February 19, 2016

Chris Abani, book-cover-and-author-photo

Abani's memoir, The Face: Cartography of the Void, published by Amherst professor Ilan Stavans through Restless Books, is an exploration of the nature of identity. Join Abani on Feb. 24, for the talk "My Face and Ours: Views of Today's America."

Author Chris Abani will be on campus Wednesday, Feb. 24, to present “My Face and Ours: Views of Today’s America," at 7:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium. He will be interviewed after the talk by Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, and then take questions from the audience. He will also be available for a book-signing. The event is free and open to the public.

An accomplished novelist, poet and essayist with more than a dozen highly regarded books to his name, Abani is perhaps best known for his award-winning 2004 novel GraceLand. His most recent book of essays, The Face: Cartography of the Void, was released by Restless Books, whose publisher is Professor Stavans.

"Chris Abani fits the definition of a classic," says Stavans. "At first, you get a strange feeling that he writes just for you… then, magically, you realize that, without noticing it, he has made you humbler, allowing you to see the world with totally different eyes." 

Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, Abani grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria. He received a B.A. in English from Imo State University, Nigeria; an M.A. in English, gender and culture from Birkbeck College, University of London; and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001.

Through his TED Talks, public speaking and essays, Abani is known as an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics and our shared political responsibility. His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as in WitnessParkettThe New York TimesO Magazine, and Bomb. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

His novels, novelas, poetry collections and essays are:

  • The Face: Cartography of the Voice (Restless Books, 2014)
  • The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin, 2014)
  • Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010)
  • Feed Me the Sun: Collected Long Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2010)
  • Song for Night (Akashic Books, 2007)
  • The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007)
  • Becoming Abigail (Akashic Books, 2006)
  • Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)
  • GraceLand (FSG, 2004/Picador 2005)
  • Dog Woman (Red Hen Press, 2004)
  • Daphne's Lot (Red Hen Press, 2003)
  • Kalakuta Republic (Saqi Books, 2000)
  • Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985)

In addition to writing, Abani is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University in Illinois and founding editor of the Black Goat independent poetry series. He lives in Chigaco.

This event is made possible by alumni generosity through the Victor S. Johnson 18821943 Lectureship Fund.The fund was established in 1965 by Victor S. Johnson Jr. ’38 and his brother Robert E. Johnson ’42, M.D., and augmented through the charitable remainder gift of Mildred Evelyn Wolcott, late sister of Victor and Robert Johnson. The fund has also been augmented over the years by various gifts from the Johnson family. The choice of the lecturer of this fund is made by the president and should serve the best tradition of the liberal arts and individual freedom.