Uwem Akpan

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Uwem Akpan S.J., image from a reading at the University of San Francisco
Akpan in 2009

Uwem Akpan (born May 19, 1971) is a Nigerian writer.


  • I’m fascinated with the process of creating a character and the freedom of the creative process. I’m discovering as well, learning myself. Since I only realized I had the gift ten years ago, I felt I needed to develop this. I also like fiction because it is not doctrinaire. It is exploratory and you are invited to come and see, just like Jesus first invited would-be disciples to ‘come and see’. What you do after seeing is left to you.
  • For me, research is very important. But I do not begin with research. I begin with writing the story, which for me is the relationship between the characters. It is after I have written or pretty much have a sense of the story that I go and do research. I am conscious that I am writing about poor people for the most part. They don’t have much other than their space or dirt. I want to do my best to represent that well. I am also conscious that I am writing about other countries. I want to make sure I understand those cultures as best as possible and represent them well…
  • The rhythm of life here is different from that of Nigeria. I really liked the efficiency and accessibility of things here, the educational opportunities. And I was touched by the beauty and tolerance it has taken to fashion America. But, for instance, the thing about old people staying in "homes" away from home blew my mind. As did how little Americans know or want to know about life elsewhere…
    • On the differences between living in Nigeria and the United States in “Uwem Akpan” in Book Browse
  • My continent is in distress and has been since the beginning of slavery. Leadership is a big problem. My hope is that things will change in Africa. Europe fought endlessly with itself in past centuries; now they have a European Union, not just in name, like the African Union. I hope that someday all the stupid wars on the African continent will end. I am amazed at the endurance of people, whether in Asia or Latin America or Africa, caught up in harsh situations.

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