Nigerian-Canadian novelist Michael Afenfia is the author of six novels, ‘When the Moon Caught Fire’, ‘A Street Called Lonely’, ‘Don’t Die on Wednesday’, ‘The Mechanics of Yenagoa, ‘Rain Can Never Know’, and the just-released ‘Leave My Bones In Saskatoon’. In this interview with United States Bureau Chief OLUKOREDE YISHAU, Afenfia sheds light on themes in his new book, writing and migration.
Aside from its ‘japa’ theme and being like a love letter to your new home, ‘Leave My Bones in Saskatoon’ is also like a subtle commentary on Nigeria’s security challenges and politicians’ tendency to play politics with almost everything. Why did you write a novel like this?
I thought it was important that we speak about these things. You are right that the novel speaks to the immigration experience and the fact that the experience isn’t always the same for everyone, but I wanted to highlight the fact that for many people, especially Nigerians – young, middle-aged and old – as we see in the novel, leaving their homeland for Europe or the Americas is existential. If our politicians and leaders are more interested in developing the country and making the right choices for its citizens, I do not think that very many people will be placed in that position, sometimes very difficult position of “japaing.” I hope that this novel speaks to our leaders and people in charge of institutions, systems and policies about all the things that have gone wrong in our country. We continue to have all these conversations but I was tired of conversations and talking. I want to act – write something – do something.
How long did it take you to work on this?
About a year, I think.
You have written and published two novels since you relocated. Obviously, migration hasn’t affected your muse. Do you think a writer can lose the muse as a result of relocation?
I think so. I think that the change from living in one county and relocating to another can be drastic and harsh for anyone. I do not believe that writers come with a special absorber or skill set that make them more adaptive to the culture shock you experience when you move to a new country so I think that a writer can lose the will or inspiration to write just from having to find work, worrying about bills and utilities, challenges with language and all the other barriers a newcomer to any country might face. I do not know how I didn’t lose mine, but because I didn’t doesn’t mean that it might not be challenging for other writers. But I must say this though, the government and community here in Saskatoon where I live, is pretty supportive of creatives, including immigrant creatives and writers because they want to support and promote diversity and representation so that also helped me a lot.
Will you say writing has been good to you or would you have preferred something more profitable?
Writing has been good to me. I chose writing over law practice, I do not see anything else competing with it or taking me away from writing at this stage of my life.
What makes a good or great writer? Awards or what?
Every writer should know their audience. A good writer should know who they are writing for, know what that audience wants and know how to satisfy them. If my readers are happy, I am happy and I feel that I have done something right. If in the process an award comes, I will accept it with open arms because the validation of peers and the monetary reward that comes with it is also important. Afterall, a writer deserves a good life as well.
What does your writing process look like?
Seriously, I’m not sure I have a writing process anymore. Since moving to Canada, my writing has been more adaptive than prescriptive. However, I must say this, I like to share chapters with friends and my team as I write and the early feedback is always good for letting me know if I am on the right track.
Do you have any new work in progress?
I do, but I’m afraid I can’t say very much about it at this time.
The summer is around the corner. Do you have book recommendations?
My recommendation would be anything by Haruki Murakami.
Source: The Nation
Written by : Michael Afenfia
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