Sharon Dodua Otoo smilesLafayette welcomed novelist and political activist Sharon Dodua Otoo to campus this semester as the Max Kade Writer-in-Residence. Otoo writes prose, essays, and is editor of the English-language book series Witnessed (edition assemblage). Her first novellas, the things i am thinking while smiling politely and Synchronicity, were published in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Otoo won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2016 with the text “Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin.” Her first novel, Adas Raum, is written in German and was published in 2021 by S. Fischer Verlag. It is now available in English translation as Ada’s Room (Riverhead Books, March 2023) and as Ada’s Realm (MacLehose Press, April 2023). Ada’s Room, which tells the story of a reincarnated “Ada” through multiple points of view, was recently featured in a New York Times book review. 

Otoo is politically active with the registered associations Initiative Black People in Germany and Phoenix, and is associated with the Black queer feminist organization ADEFRA. In 2022 she curated the Black German Language Literature Festival “Resonanzen,” which could be translated as “Resonance.” Otoo is from Berlin, Germany, but during the spring semester is residing in the Max Kade Residence on McCartney Street. 

Otoo participated in a reading (in German and English) and discussion with remote guest panelists Prof. David Gramling (UBC) and Prof. Priscilla Layne (UNC at Chapel Hill) on the topic of literature, aesthetics, and social change in the German-speaking world, Europe, and the United States on March 21. Learn more about the event. 

Below, Otoo shares her thoughts on Lafayette and plans for the spring semester:

What literary projects are you working on currently?

I am working on a few projects at the moment, not all of them literary. However, my main priority is to complete work on my second novel. This will also be written in German, but one of the figures is an African American GI who moved to Germany just after World War II.

Tell us more about the reading and discussion occurring on March 21.

I’m grateful to Prof. Dennis Johannßen for inviting me to be the Max Kade Writer-in-Residence this year and for organizing everything, in particular the reading and discussion taking place on Tuesday. I know both Prof. David Gramling and Prof. Priscilla Layne personally—they are wonderful—so it promises to be a lively discussion. The event will begin with me talking a little bit about the novel Ada’s Room and reading two extracts from it. (I will read in German, and the English translation will be projected on the screen as a presentation.) Then there will be a discussion about various themes, including the significance of writing creative fiction in a language that is not my first language.

What is your favorite building on campus and why?

Unfortunately, I must admit, I am not familiar with many of the buildings, having only visited a few so far. I wouldn’t be able to say which one my favorite building is, but I have spent the most time in the Pardee Building. I also briefly visited the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights, where my event will be held. I found the library beautiful and plan to go back to have a closer look.

Are you teaching any classes as a guest lecturer?

Yes, as a visiting scholar I participate in the class GERM 423: Activism in the German-Speaking World. We meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, and discuss various literary and essayistic texts which I have chosen, to explore the theme The Art of Silence. It’s been fascinating to discuss various forms of silence in activism and in art with the students.

What has been your favorite experience so far living within the Lafayette community?

I am staying in Easton with my 10-year-old son; he goes to March Elementary School. Definitely his favorite experience has been traveling to school on the yellow bus every day! Again, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite experience, but my most memorable so far is the Escape Room at Bethlehem. We unfortunately did not make it out of The Pirate’s Chamber” within the time limit. This meant we had to walk the plank, so actually, I am a ghost!

Categorized in: Academic News, Featured News, German, Max Kade Haus, News and Features