Sunday, October 2, 2011

Elvis in Nigeria

GraceLand, Chris Abani

Chris Abani

A while ago I posted about the Nigerian Literature Challenge in celebration of Nigerian Independence Day (October 1). I chose to participate by reading a novel by Chris Abani, an author born in Nigeria, but now living in the United States.

GraceLand is the coming of age tale of a young Nigerian man named Elvis. He spent the early part of his life in a rural area of Nigeria, living with his extended family. After his mother died of cancer, and his father suffered a crushing political defeat, the two of them moved to the slums of Lagos.

Elvis has a strained relationship with his father, he’s dropped out of school, his best friend may be big trouble. His dream of being a dancer and Elvis impersonator isn’t working out. He tries to maintain a connection to his mother through the journal she left behind, but it is not helping to guide him.

It is all he can do to survive poverty, violence, and government oppression. TW: LOTS of violence here, both physical and sexual (not that they’re mutually exclusive). The book ends with some hope for Elvis, although his path is far from clear.

I am glad that I heard about this challenge and discovered a new author. I will be reading more Abani in the future.

Oooh: A little late for Banned Books Week, but I just saw that GraceLand was removed from reading lists in Florida last year.


Buried In Print said...

Do you know the feeling, when you've been wanting to read an author for such a long time, that just seeing his name starts to make you wriggle in your seat, because you're so annoyed with yourself that you haven't made time to read their work yet? That's how I feel when I see Chris Abani's name.

MJ said...

@Buried In Print Yes! I know exactly how you feel. There are some modern "biggies" I still haven't read, like Franzen.