Nneoma Ike-Njoku is a Nigerian writer and freelance editor studying Liberal Arts at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Transition Magazine, Omenana, Interfictions, Dovetales Literary Journal, The Naked Convos, and Afrikana. She is currently working on a collection of short stories centered around contemporary Nigerian life.
BBR: Can we get some scratch from your family background. What was growing up like? Bad, good, boring, memorabe?
NNEOMA: I had a wonderful childhood. I have five siblings so there was obviously a lot of noise. My family moved around a bit, and we ended up in Abuja from Lagos, which is a very different atmosphere. And there were always books in the house, which is a wonderful thing for any book lover.
BBR: When did you actually start writing? What led to it. How did you
realise you could be a good writer as this?
NNEOMA: My earliest writing was shamelessly scribbling down what I could from the many posters we had around the house at three or four. Later it was Enid Blyton-influenced stories that I kept in an exercise book. I decided I liked making up stuff when my dad gifted me a diary. Instead of writing what actually went on with my day, I made up the craziest things. A friend of mine found my ‘diary’ and passed it to some other friends and they demanded I continue.
BBR: How would you compare life in Nigeria and life in the U.S?
NNEOMA: It’s a lot different in a lot of obvious ways like the weather and the food, but also in a lot of not-so-obvious ways, like responding ‘good!’ rather than ‘fine!’ when someone asks how you are.
BBR: What and what does your writing focus on?
NNEOMA: Usually whatever I’m obsessed with at the time.
BBR: Who are your best writers from Nigeria? And who can you say; this
writer or that writer is just the person I want to be like?
NNEOMA: Nnedi Okoroafor’s writing is breathtaking. Recently, I discovered
Lesley Nneka Arimah, and her short stories are a work of art, actual poetry. I don’t necessarily look at writers whose work I admire as ‘writers I want to be like’, because I find that very restrictive. Every writer has a unique way of looking at the world and talking about it.
BBR: What’s your own say about feminism or some feminist movements?
NNEOMA: I think Nigerian feminism is very necessary. There are a lot of very horrible things we like to avoid talking about in Nigeria and like to
pretend they don’t exist. There are issues like rape and domestic violence
and child marriage and abuse, and very recently with the Chibok girls, and I think it is great that feminism is pushing us to have these conversations in a meaningful way.
BBR: Got you write for children too? How is that? Writing for children and
writing for adults, which do you find more interesting?
NNEOMA: I don’t find that I have to do any other conscious separating of my
children’s stories from my other writing. Sometimes an idea for a story
comes, and I know it’s a children’s story immediately.
BBR: What can you say about young Nigerians in the circle of literature and
the general status of literature in Nigeria?
NNEOMA: There is so much beautiful writing available right now. You don’t
have to look hard or far: Brittle Paper, YNaija, Bella Naija, consistently put out great work, and for free too! So the literacy issue is not with
availability. But I’ve heard people say they would do almost any other thing in the world before sitting down with a book to read. You only have to look at our education system to understand where some of this is coming from.
BBR: What are those things you think should be corrected in Nigeria. In
government, economy, education, e.t.c.
NNEOMA: There is so much to just list here. Our education system needs a
complete overhaul. We need to talk about and figure out ways to deal with rising unemployment and housing insecurity. Internal terrorism needs to be
properly addressed and called what it is.
BBR: So, what are you doing next? What are your plans? About publishing and all
NNEOMA: I can’t say much yet. I’m just working.
BBR: Thank you, Nneoma. It’s so lovely to have you featured on