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Pen Award-Winning Novelist and Poet to Give Reading, Lecture

October 15, 2009 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Award-winning writer Chris Abani has been compared to Hemingway and, in a book review of his latest novel, described as "one of our most incendiary, emotionally devastating and important writers." On two upcoming Wednesdays, Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, the Nigerian-born novelist and poet will read from his works and deliver a lecture at Northwestern University.

Abani is visiting writer-in-residence at the University's Center for Writing Arts, where he is teaching an undergraduate course on the art of fiction. Both his Oct. 21 reading and his Nov. 4 lecture on "The Ethics of Narrative" will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Hagstrum Room of University Hall, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. Free and open to the public, each will be followed by a question-and-answer session and book signing.

More than once, Abani's writing landed him in prison in his native Nigeria. His first novel, about a military coup, and his later college activism earned him a prison sentence courtesy of the Nigerian government. He then wrote about the prison torture he endured in "Kalakuta Republic," a collection of poems. "Reading them is like being singed with a red-hot iron," wrote playwright Harold Pinter.

Abani left his native country in 1991 for Great Britain and immigrated to the United States in 1999. Today he is a professor of creative writing at the University of California Riverside. "Song for Night," his most recent novel, tells the harrowing and haunting story of a West African boy soldier whose vocal chords have been cut and his search for the platoon from which he has become separated.

"Song for Night" earned Abani the 2008 PEN Beyond the Margins Award and a 2007 Editor's Choice selection by The New York Times. He received the 2005 PEN Hemingway Book Prize for his 2004 novel "Graceland," which also won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. He has earned Pushcart Prize nominations for two volumes of poetry.

"If you want to get at the molten heart of contemporary fiction, Abani's work is at the heart of it," said Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" and editor of McSweeney's literary magazine.

For information about the Abani events, call (847) 467-4099 or visit the Center for the Writing Arts online.

Topics: Campus Life