I was born under a
palm-wine tree in Ikot Akpan Eda in Ikot Ekpene Diocese in Nigeria.
I studied philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga
universities and theology at the Catholic University of Eastern
Africa. I have taught English and Literature in English in Nigerian
Also, I have lived and worked with lepers, played the banjo, and
served as a DJ of classical music. I have worked with street kids
in Tanzania and volunteered in Chicago's Cabrini Green.
I was inspired to write by the people who sit around my village
church to share palm wine after Sunday Mass, by the Bible, and by
the humour and endurance of the poor. My grandfather was one of
those who brought the Catholic Church to our village. I was
ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and I like to celebrate the
sacraments for my fellow villagers. Some of them have no problem
stopping me in the road and asking for confession! I received my
MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in
I have very fond memories of my childhood in my village, where
everybody knows everybody, and all my paternal uncles still live
together in one big compound. Growing up, my mother told me
folktales and got me and my three brothers to read a lot.
I became a fiction writer during my seminary days. I wrote at
night, when the community computers were free. Computer viruses ate
much of my work.
Finally, my friend Wes Harris believed in me enough to get me a
laptop. This saved me from the despair of losing my stories and
made me begin to see God again in the seminary. The stories I saved
on that first laptop are the core of SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM.
I always look forward to visiting my village. No matter how high
the bird flies, its legs still face the earth. When I get back to
Ikot Akpan Eda, my people will celebrate this book in our own
way-with lots of tall tales, spontaneous prayers, and palm