Black Boy Review

Interview with author Ifesinachi Okoli Okpagu

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

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BBR: We would love to know how growing up was like.

Growing up was fun. I am the first of five children, so there was never the opportunity to be ‘alone’…there would always be someone in your space (laughs), but it was great. When I think of my childhood days, I think of Lucky Dube and Everly Brothers; of sunshine pouring in through yellow curtains in the morning; and of gardens of tomatoes and pepper…no roses, no- we had gardens of tomatoes and pepper outside. I think of a playground with crisp yellow sand, the voices of children floating, ringing; bicycles, lots of cycling bicycles; I think of sweat. Those days, children smelled of sweat and sunshine, not air conditioning. 

BBR: How do you combine writing with family life and work and all that.

I find a way to dedicate time to everyone and everything I hold dear. I don’t joke with family time, same way I don’t joke with work time or writing time. I schedule everything nicely on my calendar and dedicate 100% to each at any given time; that way I try to find balance. But my family comes first. Always. My husband, my children, they are priceless. They understand that I have to work sometimes, and I guess they have gotten used to my ways.

BBR: Your novel is about family, marriage, women, sex. What was the inspiration behind these subject issues.

Just everyday happenings. Marriage is a big deal in the society today, and the pressure has pushed many people into making  wrong decisions. I drew inspiration from these stories we hear everyday. 

BBR: How was publishing for you? The stages.

First, the Parresia team got in touch with me. Azafi, the team lead, asked me if I had a manuscript. I was working on one at the time, and she was nice enough to wait for me to finish it and send it in. It took a year to complete. Luckily, it was accepted for publishing..yay! After that, there was the long wait for the manuscript to go through the editing stages, then layout, and finally, here it is!

BBR: How do you place the Nigerian literature industry today.

It is an evolving industry, definitely growing, not there yet. But with the new crop of writers and the world beginning to appreciate us, I think we will soon enjoy the same recognition that other international writers enjoy.

BBR: What’s your take on African feminism?

Hmm. Is there such a thing as African feminism? I see feminism as a universal call to action, not a regional one. 

BBR: How do you see Nigeria today. The economy, the industries, the education, everything.

Wow. Nigeria is, I don’t know, just there. But there is hope. We mustn’t lose hope.

BBR: What has been the reaction towards your book; the reviews, the sales.

It has been great. Out of the blue I would receive a message from a reader saying they read the book and loved it. The other day someone said she was reading it for the second time on her way to work! And yet another lecturer from Gombe State University reached out to me to say that his student was analysing the book as the subject of her thesis. It has been really great to know the book means as much to people as it means to me. 

BBR: What would be your advice for writers, especially young Nigerian writers. 

Keep writing, try to network as much as you can, and believe in your craft no matter how many rejection letters you get. 

BBR: Thanks for having you, Ifesinachi.

Merci (Smiles)

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