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Song for Night


Chris Abani’s new novella furthers his reputation as the most acclaimed young African writer today.

$14.95 $11.71

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What people are saying…

Song for Night endeavors the impossible, eliciting a keenly perceptive character . . . whose elegiac voice is a tender guide to his grim drifting through battle-scarred territory.”
Brooklyn Rail

“Chris Abani might be the most courageous writer working right now. There is no subject matter he finds daunting, no challenge he fears. Aside from that, he’s stunningly prolific and writes like an angel. If you want to get at the molten heart of contemporary fiction, Abani is the starting point.”
—Dave Eggers, author of What Is the What

“Not since Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird or Agota Kristof’s Notebook Trilogy has there been such a harrowing novel about what it’s like to be a young person in a war. That Chris Abani is able to find humanity, mercy, and even, yes, forgiveness, amid such devastation is something of a miracle.”
—Rebecca Brown, author of The End of Youth

“The moment you enter these pages, you step into a beautiful and terrifying dream. You are in the hands of a master, a literary shaman. Abani casts his spell so completely—so devastatingly—you emerge cleansed, redeemed: and utterly haunted.”
—Brad Kessler, author of Birds in Fall

“Abani is a fiction writer of mature and bounteous gifts . . . Abani, himself incarcerated and tortured for his writings and activism in Nigeria in the mid-’80s, writes about the body’s capacity for both ecstasy and pain with an honesty and precision rarely encountered in recent fiction . . .”
New York Times Book Review, on Becoming Abigail

Awards and Critical Praise for Becoming Abigail:
A 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award Finalist
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
A Chicago Reader Critic’s Choice
A selection of the Essence Magazine Book Club
A selection of the Black Expressions Book Club

“Moody, lyrical prose reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Beloved . . . Though the fictional Abigail exists only on the pages of Abani’s novella, her character will seize the imagination of everyone who reads her story.”
Essence Magazine

Becoming Abigail, a spare yet voluptuous tale about a young Nigerian girl’s escape from prostitution is so hypnotic that it begs to be read in one sitting . . . Abigail is sensitive, courageous, and teetering on the brink of madness. Effortlessly gliding between past and present, Chris Abani spins a timeless story of misfortune and triumph.”
Entertainment Weekly

“A darkly poetic investigation into the past’s deceptive hold over the present . . . Abani writes in dense, gorgeous prose. Abigail is not a creature of pity but inspiration.”
The Nation

“Compelling and gorgeously written, this is a coming-of-age novella like no other. Chris Abani explores the depths of loss and exploitation with what can only be described as a knowing tenderness. An extraordinary, necessary book.”
Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban

“Abani finds his place in a long line of literary refugees, from the Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magon to Bertolt Brecht and Theodor Adorno . . . Becoming Abigail is, not surprisingly, about memory, loss, and all the cruel disjunctions of exile. Not for a moment, though, does Abani allow himself that most tempting stupefacient of exile, nostalgia. Abani’s prose is diaphanous and poetic. His lyricism is elliptical, almost evasive . . . Becoming Abigail is a hard, unsparing book, cruel in its beauty, shocking in its compassion.
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“A lyrical yet devastating account of a young woman’s relocation to London from Nigeria . . . Abani’s abundant talent is clearly evident throughout, as is his willingness to be brutally honest without being grotesque. He also refrains from polemics and focuses solely on the artistic presentation of a young, tragic life, leaving interpretation to the reader.”
Library Journal

“A searing girl’s coming-of-age novella in which a troubled Nigerian teen is threatened with becoming human trade . . . Recalling Lucas Moodyson’s crushing Lilya4Ever, this portrait of a brutalized girl given no control over her life or body, features Abani’s lyrical prose and deft moves between short chapters.”
Publishers Weekly

“Spare, haunting vignettes of exquisite delicacy . . . Never sensationalized, the continual revelations are more shocking for being quietly told, compressed into taut moments that reveal secrets of cruelty—and of love—up to the last page. Abani tells a strong young woman’s story with graphic empathy.”

“Abani’s writing never becomes didactic—Becoming Abigail has the elegance and lyricism of a prose poem but doesn’t soft-pedal the abuse it chronicles.”
Chicago Reader

“Abani writes in a fearless prose . . . He is able to toe that line between restraint and abundance, unfolding Abigail’s history like the raising of a bandage.”
Time Out Chicago

“Abani’s voice brings perspective to every moment, turning pain into a beautiful painterly meditation on loss and aloneness.”
—Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

“Abani’s empathy for Abigail’s torn life is matched only by his honesty in portraying it. Nothing at all is held back. A harrowing piece of work.”
—Peter Orner, author of Esther Stories

Awards and Critical Praise for GraceLand:
Winner 2005 Hemingway/PEN Prize
Winner 2005 Silver Medal, California Book Awards
Winner 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards for Debut Fiction
Shortlisted for Best Book Category (Africa Region) of The Commonwealth Writer’s Prize
Finalist 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
25 Best Books of 2004, Los Angeles Times
Best Books of 2004, San Francsico Chronicle
Barnes and Noble Discover Series Selection
New York Times Book Review Summer 2004 “Vacation Reading/Notable Books” Selection

“Extraordinary . . . This book works brilliantly in two ways. As a convincing and unpatronizing record of life in a poor Nigerian slum, and as a frighteningly honest insight into a world skewed by casual violence, it’s wonderful . . . And for all the horrors, there are sweet scenes in GraceLand too, and they’re a thousand times better for being entirely unsentimental . . . Lovely.”
New York Times Book Review

“Chris Abani’s GraceLand is a richly detailed, poignant, and utterly fascinating look into another culture and how it is cross-pollinated by our own. It brings to mind the work of Ha Jin in its power and revelation of the new.”
—T. Coraghessan Boyle, author of Drop City

“Abani’s intensely visual style—and his sense of humor—convert the stuff of hopelessness into the stuff of hope.”
San Francisco Chronicle


Part Inferno, part Paradise Lost, and part Sunjiata epic, Song for Night is the story of a West African boy soldier’s lyrical, terrifying, yet beautiful journey through the nightmare landscape of a brutal war in search of his lost platoon. The reader is led by the voiceless protagonist who, as part of a land mine-clearing platoon, had his vocal chords cut; a move to keep these children from screaming when blown up, and thereby distracting the other minesweepers. Written in a ghostly voice, each chapter is headed by a line of the unique sign language these children invented. This book is unlike anything else ever written about an African war.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Published: 9/1/07
  • IBSN: 9781933354316
  • e-IBSN: 9781936070466


Chris Abani, a Nigerian-born, award-winning poet and novelist, currently teaches at Northwestern University in Chicago. He is the recipient of a PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, a Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond Margins Award, a PEN/Hemingway Award, and a Guggenheim Award. He is the editor of Lagos Noir and the coeditor of Kumi: New-Generation African Poets, A Chapbook Box Set.

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