Chris Abani

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Chris Abani
Chris Abani (32683010407).jpg
Abani in 2019
Christopher Abani

27 December 1966 (1966-12-27) (age 54)
OccupationAuthor, poet, professor
Notable work
The poem "Ode to Joy" on a wall in the Dutch city of Leiden

Christopher Abani (born 27 December 1966) is a Nigerian-American author. He says he is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experience of those born and raised in "that troubled African nation".


Abani was born in Afikpo, Ebonyi State, Nigeria. His father was Igbo, while his mother was of English descent.[1] He published his first novel, Masters of the Board, in 1985 at the age of 16.[2] It was a political thriller, the plot of which was an allegory based on a coup that was carried out in Nigeria just before it was written. He was imprisoned for six months on suspicion of an attempt to overthrow the government.[3] He continued to write after his release from jail, but was imprisoned for one year after the publication of his 1987 novel Sirocco.[4] After he was released from jail this time, he composed several anti-government plays that were performed on the street near government offices for two years. He was imprisoned a third time and was placed on death row.[5] Luckily, his friends had bribed government officials for his release in 1991, and immediately Abani moved to the United Kingdom, living there until 1999.[6] He then moved to the United States, where he now lives.[7]

Education and career[edit]

Abani holds a B.A. in English and Literary Studies from Imo State University, Nigeria; an M.A. in Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London, an M.A. in English from the University of Southern California; and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Southern California.[citation needed]

Abani has been awarded a PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, the 2001 Prince Claus Awards, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Selections of his poetry appear in the online journal Blackbird. From 2007–2012, he was Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. He is currently a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.[8]

His book of poetry, Sanctificum (2010) which was published by Copper Canyon Press, is a sequence of linked poems, bringing together religious ritual, the Igbo language of his Nigerian homeland, and reggae rhythms in a postracial, liturgical love song.

Abani's foray into publishing has led to the formation of the Black Goat poetry series, which is an imprint of New York-based Akashic Books.[9]Poets Kwame Dawes, Christina Garcia, Kate Durbin, Karen Harryman, Uche Nduka, Percival Everett, Khadijah Queen and Gabriela Jauregui have all been published by Black Goat.[10]

His crime novel The Secret History of Las Vegas won the Edgar Award as Best Paperback Original in 2015.[11]

In summer 2016, a broad selection of his works was published in Israel by the small independent publishing house Ra'av under the title "Shi'ur Geografia" (Hebrew for: Geography Lesson) edited by Noga Shevach and the poet Eran Tzelgov. The collection received great reviews and offered Hebrew readers a first encounter with the poetry of Abani.

Published works[edit]




  • Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001).
  • Daphne's Lot (Red Hen Press, 2003)
  • Dog Woman (Red Hen Press, 2004)
  • Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)
  • There are no names for red (Red Hen Press, 2010)
  • Feed me the sun (Peepal Tree Press, 2010)
  • Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010)


  • The Face (Restless Books, 2014)

Honors and awards[edit]



  • Imbongi Yesizwe Poetry International Award, South Africa.[15]




  • A New York Times Editor's Choice (Becoming Abigail)[24]
  • A Chicago Reader Critic's Choice (Becoming Abigail)[25]
  • A selection of the Essence Magazine Book Club (Becoming Abigail)[26]
  • A selection of the Black Expressions Book Club (Becoming Abigail)[27]
  • Pushcart Nomination (poetry) (A Way To Turn This To Light)[28]
  • Shortlisted for International Dublin Literary Award (GraceLand).[29]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Timberg, Scott (18 February 2007). "Living in the 'perfect metaphor'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 January 2009. But even before he became one of the rare Ugandans [sic] in the Phoenix Inn and one of the few blacks living in East L.A., Abani was what he calls 'an outsider's outsider'. He grew up in small Nigerian cities, the son of an Igbo educator father and a white English-born mother who had met at Oxford, where she was a secretary and he was a post-doc student. Raised Roman Catholic, Abani studied in the seminary as a teenager.
  2. ^ "Chris Abani - Chris Abani Biography - Poem Hunter". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  3. ^ "Abani, Chris 1967- |". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  4. ^ Ace, Micheal (19 July 2019). "Chris Abani | What You Need To Know About The Nigerian-American Legend". ACEworld Publishers. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  5. ^ Foundation, Poetry (28 May 2020). "Chris Abani". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  6. ^ Bookman, Ariel (2011). "Abani, Chris". doi:10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.48083. ISBN 9780195301731. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  7. ^ Chris Abani. Poetry Foundation.
  8. ^ "Northwestern Announces Professorships" Archived 28 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Northwestern University, 27 June 2013.
  9. ^ "Renowned Writer in Africa - Sabi Writers". Sabi Writers. 15 October 2018. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Chris Abani". Spoken Word Archive. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Category List – Best Paperback Original | Edgars Database".
  12. ^ "Chris Abani". Official site of Chris Abani. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Chris Abani: Department of English - Northwestern University". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  14. ^ Pokala, Krishna; Girard, David; Beydoun, Said R (2016). "Different Presentations of Myelopathy—A Case Series". US Neurology. 12 (1): 22. doi:10.17925/usn.2016.12.01.22. ISSN 1758-4000.
  15. ^ "Guernica and the DISQUIET: International Literary Program Award". Guernica. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Lannan Foundation". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Contemporary Poetry". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  18. ^ "PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel". PEN America. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Chris Abani, Blackbird". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Faculty Biographies | Master of Fine Arts in Writing". Pacific University. 27 September 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  21. ^ "The Book of Night Women (Paperback) | Broadway Books". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Chris Abani: I'm as guilty as Achebe". The Sun Nigeria. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  23. ^ "Community of Writers". Community of Writers. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Chris Abani". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  25. ^ Athitakis, Mark (30 March 2006). "Chris Abani". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Chris Abani". Brown Girl Reading. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  27. ^ Abani, Chris (March 2006). Becoming Abigail. ISBN 978-1-888451-94-8.
  28. ^ "Poets – Vandal Poem of the Day". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  29. ^ "2006 Shortlist – International DUBLIN Literary Award". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  30. ^ Casey, Maud (16 September 2007). "Broken Boy Soldier". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  31. ^ "Writers at Newark Reading Series: Adrian Matejka and Chris Abani | Rutgers University - Newark". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  32. ^ "The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani: 9780143038771 | Books". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Editor's Choice". The New York Times. 4 February 2007. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  34. ^ "Editorial Empatia". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  35. ^ Journal, Library. "Book News: PEN American Center Selects Beyond Margins Award Winners". Library Journal. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  36. ^ "April 2019". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  37. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Chris Abani". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  38. ^ "Featured Poets | 2010 | Biennial Festivals | Programs | Split This Rock". Retrieved 28 May 2020.

External links[edit]