The Undergraduate's Companion to African Writers and Their Web Sites

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The undergraduate's companion to African writers and their web sites, by Miriam E. Conteh-Morgan. Westport, CN, Libraries Unlimited, 2005. (Undergraduate companion series), xv, 185pp.

This is the sixth volume in the heterogeneous Libraries Unlimited series joining titles on Women poets, Children's writers and English Renaissance writers. The author, African studies bibliographer at Ohio State University, has selected sources for some 300 writers, over 200 of them living, from both North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Selection we are told was based on two criteria: that material on the author existed "in an easily available reference work" and that there was "some information of research value on free Web sites" (fee-based online services are excluded).

Arrangement is alphabetical by author's name. Dates of birth and death are the only biographical information supplied, the rest of the entry being devoted to "Web Sites", "Biographies and Criticism" and "Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and Handbooks", the entries for the last two categories being all printed sources. Indeed, despite the implication of the title, there are many more references to printed sources than to web sites. For some of the better known and more prolific authors there are additional sections for "Bibliographies" and for "Interviews".

A large number of the web sites are those created by North American academics, no doubt to be used in conjunction with their courses. Others are hosted by organizations such as the British Council and by newspapers or are "literary sections" of much larger websites covering counties and regions. Virtually all are recorded as having been checked as recently as July 2005, but of course, with such a category, the casualty rate is going to be high, and no indication is given as to whether the publisher intends regular updates to the series. Many of the sites have no annotations, but a few have comments on the nature of the content and the navigability of the site. A list at the beginning of the volume gives more detailed descriptions of 23 "frequently cited web sites", those that are both wide-ranging in coverage and thought likely to be more permanent than some of their fellows. …