Chris Abani was imprisoned by the Nigerian regime for his writings when he was a teenager. Over two decades later, he has transcended his adversity with creativity—by finding redemption and purpose in his art. His novel Graceland, winner of the 2005 PEN/Hemingway Award, is a moving portrait of a teenage Elvis impersonator, set against the colorful, postcolonial backdrop of one of the world’s largest cities, Lagos.
Becoming Abigail, his poetic novella about a fiercely independent Nigerian girl forced into prostitution by her family, was chosen as a New York Times Editor’s Pick for 2006. His latest novel, The Virgin of Flames, is set in a seedy area of Los Angeles and follows a haunted artist searching for his identity.
Abani currently lives in California and teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. He is the recipient of the 2001 PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the 2001 Prince Claus Award, and a 2003 Lannan Literary Fellowship.