Elvis Oke lives in one of the most notorious and squalid ghettos of Lagos, he makes a living as an impersonator of his namesake, Elvis Presley. The book starts with Oke in Lagos, living with his father and step-mother. Oke had lived in the village of Afpiko before his mothers death and the book shifts between the two periods- his time in the village and his subsequent move to the city of Lagos. In Lagos, Oke lives with his alcoholic father and his rude step-mother who does not care for him. In addition to being an Elvis impersonator, Oke dabbles in a number of jobs, often illegal and dangerous. He is a good dancer and performs on the streets in order to earn money.

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San Francisco Chronicle graceland amply demonstrates that Abani has the energy, ambition and compassion to create a novel that delineates and illuminates a complicated, dynamic, deeply fractured society. Los Angeles Times A wonderfully vivid evocation of a youth coming of age in a country unmoored from its old virtues…As for the talented Chris Abani…his imaginary Elvis is easily as memorable as the original.

Newsday graceland teems with incident, from the seedy crime dens of Maroko to the family melodramas of the Oke clan. Energetic and moving…Abani [is] a fluid, closely observant writer. The Washington Post A wonderfully vivid evocation of a youth coming of age in a country unmoored from its old virtues…. His imaginary Elvis is easily as memorable as the original. Chicago Tribune Abani… has written an exhilarating novel, all the more astonishing for its hard-won grace and, yes, redemption.

The Village Voice Ambitious…a kind of small miracle. Boston Globe Singular…Abani has created a charming and complex character, at once pragmatic and philosophical about his lot in life…Observes the chaotic tapestry of life in postcolonial Africa with the unjudging eye of a naive boy. Minneapolis Star-Tribune The next wave…of Nigerian literature. America Magazine Beautifully written, perceptive and painful…A serious and poignant novel about the problems in the postcolonial era in Nigeria.

Altar Magazine graceland is an invaluable document. The Seattle Sinner graceland paints an often horrific and sometimes profound portrait….

Sharp, graphic, and impossible to dismiss. The Seattle Times Disturbing but hysterically funny, graceland is a poignant work of innocence robbed by endless corrupt and brutal forces.

It brings to mind the work of Ha Jin in its power and revelation of the new. This absolutely beautiful work of fiction is about complex and strained political structures, the irony of the West being a measure of civilization, and the tricky business of being a son. Percival Everett, Author Erasure: A Novel graceland is a painful look at an urban culture seemingly always on the verge of complete societal breakdown.

It is a stunning debut by an immensely talented writer. We will look back on its publication as a watershed moment in the history of postcolonial literature. It is, as the best of such novels are, hybrid, monstrous, exilic, an indictment of the global terrorism of capital, yet it is also something we have not seen before.

In Elvis we meet an African man who suffers incandescently, who watches others suffer more, yet emerges not as another tragic masculinity, but as that rarest of creatures, a hero. Believe it: Elvis is redemption.

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GraceLand Summary

Plot summary[ edit ] Set in the Nigerian city of Lagos, GraceLand is the story of a teenage boy named Elvis Oke, who is trying to escape the poverty of his community. Starting out as an Elvis Presley impersonator, he takes on a wide variety of jobs, many of which place him in criminal situations. The novel jumps between two settings, the village of Afikpo from until , and Lagos from and onward. In Lagos, Elvis is torn between the influences of two characters: his friend Redemption, and the self-proclaimed King of Beggars. The King of Beggars, on the other hand, attempts to direct Elvis to a different path. His presence throughout the novel serves as a crude, and often ignored, moral compass. Towards the end of the novel, the story briefly diverts its attention from Elvis to take on a slightly larger scope.


Chris Abani

Here is what Abani tells Tayari Jones about the scene in an April interview in The Believer when she asks for his thoughts on "global blackness". Jones is African American, but spent a year in Nigeria when her father was a Fulbright scholar there. I grew up conflicted about this whole notion [of global blackness]. Especially about Pan-Africanism. But it is interesting that these guys were educated mostly in America. These guys had contact with Du Bois and Marcus Garvey long before they came back. You can see this link much more in music.





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