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Chris Abani

Born: 1966 in Nigeria, West Africa
Connection to Illinois: Abani currently resides in Chicago.

Biography: Chris Abani was born in Nigeria in 1966 and published his first novel at sixteen. He has been imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death for his literary activities. After fleeing Nigeria, he continued to write. He holds a BA in English, an MA in gender and culture, an MA in English, and a PhD in literature and creative writing. He is the recipient of a PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, a Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond Margins Award, a PEN/Hemingway Award, and a Guggenheim Award. He is currently Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University, in Chicago and the editor of Eight New-Generation African Poets and New-Generation African Poets.

  • Becoming Abigail - 2006 - A selection of the Black Expressions Book Club, 2006 - A selection of the Essence Magazine Book Club, 2006 - A Chicago Reader Critic’s Choice, 2006 - A New York Times Editor’s Choice, 2007 - A New York Libraries Books For Te
  • The Virgin of Flames - 2007 - A New York Times Editor’s Choice, 2007 - A Barnes and Noble Discovery Selection
  • Song for Night - 2007 - New York Times Editor’s Choice, 2008 - Finalist, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, 2008 - Winner, PEN Beyond the Margins Award
  • Graceland - 2006 - Finalist for IMPAC Dublin Prize, 2005 - Winner, PEN Hemingway Book Prize, 2005 - Winner Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction, 2005 - Silver Medal, California Book Award for Fiction, 2005 - Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Priz

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Becoming Abigail
ISBN: 0739474111 OCLC:

Akashic Books 2006

Controlled Decay
ISBN: 1933354526 OCLC: Los Angeles, CA :

Akashic Books Los Angeles, CA : 2008

From the Publisher: Remarkable-Gabriela Jauregui displays perfect pitch: Her lyrics are impressive in their scope, range, empathy-and especially their authentic passion. --Marjorie Perloff, author of 21st-Century Modernism.

Globetrotter & Hitler's Children
ISBN: 1933354771 OCLC: Los Angeles :

Akashic Books Los Angeles : 2009

Globetrotter & Hitler{u2019}s Children is a book of two sequences, melded beautifully and seamlessly, both of which are the shape of the poet{u2019}s consciousness and body in relation to space and place. Globetrotter is an immigrant{u2019}s paean to the city of Toronto, while Hitler{u2019}s Children is a poet{u2019}s struggle with race, otherness, and Germany in the spirit of witness, passion, humor, melancholy, and understanding.

ISBN: 0312425287 OCLC: New York :

Picador New York : 2005

Born into poverty in the chaotic capital city of Nigeria, Elvis is tempted by the underworld and enters a life of crime, encountering beggers, musicians, and American pop culture as he tries to survive in postcolonial Nigeria.

Hands Washing Water
ISBN: 1556592477 OCLC: Port Townsend, Wash. :

Copper Canyon Press Port Townsend, Wash. : 2006

From the cover. Chris Abani was imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death for his literary activities. After fleeing Nigeria he continued to write poetry and fiction. Hands Washing Water is Abani's fourth poetry collection, a book of subversive humor, exile, and ancestry that expands beyond personal history to envision a greater compassion. If there's nothing at risk, Abani once said in an interview, it cannot be art.

Kalakuta Republic
ISBN: 0863563228 OCLC: London :

Saqi Books London : 2000

ISBN: 1556593163 OCLC:

Copper Canyon Press 2010

This is Abani's fifth collection of poetry. Utilizing religious ritual, the Nigerian Igbo language, and reggae rhythms, Abani creates a post-racial, liturgical love song that covers the globe from Abuja to Los Angeles and explores the charged intersections of atrocity and love, politics and religion, loss and renewal.

Smoking the Bible
ISBN: 1556596286 OCLC:

Copper Canyon Press 2022

A collection of poems by Chris Abani --

Song for Night: A Novella
ISBN: 1933354313 OCLC: New York :

Akashic Books New York : 2007

My Luck, a West African boy soldier who has lost his voice, leads us on a terrifying yet beautiful journey through the nightmare landscape of a brutal war in search of his lost platoon --Publisher description.

The Secret History of Las Vegas: A Novel
ISBN: 0143124951 OCLC:

Penguin Books 2014

Determined to solve a series of murders before he retires, detective Salazar turns to Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in psychopaths, to help determine if a pair of conjoined twins he apprehended are the killers.