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Workshop graduate returns with first book

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Author and Writers' Workshop graduate Chinelo Okparanta will read at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., at 7 p.m. today from her book, Happiness, Like Water.

The book, a compilation of 10 short stories following various Nigerian women living both at home and abroad, is Okparanta's first. Her works have appeared in a number of literary magazines, and her short story "America" was shortlisted for the 2013 Cain Prize.

She was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and raised as a Jehovah's Witness before coming to the United States at the age of 10 with her family. Many aspects of the stories are rooted in her experiences.

Nigeria acts as the backdrop for the first half of the compilation before giving way to America and the Nigerian women residing there.

Regardless of which locale a story has, the stories all revolve around very relatable problems. Stories vary from a wife being unable to conceive a child to a college student putting forth all her effort to get her sick mother into a hospital.

The book has been met with largely positive reviews, and many say the book is a promising start for a new author. The Kirkus Review hailed it as "a triumph of a book."

The tone and title of the book can be derived from a piece of dialogue spoken by one of the characters: "Happiness is like water, we're always trying to grab onto it, but it's always slipping between our fingers."

— by Isaac Hamlet


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