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'Becoming Abigail': Chris Abani's Next Novel

May 19, 2006 (News & Notes )

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Nigerian-born novelist Chris Abani stunned critics with his debut novel, the PEN/Faulkner Award award-winning Graceland, which followed the saga of a young Elvis impersonator coming of age in a Nigerian slum.

Abani's sophomore book, Becoming Abigail, tackles questions of identity and nationality — this time, from a female perspective. The title character is a Nigerian girl named for her mother, who died during her birth. Her father sends her to London to give her a better life, but that opportunity comes at a staggering price.

Her mother's death leaves Abigail with a crippling guilt that drives her to invent bizarre mourning rituals. She endures sexual abuse at the hand of relatives, and ends up in the hands of a malevolent cousin. The prose is as lyrical as the plot is wrenching.

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