Harvard Book Store welcomes acclaimed writer CHIGOZIE OBIOMA—author of The Fishermen, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize—for a discussion of his latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities.
Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, An Orchestra of Minorities tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.
Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements. Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer’s Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
“An ambitious and immersive tale about love and sacrifice, told by an ancient spirit. A bold new novel from an exciting young writer.” ―Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers
“Chigozie Obioma is a gifted and original storyteller. His masterful new novel An Orchestra of Minorities is remarkable for its exploration of universal concepts to do with destiny, free will, and luck.” ―Jennifer Clement, author of Gun Love and President of PEN International
“Chigozie Obioma is an audacious and ambitious writer, and quite adept at binding the reader to the irresistible spells he casts. An Orchestra of Minorities is a magisterial accomplishment by any measure, and particularly impressive for the way Obioma orchestrates a tableau in which humans and spirits must interact in a complex, emotionally rich-veined story. Few writers can match Obioma’s astonishing range, his deft facility for weaving a mesmeric and triumphant fictive canvas in which—reminiscent of the ancient masters—a cohort of gods presides over and negotiates the fates of humans.” ―Okey Ndibe, author of Foreign Gods, Inc.
“Chigozie Obioma pens a deeply empathetic, complex, and gut-wrenchingly human narrative that captures the heart and soul. An Orchestra of Minorities stays with you. With remarkable style and compelling language, he explores what it means to experience blinding love and devastating loss. A truly gifted writer, Obioma has proven yet again, that he’s a literary treasure.” ―Nicole Dennis-Benn, award-winning author of Here Comes the Sun
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.