Lesley Nneka Arimah

Portrait Lesley Nneka Arimah
© Emily Baxter

Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in London to Nigerian parents in 1983. Depending on where her father was based while working in the oil industry, she grew up in different places, but mainly in Nigeria. When she was 13, her family moved to the United States to settle in Louisiana. Arimah received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2010. In 2012 she was included in the Loft Mentorship Program, a program for the promotion of young talented authors, and completed several short stories, which were published in various magazines, such as »PANK Magazine« and »The New Yorker«. In 2017, she made her debut with the narrative volume »What It Means When A Man Fall from the Sky», which was met with great international acclaim.

According to Arimah, the frequent moving from place to place throughout her childhood and adolescence played an instrumental role in her decision to become a writer. As a permanent stranger »you learn to be an observer. And as someone who eventuslly moved into documenting human experience, being an observer is a useful tool«, says the author. The experiences of migration and foreignness also play a major role in the twelve short stories in her narrative volume. They deal with interpersonal relationships in an increasingly globalized world; the focus is on young, strong women who are positioned between Nigeria and the United States, who are looking for their place in life and in society and who, with refreshing reluctance, resist the expectations that their families, especially their mothers, have of them. As unexpected as the twists and turns that the conflicting stories take, the way in which they are told is just as stylistically diverse and idiosyncratic. Written in dense, yet lively language, the stories move between dystopian designs – in the cover story, for example –, psychologically realistic depictions, and excursions into magical realism, for example when a young woman forms a baby out of wool and hair and then wills it into existence.

Arimah’s volume has received praise from critics and has won numerous prizes, including the Kirkus Prize (2018), the Minnesota Book Award (2018), and the Caine Prize (2019). In 2017, the author was also placed on the National Book Foundation’s »5 out of 35« list. Arimah has taught creative writing at the University of Minnesota and North Carolina and is currently working on a novel. She lives in Las Vegas.


Watch Lesley Nneka Arimah und Carmen Maria Machado at the 20th ilb on our YouTube-Channel: https://youtu.be/siCUUlR5wgw