I write compulsively these days because, after spending a lifetime on productive careers in science, engineering, and enterprise, I decided upon retirement to devote my remaining days to chasing the true love of my life: literature — an avocation on which I sadly turned my back in young adulthood to chase a more predictable living!
Thinking of that first love of mine I wonder, as in the lyrics of an old sentimental ballad:
“If I came back tonight would you still be my darling? Or have I stayed away too long?”
I write because I have stories to tell and a purpose for them, an agenda. Agenda may carry a negative nuance these days, but its Latin provenance means only “what’s to be done.” My writing aims to help establish a niche to portray the diaspora experiences of Africans who are encumbered by their cultural background as they struggle to meld into the brave, new, global, melting-pot. They live their lives and achieve professional success in western societies, but their unique stories have not found voice in western literary circles/outlets.
The core of that target niche is sizeable. By the latest census, Nigerians in the USA number over a quarter of a million and are the most educated national group in America; they are literature-savvy, coming from a country with a long, strong history of acclaimed writers. Even alone they constitute a significant market as well as a substantial pool of subjects for the desired literary niche. Yet one finds nothing but a chorus of bad publicity about Nigerians abroad—all about corruption and scamming!
My goal may be a tall stretch but it isn’t impossible. My two novels have won prizes: Preying Mantis (2015) garnered 8 US and European awards; its sequel, Half-Past Tarissa (2016) has won one award so far. Both novels narrate the travails of some Nigerian professionals in Ohio, USA.
My 43,000-word novella manuscript, American Abiku explores a murky confluence between an African myth and a now-diagnosable sickle-cell disease. On one hand is the spine-chilling African syndrome of Abiku—a spirit child that torments parents with birth-and-death cycles; on the other hand is a no-mystery genetic disorder, unique to and endemic among blacks in diaspora, and just as harrowing as the folk myth. Our protagonist is caught in the middle as he flounders helplessly and shuttles home to commune with his parents and ancestors in a frantic effort to understand why four of his five children are afflicted with sickle-cell anemia and dying one after the other in the USA, where he is attending graduate school.
Hopefully, the niche I aspire to will grow as our “global village” matures! The Chinese say a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Having all my life relished the splendid produce of literary masters, I now dare to hope that I can contribute even a little, late morsel to that smorgasbord. That is my compulsion to write.