I have fallen into A Man of the People. There hasn’t been anything like that first time, though.