Obioma at the 2016 Texas Book Festival
|Occupation||Professor, novelist, short story writer, poet, nonfiction writer|
|Alma mater||Cyprus International University University of Michigan|
|Notable works||The Fishermen|
Chigozie Obioma (born 1986) is a Nigerian writer and assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been called, in a New York Times book review, "the heir to Chinua Achebe." In 2015, he was named one of "100 Global Thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine.
Early life and influences
Of Igbo descent, Obioma was born into a family of 12 children — seven brothers and four sisters – in Akure, in the southwestern part of Nigeria, where he grew up speaking Yoruba, Igbo, and English. As a child, he was fascinated by Greek myths and the British masters, including Shakespeare, John Milton, and John Bunyan. Among African writers, he developed a strong affinity for Wole Soyinka's The Trials of Brother Jero; Cyprian Ekwensi's An African Night's Entertainment; Camara Laye's The African Child; and D. O. Fagunwa's Ògbójú Ọdẹ nínú Igbó Irúnmalẹ̀, which he read in its original Yoruba version. Obioma cites his seminal influences as The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, for its breadth of imagination; Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, for its enduring grace and heart; The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, both for the power of their prose; and Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe, for its firmness in Igbo culture and philosophy.
Obioma's first novel,The Fishermen, is being translated into 27 languages and has received several awards. In addition to being listed as a 2015 New York Times Sunday Book Review Notable Book and a New York Times Sunday Book Review Editor's Choice selection, The Fishermen was named a best book of the year for 2015 by The Observer (UK), The Economist, The Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Apple/iBook, Book Riot, the Minnesota Star Tribune, NPR, Library Journal, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the New Zealand Listener, Relevant Magazine, British GQ, and others. The Fishermen was also named of the American Library Association's five best debuts of spring 2015, a Publishers Weekly book of the week, and one of Kirkus Reviews′ "10 Novels to Lose Yourself In."
Obioma states that, in addition to being a tribute to his siblings, the novel aims to "build a portrait of Nigeria at a very seminal moment in its history (the annulled presidential elections of 1993), and by so doing deconstruct and illuminate the ideological potholes that still impede the nation’s progress even today." He began writing the novel in 2009, while living in Cyprus to complete his bachelor's degree at Cyprus International University, where he graduated at the top of his class. The idea for the novel came when he reflected on his father's joy at the growing bond between his two eldest brothers who, as children, had maintained a strong rivalry that would sometimes culminate in fistfights. As Obioma began pondering what was the worst that could have happened at that time, the image of the Agwu family came to him. Then he created Abulu as the facilitator of conflict between the brothers. On a larger thematic note, Obioma wanted the novel to comment on the socio-political situation of Nigeria: the prophesying madman here being the British, and the recipients of the vision being the people of Nigeria (three major tribes cohabiting to form a nation).
Obioma finished the novel during a residency at OMI's Ledig House in 2012, and completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, where he received Hopwood Awards for fiction (2013) and poetry (2014).
Obioma's short story version of The Fishermen and a poem, "The Road to the Country," appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review. His short story, "The Great Convert," was published in Transition magazine and "Midnight Sun" appeared in the New Statesman. He has also published several essays: "The Audacity of Prose" in The Millions; "Teeth Marks: The Translator's Dilemma in Poets & Writers; "The Ghosts of My Student Years in Northern Cyprus" and "Lagos is expected to double in size in 15 years: how will my city possibly cope?" in The Guardian.
Little, Brown and Company published Obioma's highly anticipated second novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, in January 2019. An Orchestra of Minorities, which tells the story of a Nigerian poultry farmer who, determined to make money to prove himself worthy of the woman he loves, travels to northern Cyprus, where is confronted by racism and scammed by corrupt middlemen, is based on Obioma's own experiences studying abroad in northern Cyprus. He was particularly inspired by his friend Jay, who was found dead at the bottom of a lift shaft in Cyprus after having his tuition funds embezzled by fixers.
- The Fishermen, 2015
- An Orchestra of Minorities, 2019
Awards and honors
- Winner, FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award
- Winner, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work - Debut Author
- Winner, Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
- Winner, Nebraska Book Award For Fiction 2016
- Winner, Earphone Award for the Audiobook of The Fishermen
- Finalist, 2015 Man Booker Prize
- Shortlisted in the Belles-Lettres Category of the Grand Prix of Literary Associations 2016.
- Finalist, Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
- Finalist, Edinburgh Festival First Book Award
- Finalist, The Guardian First Book Award
- Finalist, British Book Industry Award for Best Debut Fiction
- Finalist, Best Debut Goodreads Author Award
- Longlisted, International Dylan Thomas Prize
- "Chigozie Obioma". Department of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
- Fiametta Rocco, "‘The Fishermen,’ by Chigozie Obioma" (review), The New York Times, 14 April 2015.
- "The Leading Global Thinkers of 2015". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "2, 2 and 2: Chigozie Obioma talks about The Fishermen". looking up/looking down. 23 February 2015.
- Nathan Go (9 April 2015). "Of Animal Metaphors and the British Legacy: An Interview with Chigozie Obioma". Michigan Quarterly Review.
- Elena Lappin, "Q&A With Chigozie Obioma" Archived 2015-09-22 at the Wayback Machine, Pushkin Press, November 2014.
- "Ask the Author: Chigozie Obioma", New York Public Library.
- "100 Notable Books of 2015". The New York Times. 27 November 2015. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "Editors' Choice", New York Times Sunday Book Review, 24 April 2015.
- "AAP/LibraryReads: Debut Authors Panel". ala.org.
- "PW Picks: Books of the Week, April 13, 2015". Publishers Weekly. 10 April 2015.
- "10 Novels to Lose Yourself In (pg. 1) - Kirkus". Kirkus Reviews.
- Chigozie Obioma, "The ghosts of my student years in northern Cyprus", The Guardian, 16 January 2016.
- "Former CIU Student Publishes Novel to International Acclaim". UKÜ Haber Ajansı - CIU News Agency.
- The Hopwood Newsletter Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Vol. LXXIV, 2, July 2013.
- The Hopwood Newsletter Archived February 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Vol. LXXV, 2, July 2014.
- "The Fishermen - New Perspectives". New Perspectives. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
- "Fishermen". vqronline.org.
- "The Road to the Country". vqronline.org.
- Chigozie Obioma, "The Great Convert", Transition, No. 114, Gay Nigeria (2014), pp. 146–162.
- ""Midnight Sun": a short story by Chigozie Obioma". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Chigozie Obioma (8 June 2015). "The Audacity of Prose". The Millions.
- "Teeth Marks: The Translator's Dilemma | Poets and Writers". www.pw.org. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Obioma, Chigozie (16 January 2016). "Chigozie Obioma: the ghosts of my student years in northern Cyprus". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Cowdrey, Katherine (27 April 2017). "Chigozie Obioma's modern epic to Little, Brown". www.thebookseller.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- Brockes, Emma (2019-01-18). "'Why Jay?': Chigozie Obioma on the haunting death that inspired his novel". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
- "Novelist's African dream". Cyprus Mail. 2017-12-20. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
- Obioma, Chigozie (2016-01-16). "Chigozie Obioma: the ghosts of my student years in northern Cyprus". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
- "FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award Finalists". Emerging Voices 2015. 5 October 2015.
- "NAACP Image Awards - Inside the Show". www.naacpimageawards.net. Archived from the original on 28 August 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- "Los Angeles Times - Festival of Books". Festival of Books. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- "THE FISHERMEN by Chigozie Obioma Read by Chukwudi Iwuji | Audiobook Review | AudioFile Magazine". AudioFile Magazine. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "Man Booker Prize announces 2015 shortlist". themanbookerprize.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2015-09-15.
- Source: Bellanaija.com
- "Announcing the Short List for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize". The Center for Fiction. Archived from the original on 20 August 2015.
- "First Book Award". Edinburgh International Book Festival. 2015.
- "Guardian first book award shortlist 2015", The Guardian, 13 November 2015.
- "2016 Shortlist | The Bookseller". www.thebookseller.com. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "Best Debut Goodreads Author 2015 — Goodreads Choice Awards". Goodreads. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "Longlist announced for 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize". www.swansea.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.