GriotsLounge Publishers contacted me last year to review an ARC, Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country by Nnamdi Oguike. It is a book I particularly enjoyed because it is a collection of twelve short stories set in different countries of the world. Poverty, love, religion among other things are explored in this book. The book will be released soon.
I had the opportunity to send the author questions via email and he was kind enough to respond promptly.
Let’s dive in.
Hello, how are you doing? Can we meet Nnamdi Oguike, your childhood, education and everything?
Nnamdi Oguike: I’m very well, thank you. Let me start by observing that our surnames begin with the same three letters, and that’s a good thing. Well, I was born in Owerri, but my childhood was an itinerant one. My family was always moving from one place to another, because my parents were church ministers. I attended four primary schools as a result of this. But this opened new spaces and new worlds to me, I guess.
Growing up, what kind of books did you read and who are the authors that inspired you?
Nnamdi Oguike: Growing up, I read the books I found in my father’s bookshelf. I remember reading The Burning Grass by Cyprain Ekwensi, which I liked, and The Voice by Gabriel Okara, which I didn’t like because I didn’t understand it. And it had a crazy book cover art with a man’s broken head, and books and things were shoved into it. So I avoided the book. I also touched The Interpreters by Wole Soyinka. I also read some Pace Setters books. But it was Ben Okri’s The Famished Road that really made reading magical for me. I just walked into Florida Bookshop in Owerri and saw a copy of The Famished Road, read the opening sentence and got hooked ever since.
I read your upcoming book, Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country, I enjoyed it, how did the novel happen, what is the ‘story’ behind those stories?
Nnamdi Oguike: I’m not sure if there’s a story behind it other than that I wrote a long story set in Kenya and loved it a great deal. And then I thought I should write other stories. The next story was set in Lagos. The next was in Blikkiesdorp, South Africa. I wrote half a page of it and ran out of gas, as it were. The story fragment felt too beautiful to destroy, so I shelved it for about three years. I picked it up and finished it. And then I wrote the others too.
In the book, I noticed how you explored different countries, cities and backgrounds, was this as a result of personal experience?
Nnamdi Oguike: I suspect my itinerant childhood. I have a predilection for stories set in places distant from where I am at the time of writing.
How long did it take you to finish the book?
Nnamdi Oguike: Six years. But I was writing other things during this time, novels, some of which I destroyed.
What is the story behind the book title?
Nnamdi Oguike: I decided to call it Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country when I finished writing the book because I thought someone might say to me: It’s not my country that you were writing about. So it was a way of saying, “Don’t even go there.” Hahaha. But ultimately the title speaks to our shared humanity. What happens in one country of human beings concerns others beyond it. There is a crisis in Madagascar and Venezuela today. We can’t say they’re not our countries. They are part of us. They are humans. But it’s not just about crises. When good things happen in any place, we are there, too.
Who (audience) did you write this novel for?
Nnamdi Oguike: First, for myself, and then for people I do not know where they are, but who may like my way of telling stories. I didn’t really think about borders when I was writing these stories,
5 books you think everyone should read.
Nnamdi Oguike: Hahaha, I’d be arrogant to say everyone should read this or that. I can only say there are these five books I really, really love and you may just try and read, who knows?, you may love them too. And they are: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Famished Road by Ben Okri, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck and The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
You have a book that will be released soon, how does this make you feel?
Nnamdi Oguike: It makes me wonder what will happen next.
Favourite quotes or words you live by?
Nnamdi Oguike: Live one day at a time. Writing is like making a chair. Treat an enemy as you should treat one who may one day become a friend.
Thank you for reading this interview, I will announce the book release when it is time, you can follow GroitsLounge Publishers on Instagram for more info.