Lesley Nneka Arimah
Lesley Nneka Arimah is the author of “Skinned,” winner of the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing; What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky (2017), her debut short story collection; and “Light,” winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky was chosen for the New York Times/PBS book club and won both the 2017 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the 2017 Kirkus Prize. Arimah holds a BA in English from Florida State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University. Currently, Arimah is a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Writing living in Las Vegas.
—Lesley Nneka Arimah
When Glory’s parents christened her Glorybetogod Ngozi Akunyili, they did not foresee Facebook’s “real name” policy, nor the weeks she would spend populating forms and submitting copies of her bills and driver’s license and the certificate that documented her birth on September 9, 1986, a rainy Tuesday, at 6:45 p.m., after six hours of labor and six years of barrenness. Pinning on her every hope they had yet to realize, her parents imagined the type of life that well-situated Igbos imagined for their children. She would be a smart girl with the best schooling. She would attend church regularly and never stray from the Word (amen!). She would learn to cook like her grandmother, her father added, to which her mother countered, “Why not like her mother?” and Glorybetogod’s father hemmed and hawed till his wife said maybe he should go and eat at his mother’s house. But back to Glorybetogod, whom everyone called Glory except her grandfather, who called her “that girl” the first time he saw her.
“That girl has something rotten in her, her chi is not well.”
Husband pulled wife out of the room to prevent a brawl (“I don’t care how old that drunk is, I will fix his mouth today”) and begged his father to accept his firstborn grandchild. He didn’t see, as the grandfather did, the caul of misfortune covering Glory’s face, which would affect every decision she made, causing her to err on the side of wrong, time and time again. When Glory was five, she decided after much consideration to stick her finger into the maw of a sleeping dog. At seven, shortly after her family relocated to the United States, Glory thought it a good idea to walk home when her mother was five minutes late picking her up from school, a decision that saw her lost and sobbing in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot before night fell. She did a lot of things out of spite, the source of which she couldn’t identify — as if she’d been born resenting the world.