African Writers’ Symposium Biographies

Niyi Osundare is a poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist. He was born in 1947 in Ekere-Ikiti, Ondo State, Nigeria. He taught English at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria from 1989 to 1993, when he became Head of the Department. During General Abacha’s dictatorship, Osundare, a champion of free speech, regularly contributed poems to a Nigerian national newspaper, and thus was often visited by national security agents. In 1997, Osundare was appointed professor of English at the University of New Orleans. He has published more than a dozen books, including Commonwealth Poetry Prize-winner The Eye of the Earth.

Short story writer Mohammed Naseehu Ali was born in Ghana in 1971, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and Bennington College. Ali’s fiction and essays have been published in a number of prominent newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Essence. The New York Times described  his first collection of short fiction,  The Prophet of Zongo Street (2005), asmoving, subtle and ingeniously constructed.”

Sefi Atta is a short-story writer and novelist from Nigeria, born in Lagos in 1964, and educated in Nigeria, Britain and the US. A former chartered accountant and CPA, she is a graduate of the creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, and now lives in Mississippi. Her short fiction has won prizes from Zoetrope, Red Hen Press, the BBC and PEN International. In 2006 she was short listed for the Caine Prize for African Literature, and her debut novel, Everything Good Will Come, was awarded the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of the novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears: currently shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, this novel is a Los Angeles Times bestseller, won the 2007 Guardian First Book Award, and was the Seattle Reads pick of 2008. Dinaw was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980, he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister, joining his father, who had fled Ethiopia during the Red Terror. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction, he received a 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation in 2007. He has written for Rolling Stone and Harper’s, among other publications. He lives in New York City and Paris.

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