Atta, Sefi 1964-
Atta, Sefi 1964-
Born 1964, in Lagos, Nigeria; immigrated to the United States, 1994; married Gboyega Ransome-Kuti (a doctor); children: Temi (daughter). Education: Birmingham University, B.A., 1985; Antioch University, M.F.A., 2001.
Home—Meridian, MS. E-mail—[email protected]
Worked as an accountant, including for Citibank in Lagos, Nigeria; Mississippi State University, instructor.
Red Hen Press short-story award, 2003; Mississippi Arts Commission grant, 2004; David T.K. Wong Prize, PEN International, 2004-05; Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, 2006, for Everything Good Will Come.
Everything Good Will Come (novel), Interlink Books (Northampton, MA), 2005.
Writer of radio plays broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); contributor to literary journals, including Mississippi Review and Los Angeles Review; work represented in anthologies, including the Penguin Book of New Black Writing.
Nigerian writer Sefi Atta was educated in her home country, England, and the United States. She is the daughter of a Christian mother and Muslim father who was the head of the civil service system. She was eight when he died, and the family moved near the Lagos lagoon, which was home to a number of expatriates. Her Yoruba mother took the children out in a speedboat and on travels across Europe. Atta is a certified public accountant whose exposure to, and love of the arts and artists of Nigeria led her to begin writing. She first wrote short stories, then her award-winning novel Everything Good Will Come, which was published in the United States and Nigeria. The story, which takes place in Lagos over three decades, is about two close friends, Enitan Taiwo, the narrator, and half-caste Sheri, who is wild and independent, as are most of the female characters.
Though they attend boarding schools and live privileged lives, they are frequently disappointed by men. Following in the footsteps of her father, Enitan studies law. Her mother turns to religion after the death of her sickle-cell anemic son, and Enitan's father drives her away from the family. Enitan is badly treated by other men as well. She loses her virginity in London, has a boyfriend who cheats on her, and eventually a husband who wants to dominate her. Together they have a daughter, but separate when Enitan strikes out to advocate for women's rights.
Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman wrote: "Teens will relate to the young woman's wars at home and in society." "Sefi Atta's Everything Good Will Come put me into a spell from the first page to the very last," wrote Tanure Ojaide in World Literature Today. "As if questioning the spell of the first reading as a hoax, I reread the book a second time, and still I could not help being transported into the Lagos of the story all the while."
Atta told CA: "I took a short creative writing course at New York University in 1995 and have not stopped writing since. Writers with bold voices inspire me, rather than influence me. Grace Paley, Milan Kundera, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are my favorites.
"I used to be an accountant, so I make calculations such as number of words per day or per week. They are budgets, basically, and I stick to them. On my present novel I am writing a chapter a week. My first drafts usually take about six months to complete; then I need years to revise. I am a lot more flexible at the revision stage. I write in the first person mostly and I can't write until I have found my narrator's voice. Also, all my characters have to become real people to me. I actually dream about them.
"I am surprised to learn just how much stamina I have.
"My favorite book is always the one I am working on; otherwise I won't be able to finish.
"It would be great to get readers to nod and laugh out loud. Not many writers can achieve that."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Africa News Service, February 28, 2005, Wale Adebanwi, "‘The Title of My Book Is the Opposite of Things Fall Apart’" (interview).
Booklist, March 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Everything Good Will Come, p. 1140.
World Literature Today, May-June, 2006, Tanure Ojaide, review of Everything Good Will Come, p. 61.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (May 5, 2007), Sharon Schulz-Elsing, review of Everything Good Will Come.
Nigerian Entertainment,http://www.nigerianentertainment.com/ (May 5, 2007), Adaure Achumba, "Everything Good Comes as Sefi Atta" (interview).
Nigerian Village Square,http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/ (January 11, 2005), Ike Anya, "Ike Anya Speaks with Sefi Atta on Her Recently Published First Book Everything Good Will Come."