Chris Abani

(Christopher Abani)

Chris Abani
Chris Abani
  • Born: December 27, 1966
  • Nationality: Nigerian
  • Profession: Author, Poet, Professor

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African narratives in the West, they proliferate. I really don't care anymore. I'm more interested in the stories we tell about ourselves - how, as a writer, I find that African writers have always been the curators of our humanity on this continent.
Every successful artist comes from a family - parents or siblings or both - who, although equally gifted, chose not to pursue the treacherous and difficult path of the artist. Families, Children & Parenting
Fiction and poetry are my first loves, but the really beautiful lyrical essay can do so much that other forms cannot. Literature, Writers & Writing
I had amazing intellectual privilege as a kid. My mom taught me to read when I was two or three. When I was five, I read and wrote well enough to do my nine-year older brother's homework in exchange for chocolate or cigarettes. By the time I was 10, I was reading Orwell, Tolstoy's 'War and Peace,' and the Koran. I was reading comic books, too. Time ;War & Peace
I have to have three or four books going simultaneously. If I'm not impressed in the first 20 pages, I don't bother reading the rest, especially with novels. I'm not a book-club style reader. I'm not looking for life lessons or wanting people to think I'm smart because I'm reading a certain book. Life
I love essays, but they're not always the best way to communicate to a larger audience. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I read mostly Irish, African, Japanese, South American, and African writers. You can count on Scandinavian literature for a certain kind of darkness, a modern mythic style.
I think a book that is over 400 pages should be split in two. I don't know that there's anything that interesting that can go on for 700 pages. I think that is a little bit indulgent.
I truly believe that writing is a continuum - so the different genres and forms are simply stops along the same continuum. Different ideas that need to be expressed sometimes require different forms for the ideas to float better. I don't write essays as often as I should.
I was born in 1966, at the beginning of the Biafran-Nigerian Civil War, and the war ended after three years. And I was growing up in school, and the federal government didn't want us taught about the history of the war, because they thought it probably would make us generate a new generation of rebels. History ;Government ;War & Peace
If I don't get at least one e-mail every ten minutes, I feel unloved. Even junk mail makes me feel seen. Sad, I know. Sigh.
In this time of the Internet and nonfiction, to be on an actual bookshelf in an actual bookstore is exciting in itself. Time
It takes me forever to actually finish something like a ten-page essay. But, when I do, I usually love what they are. It's a complicated relationship. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Like most writers, I find the Web is a wonderful distraction. Who doesn't need that last minute research before writing?
Men do communicate, often very directly, but women sometimes cannot accept how simple what we have to say is. Women
My books are often shelved around those of Chinua Achebe and Margaret Atwood, or Chimamanda Adichie and Monica Ali. All of this depends, of course, on the bookstore and how conversant the shelf stocker is with the alphabet.
My father was educated in Cork, in the University of Cork, in the '50s.
My grand uncle was a traditional priest, and he would always say to me as a kid, 'We stand in our own light,' which essentially for him meant we were entirely responsible for a lot of what happens to us and for the ways in which our lives play out.
My mother was English. My parents met in Oxford in the '50s, and my mother moved to Nigeria and lived there. She was five foot two, very feisty and very English.
My search is always to find ways to chronicle, to share and to document stories about people, just everyday people. Stories that offer transformation, that lean into transcendence, but that are never sentimental, that never look away from the darkest things about us.
Sometimes I feel very alone. I am a bit of a nomad. Many people in sort of emerging countries, emerging economies, find themselves displaced. So there is that sense, and so I'm part of a whole, I think, group of displaced people.
That women are mysterious and unknowable is something every young man grows up believing. Men, on the other hand, never think of themselves as mysterious or confusing, and we are often at a loss as to why women want to figure us out. Women
The Igbo used to say that they built their own gods. They would come together as a community, and they would express a wish. And their wish would then be brought to a priest, who would find a ritual object, and the appropriate sacrifices would be made, and the shrine would be built for the god. Religion & God
The privilege of being a writer is that you have this opportunity to slow down and to consider things.
There is no living African writer who has not had to, or will not have to, contend with Achebe's work. We are either resisting him - stylistically, politically, or culturally - or we are writing toward him. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
We often think that language mirrors the world in which we live, and I find that's not true. The language actually makes the world in which we live. Language is not - I mean, things don't have any mutable value by themselves; we ascribe them a value.
When I was growing up in Nigeria - and I shouldn't say Nigeria, because that's too general, but in Afikpo, the Igbo part of the country where I'm from - there were always rites of passage for young men. Men were taught to be men in the ways in which we are not women; that's essentially what it is. Women

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