Top 77 Quotes & Sayings by Chris Abani

Explore popular quotes and sayings by a Nigerian author Chris Abani.
Chris Abani

Christopher Abani is a Nigerian-American author. He says he is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experience of those born and raised in "that troubled African nation".

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Ability Accept Accumulation Action Acts Actual Afraid Africa African Agents Hide All Alive Alphabet Amalgamation Amazing America American American Slavery Anatomy Anger Angry Angry Words Anymore Archetypes Arrive Artist Ascribe Aspect Aspects Atonement Attract Audience Authenticity Average Aware Back Backdrop Beautiful Beauty Beckoning Begin Beginning Belief Believing Bereft Bittersweet Body Book Books Bookshelf Bookstore Boot Boot Camp Born Bother Bothers Bring Brother Brought Built Burned By The Time Camp Capital Care Carriage Carry Center Centers Chance Change Changed Changing Changing Reality Chaotic Characters China Chocolate Chose Chronicle Cigarettes Circumstance Cities Civil Civil War Claim Clear Closed Closest Club Coaster Coca-Cola Cognitive Cognitive Dissonance Collectively Comfortable Comic Comic Book Comic Books Communicate Community Compassion Complete Complexity Complicated Complicated Relationship Complicity Concrete Confusing Consciousness Consequences Constant Contend Content Continent Continue Continuum Convention Cork Count Countries Country Craft Create Creative Culture Cultures Curtains Dangerous Darkest Darkness Debate Decided Decisions Deeper Demons Depends Desire Destructive Dice Diego Different Genres Different Ideas Difficult Directly Disappear Discomfort Displaced Dissonance Distance Distraction Document Don't Care Don't Care Anymore Drawn Drought Easily Economies Editing Educated Element Elevated Elvis Embark Emerging Emerging Economies Encounter Ended English Equally Equation Equipped Erase Essay Essays Essential Essentially Ethiopia Ethnic Ever-Changing Every Time Everyday Everyday People Evolve Exchange Exciting Exist Existential Exists Expect Explaining Express Expressed Extraordinary Face Fact Fairy Fairy Tale Fall Family Fashion Fashion Magazines Faster Father Federal Federal Government Feeble Feel Feels Feisty Fiction Fifteen Fight Fighting Figure Finally Find Finding Finish Fire Float Follow Foot Force Forests Forever Form Forms Formula Formula One Friend Function Games General Generate Generation Genre Genres Gentle Gestures Gifted Gifts Give Go Home Gods Good Good Art Government Grand Granted Great Great Historical Greatest Greatest Thing Group Growing Growing Up Grows Hallmark Hand Hang Happen Hate Haunt Heart Held Heroes Hiroshima Historical History Hold Holocaust Holocaust Survivor Home Homework Hope Horror Horse Human Human Potential Humanity Humanness Hunters Hunting Ideas Identity Ideological Ideology Image Imagination Impact Impersonal Implicit Important Impose Imposing Impressed In Fact Including Incredible Individual Inner Life Intellectual Interest Interested Interesting Internet Invigorating Invisible Irish Japanese Jargon Joke Journal Journey Judgments Junk Junk Mail Justification Keeping Kind Kindness Koran Land Language Larger Last Minute Lean Learn Leave Leaves Left Lens Lessons Liberal Life Life Lesson Life Lessons Light Lion Literature Live Lived Lives Living Logic Long Loss Love Love Is Loved Loves Lyrical Made Magazines Mail Make Make Sense Makes Making Margaret Marks Mars Mass Mastered Matter Means Meant Meeting Microcosm Minute Minutes Mirrors Modern Moment Moments Monica Moral Mother Mount Moved Movies My Friend Mysterious Mystery Mythic Narrative Narratives New Generation News Nigeria Nigerian Night Nomad Nonetheless Nonfiction Not Impressed Notes Novels Object Obligation Offer Older Older Brother One Woman Opening Opening Night Opportunity Oppression Ordered Ordinary Ordinary Person Orwell Other Countries Other Cultures Our Lives Our Time Oxford Page Pages Parents Park Part Participate Parts Passage Past Path Peace People Permanently Persecution Person Personal Philosophical Philosophy Phrase Place Places Plain Play Poetry Points Political Politically Popular Popular Culture Positive Potential Poverty Power Powerful Present Presented Presenting Pretend Pride Priest Primordial Privilege Problem Problems Process Propel Proper Protagonist Public Pure Pursue Putting Quality Question Questions Quiet Racing Racism Random Read Reader Readers Readily Reading Real Real People Reality Realize Really Beautiful Reason Reasons Rebels Reflect Reinvent Reinvent The Wheel Relationship Religious Relinquish Remains Remember Require Rescue Research Resist Resisting Responsible Rest Reverse Rhythm Rims Rise Risk Risks Risky Rites Ritual Roll Roller Roller Coaster Rudders Sacrifices Sad Same Thing San Diego Saved Saves Scaffolding Scandinavian Scars School Search Seduce Seldom Selling Sense Senseless Sentimental Sexism Shadow Shame Shape Shaping Share Shelf Shop Show Shows Side Sides Sigh Simple Simple Act Simply Simultaneously Singular Slap Slavery Slow Slow Down Small Small Acts Smart Smell Soft Sophisticated Sort South South Africa South America Speak Species Speculative Spinning Spirit Spiritual Split Spoken Stage Stalking Stand Steel Stock Stock Exchange Stop Stops Stories Story Strange Stranger Street Stripped Structures Style Successful Survival Survive Survivor Synthesis Taboo Takes Taking Tale Taught Tear Ten Minutes The History Of Thing Things Thought Three Years Time To Survive Tolstoy Trace Traditional Transcendence Transform Transformation Transformative Transformed Treacherous Trip Trouble True Truth Truth Is Truths Turn Turns TV Show TV Shows Type Ubuntu Uncle Understand University Unknowable Unlike Unloved Variable Visceral Waiting Wake Wake Up Wall Wall Street Wall Street Journal Wanting Water Ways Weapon West Wheel Where You Stand Whistle White Wholesome Wind Woman Women Women Are Women Want Wonderful Words Work World Worlds Worldview Worth Write Writer Writers Writing Wrote Year Years Years Ago You Have Changed Young Young Man Young Men Less More Hide All See All
The Igbo used to say that they built their own gods. They would come together as a community, and they would express a wish. And their wish would then be brought to a priest, who would find a ritual object, and the appropriate sacrifices would be made, and the shrine would be built for the god.
Fiction and poetry are my first loves, but the really beautiful lyrical essay can do so much that other forms cannot.
Every successful artist comes from a family - parents or siblings or both - who, although equally gifted, chose not to pursue the treacherous and difficult path of the artist.
I was born in 1966, at the beginning of the Biafran-Nigerian Civil War, and the war ended after three years. And I was growing up in school, and the federal government didn't want us taught about the history of the war, because they thought it probably would make us generate a new generation of rebels.
If I don't get at least one e-mail every ten minutes, I feel unloved. Even junk mail makes me feel seen. Sad, I know. Sigh. — © Chris Abani
If I don't get at least one e-mail every ten minutes, I feel unloved. Even junk mail makes me feel seen. Sad, I know. Sigh.
I had amazing intellectual privilege as a kid. My mom taught me to read when I was two or three. When I was five, I read and wrote well enough to do my nine-year older brother's homework in exchange for chocolate or cigarettes. By the time I was 10, I was reading Orwell, Tolstoy's 'War and Peace,' and the Koran. I was reading comic books, too.
I have to have three or four books going simultaneously. If I'm not impressed in the first 20 pages, I don't bother reading the rest, especially with novels. I'm not a book-club style reader. I'm not looking for life lessons or wanting people to think I'm smart because I'm reading a certain book.
My grand uncle was a traditional priest, and he would always say to me as a kid, 'We stand in our own light,' which essentially for him meant we were entirely responsible for a lot of what happens to us and for the ways in which our lives play out.
I truly believe that writing is a continuum - so the different genres and forms are simply stops along the same continuum. Different ideas that need to be expressed sometimes require different forms for the ideas to float better. I don't write essays as often as I should.
That women are mysterious and unknowable is something every young man grows up believing. Men, on the other hand, never think of themselves as mysterious or confusing, and we are often at a loss as to why women want to figure us out.
I read mostly Irish, African, Japanese, South American, and African writers. You can count on Scandinavian literature for a certain kind of darkness, a modern mythic style.
My mother was English. My parents met in Oxford in the '50s, and my mother moved to Nigeria and lived there. She was five foot two, very feisty and very English.
My books are often shelved around those of Chinua Achebe and Margaret Atwood, or Chimamanda Adichie and Monica Ali. All of this depends, of course, on the bookstore and how conversant the shelf stocker is with the alphabet.
My father was educated in Cork, in the University of Cork, in the '50s.
African narratives in the West, they proliferate. I really don't care anymore. I'm more interested in the stories we tell about ourselves - how, as a writer, I find that African writers have always been the curators of our humanity on this continent.
It takes me forever to actually finish something like a ten-page essay. But, when I do, I usually love what they are. It's a complicated relationship.
When I was growing up in Nigeria - and I shouldn't say Nigeria, because that's too general, but in Afikpo, the Igbo part of the country where I'm from - there were always rites of passage for young men. Men were taught to be men in the ways in which we are not women; that's essentially what it is.
In this time of the Internet and nonfiction, to be on an actual bookshelf in an actual bookstore is exciting in itself. — © Chris Abani
In this time of the Internet and nonfiction, to be on an actual bookshelf in an actual bookstore is exciting in itself.
Sometimes I feel very alone. I am a bit of a nomad. Many people in sort of emerging countries, emerging economies, find themselves displaced. So there is that sense, and so I'm part of a whole, I think, group of displaced people.
I think a book that is over 400 pages should be split in two. I don't know that there's anything that interesting that can go on for 700 pages. I think that is a little bit indulgent.
I love essays, but they're not always the best way to communicate to a larger audience.
There is no living African writer who has not had to, or will not have to, contend with Achebe's work. We are either resisting him - stylistically, politically, or culturally - or we are writing toward him.
My search is always to find ways to chronicle, to share and to document stories about people, just everyday people. Stories that offer transformation, that lean into transcendence, but that are never sentimental, that never look away from the darkest things about us.
We often think that language mirrors the world in which we live, and I find that's not true. The language actually makes the world in which we live. Language is not - I mean, things don't have any mutable value by themselves; we ascribe them a value.
Men do communicate, often very directly, but women sometimes cannot accept how simple what we have to say is.
The privilege of being a writer is that you have this opportunity to slow down and to consider things.
Like most writers, I find the Web is a wonderful distraction. Who doesn't need that last minute research before writing?
Narrative is a very feeble weapon in the face of human darkness and yet it's all we have. That we have to hang the transformation and survival of our species on the journey and transformation of one singular person so far outside of what we expect they can do.
I truly believe that writing is a continuum--so the different genres and forms are simply stops along the same continuum. Different ideas that need to be expressed sometimes require different forms for the ideas to float better.
What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.
Since I hold no judgments against my characters, no matter how heinous they might seem, I present them as real people with their own moral centers. We might feel those moral centers are mis-calibrated, but they are there and are the rudders that propel them. This makes reading my work a visceral roller coaster, 'cause the reader must embark on the journey of the protagonist equipped only with his or her own moral center.
The problem is we're looking for something that doesn't exist. We're looking for authenticity. There is no such thing as authenticity. There is either good art or bad art. Art is never about its content. It's about its scaffolding.
All power within the microcosm of my world was held and wielded by people who look like me. Plus, I think Nigerians all have this sense that they are better than everyone, including white people. So I have the privilege of a certain distance. It may just be that. So in a sense, I can't claim that as any ability that I have, simply a matter of circumstance.
The greatest thing about form and convention is that it saves you from having to reinvent the wheel. Now, whether you mount the wheel to a horse carriage or a Formula One racing car, make it plain or give it spinning rims, those are all craft decisions. But the fact of the wheel remains: it will turn if you set it down. That's what I mean about the beauty of the gifts genre can offer.
Unlike other books or TV shows or sometimes life, my narrative worlds are stripped of implicit moral centers. There is only what you bring. That makes the characters risky in every way and the narrative, a journey of change for the reader. But I make the journey as fun as I can.
Fiction is risky for writers also in that the process of making certain books, of shaping certain narratives, leaves scars and marks on your inner life.
What I do is create a lens through my work that corrects my readers' cognitive dissonance and says: you will see all of it - not what you want or what makes you comfortable, but all of it. And you will not erase what displeases you.
Literature is an aspect of story and story is all that exists to make sense of reality. War is a story. Now you begin to see how powerful story is because it informs our worldview and our every action, our every justification is a story. So how can story not be truly transformative? I've seen it happen in real ways, not in sentimental ways or in the jargon of New Age liberal ideology.
I read everywhere. It's like a bodily function. I don't need quiet. I write and read with the TV on. I follow the TV show while I read. TV doesn't require a lot of brainpower.
If there was no risk, it wouldn't be art. It wouldn't be worth making. There is risk even in a fairy tale. Fiction is closest to pure narrative, and pure narrative is simply the logic we try to impose on an ever-changing reality.
My friend Ronald Gottesman says...that the cause of all our trouble is the belief in an essential, pure identity: religious, ethnic, historical, ideological.
What we know about who we are comes from stories. It's the agents of our imagination who really shape who we are. — © Chris Abani
What we know about who we are comes from stories. It's the agents of our imagination who really shape who we are.
People think that writing is writing, but actually writing is editing. Otherwise, you're just taking notes
Fiction is more dangerous than nonfiction because it can seduce better. I think we all know this, know that deeper truths can be approached in fiction than in fact. There are risks for the reader, because after reading certain books you find you have changed irreversibly. There are risks for writers: in China, now, and Ethiopia and other countries right now, writers face real persecution.
If I dont get at least one e-mail every ten minutes, I feel unloved. Even junk mail makes me feel seen. Sad, I know. Sigh.
If you encounter a human shadow burned permanently into the concrete in Hiroshima, you realize that this is the trace of a very ordinary person now elevated into the emblematic. Time, shame, complicity, or discomfort are the only things that make us pretend History is impersonal or far removed from the power and consequences of our every lived moment.
Nigerians are everywhere. There's an old joke, particularly about the Ibos, that when you finally land on Mars, you're going to find a Nigerian there who has a shop that is selling Coca-Cola--who took a speculative trip 20 years ago and has been waiting for everyone else to arrive.
Anything a man can do, I can fix.
My mom taught me to read when I was two or three. When I was five I read and wrote well enough to do my nine-year older brother's homework in exchange for chocolate or cigarettes. By the time I was 10, I was reading Orwell, Tolstoy's War and Peace, and the Koran. I was reading comic books too.
I have not spoken in three years: not since I left boot camp. It has been three years of a senseless war, and though the reasons for it are clear, and though we will continue to fight until we are ordered to stop--and probably for a while after that--none of us can remember the hate that led us here. We are simply fighting to survive the war. It is a strange place to be at fifteen, bereft of hope and very nearly of your humanity. But that is where I am nonetheless.
If you want to know about Africa, read our literature - and not just 'Things Fall Apart,' because that would be like saying, 'I've read 'Gone with the Wind' and so I know everything about America.'
The truth is that History, with its imposing capital H, is simply the amalgamation of many quotidian lives lived in very ordinary ways. History is always personal. If you read Holocaust survivor or American slavery survivor narratives, you realize all too well that these great Historical moments were personal to someone at some time.
Men do communicate, often very directly, but women sometimes cannot accept how simple what we have to say is. We seldom play games--we aren't that sophisticated.
You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you. — © Chris Abani
You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.
There was a positive side to not trying at something: you could always pretend that your life would have been different if you had.
Time was the only variable in every equation of power and oppression--how long before the pot boiled over.
Before you speak, my friend, remember, a spiritual man contain his anger. Angry words are like slap in de face.
What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion.
You can count on Scandinavian literature for a certain kind of darkness, a modern mythic style.
Sometimes we say we want an end to hate or racism or sexism. But we all participate in keeping these structures alive. If everyone decided to relinquish the past what would happen to people who feel that there hasn't been proper atonement made to them? And what happens to the person who feels that the constant atonement is their identity?
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