Hidden Histories and Forbidden Love: Chinelo Okparanta in conversation with Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed

Hidden Histories and Forbidden Love: Chinelo Okparanta in conversation with Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed
Saturday 7 October, 18:00 – 19:30
Event Space, Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, BS1 3QY

Chinelo Okparanta’s deeply searching and powerful debut novel is about the dangers of living and loving openly. Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and the set in the midst of the Biafran War, Under the Udala Trees (2015) uses the lifetime of one woman to explore love and truth of personal relationships, in the context of taboo, prejudice, conflict and division. The writer discusses identity, the testing of faith, and uncovering histories through the personal journeys of her characters, in conversation with bookshy blogger Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed.


Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. A University of Iowa Provost’s Postgraduate Visiting Writer in Fiction as well as a Colgate University Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Fiction, Okparanta received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was one of Granta’s six New Voices for 2012 and is a Lambda Award winner for Lesbian Fiction, an O. Henry Short Story Prize winner, a finalist for the Rolex Mentors and Proteges Arts Initiative, a finalist for the Etisalat Prize for Literature, and a finalist for the Caine Prize, among others. Her stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. In 2017, Okparanta was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists.

Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed is a researcher, writer and blogger with extensive experience in gender, urbanisation and international development. She is currently a Technical Specialist on Women’s Economic Empowerment at Social Development Direct. Zahrah is also the founder and editor of bookshy – a labour of love dedicated to African literature – and the curator of ABC, a visual showcase of African Book Covers. She holds a BSc in Human and Physical Geography from University of Reading, an MSc in Urbanisation and Development and a PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies, both from London School of Economics (LSE). She tweets @zahrahnesbitt.