Okey Ndibe Releases New Book FOREIGN GODS, INC.
At the opening of Foreign Gods, Inc. (Soho Press | January 14th, 2014)Ikechukwu Uzondu thinks he has hit bottom. It's been over a decade since Ike (pronounced Ee-kay) graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College and yet because of his thick Nigerian accent the best job he can manage is driving a Yellow Cab in New York City.
This longstanding frustration gives way to depression after an emotionally crippling divorce from an American woman. It doesn't take long before Ike begins losing more and more ground to his dual addictions to alcohol and gambling.
The drinking, the ruinous gambling, and the failure of his career can be boiled down, according to Ike, to discrimination against his accent and a manipulative ex-wife.
But then again, according to Ike, nothing is his fault.
Fate smiles a toothy grin however, when a friend shows him an article in New York Magazine that details an art dealer in Manhattan that specializes in selling foreign deities-the titular Foreign Gods, Incorporated. It does not take long for Ike to think of the effigy of Ngene, the powerful war god that resides in his home village in Nigeria. Such a powerful god of war would be worth a lot of money to one of Foreign Gods, Inc.'s wealthy clients. After a few desperate and booze-addled nights of plotting, Ike resolves to journey back to Nigeria in order to steal Ngene.
This plan, of course, will not be easily achieved and Ike will soon realize that there is always a little farther to fall before you hit bottom.
The result is nothing short of a masterful novel that is at once a taut, literary thriller and an indictment of greed's power to subsume all things, including the sacred. Ikechukwu is a refreshingly rakish protagonist who owes as much to Dostoevsky's underground man as he does to Achebe's Okonkwo or Rushdie's Saladin Chamcha.
Okey Ndibe has written a novel that wrestles with bad faith and the post-colonial condition in equal measure. Foreign Gods, Inc. is a more than worthy follow-up to Arrows of Rain, Ndibe's first novel, which Ernest Emenyonu called, "A blueprint for the second generation of African novelists."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Okey Ndibe was born in Yola, northeastern Nigeria, on May 15, 1960, five months before his original country achieved Independence from British rule on October 1, 1960. He remembers his first few years as a period of enchantment, a time when his mother, a schoolteacher, and his father, a postal clerk, introduced him both to books and the magical world of folktales.
He was seven when Nigeria descended into a horrific civil war, called the Biafran War (after the name chosen by the southeast region that sought to secede). An estimated two million people perished in the 30-month conflict, most of them from starvation.
The war was a defining moment for Mr. Ndibe. Forced to flee Yola with his parents, he relocated to the Igbo-speaking southeast. At the end of the war, he had not only lost the Hausa language that was the predominant language in the town of his birth, but had also come away with a sense of a violent, fractured world.
It was in high school that he developed a strong interest in writing. He served on an editorial team that produced a newsletter, rising to be the editor. By the last year of high school, several major Nigerian newspapers were publishing his editorial pieces.
After high school, he had hoped to travel to the US for further studies. When that plan fell through, he studied business management at Nigerian colleges. Upon graduation, he worked as a senior editor at two Nigerian weekly magazines.
He relocated to the US in 1988 when the inimitable Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, invited him to be the founding editor of African Commentary, a bi-monthly publication that focused on Africa and its Diaspora. The magazine received critical acclaim in the US and elsewhere, named by such publications as Library Journal, USA Today, Utne Reader, and Detroit Free Press as one of the best magazines that appear in the US in 1989.
Ndibe was then admitted to the University of Massachusetts where he earned an MFA in fiction - and, later, a PhD as well.
His first novel, Arrows of Rain, was published by Heinemann (UK) in their esteemed African Writers Series. Foreign Gods, Inc., which will be published on January 14, 2014, is his second novel. Ndibe also co-edited (with Zimbabwean author Chenjerai Hove) a book titled Writers, Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa.
A visiting professor of African and African Diaspora literatures at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Ndibe has also taught at Trinity College, Hartford, CT; Connecticut College in New London, CT, and Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, MA. During the 2001-2002 year, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Lagos in Nigeria.
From 2000 to 2001, he was a member of the editorial board of the Hartford Courant where his essay, "Eyes to the Ground: The Perils of the Black Student," was named the best opinion piece by the Association of Opinion Page Editors. He writes a widely popular, hard-hitting column that focuses on Nigerian politics, syndicated by several Nigerian newspapers and websites. Stung by his unsparing stance against official corruption in the country of his birth, the Nigerian government put his name on a list of "enemies of the state." In January 2011, Nigeria's security agents arrested him and detained him when he arrived from the US, and confiscated his Nigerian and American passports. The episode was covered by media around the world, and triggered protests from Nigerian and foreign writers as well as organizations, among them Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
In 2010, the Nigerian Peoples Parliament (a political pressure group of Nigerians resident abroad) elected him their speaker.