Chris Abani’s best novel in my mind is the Virgin of Flames, an all-American story about the salad bowl that is Los Angeles. It is masterful and a while back I fawned over it in a review. However, I don’t believe the book was a blockbuster success in terms of sales. The American consumer seemed to have been confused; how can a writer with such a name write like this about us?
It is not easy: You are pegged from day one as an African writer, and my view is that as African writers, we help to perpetrate that unfortunate label. Why should I be writing ONLY African tales when I have been gone for 30 years? Why shouldn’t I tell the world about my life here? At some point exile becomes home.
There has been uproar on the blogosphere over my essay detailing all the horrid lies that Chris Abani has told against Nigeria which I chronicled in the blog post, The Trials of Chris Okigbo and the Power of Empty Words. The lies are too numerous to detail, the more I read about this guy, the more I am coming to terms with the enormity of what this “new” literature portends for the history of Africa. It is distorting it in a muscular way. This beggarly approach to earning a living diminishes Abani and his ilk – and the land of their ancestry. Most of these writers have never seen a hut. Abani was raised middle class by a white mother and a Nigerian dad. Was Abani ever on death row? He and his mother may have gone to serve doomed prisoners on death row brownies, but trust me, if indeed Abani had been on death row, the British would have had something to say about that. And loudly too. Even those of us who are Americans by paper, if Nigeria dares harass us at the ports of entry, America starts flexing her muscles. Abani’s lies are so juvenile and blatant they are not worth investigating 😉
Anyway, I did say I enjoyed The Virgin of Flames. Buy this book and enjoy it. Don’t buy Abani’s lies.