Date and Time
Oct 9, 2022 6:00 pm
14th & V
Busboys and Poets Books Presents HARRY SYLVESTER BIRD
Join us to learn more and discuss a brilliant and funny satire which speaks to the most pressing tensions and anxieties of our time.
Author Chinelo Okparanta’s highly anticipated third book is a sharp and provocative satire of white liberalism. This story follows the education and miseducation of a young white man who earnestly struggles and learns to embody his inner Blackness.
Harry Sylvester Bird grows up in Edward, Pennsylvania, with his parents, Wayne and Chevy, whom he greatly dislikes. They’re racist, xenophobic, financially incompetent, and they have quite a few secrets of their own. To Harry, they represent everything wrong with this country. And his small town isn’t any better. He witnesses racial profiling, graffitied swastikas, and White Power signs on his walk home from school. He can’t wait until he’s old enough to leave. When he finally is, he moves straight to New York City, where he feels he can finally live out his true inner self.
In the city, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. But when Maryam begins to pull away, Harry is forced to confront his identity as he never has before—if he can.
Brilliant, funny, original, and unflinching, Harry Sylvester Bird is a satire that —and of the history that has shaped us and might continue to do so.
Chinelo Okparanta is joining us at Busboys and Poets to celebrate and discuss their new book. They will be joined in conversation by Helon Habil and Arao Ameny. This event is free and open to all. Our program begins at 6:00 pm, and will be followed by an audience Q&A. Copies of HARRY SYLVESTER BIRD will be available for purchase before and during the event. Please note that this event will not be livestreamed.
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Chinelo Okparanta, born and raised in Port Harcourt, Nigeria received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. A Colgate University Olive B. O'Connor Fellow in Fiction as well as a recipient of the University of Iowa's Provost's Postgraduate Fellowship in Fiction, Okparanta was nominated for a US Artists Fellowship in 2012. She has been awarded additional fellowships, faculty appointments, and visiting professorships at Columbia University, Purdue University, Middlebury College (Bread Loaf's John Gardner Fellow in Fiction), Howard University (Hurston/Wright Foundation Summer Writing Workshop Fiction Faculty), City College of New York, and the University of Houston (Distinguished Visiting Professor of Fiction). She has been awarded residencies by the Jentel Foundation, the Hermitage Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Lannan Foundation (Marfa), as well as Hedgebrook. She was Associate Professor of English & Creative Writing (Fiction) at Bucknell University, where she was also C. Graydon & Mary E. Rogers Faculty Research Fellow as well as Margaret Hollinshead Ley Professor in Poetry & Creative Writing until 2021. She is currently Associate Professor of English and Director of the Program in Creative Writing at Swarthmore College.
Chinelo Okparanta’s debut story collection, Happiness, Like Water, and her debut novel, Under the Udala Trees, have won and been nominated for numerous awards. She’s been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, and elsewhere, and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists.
Helon Habila is a Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University in Virginia. His novels include, Waiting for an Angel (2002), Measuring Time (2007), Oil on Water (2010), and Travelers (2019). He is the editor ofthe Granta Book of African Short Story (2011). His nonfiction account of the 2014 kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria is titled The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria (2016). Habila’s novels, poems, and short stories have won many honors and awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section), the Caine Prize, and the Windham-Campbell Prize.
Arao Ameny is a Maryland-based poet and writer from Lango, Northern Uganda. She earned her MFA in fiction writing from the University of Baltimore in 2019. She also earned an MA in journalism from Indiana University and a BA in political science with minors in international relations and communications from the University of Indianapolis. Ameny is a multi-genre writer focusing on poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She is a biography writer and editor at Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry Magazine. Her first published poem, “Home is a Woman,” won The Southern Review’s 2020 James Olney Award. In 2021, she was a finalist for the United Kingdom-based Brunel International African Poetry Prize, a nominee for the Best New Poets anthology (USA), and a winner of a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship. Ameny is a recipient of the 2022 Mayor’s Individual Artist Award from the Creative Baltimore Fund, a grant from Mayor Brandon Scott, the City of Baltimore, and The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA). She is also a recipient of the 2021 Poets & Writers’ Open Door Career Advancement Grant for women writers of color. The workshops she has attended include Tin House and Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Previously, she worked in communications at New York City government and as a writer and social media editor at Africa Renewal magazine at the United Nations in New York City. Find her at araoameny.com.