Bestselling Author of Graceland & PEN Freedom-to-Write Award Winner
- Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
One of the most admired novelists in the world , Chris Abani is the recipient of the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award and many other prizes. His bestselling novel Graceland, about an Elvis impersonator in Lagos, won the Hemingway/PEN Prize, and has become a popular common reads book among American universities.
Stories of Struggle, Stories of Hope: Art, Politics and Human Rights
What is the role of art and literature in defending human rights and democracy? Chris Abani examines this loaded question in momentous and often very funny keynotes that draw on his acclaimed body of work, as well as his own political activism. Mixing the personal and the political, he reminds us of our common humanity. A renowned musician, Abani often caps the evening with a gorgeous saxophone solo.
The Virgin of Flames
For Black, a mural artist in East L.A., his city's tumbledown landscape is his canvas. Residing in a ramshackle apartment above "The Ugly Store," he lives for his art and obsesses over Sweet Girl, the transsexual stripper who serves as his muse. As Black navigates life alongside the Los Angeles River, "iridescent in its concrete sleeve," he enlists his friends - Iggy, the beautiful tattoo artist who has beguiled Hollywood's elite, and Bomboy, a wealthy Rwandan butcher - as he confronts his past and struggles to find his place in the world.
The sprawling, swampy, cacophonous city of Lagos, Nigeria, provides the backdrop to the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis impersonator hoping to make his way out of the ghetto. Nuanced, lyrical, and pitch perfect, this is a remarkable story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria, where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.
Song For Night
Part Inferno, part Paradise Lost, and part Sunjiata epic, Song for Night is the story of a West African boy soldier's lyrical, terrifying, yet beautiful journey through the nightmare landscape of a brutal war in search of his lost platoon. The reader is led by the voiceless protagonist who, as part of a land mine-clearing platoon, had his vocal chords cut, a move to keep these children from screaming when blown up, and thereby distracting the other minesweepers. The book is written in a ghostly voice, with each chapter headed by a line of the unique sign language these children invented. This book is unlike anything else ever written about an African war.
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