Northwestern Events Calendar


GLOBAL LUNCHBOX | A conversation with novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter & playwright Chris Abani

When: Friday, October 29, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Danny Postel  


Category: Global & Civic Engagement, Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity


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Please join us for the Global Lunchbox, a weekly forum convened by the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University that features conversations with scholars in the social sciences and humanities working on a range of global issues about their current research.

Our guest this week will be Chris Abani, a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright, Director of the Program of African Studies, Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies for the Litowitz Graduate Program in Creative Writing (MFA+MA) at Northwestern.

Abani is the author of many books. This discussion will focus on his memoir The Face: Cartography of the Void.

About the Book

In The Face: Cartography of the Void, acclaimed poet, novelist, and screenwriter Chris Abani has given us a brief memoir that is, in the best tradition of the genre, also an exploration of the very nature of identity. Abani meditates on his own face, beginning with his early childhood that was immersed in the Igbo culture of West Africa. The Face is a lush work of art that teems with original and profound insights into the role of race, culture, and language in fashioning our sense of self. Abani’s writing is poetic, filled with stories, jokes, and reflections that draw readers into his fold; he invites them to explore their own “faces” and the experiences that have shaped them.

As Abani so lovingly puts it, this extended essay contemplates “all the people who have touched my face, slapped it, punched it, kissed it, washed it, shaved it. All of that human contact must leave some trace, some of the need and anger that motivated that touch. This face is softened by it all. Made supple by all the wonder it has beheld, all the kindness, all the generosity of life." Abani directs his gaze both inward and out toward the world around him, creating a self-portrait in which readers will also see their own faces reflected.

“A fascinating meditation on identity that explores the novelist’s own mixed heritage and mixed feelings….[Abani is] a true citizen of the world….With great insight and compassion, Abani reveals that behind his—and every—face are unseen scars.” —San Francisco Chronicle

About Chris Abani

Born to an Igbo father and English mother, Abani was raised in Afikpo, Nigeria, where he says he was steeped in a “worldview of convergence and simultaneity.” A novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright, Abani draws upon diverse fields such as African poetics, world literature, history, music, architecture and philosophy and religion in his scholarship and creative production.

His books of prose include The Secret History of Las Vegas (2014), Song For Night (2007), The Virgin of Flames (2007), Becoming Abigail (2006), GraceLand (2004), and Masters of the Board (1985). His poetry collections are Sanctificum (2010), There Are No Names for Red (2010), Feed Me The Sun - Collected Long Poems (2010), Hands Washing Water (2006), Dog Woman (2004), Daphne's Lot (2003), and Kalakuta Republic (2001).

He has also written numerous essays, articles, book reviews and critical papers on art, poetry, cities and literature for local and international journals, magazines and newspapers.

He is the recipient of an Edgar Prize from the Mystery Writers of America, the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award.

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