Hope Wabuke Awarded Creative Writing Fellowship From the National Endowment for the Arts

nea-logoThe National Endowment for the Arts has announced that Hope Wabuke is one of 37 writers to receive an FY 2017 individual creative writing fellowships of $25,000.

“The NEA has an excellent record of supporting writers who have gone on to have impressive literary careers,” said NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls. “With their talent and diverse backgrounds, this year’s Creative Writing Fellows, including Hope Wabuke, will add to our country’s rich literary history.”

“I am extremely grateful to the NEA for affirming my poetry in this way,” says Wabuke. “I will use the resources from this fellowship to complete work on my poetry collection The Body Family, which explores my family’s escape from Idi Amin’s Ugandan genocide and the aftermath of healing in America.”

Wabuke was selected from more than 1,800 eligible applicants. Through its creative writing fellowships program, the National Endowment for the Arts gives writers the time and space to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers. Applications are reviewed through an anonymous process on their artistic excellence. Fellowships alternate between poetry and prose each year and in FY 2017 fellowships are in poetry. The full list of FY 2017 Creative Writing Fellows is available here.

Many American recipients of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were recipients of NEA creative writing fellowships early in their careers. For more information on NEA Creative Writing Fellowships, visit the NEA’s Writers’ Corner.

Profile of Chris Abani at The Guardian

The writer Chris Abani.

It was lovely to write this profile of Chris Abani, a writer whom I have long admired and respected, for The Guardian.  From the profile:

“When a war is over, it takes another 10 years for a war to be really over,” the novelist and poet Chris Abani says over the phone. “And so I grew up in the detritus of that war; it is something that has haunted me for a long time.”

Abani is referring to the Nigerian-Biafran war, which began in his home country in 1967, when he was 18 months old. Although the war lasted less than three years, it proved a deep influence upon Abani’s life. “I remember things like, as an 18-month-old, having to hunt for snails and bush meat,” he recalls. “The perennial smell of mud and dirt and dying things.”

The war is not the focus of Abani’s recent memoir The Face: Cartography of the Void, but rather an overarching ghost hovering in the background of Abani’s life. “I was born just a few weeks before the civil war arrived in our town,” he writes in one of The Face’s few direct mentions of the conflict. Instead, The Face is more of a deconstruction of the many personal, familial, ethnic, cultural and social forces that have shaped Abani’s life. Released as an ebook in 2014, The Face was published in print with a new cover by the graphic artist Kristen Radtkein the spring of 2016. This year also sees the release of New Generation African Voices: Tatu, a volume of poetry Abani coedited with Kwame Dawes as one of their many efforts to highlight contemporary African literature.”

Mr. Abani said so many brilliant things that it was a struggle to cut the piece down to the required word limit. Really fascinating were his thoughts on the African middle class and the need to provide access to the writing of those Africans who are not so privileged. Read the rest of the piece here:

The New Inquiry Reviews The Leaving

In this lovely review at The New InquiryKeguro Macharia writes:

“The Table of Contents to Hope Wabuke’s The Leaving anatomizes: the first poem is titled “Mind” and the final word in the last poem’s title is “Hips.” Between the two, readers encounter “Mouth” (poem 4), “Breath” (poem 5), “The Nerve” (poem 8), “Skin” (first word in poem 10), “Spine” (poem 14), and “Belly” (poem 15). As a student of the black diaspora and of poetry, I am intrigued by how these titles map and re-map the black woman’s body—a body I approach through the poet’s gendered signature… .Wabuke’s truncated form—the fragments in place of complete sentences, the sentences shattered by enjambment—join familiar black diasporic forms that ask how one can imagine loss, how one can write the unspoken, how can follow traces, knowing that to follow them is to risk madness. This is the world of M. NourbeSe Philips’s Zong! It is the ongoing work of the black diasporic poet: to seek forms that might offer a glimpse of ongoing dispossession.”

Read the rest of this well-thought out and astute review here.

New Essay Published at Stir Journal

Stir Journal has published my newest essay–about my elderly and terminally sick father’s brush with police brutality in which he almost got shot because the police couldn’t believe a Black man could live in such an affluent neighborhood. Incidentally, my father has lived there for over thirty years:

Last month, my father went for a walk down the street in front of his home in Arcadia, California. A few minutes in, he was stopped by police. This was about a hundred feet away from his house. The police got out of their squad car, hands already un-holstering their guns. They asked my father for identification. They asked him what he was doing there. They asked him where he lived.

To understand this story it is important to know one simple thing: My father has lived in that house for almost thirty years. He was the first Black man to move his Black family into that neighborhood. He did it for us, his children, so that we would have the best education possible at one of the best public school systems in the state. In fact, all five of us went to the neighborhood schools and graduated from Arcadia High School. Senior year, my eldest sister served on the student council as Student Representative to the Board of Education, interacting regularly with the city government; her picture hung on the wall of the Arcadia city hall. My youngest sister holds various school records in track and field and was instrumental in years of victories for Arcadia High School. The three of us middle children had varying degrees of success — orchestra and choir honors, basketball championships and more school athletic records, Honor Rolls, academic awards, and scholarships to college.

But this is respectability politics. None of this should matter. Our lives matter, no matter how much — or how little — we have given in service to the community.

Read the rest of the essay here.