“One of the most original, imaginative and gifted fiction writers in Africa, and arguably the best of her generation.” The Noma Award 2009
“Again and again Atta’s writings tugs at the heart, at the conscience. At the same time, reflecting the resilience of the Lagosians whose lives she explores, humour is almost constant, effervescent, most often satirical slant.” Sunday Independent
From Zamfara up north to the Niger Delta down south with a finale in Lagos, this collection of stories and a novella are inspired by newspaper headlines and narrated by a range of Nigerian voices. Atta’s stories have earned recognition in contests such as the Zoetrope Short Fiction Contest, Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award, Red Hen Press Short Story Award, the PEN International David TK Wong Prize and the Caine Prize.
"One of the most original, imaginative and gifted fiction writers in Africa, and arguably the best of her generation." – The Noma Award 2009
"Atta movingly portrays these conflicted lives and gorgeously renders a wide spectrum of humanity and experience." – Publishers Weekly starred review
"Never messagey, the wrenching contemporary stories are universal in their appeal and impact."
“The majesty of one woman’s spirit provides the backdrop for the opening story: a tale of unrelenting domestic abuse, and institutionalized cruelty and injustice in the name of Sharia. A powerful beginning to a collection of stories structured around greater or lesser violations of God’s law or Man’s....Finally, after the darkness of the ‘Lawless’ stories, ‘The Miracle Worker’ was refreshing. At the story’s end, the wife’s response to her husband’s financial ruin made me smile the ‘I give up’ smile: sometimes the wit of a story lies in the relentless logic of its ending.” – Olatoun Williams
“With this collection of stories, Soyinka Prize-winning author Sefi Atta consolidates her position as one of the leading writers of her generation. The stories, which take us from Zamfara to Mississippi, with many points in-between, are written with quiet virtuosity. Atta’s control of tone is remarkable, especially given that she often takes on subjects—immigration, religion, domestic abuse—that in lesser hands tend to become polemical or preachy. What we get from Atta are compulsively readable tales, leavened with a sly wit and a generous vision.” – Teju Cole, author of Every Day is for the Thief
"Sefi Atta is a brilliant artist, who writes as if she knows her characters personally. I have been very touched by the beauty and diversity and depth of these stories" – Uwem Akpan, author of Say You're One of Them
"Sefi Atta's steady, quiet, and yet bold narrative voice is unwavering in its dedication to craft, originality, and last but not the least, truth. Truth, that is, in artistic rendition of our lives. [She] writes like one who has lived the life of each single character in her dazzling collection of short stories. The reader comes off with the sense of a story teller who is so in tune with the suffering and other life happenstances of her characters, that the reader is bound to find a commonality with them—be it cultural, psychological, social, or human. – Mohammed Naseehu Ali, author of The Prophet of Zongo Street
“A Temporary Position”
For about four, five months before I began my accountancy training at Price Waterhouse in London, I had a temporary job as a receptionist at the head office of a company I’m not going to name, because I was not legally allowed to work there. The visitor’s visa in my Nigerian passport clearly stated this: Leave to enter the United Kingdom for six months. Employment prohibited. Luckily, I was living in my parents’ flat in Pimlico rent-free. They paid all the bills and had also offered to give me “a little something,” as my father would say, until I joined Price Waterhouse and was able to apply for a work permit.
I had told him no thanks. At twenty-two years old, with a degree from the London School of Economics and one year’s national service, which I’d spent working at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, I really didn’t think I ought to be getting pocket money any more, and it wasn’t just that my pride came before English immigration laws. I planned to eat out as often as I could in London, shop, go to the cinema and to nightclubs and perhaps travel within Europe. This was in the mid-1990s and my father’s “a little something” turned out to be just fifty quid a week. I was part of a group - huge community, really - of Nigerian graduates living in London. Some of us were getting financial support from our parents, some were working illegally - as I intended to do - and others were collecting dole checks, somehow. We used fake national insurance numbers. No one was getting caught.
The office I worked in was off Oxford Street, which wasn’t a bad commute from Pimlico on a daily basis by tube; I didn’t have to change lines. During the morning rush hour there wasn’t much of a crowd either, which was just as well, what with people thinking they could get away with not bathing. It was the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Occasionally, the sun shone and I’d shut my eyes imagining I was somewhere else in Europe, somewhere more exciting and beautiful, like Barcelona. I would forget the Thames looked like tepid tea and the pavements were splattered with saliva, chewing gum and pigeon droppings, except when the rain poured so heavily that they oozed a brown muck.