By Chris Abani
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312425289, 336pp.)
Publication Date: January 2005
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"A richly detailed, poignant, and utterly fascinating look into another culture and how it is cross-pollinated by our own. It brings to mind the work of Ha Jin in its power and revelation of the new."--T. Coraghessan Boyle
The sprawling, swampy, cacophonous city of Lagos, Nigeria, provides the backdrop to the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis impersonator hoping to make his way out of the ghetto. Nuanced, lyrical, and pitch perfect, this is a remarkable story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria, where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.
Chris Abani was born in Nigeria. At age sixteen he published his first novel, for which he suffered severe political persecution. He went into exile in 1991, and has since lived in England and the United States. His book Daphne's Lot is a collection of poetry for which he won a 2003 Lannan Literary Fellowship. His book, Kalakuta Republic, is a collection of poetry based on his experience as a political prisoner in Nigeria, and received the PEN USA West Freedom-to-Write Award and the Prince Claus of the Netherlands Award. Abani lives and teaches in Los Angeles.
"Abani's intensely visual style--and his sense of humor--convert the stuff of hopelessness into the stuff of hope."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Extraordinary...This book works brilliantly in two ways. As a convincing and unpatronizing record of life in a poor Nigerian slum, and as a frighteningly honest insight into a world skewed by casual violence, it's wonderful...And for all the horrors, there are sweet scenes in Graceland too, and they're a thousand times better for being entirely unsentimental...Lovely." --The New York Times Book Review
"To say that this is a Nigerian or African novel is to miss the point. This absolutely beautiful work of fiction is about complex strained political structures, the irony of the West being a measure of civilization, and the tricky business of being a son. Abani's language is beautiful and his story is important."--Percival Everett