By Andre Hascall
Humboldt State University hosted radical author and poet Chris Abani for our Visiting Writer series on March 29. He visited a couple of writing-based classes and talked with students. He also held a reading and talk in the Kate Buchanan Room.
“The classes are around writing, so I’ve been mostly discussion craft,” Abani said. “As well as addressing worries that writers have.”
Chris Abani is a Nigerian-American author and poet. He is from Afikpo, located in in southern Nigeria. His most recent award-winning writing is his book “The Secret History of Las Vegas.” A suspenseful novel where a detective and a doctor must solve a crime while one is haunted by their past of betrayal during apartheid in Africa. This book won the 2015 Edgar Award for best paperback.
The overall goal of Abani’s writing is to show readers the experience of those born and raised in the troubled nation of Nigeria.
“I’m interested in people more than places,” Abani said. “Places show what distinct differences we have, but once you peel away those distinctions you’ll see how similar we all are.”
Abani is known for speaking out against unjust governments. Abani was arrested three times in Nigeria for his novels and plays that were seen as an attempt to overthrow the government.
He was released from jail in 1991, moved to the United Kingdom and then to the U.S. in 2001.
“Everything that happens to us in life has an impact on our writing,” Abani said.
Abani currently resides in the U.S. and is a professor at Northwestern University in Illinois. While in Nigeria, he attended Imo State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He also earned a masters in gender studies at Birkbeck College in London and a masters in English at The University of Southern California.
At the event in the KBR, was mainly a crowd of student writers. One of these students in attendance was senior English major, Nicolas Poulter. While actually interested in Chris Abani’s talk, Poulter had the incentive of extra credit as well.
“It was interesting, and provoking to get to hear that perspective,” Poulter said.
Students and other guests in attendance had the opportunity to ask Abani questions after his speech. Sophomore environmental studies major Joey Hajduk had the chance to ask Abani a question.
“I asked him personally about his suffering in prison,” Hajduk said. “I was worried about not being able to connect, but Chris saw that, and he told me that everybody has a pain and that you can’t put pain in a hierarchy.”
Technology, especially the smartphones that most people have with them on a daily basis have already changed the way people write and opened up a new realm of possibilities in storytelling.
“All writing is so deeply linked to technology, language is a technology, writing is a technology and the internet,” Abani said. “Now there are more blogs than there are books.”
A true fan of stories, being a storyteller himself. Abani loves different forms of stories such as television and movies.
“Within a day I’ll watch shows like “Dating Naked”, “The Kardashians”, the new “24”, a documentary on National Geographic,” Abani said. “I am a big fan of story.”
Abani’s point is that you can find story in everything, it’s all connected. From the architecture in Founder’s Hall to the various books in our Library.
“Stories are everywhere,” Abani said. “Everything is a story.”