Introducing Emerging Writer Fellow: Ijeoma Nwabudike

We’re thrilled to introduce Ijeoma Nwabudike, a recipient of the Anita Shreve Emerging Writer Fellowship of 2019-2020. The Fellowship aims to develop new, exciting voices by providing two writers per year tuition-free access to Grub classes and Muse & the Marketplace conferences.

Ijeoma spent the first seventeen years of her life in various Nigerian cities. She received her B.S in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago in 2017. During the day, and very often at night, she studies the biological mechanisms of neuromodulation in worms. At all other times, she enjoys reading, exploring old buildings, and telling stories. To get to know her better, we’ve asked Ijeoma a few questions below.

What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with and why?

There are so many. At the moment, I would like to have dinner with Ayi Kwei Armah because I am currently reading his essay collection “Remembering the Dismembered Continent – Seedtime Essays,” and there are many intriguing ideas that I’d like to discuss with him. I imagine that we would have a great conversation about Africa’s past, present, and future, what constitutes good Afrocentric fiction or nonfiction, the African literary scene, and what it was like to be a writer during the ‘independence era’ African literary boom. A nice serving of decades-old literary beef would also make for a very entertaining dinner.


What are you reading?

I just finished reading The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga. It is a beautiful tribute to the author’s mother primarily focused on their experiences as Rwandan Tutsi refugees in the early 1960s. Using expertly crafted prose describing customs and memorable vignettes, Mukasonga (translations by Jordan Stump) constructs an image of her mother and their lost way of life that is at once incredibly specific and generally human. Reading this book was both enjoyable and emotionally tasking. I highly recommend it.


What is the toughest criticism to give or receive on writing?

Inauthenticity. In my opinion, stories are often elevated by the unique perspectives that shape them and the specific voices they introduce to the wider world. Criticism that points out inauthenticity in my work may raise questions about subjectivity, but it also stimulates an unraveling where I have to think about how I see myself, how I view the world, who I am writing for, and what it means to be true to myself through my written work. It usually results in a better story, though.


When do you feel most like a writer?

I feel most like a writer when I finish a story/essay that has been on my mind for a while.


Favorite drink?

Kunun. It’s a Nigerian/ West African drink made of sweetened tiger nut milk and some spices/flavorings.


Where is the strangest place you’ve ever been?

A few years ago, I took a long walk in New York city and somehow stumbled upon what must have been a medieval costume fair. The costumes were excellent, as was the participants’ commitment to recreating the social traditions of that era. It was pretty fascinating, and if not for the wonders of the smartphone camera, by now, I may have convinced myself that I had dreamt it.


A huge congratulations to Ijeoma!

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