What is the responsibility of a writer from a region that is underrepresented both within the archive of Anglophone African and world literature? And what is the responsibility of a reader when approaching works from such regions?
These were the questions which framed our #WeTurnToBooks conversation with Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. Ibrahim is the author of the short story collection The Whispering Trees, whose title story was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013. His first novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, won the Nigerian Prize for Literature, Africa’s largest literary prize, in 2016. Ibrahim is also the Features Editor at the Daily Trust newspaper, and his report, “All That was Familiar,” was the 2018 winner of the Michael Elliot Award for Excellence in African Storytelling. His latest collection of stories, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares, is forthcoming from Masobe Books in July 2020.
Being one of the few Anglophone Nigerian writers whose fictional and journalistic work is set in the country’s northern region, Ibrahim recognizes the need for authors from such underrepresented places to welcome readers to unfamiliar sociocultural contexts. But at the same time, authors, he says, do not necessarily need to turn their writing into a tourist brochure, so to speak. And as for readers, their duty, according to Ibrahim, is simply to “open your minds and engage with the stories and engage with the people with the intent to understand our collective humanity.”
Our conversation with Ibrahim also spanned the boundaries between the fantastical and the real, his inspiration for the enigmatic characters that populate his work, and what books mean to him as a writer. When asked how he would communicate his love for books, Ibrahim — wittily, perhaps, but also profoundly — asked in return, “How do you describe the essence of your existence? What does it mean for you to be alive?”
Thank you, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, for a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation. We wish you all the best for your forthcoming book and future endeavors!
If you missed the live chat, watch it below. You can also pre-order Dreams and Assorted Nightmares at major book retailers or your local indie bookstore. To watch the conversations we had with Nnedi Okorafor and Kiru Taye as part of the second installment of our #WeTurnToBook series, click here and here.
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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is the author of the short story collection The Whispering Trees, which was longlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014. The title story was also shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013. Ibrahim has won the BBC African Performance Prize and the ANA Plateau/Amatu Braide Prize for Prose and in 2014, he was selected for the Africa39 list of writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature. His first novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, won the Nigerian Prize for Literature, Africa’s largest literary prize, in 2016. Ibrahim is the Features Editor at the Daily Trust newspaper. Ibrahim’s reporting from North-East Nigeria has won particular critical acclaim. He was the 2018 winner of the Michael Elliot Award for Excellence in African Storytelling for his report, “All That Was Familiar,” published in Granta in May 2017. His second collection of short stories, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares, is forthcoming with Masobe books in July 2020.