Find the intro to the event here…
Su’eddie Vershima Agema: Lots of people in Benue (and beyond I guess) would like to get to know a bit more about you. Can you let us in a bit on childhood, growing up and where you are at the moment?
Unoma Nguemo Azuah: I was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta state. My father is Tiv, from Ukan in Ushongo in Benue state. My mother is Igbo from Asaba, in Delta state. Most of my childhood was spent in Delta and old Anambra state.
My main writing history starts with the undergraduate days. As an undergraduate at [University of Nigeria] Nsukka, I edited the English department literary journal—The Muse and received the awards of the best Creative Writing student for two consecutives years: 1992 and 1993. I have had some other awards including the Hellman/Hammett award, the Urban Spectrum award, the Leonard Trawick award and the Association of Nigerian Authors/NDDC Flora Nwapa award for my debut novel Sky-high Flames. My latest novel, Edible Bones has already won the Aidoo-Snyder book award. At the moment, I teach English in a four-year-liberal art College called Lane College. It’s in Jackson, Tennessee, USA.
SVA: How does it feel having a new book out?
UA: It feels good – like having a new baby.
SVA: How old is Edible Bones?
UA: Edible Bones is less than one year. It was published in December of 2011 by Oracle Books, Lagos.
SVA: This book, Edible Bones, what is the general thrust of the book and what is there exciting to it?
UA: The story of Edible Bones focuses on the protagonist by the name Kaitochukwu. As a security guard for the American Embassy in Lagos, Kaitochukwu daily contains the rushing hundreds of eager Nigerian visa applicants who, before dawn, line up pressed against locked wire fences outside the embassy entrance. When 8 a.m. arrives, the embassy opens. Each day, only about one third of the men and women get their turn at the service desk as the day progresses. Most of them are told that their request for a travel visa has been denied. Kaitochukwu, however, gets the long anticipated news that is opposite of that received by his fellow hopefuls. His six-month old request for a visa to travel to the US has been approved.
Kaitochukwu departs for Cleveland, Ohio, excited to fulfill the American dream of his media-driven imagination where every house is a castle, and every American life is complete with luxurious cars, designer clothes, and widescreen TVs. What he, instead, encounters is a path beset by unstable relationships with women, violent crime, and job loss. Edible Bones follows Kaitochukwu’s journey as an undocumented African immigrant in an unwelcoming American urban square, chronicling the distance between his grand expectations and his ensuing formidable fate.
SVA: What’s your general perception of publishing in Nigeria?
UA: Publishing for Nigerian publishers is quite challenging. Distribution is a major problem, not just in the sense of circulation but in the sense of accountability. Hopefully, we’ll get to a point where circulation of books tallies with honest and well documented returns. A number of publishers have complained about losses because there are tangled up with bookstores that do not practise good book-keeping.
SVA: What really was your reason for publishing in Nigeria when you could have done it easily outside the country [and as some people would say, much better and cheaper]?
UA: I decided to publish Edible Bones in Nigeria first because the primary audience of the novel is the Nigerian public. There is also a conscious effort on my part to practice the saying that “charity begins at home.” This may not necessarily apply to all my subsequent novels, but for this particular one, delivering it first to my people is as urgent as the message the novel bears. Further, Edible Bones is traditionally published by Oracle Books; it’s not self published so I didn’t spend a kobo. And the American edition will be out soon.
SVA: It is one thing to read in Nigeria and in other places. It is another to come home. Now, you are Tiv by birth, your name Nguemo gives you away on that too. How does it feel coming home to read to your people?
UA: It’s exciting. It’s such a great re-union. I may actually get down to Gboko to see my grandfather.
SVA: What are you expecting when you come to Makurdi – from the place, the people, the reading and your audience?
UA: I am expecting a warm welcome, a wonderful people, a fun time reading and interacting and of course some pounded yam with “pocho” or “atuu” soup. LOL!!!
SVA: We sure are not making it one way! What should the audience expect?
UA: A good outing! I’ll read and entertain, hopefully.
SVA: Any ellipses for readers to hold on to till you come to continue that line on Monday? (Final Words)
UA: …… He had barely pulled down his pants before a loud spurt of faeces splashed all over the toilet seat. He sat down on it desperate to relieve himself. The stench was intense. When he finished, he grabbed a can of air freshener from the windowsill and tried to spray, but it was empty…..
Join us as we read with Unoma Nguemo Azuah behind NUJ House, Makurdi on the 18th June 2012 by 4pm.
In addition to it all, there would be gifts to be won and soooo much more. Send enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you there.