In this dazzling debut by a singular new talent, the sprawling, swampy, cacophonous city of Lagos, Nigeria, provides the backdrop to the story of Elvis, a teenage. Abani’s debut novel offers a searing chronicle of a young man’s coming of age in Nigeria during the late s and early s. The vulnerable. By switching between flashbacks and the present, and sprinkling in some gritty scenes (child rape) and colorful detail (quoting John Wayne).

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Each week, our editors select the one author and one book they believe to be most worthy of your attention and highlight them in our Pro Connect email alert. Gracelandlike Jessica Hagedorn’s novels Dogeaters or Dream Junglecrams fistfuls of characters into bustling Third World nightmares.

I’m not going to lie, this book isn’t a happy one but the story is touching and the language Abani uses is gorgeous. And when you take characters who speak English like Nigerian street kids it’s part of the theme, too and translate it into Swedish, it ends up sounding like an old 50s comedy half the time.

When Abani keeps the satire subtle, like in these passages, the book is far more effective than in some of the over the top plot points that occur later in the story. Some of the characters that are featured prominently are his father, Sunday Oke, a brusque drunk, who after GraceLand is about man named Elvis Oke, told in alternating narratives between the time he arrives in Lagos and the time of his life living in an area called Afikpo, prior to arriving in Lagos.

Though the characters are make believe, anyone who reads the newspapers or watches the BBC news knows that Elvis’ journey happens everyday.

‘Graceland’ is a study in Nigeria’s many contrasts

Elvis, traveling with the troupe, eventually returns to Lagos, and is captured by the Colonel, who does not recognize him. A large part of the novel is concerned with the concept of criminality. Though Abani seems to be celebrating the fragmentation that apparently characterizes the postcolonial world per Partha Chatterjeehis overstatement of that very fragmentation renders him a rather cliched version of the postcoloniality his book promises to portray.


Guns tucked under t-shirts and barefoot children padding down litter-strewn, unpaved roads.

Quick Review: Chris Abani’s Graceland | The Mantle

Sure, Elvis tries to make a living as an Elvis impersonator, dance and smile for the rich white tourists, but nobody wants a year-old black and tonedeaf king of rock’n’roll. The King denounces the evils of American-style capitalism and calls for a return to the traditional communal values of the indigenous culture. Someone had laid out short planks to carve a path through the sludge.

Abani doesn’t flinch to bring these stories to light. You will d Any time a book is discussed in gracleand book club, I find I come to appreciate the book more than I did while reading it.

I’ve always believed, “Jesus wept” is some kind of powerful. This familial fall-out of the dislocations and impoverishment of postcolonial Nigeria is also writ into the violence of the state. Chris Abani depicts the poverty and violence in Lagos and how it affects the everyday lives of Elvis and his family.

Or that Nigeria also had a higher percentage of poor people than nearly any other country in the world. In this case, Lagos, Nigeria in the early s, with flashbacks a few years earlier. Goodreads helps gracepand keep track of books you want to read.

But up on stage Abani impressed me more than just about anyone else with the exception, probably, of Kei Miller. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

The richness of the traditions and the complexities of the extended African family don’t always translate well into a western “lexicon”. Abani is not the first Nigerian writer to paint a vivid and disturbing picture of post-colonial life in that country.

Atlantic Literature: Virtue, Commerce, History, and Cuisine in the novel GraceLand by Chris Abani

Also, plenty of mention of the west’s apathy towards actually doing something in Africa, despite it’s colonial past.

He befriends an interesting cast gracelanf characters that help him secure work, teach him about the world, and hasten his development. Abani crafts a masterful tale of Nigeria, youth, coming of age, loss, pain, suffering, the wild, senseless injustices of gracelnad world and much more.


Many of the slums in Lagos are makeshift structures built above swampland: Sunday eventually moves the family to Lagos, when Elvis is sixteen, to a slum called Maroko.

Quick Review: Chris Abani’s Graceland

The characters and settings were rich and deep and the feelings they evoked were much the same. Dec 30, Frances rated it it was ok Shelves: Preview — GraceLand by Chris Abani. Read it if your heart feels strong enough to bear being torn apart.

He’s the head of a traveling theatrical group of singers, dancers, musicians and actors who perform in remote villages.

Discover what to read next. This novel is set in Maroko, a sprawling, swampy, crazy and colorful ghetto of Lagos, Nigeria, and unfolds against a backdrop of lush reggae and highlife music, American movies and a harsh urban existence.

Sbani, harsh and selfish, a male chauvinist in a particularly African tribal mode, Sunday wasn’t exactly an Ozzie Nelson kind of dad even in the best of times. Which unfortunately affected my enjoyment of the book. Graceland CL first read: This not only represents the splitting of the diaspora but the ability to enter the text in a way that he wouldn’t be able to if he didn’t share that anani racial heritage. And throughout the book there is the waning influence of British colonial rule, the loss of indigenous knowledge, and the expanding influence of American pop culture.

In one quick scene, the protagonist Elvis Oke is young, in the yard, fetching water for his bath graceladn whistling the theme song from Casablanca. A simple, straightforward narrative would have been much better than the flashbacks, African recipes and random quotes that begin every chapter. The Parameters of Longing. Sunday remarries to a vendor named Comfort, who has children of her own. Elvis goes through a number of jobs, which grow increasingly desperate as the novel progresses.

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