Happiness, Like Water
By Chinelo Okparanta
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780544003453, 208pp.)
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
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A moving debut story collection centered on Nigerian women, as they build lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, and the burden and strength of love.
Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, and was raised there as a Jehovah's Witness. When she was ten, her family relocated to the United States. She received her BS from The Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has worked as a middle and high school French and English Language teacher, and an undergraduate writing teacher. She is one of Granta's six New Voices for 2012 and has stories forthcoming from Conjunctions, Subtropics, and elsewhere.
Born in Nigeria, Chinelo Okparanta was raised in the U.S. by her parents who were Jehovah's Witnesses. She talks to guest host Celeste Headlee about writing the truth about her home country, even if it's an ugly truth. More at NPR.org
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"Okparanta skillfully introduces readers to a new world held back by old-world traditions" - Publishers Weekly
"Chinelo Okparanta’s debut collection is astonishing. Her narrators render their stories with such strength and intimacy, such lucidity and composure, that in each and every case the truths of their lives detonate deep inside the reader’s heart, with the power and force of revelation."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers
"Okparanta's prose is tender, beautiful and evocative. These powerful stories of contemporary Nigeria are told with compassion and a certain sense of humour. What a remarkable new talent."
—Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street
"Intricate, graceful prose propels Okparanta’s profoundly moving and illuminating book. I devoured these stories and immediately wanted more. This is an arrival."
—NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names
"A haunting and startlingly original collection of short stories about the lives of Nigerians both at home and in America. Okparanta’s characters are forced to make difficult, often impossible choices—a university student decides to go to work as an escort to pay for her mother’s medical bills, a high school teacher is asked to come home to care for her dying, abusive father—and yet they manage to prevail through quiet and sometimes surprising acts of defiance. Okparanta’s prose is elegant and precise, fueled by a strong undercurrent of rage that surfaces at unexpected moments. Happiness, Like Water is a deeply affecting literary debut, the work of a sure and gifted new writer."
—Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic
"Without bluster, Chinelo Okparanta writes stories that are brave and devastating."
—Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist