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Just Buffalo's Babel Series Concludes with Nigerian Author Chris Abani | Arts & Culture

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Just Buffalo's Babel Series Concludes with Nigerian Author Chris Abani
Just Buffalo's Babel Series Concludes with Nigerian Author Chris Abani

Buffalo, NY—Just Buffalo Literary Center is pleased to announce several BABEL events in the month of April, including the lecture which concludes the 2010-2011 season, international award-winning author Chris Abani (Nigeria) on Friday, April 15th at 8:00 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo. The 2011-2012 Babel line-up will be announced at this event. Subscriptions will go on sale after the lecture and Just Buffalo will be offering a substantial discount on all subscription levels to those who purchase 2011-2012 subscriptions that night.

Tickets are still available:  $35 general admission, $100 VIP (includes pre-event reception with the author and preferred seating), and only $10 for students. Discounts are available for those using HSBC and/or Buffalo & Erie County Library cards—please visit www.justbuffalo.org to place your order, or call (716) 832-5400 to make your purchase. Tickets purchased at BABEL Extras African Cultural Night on Friday, April 8th at The International Institute, 864 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, will be just $25! Tickets may also be purchased at the door the night of the event.

As part of the BABEL Series, the IIB and Just Buffalo Literary Center celebrate the culture of four international authors who visit Buffalo each year. African Night in preparation for the final BABEL performance of the season, Chris Abani (Nigeria). Just Buffalo and The International Institute of Buffalo (IIB) will host African Cultural Night on Friday, April 8th from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the IIB. Celebrate the culture of Africa with food, music, and dancing. Admission is free. Food tickets cost $8.00.

Copies of Graceland, the Just Buffalo selection for “If All of Buffalo Read the Same Book,” are available at both Talking Leaves Books locations; the readers’ guide may be found at www.justbuffalo.org. In this award-winning 2004 novel, Abani cre­ates a moving, yet unsentimental version of his troubled journey to adulthood, including the post-war aftermath during the 1970s and 1980s in Nigeria’s capital city, La­gos, through the eyes of a sensitive, well-educated young boy named Elvis Oke. The book’s autobiographical themes are illustrated by the simple joys and disappoint­ments of everyday West African life:  masculine rites of passage and strict definitions of sexuality, gender power-struggles, familial obligations, and cultural taboos. Larger questions of morality and humanity can be found in the small acts of compassion taking place against a backdrop of unspeakable violence and corruption in Nigeria’s rural towns and urban ghettos.

Abani’s published fiction includes The Virgin of Flames (2007), set in multicultural East Los Angeles, and the novellas Song for Night (2007) and Becoming Abigail (2006). His poetry collections are Kalakuta Republic (2001), Daphne’s Lot (2003), Dog Woman (2004), Hands Washing Water (2006), and in 2010, Feed Me The Sun - Collected Long Poems, There Are No Names for Red and Sanctificum.

Abani earned a master’s degree in Gender and Cultural Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London, and holds master’s and doctoral degrees in English and Literature from the University of Southern California. Chris Abani’s many literary honors include a PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, three Pushcart Prize nominations for his poetry, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize for GraceLand and, in 2009, a Guggenheim fellowship in fiction. He is also the series editor for Black Goat, an independent poetry imprint that publishes “experimental, aesthetically or thematically challenging work” by poets from around the world. He currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.

Abani's first novel, Masters of the Board, was about a Neo-Nazi takeover of Nigeria. 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 1985.  After serving six months in jail, he was released, but he went on to perform in a guerrilla theatre group. This action led to his arrest and imprisonment at Kiri Kiri, a notorious prison.

Abani 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.

His most recent book of poetry, Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), is a book-length sequence of linked poems, bringing together religious ritual, the Igbo language of his Nigerian homeland, and reggae rhythms in a post-racial, liturgical love song.

BABEL Tickets are still available:  $35 general admission, $100 VIP (includes pre-event reception with the author and preferred seating), and only $10 for students. Discounts are available for those using HSBC and/or Buffalo & Erie County Library cards—please visit www.justbuffalo.org to place your order, or call (716) 832-5400.

 

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