Chris Abani's Graceland

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Contemporary Perspectives

Graceland Analysis

“Elvis had read a newspaper editorial that stated, rather proudly, that Nigeria had a higher percentage of millionaires...than nearly any other country in the world, and most of them lived and conducted their business in Lagos. The editorial failed to mention that their wealth had been made over the years with the help of crooked politicians, criminal soldiers, bent contractors, and greedy oil company executives. Or that Nigeria also had a higher percentage of poor people than nearly any other country in the world.” (Abani 8)

This quote exemplifies the image of Nigeria presented in Chris Abani’s shocking novel Graceland. Based on Abani’s own experiences in the conflicted, war-torn country, this narrative tells us both the coming-of-age-tale of Elvis Oke and that of post-colonial Nigeria – an oppressed nation exploited by the US, European, and Middle Eastern markets. The modern novel is reminiscent of Chinua Achebe’s own bildungsroman, as they are both set in post-colonial Nigeria and showcase the effect of globalization on the conflicted country. The interplay between the American and Nigerian cultures shows that with globalization, there may be a back and forth trade economically and socially between cultures, but the more dominant culture may impose its culture upon the other in ways that are asymmetrically skewed toward the dominant culture.

Abani’s narrative tells the story of Elvis Oke, a teenager with an alcoholic father and dead mother who desperately tries to escape the Lagos City slums – a ghetto swamp, which is juxtaposed by the magnificent skyline across the river from the lagoon and the wealthy foreign expatriates who come to lounge on the beaches and resorts on the o...

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... America was not the only ones involved in this black market drug and organ trafficking trade. The black market stretched/still stretches along many nations, operating as its own type of economy, borne out of shortcomings of other economies and especially need; the scene in postwar Nigeria is one of desperation, as Abani explicitly shows. It stretches through several countries mentioned in the text, the child of corruption birthed by imperialism. Globalization allows for cultural exchange, and is a two-way street, as the popularity of Nigerian writers, Achebe, Abani, and Saro-Wiwa demonstrate. However, a dominant culture, such as the United States in Nigeria, circa 1983, can steamroll another culture, forcing it to adapt in the most unpleasant of ways.


1. Abani, Christopher. GraceLand. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004. Print.

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