Monday 24 October 2011


I know. I know. This gist is so stale that mould is growing on it but better late than never. Abi, no be so? So my university was kind enough to organise a reading for me. It was in the nicest hall in Kings in my opinion. We usually have exams and lectures in the Great Hall, so it was pleasant to see this more sociable mien of this room. Here are photos kindly provided by Kal Kohli who works in the Governance and Legal Affairs Support Office at Kings. A few are mine as well. I'll put the pictures up, then give you a few thoughts.

The audience before the reading began. The back rows got a few late comers as the reading progressed.

Darren Robinson, who was the host for the night. He really gave the reading structure.

If you look closely, you can see me clutching the podium.

Afterwards. Big smiles. These were the main organisers of the event.

My grandma and I. Three generations of my family showed up to support me. Much appreciated.

So basically, giving a reading was a really weird experience. I now know that I am capable of speaking clearly in a Nigerian accent. I do not have to resort to phonetics to be understood by people who are not from my part of the world. However, I must confess it took quite a bit of practice, especially in the areas where I had to speak pidgin. My favourite part of the evening was the Q and A session. I found the actual reading disconcerting. I'm more used to singing in front of people and getting some sort of audible reaction from the crowd. To look up and see upwards of 50 pairs of eyes just watching you silently is very odd. Hence the podium clutching.

I really liked answering people's questions. There were some I'd vaguely been expecting, so I had rough answers for them, e.g how long did it take you to write the book? How do you balance writing with school work? Others though, I hadn't even thought about. One lady asked me to list three books that had influenced me. It's one many writers can reel off but I was momentarily stumped. A Ghanaian woman made a comment about how much she liked Nigerian pidgin and how Ghanaian pidgin was less expressive. One asked about what advice I would give to other young writers like myself.

Afterwards, I mingled with a very kind audience. Many people came to say well done. To be honest I was a little surprised by the diversity of people there. There was a lady from the Czech republic who told me that my reflections of growing up in Nigeria and moving over here, really touched her. Which touched me. In the absence of a book, I even signed a sheet of paper for one lady. It was a great first reading. I was speaking to my editor who attended and we both agreed that it was unusual to have such a nice first outing. We thank God. Obviously, I can't show you guys what I read from my book, copyright etc, but I can put up the introduction I read. Enjoy.

I grew up with a slight sense of distaste for my country. I was fortunate enough to spend some of my holidays in England and America. As a result, I became like one of those badly behaved children who loves to go to other people’s houses but hates to go home. England, in particular, was the cool friend. I remember when the summer was over and it was time to return to Lagos, the back to school adverts would start popping up. And how I wished I was going back to school with the British children. O to buy WHSmith stationery all year round. I got my wish. I came to school in England when I was fourteen. The reality was worse and better than I imagined.

My first few years in England, I felt very homesick for the country I never wanted to return to whenever I holidayed abroad. For the first time, my country, Nigeria, Lagos, was attractive enough and interesting enough for me to want to write about it. Prior to my coming here, I set all my fiction in England and America. Yet I soon found that I did not want to write about England when I finally lived here. The longer I stayed away from Nigeria, the more interesting, and exotic, and readable my country became.

So 4,ooo miles away, sitting in my cold room in school, I began to type away at the nucleus of what would eventually become my novel. For the first time, it would be set in Nigeria, with Nigerian characters, with Nigerian accents. For the first time the hero would be Nigerian, the villain Nigerian, the clown Nigerian, the battered, bruised, humoured, abused, loved, hated, laughed at, all would be Nigerian. It took me four thousand miles to believe that my country was interesting and complex enough to be read about at home and read about on a world stage. It was a while but I am glad I made it in the end.


  1. Very well done. Beginning of bigger things by the grace of God.

  2. I know I've already told you before via twitter but I cannot wait for the book release. May God's favour continue to shine upon you.

  3. good job. the sky is your limit. i like your blog

  4. I think i am your number one Zim stalker, i love your blog. and reading what you have to say about Nigeria makes me reflect more on the things that i should love about my country and really do. Now i "forget to cringe" when i make my setting a black township.
    God bless you

  5. Aw thanks guys. And big amen to all your prayers. They are very appreciated. And yeah Vulna, there's no need to cringe at all.

  6. Interesting reading. I can almost imagine it.

    Your writing is beautiful and admirable and intriguing. And i look forward to reading your book. All the best.

  7. Hey Chi. You are doing an amazing job. We have not met in person but I am one the officer at the students' union at King's. I will be in touch soon to discuss some interesting prospects for an event I am organising next year!

  8. Thanks CWN and anon. And anon, no problem. Send me an email when you're ready.


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