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The poem Ode to Joy
on a wall in the Dutch city of Leiden
Christopher Abani (or Chris
Abani) (born December 27, 1966) is a Nigerian author. Abani's first novel,
Masters of the Board, was about a Neo-Nazi takeover of
Nigeria. The book earned one reviewer to praise Abani as "Africa's
answer to Frederick Forsyth." The
Nigerian government, however, believed the book to be a blueprint
for an actual coup, and sent the 18-year-old Abani to prison in
After serving six months in jail, he was released, but he went on
to perform in a guerilla theatre
group. This action led to his arrest and imprisonment at Kiri Kiri,
a notorious prison. He was
released again, but after writing his play Song of a Broken
Flute he was arrested for a third time, sentenced to death,
and sent to the Kalakuta Prison, where he was jailed with other political
prisoners and inmates on death row. His
father is Igbo,
while his mother was English born.
He spent some of his prison time in solitary
confinement, but was freed in 1991.
He lived in exile in London until a friend was murdered there in
1999; he then fled to the United States.
He is a Professor at the University of
California, Riverside and the recipient of the PEN USA
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
- The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007)
- GraceLand (FSG, 2004/Picador 2005)
- Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985)
- Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)
- Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004)
- Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003)
- Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001).
Awards, grants and
- Guggenheim Fellow in Fiction.
- Winner, PEN Beyond the Margins Award for Song For Night.
- Nominated for Lamada Award (the Virgin of Flames)
- Recipient, Distinguished Humanist Award (UC, Riverside)
- Pushcart Nomination for Sanctificum. (poetry)
- New York Times Editor's Choice (Song for Night)
- Finalist, PEN Beyond the Margins Award (Becoming Abigail)
- A Barnes and Noble Discovery Selection (The Virgin of
- A New York Times Editor's Choice (The Virgin of Flames)
- A New York Libraries Books For Teens Selection (Becoming
- A New York Times Editor's Choice (Becoming
- A Chicago Reader Critic's Choice (Becoming
- A selection of the Essence Magazine Book Club (Becoming
- A selection of the Black Expressions Book Club (Becoming
- Pushcart Nomination (poetry) (A Way To Turn This To
- Shortlisted for International
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (GraceLand).
- Winner, Hemingway Foundation/PEN
- Winner, Hurston-Wright Legacy Award
- Silver Medal, California Book Award for Fiction
- Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.
- Finalist, Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Books (Africa
- Pushcart Nomination for Blooding. StoryQuarterly.
- Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, USA
- Hellman/Hammet Grant from Human Rights Watch, USA.
- Imbongi Yesizwe Poetry International Award, South Africa.
- PEN USA West Freedom-to-Write Award, USA.
- Prince Claus Awards.
- Middleton Fellowship, University of Southern California,