By Mehmet Solmaz
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AA) - Every Mirror She's Black, the debut novel by Nigerian writer and photographer Lola Akinmade Akerstrom, explores the lives of three Black women and their everyday experiences in Stockholm, a predominantly white city.
In an interview with Anadolu, Akerstrom said publishing houses in Sweden have refused to publish the book in Swedish, saying the public might feel uncomfortable with the content.
After many rejections, a publisher agreed to go forward under the condition that Akerstrom take some things out and make some changes to the book.
“We did have a Swedish publisher that said before they can publish it, they would like me to take out some scenes and make some changes so that they feel more comfortable, and I said no.”
Despite the rejections, Akerstrom doesn’t feel put off and hopes to introduce her book to Swedish readers.
Speaking about the novel, Akerstrom said the book “transcends culture, class and career.”
“So it’s showing very different contexts in life where they're still battling some of the same feelings: isolation, exclusion and trying to integrate or assimilate. So that was what the book really was about -- to show in a very raw and honest way all the great parts of the country but as well as all the parts of the country that need work on, that need to function better, so we all feel like we belong. And the book is doing really well all around the world but has not been published in Sweden yet.”
Giving an example from one of the characters in the book, a Somali refugee, Akerstrom says the fictional person Muna strives to feel that she is part of the society.
"She wants to feel acknowledged. She does everything she can. She learns the language, but it's still not enough," she says, adding that recognition and appreciation is a basic human expectation in a functioning society.
In what is seems to be a paradox, Akerstrom has a book called Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well, which looks into Swedish culture and lifestyle, which has been published in 14 languages and is available online in four additional languages, but not in Swedish. Akerstrom has had no luck in getting her much-reviewed and loved book into the hands of Swedish bookworms.
-‘Time to take racism issue seriously’
Commenting on a UN report which states that there’s systematic racism in Sweden, Akerstrom said the issue must be taken seriously before it gets worse.
“The Nordics have been hailed for a long time as a beacon of how a model society should be. And in many ways, you know, there are things that we do get right in the Nordics. But when an objective body is telling you that you have serious systemic issues that need to be addressed, we need to take that seriously. We need to say ‘let's acknowledge the problem.’”
Akerstrom says people tend to experience covert racism in their everyday lives which do not find much of a space in statistics or legal complaints. The solution lies behind the cause of the issue, which is denial of the problem, she says. She believes the problem of racism needs to be acknowledged in order to start fighting against it.