In his own words, Uwem Akpan shares a glimpse at where he came from, what inspired him to become a writer and why he always looks forward to returning home.
I was born under a palm-wine tree in Ikot Akpan Eda in Ikot Ekpene Diocese in Nigeria. I was inspired to write by the people who sit around my village church to share palm wine after Sunday Mass, by the Bible and by the humor and endurance of the poor.
My grandfather was one of those who brought the Catholic Church to our village. I was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003, and I like to celebrate the sacraments for my fellow villagers. Some of them have no problem stopping me in the road and asking for confession!
I have very fond memories of my childhood in my village, where everybody knows everybody, and all my paternal uncles still live together in one big compound.
When I was growing up, my mother told me folktales and got me and my three brothers to read a lot. I became a fiction writer during my seminary days. I wrote at night, when the community computers were free. Computer viruses ate much of my work. Finally, my friend Wes Harris believed in me enough to get me a laptop. This saved me from the despair of losing my stories and made me begin to see God again in the seminary. The stories on that first laptop are the core of Say You're One of Them . I received my MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006.
I always look forward to visiting my village. No matter how high the bird flies, its legs still face the earth. When I get back to Ikot Akpan Eda, my people and I will celebrate this book in our own way—with lots of tall tales, spontaneous prayers and palm wine!
From the Publisher
After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, Uwem Akpan studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006.
"My Parents' Bedroom," from his short story collection, Say You're One of Them , was one of five short stories by African writers chosen as finalists for the Caine Prize for African Writing 2007. Say You're One of Them won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Africa Region) 2009 and PEN/Beyond Margins Award 2009 and was finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. In 2007, Akpan taught at a Jesuit college in Harare, Zimbabwe. Now, he serves at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja-Lagos, Nigeria.
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Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, May 24, 2013
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