1. Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and where your interest in Literature came from?
I grew up in Nigeria where I completed my undergraduate education. My interest in literature came from studying Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in my freshman year in College. I was drawn to the familiarity of the world of this novel which reflected some of the Igbo cultural practices I see my father and other members of his generation perform. I was drawn to our class discussion on the role of literature in understanding Africa’s place in the world, what I would later learn the postcolonial thinker Edward Said called the worldliness of texts. Having inspiring professors who were passionate about their subject also helped.
2. What made you want to come to graduate school in America?
Frankly, I think of it as America choosing me. Although I encountered America in books, I didn’t think of studying here, primarily because of the cost for international students. This changed when I met a Nigerian-born professor who teaches in the US while he was visiting our campus. He mentioned scholarship opportunities and the other resources available for graduate work in America. That was how I came here.
3. Who is your favorite African author and why? Have they influenced your work/research?
This is a difficult question as different writers do different things for me. I am drawn to Achebe’s fiction for the way he unravels the unraveling of African societies during the colonial contact. I do love Chimamanda Adichie’s telling of the Nigeria-Biafra war in Half of a Yellow Sun as well. These writers narrate tragedy in a beautiful, affecting way.
4. Do you prefer to lecture on World Literature or African American Literature?
I love teaching all kinds of literature, but my favorite will be literature of Africa and those of African descendants in the Americas. African and African diasporic literatures appeal to me with the ways they encapsulate black subjectivity
5. Is there anything you are currently working on that you are really excited about/cannot wait to publish?
I am working on different things but particularly excited about my forthcoming monograph on the portrayals of ecological issues in African literature. The book, currently in production, is due from Cambridge University Press in 2018. I am excited to see Naturalizing Africa make its way in the world.