What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion.— Chris Abani
The most fascinating Chris Abani quotes that are easy to memorize and remember
You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.
In this time of the Internet and nonfiction, to be on an actual bookshelf in an actual bookstore is exciting in itself.
The truth is that History, with its imposing capital H, is simply the amalgamation of many quotidian lives lived in very ordinary ways. History is always personal. If you read Holocaust survivor or American slavery survivor narratives, you realize all too well that these great Historical moments were personal to someone at some time.
That women are mysterious and unknowable is something every young man grows up believing. Men, on the other hand, never think of themselves as mysterious or confusing, and we are often at a loss as to why women want to figure us out.
The privilege of being a writer is that you have this opportunity to slow down and to consider things.
Fire and Water are archetypes, the split sides of consciousness;
one aware, the other, not. The two parts of us that desire synthesis, yet resist it: the self and the shadow. But they are also the element of chance, of the random roll of dice.
Before you speak, my friend, remember, a spiritual man contain his anger.
Angry words are like slap in de face.
Sometimes we say we want an end to hate or racism or sexism.
But we all participate in keeping these structures alive. If everyone decided to relinquish the past what would happen to people who feel that there hasn't been proper atonement made to them? And what happens to the person who feels that the constant atonement is their identity?
Nigerians are everywhere. There's an old joke, particularly about the Ibos, that when you finally land on Mars, you're going to find a Nigerian there who has a shop that is selling Coca-Cola--who took a speculative trip 20 years ago and has been waiting for everyone else to arrive.
My friend Ronald Gottesman says...that the cause of all our trouble is the belief in an essential, pure identity: religious, ethnic, historical, ideological.
Unlike other books or TV shows or sometimes life, my narrative worlds are stripped of implicit moral centers. There is only what you bring. That makes the characters risky in every way and the narrative, a journey of change for the reader. But I make the journey as fun as I can.
I read everywhere. It's like a bodily function. I don't need quiet. I write and read with the TV on. I follow the TV show while I read. TV doesn't require a lot of brainpower.
What I do is create a lens through my work that corrects my readers' cognitive dissonance and says: you will see all of it - not what you want or what makes you comfortable, but all of it. And you will not erase what displeases you.
I think that most writers who are trying to write important and difficult books are in many ways putting their own humanity into question. Sometimes the journey is finding out where you stand in relationship to your own humanity and to the humanity of others.
My search is always to find ways to chronicle, to share and to document stories about people, just everyday people. Stories that offer transformation, that lean into transcendence, but that are never sentimental, that never look away from the darkest things about us.
What we know about who we are comes from stories.
It's the agents of our imagination who really shape who we are.
Anything a man can do, I can fix.
What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.
If you want to know about Africa, read our literature - and not just 'Things Fall Apart,' because that would be like saying, 'I've read 'Gone with the Wind' and so I know everything about America.'
There was a positive side to not trying at something: you could always pretend that your life would have been different if you had.
Here's the thing: You rescue us every day in small, quiet ways, so why not in this way? Let us into your mystery, tell us how you would like to be loved, show us how to see you, really see you.
I think a book that is over 400 pages should be split in two.
I don't know that there's anything that interesting that can go on for 700 pages. I think that is a little bit indulgent.
Fiction is risky for writers also in that the process of making certain books, of shaping certain narratives, leaves scars and marks on your inner life.
If I dont get at least one e-mail every ten minutes, I feel unloved.
Even junk mail makes me feel seen. Sad, I know. Sigh.
Men do communicate, often very directly, but women sometimes cannot accept how simple what we have to say is. We seldom play games--we aren't that sophisticated.
Time was the only variable in every equation of power and oppression--how long before the pot boiled over.
Story is fluid and it belongs to nobody.
Elvis, stop dat! You know it is taboo to whistle at night. You will attract a spirit.
People think that writing is writing, but actually writing is editing.
Otherwise, you're just taking notes
Love is at once the most creative and yet simultaneously destructive force in the world, and thus, in our lives. And I don't mean the Hallmark sentimental type of love, although that is part of it. But a deeper obligation that we have to each other: the obligation to reflect our humanness at each other, to reflect back the things others show us and we, them.
As with much of the world's problems, they become public--or much more of interest--the moment they begin to impact the West.
Much of the image of the amazingness of America comes from the movies into other cultures. And it's much the same thing when you reverse it. Much of Africa is presented through poverty, through drought and war. [But] you're not presenting people, you're not presenting countries, you're not presenting complexity, and so people can't care about an amorphous mass called Africa.
All power within the microcosm of my world was held and wielded by people who look like me. Plus, I think Nigerians all have this sense that they are better than everyone, including white people. So I have the privilege of a certain distance. It may just be that. So in a sense, I can't claim that as any ability that I have, simply a matter of circumstance.
Your anatomy is a mystery that nobody bothers explaining to us.
Even when we think we have mastered one woman's body, every body is different.
Fiction is more dangerous than nonfiction because it can seduce better.
I think we all know this, know that deeper truths can be approached in fiction than in fact. There are risks for the reader, because after reading certain books you find you have changed irreversibly. There are risks for writers: in China, now, and Ethiopia and other countries right now, writers face real persecution.
If there was no risk, it wouldn't be art.
It wouldn't be worth making. There is risk even in a fairy tale. Fiction is closest to pure narrative, and pure narrative is simply the logic we try to impose on an ever-changing reality.
I think that those of us who are ordinary disappear easily into the backdrop of life and we take things for granted. We often wake up in our lives and wonder how we got there. But the characters I create, the people I am drawn to, are quite extraordinary (and not always in wholesome ways), and they offer us the chance to understand who we really are and how we became who we are.
I think cities are the primordial forests of our time.
We evolve faster as a species in cities. Cities are chaotic, liminal places where the many aspects of human potential, good and/or bad, are most readily magnified.
My books are often shelved around those of Chinua Achebe and Margaret Atwood, or Chimamanda Adichie and Monica Ali. All of this depends, of course, on the bookstore and how conversant the shelf stocker is with the alphabet.
I truly believe that writing is a continuum--so the different genres and forms are simply stops along the same continuum. Different ideas that need to be expressed sometimes require different forms for the ideas to float better.
I didn't leave Africa, I left Nigeria, and for political reasons.
But ... I've never, never left Africa, and I certainly never left what it means to be Ibo. That is something you carry with you.
All my characters exist in risk, in the places we are either too afraid to go to, or have enough privilege not to have to, but whatever the reason, these characters I fashion go before us and come back transformed for us. For me, at least.
Something that had the quality of a dimly lit stage set just before the curtains rise on opening night. There was a rhythm to it, a beckoning, and a bittersweet tear in time.
If you encounter a human shadow burned permanently into the concrete in Hiroshima, you realize that this is the trace of a very ordinary person now elevated into the emblematic. Time, shame, complicity, or discomfort are the only things that make us pretend History is impersonal or far removed from the power and consequences of our every lived moment.
We are hunting the demons that haunt others.
We get a smell and off we go. And you know why, Sunil? You know why we are so good at hunting the demons of others? Because we are so good, gifted even, at stalking and evading our own. But all demons hunters think that they are really heroes, and you know what all heroes need?
Fiction and poetry are my first loves, but the really beautiful lyrical essay can do so much that other forms cannot.
The greatest thing about form and convention is that it saves you from having to reinvent the wheel. Now, whether you mount the wheel to a horse carriage or a Formula One racing car, make it plain or give it spinning rims, those are all craft decisions. But the fact of the wheel remains: it will turn if you set it down. That's what I mean about the beauty of the gifts genre can offer.
Literature is an aspect of story and story is all that exists to make sense of reality. War is a story. Now you begin to see how powerful story is because it informs our worldview and our every action, our every justification is a story. So how can story not be truly transformative? I've seen it happen in real ways, not in sentimental ways or in the jargon of New Age liberal ideology.
Narrative is a very feeble weapon in the face of human darkness and yet it's all we have. That we have to hang the transformation and survival of our species on the journey and transformation of one singular person so far outside of what we expect they can do.