Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani , an award winning author, Journalist and essayist launched her debut Young adult novel “Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree” on Sunday, 17th November, 2019 at Café One by Sterling. This event was made possible by Café One by Sterling in partnership with Masobe Books who are the publishers of the Nigerian Edition of this book. I was honored to moderate the event and having read and reviewed this book, I was excited to be in conversation with the author as I was armed with so many questions to ask.
The event was well attended by the book community in Lagos and it was a very enlightening session as the author threw more light on her work as a journalist where she had spent time in North Eastern Nigeria covering stories on the Boko Haram Terrorist attacks.
Here are some of the highlights of the event and responses to some questions that the author was asked.
Question: Tell us the amount of research that went into writing this book.
Tricia: There was no need for a research. The story in this book was based on my work as a journalist. I was in Chibok two weeks after the Chibok girls were abducted and made numerous trips to Chibok and other places in the north east covering this story which entailed interviewing dozens of girls and their families. My book is journalism masquerading as fiction.
Question: Why did you choose to make your protagonist nameless in your story?
Tricia: There was so much focus on the abduction of the Chibok girls and understandably so because of the international focus on these girls. However, the Chibok girls are just a fraction of the girls that have been abducted by Boko Haram. There were girls who had been abducted before the Chibok girls kidnap and others after them. We are talking about thousands and thousands of human beings so I couldn’t base my story on the Chibok girls alone. I couldn’t honestly write a story and ignore all the other girls. I wanted to represent all the people who were abducted by Boko Haram and that was why I made my main character nameless. She represents the Chibok girls and all the other girls who were abducted by Boko Haram.
Question: What was the experience like writing this book compared to writing your first book, “I Do Not Come To You By Chance”.
Tricia: They are completely different. While writing my first book, I had a lot of fun as I set out to write a humorous story. I found my characters quite funny and laughed a lot while writing it but with this book it was almost the opposite. I cried while writing some parts especially towards the end of the book.
Question: Knowing that this has been a controversial topic of some sort, have you received any critisims on this book?
Tricia: Yes but mostly my articles on the subject. I have written about women and girls who have voluntarily returned to their captors and that has been criticized because most people only want to see the abducted girls in a certain light. They want the girls to be seen as people who are suffering and traumatized because if they are seen otherwise, it may affect funding from international NGOs or donors who are committed to helping these girls. However, journalism has to represent reality which is what I have done. I have also been criticized about writing stories on some of the Boko Haram captors who claimed they were never raped by the Boko Haram since they were married to them before they engaged in any sexual activity and to them this doesn’t qualify as rape. However, most people insist it is rape as majority of these girls were underaged when they were abducted but the reality is the “victims” don’t believe that they were raped. This does not mean that some girls were not raped by their captors.
Question: You are the first contemporary African writer to launch a global career while fully domiciled in your home country. How did you do it and what advice can you give young aspiring writers?
Tricia: I followed the process. I researched on how to get published internationally and most of this information I found on google. I guess because I was determined to have an international career it drove me to learn about all the necessary steps to take like getting an agent and others. However, things don’t happen in a day so it’s takes time. This is the same with my career as a journalist, 99% of the people I write for I haven’t met them. You need to be determined and consistent, find out what kind of stories people want and pitch those stories. You may get some nos’ but if you are consistent the “yes” will come.
Question: What do you prefer to write? Fiction or Non Fiction
Tricia: Non Fiction
There were also questions from the audience and the event ended with a book signing by the author.
I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and hope that it is a first of many to come.