Biography

Uwem Akpan

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 high schools.

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 2006.

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 wine!

Uwem Akpan

Books by Uwem Akpan