Africa, especially Nigeria, is well-known for producing some of the greatest writers in the world. From the days when icons like Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, Flora Nwapa, Wole Soyinka, Buchi Emecheta, Sefi Atta, and Cyprian Ekwensi placed the country on the world map forever, commanding international respect as writers to be reckoned with, the country has waxed strong in producing excellent writers, especially the new generation of young writers who are a force to be reckoned with.
Nigeria’s history of being the source of young talented writers is not a recent phenomenon. Rather, young Nigerian writers have continuously carved out a path for greatness and continue to do so even in the days of no internet. In examining the roots of how young writers came to become well-known internationally, one must go back in time to classic young writers like Adaeze Atuegwu, who made waves in the country at an early age.
Adaeze Atuegwu, born in 1977, and grew up in Enugu, Enugu State, was a 17-year-old teenage girl who wrote seventeen books between 1994-1995. Due to her age at the time of publication as well as the sheer number of books she published at that age, Atuegwu was officially referred to as Nigeria’s youngest and most prolific author by those in academia, private, and public sectors. Atuegwu was regarded to have accomplished a feat that was uncommon as no other Nigerian writer had come close to writing and publishing seventeen books before their eighteenth birthday.
Atuegwu’s first book, “Fate” was published in 1994 by Fourth Dimension Publishers notable for publishing writers such as Chinua Achebe. One can say that Atuegwu ushered the age of teenage and young adult writers getting national and international recognition.
Although Atuegwu started writing as a child, she wrote the seventeen books that brought her to fame under eight months between June 1994 and January 1995 while still fulfilling other obligations of school and her studies.
Atuegwu’s other books include the popular “Bina Series” (Bina and the Birthday Cake, Bina and the Sailboat, Bina at the Beach, Bina at the Supermarket, Bina at the Airport), The Lizzy Series, The Magic Leaf, The Adventures of Nnanna, Chalet 9, Tears, and My Husband’s Mistress. Her books range from children’s books to young adult novels and plays.
Adaeze Atuegwu’s mega 17-book launch in 1996 was widely successful, leading to her books officially being adopted by state governments as reading material in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions for decades, and collectively selling millions of copies– making Atuegwu one of the youngest best-selling authors in the literary world. Just like the unique feat of publishing seventeen books at seventeen years old, Atuegwu had sold millions of books as a teenager, something that is uncommon for young writers.
Atuegwu received many recognitions and awards for her contribution to literature and the advancement of writing in the youth population. She is one of the youngest persons to win three consecutive Rotary International Club awards – Award for Creativity (1994), Award for Fostering Child Development (1995), and Award for Excellence in Writing (1996). She is also a winner of a 1993 World Health Day essay contest, and she received an Award for Creativity from Rotaract International in 1996.
Following Atuegwu’s success in the late nineties and early 2000s, more young writers gradually emerged, marking their place in the literary world. Atuegwu is still regarded as the youngest most prolific writer in Nigeria as well as one of the best-selling authors in the continent; a few younger Nigerian writers have also emerged over time, and they are making history at their own pace.
As the international community continues to look upon Nigeria as a pillar of good writing and literature, more young talented writers who are not afraid to share their work with the rest of the world will continue to emerge and shape the future of writing and authorship in the younger generation.