When a writer is touted as being a potential successor to the late, great Toni Morrison you know you are dealing with someone destined for great things. Afia Atakora’s debut novel ‘Conjure Women’ has garnered just such praise. Nell Freudenberger, author of ‘Lost and Wanted’, wrote, “If you are grieving for Toni Morrison, Afia Atakora is the young writer to read now: the kind of historical novelist who makes you believe she must have somehow seen the places she describes and known these characters herself.”
Atakora was born in the United Kingdom and raised in New Jersey where she now lives. She graduated from New York University and has an MFA from Columbia University, where she was the recipient of the 2015 De Alba Fellowship. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she was a finalist for the 2010 Hurston/Wright Award for college writers. Her debut novel has been longlisted for the Centre for Fiction First Novel Award, named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times and named a Stylist best book of 2020.
Afia’s parents are Ghanaian immigrants and she holds dual UK and US citizenship. In an interview with Penguin Randomhouse (her US publisher) she describes how these different facets of her heritage have influenced her writing: “I grew up a little in the UK, a little in New Jersey—and a lot in the vast multicultural playground of New York City. I’m fortunate to straddle so many different worlds but that sort of thing can make you feel like you don’t quite belong in any one place in particular.
Ghana has deep roots in the African slave trade. Its ports were often exit points and in many cases Ghana’s coast was the last bit of home that slaves en route to the Americas would ever see. They took what they could of their culture with them and kept it as close as they were able, mixed it with the things they learned from European slave traders, and once on the plantation they passed on stories of home to their children, and those children told their children what they could remember and invented what they couldn’t. My own cultural identity has formed over a similar circuitous route and I bring that unique experience to the characters.”
With ‘Conjure Women’ already achieving both commercial success and critical acclaim, we can’t wait to see what Afia will go on to achieve and eagerly await the chance to pre-order her next novel.
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