A transatlantic conversation: Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo joins ‘Writing Black’

Adebayo, author of the acclaimed debut "Stay With Me," discusses her forthcoming novel about family, class and power in modern Nigeria.

Throughout the month of January, the theme here at theGrio has been #AfricaAmplified, magnifying and celebrating the stories of our brethren on the continent.

So it was especially thrilling that Ayobami Adebayo, one of Nigeria’s most exciting up-and-coming writers, was able to join us on theGrio’s “Writing Black” podcast this month to discuss her newest novel, her craft and how life in Lagos continues to influence her work.

Already known by many literature lovers for her highly acclaimed 2018 debut, “Stay With Me,” Adebayo’s sophomore effort, “A Spell of Good Things” (out Feb. 7; Penguin Random House), is an engrossing story chronicling the intersecting lives of two Nigerian families navigating privilege, politics and personal crises from opposite ends of the socioeconomic scale. Told from nine perspectives, Adebayo’s tale is equally multifaceted, as she convinces us that, yes, more than one thing can be true at once.

Ayobami Adebayo, Writing Black, Nigerian author, Black writers, theGrio.com
“Writing Black” host Maiysha Kai speaks with critically acclaimed Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo about the value of conversations between Black people living in Africa and America.(Images: theGrio; Penguin Random House)

As she explained during our conversation, the key to writing such convincing characters is spending time with them, getting to know them inside and out, in every possible aspect, before they even make it to the page.

“I can begin with an idea. But I don’t start until I feel like I know the people; you know, I feel like I have a person that I’m interested in and that I can get to know over the
period of a few years,” said Adebayo, later adding: “And sometimes, what that looks like is that I sit with them and ask them questions, you know — about their lives, about what they’re interested in, about what their aspirations are.”

Equally important, we agreed, is to keep the dialogue and cultural exchange open between Black Americans and those on the continent — a “transatlantic conversation,” as Adebayo and I phrased it. Thankfully, the rising recognition of African writers and narratives based in African countries is laying the groundwork for a better understanding of people and cultures that parallel our own more closely than may we think.

Hear more about “A Spell of Good Things” and Ayobami Adebayo in this week’s episode of “Writing Black” on TheGrio’s Black Podcast Network or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, great books, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body: Words of Change series.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. TheGrio’s Black Podcast Network is free too. Download theGrio mobile apps today! Listen to ‘Writing Black‘ with Maiysha Kai.