Chika Unigwe - on being a writer and on the importance of telling stories


Chika Unigwe is born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria. She has lived in Belgium for many years and have recently moved to the United States. Her work includes the internationally critically acclaimed, 'On Black Sisters' Street' a real-life inspired novel which tells the humane and tragic stories of four women – Sisi, Efe, Ama and Joyce from Nigeria. The women leave their country in search of a better life abroad in Belgium by working as prostitutes. Chika's story-telling brilliance is something to be admired and praised. In the interview below she tells AFRONOIRE more about her writing, with some points worth noting as advice.

When did you decide to be a writer?

My earliest role models were writers. I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember 

Who do you write for?

I write to satisfy my own curiosity and I hope that others find the questions that plague me (and haunt me into writing) as fascinating as I do 

What is your culture and how does it influence your work?

I am Igbo and sometimes what I write is both a protest  and an affirmation of certain aspects of my culture

Of all the characters in ‘On Black Sisters’ Street’, is there one character you mostly identify with?

No. Not really. To a certain extent, I share their sense of alienation in a foreign country and their desire to find/recreate the familiar in that alien space

Why is it important to tell the stories that you tell?

It is important for my own sanity.

From a feminist point of view, why is ‘On Black Sisters’ Street’ important?

It is a human story.

How much research goes into writing a book and why is it important

It depends on what I am writing. I worked for several years on 'On Black Sisters' Street'. It was a world unknown to me and it was important for me to understand it well in order to better tell (of) it. I respect my characters enough to want to place them in a world which would be familiar to them.

Which movement in the history of the world would you have liked to be a part of and why

The abolitionist movement. There is nothing more rewarding as being part of something as life changing and as worthy as fighting for freedom.

Are there anymore ambitions you’ve yet to fulfil as it relates to your writing career?

I have only just begun. I hope to write many more books.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

I have favourite books rather than favourite authors. Having said that, I love everything by Alice Munro and everything by Bernardine Evaristo.

What are some of the subjects you enjoy reading most about?

People. That just about covers it all ;)

Creativity is….

Creativity is…liberating

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