Nigerians in Space chosen by as one of the Best Books of 2014


I was thrilled to learn that Nigerians in Space was chosen as one of the best books of 2014 by Tor reviewer Jared Shurin:

Deji Olukotun’s Nigerians in Space is a true cross-over: combining elements of noir, political thriller, science fiction and deeply poignant literary drama. Nigerians is more about SF than SF itself: it is a novel about the importance of dreams and adventure, and, in every literal and figurative way, reaching for the stars. A powerful debut, infused with a deeply poetic writing style.

The full piece is worth reading–there are some great books on the list.

Extras left out of my Vice article about Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani

mana neyestani

I published an article about the Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani in Vice. I’ve followed Neyestani’s work for a while, so I leaped at the chance to interview him when he came to the U.S. in September. I had two paragraphs cut from the published article about his drawing technique, his influences, and his thoughts about Marjane Satrapi, the author of Persepolis. Text often needs to be cut for editorial reasons–it just happens. But for those of you are interested in learning more about Neyestani I’m copying both paragraphs here:

One reason An Iranian Metamorphosis is so compelling is because of Neyestani’s impeccable cross-hatching technique and expansive imagination. “I was influenced by Hergé and Tin Tin, Jean-Jacques Sempé, and the Argentine cartoonist Quino. I also admire Brad Holland, a great American illustrator and graphic designer who uses cross-hatching effectively.” He cites Marjane Satrapi, who gained fame for her book Persepolis, as being more than just an artist but a ‘phenomenon.’ “I can publish a graphic novel in France now because of her,” he gushes. “She convinced French publishers that they can invest in an Iranian comic artist, and she introduced the Iranian middle class to a non-Iranian audience.”

But by far the largest influence on Neyestani’s work was his own brother. Thirteen years older, Touka Neyestani is also a successful cartoonist who lives in Toronto, and he had filled their home with comics and art books when Mana Neyestani was a child. “He really inspired me,” he admits.

You can read the full piece in Vice here.

Who I’m reading to make sense of Eric Garner and Michael Brown grand jury decisions

  • Baratunde Thurston, How to Be Black. In this memoir, Thurston captures the double standards affecting people of color with wit and satire. The chapter on being a black professional is classic and is really a must-read by people of all colors. Want to talk about Eric Garner with your black colleague at the water cooler? Read this book first.
  • Ta Nahisi Coates. A courageous and articulate editor for the Washington Post. He calls out everyone and carefully lays out his arguments for remedying persistent injustice.
  • Roxane Gay. The prolific author of the book Bad Feminist. Most of her insights on these decisions have been on Twitter.
  • The New York Civil Liberties Union. This progressive advocacy group has been tackling these issues for a long time. What’s better, the NYCLU has solutions with its proposed Right to Know bill, which would provide a number of protections to civilians.
  • The NY Appellate Division, 2nd Judicial Department Rules of Procedure (PDF). I wanted to understand the grand jury indictment process. It is somewhat technical, but explains what may have happened.
  • Matt Taibbi. His piece in Rolling Stone made me realize for the first time that my being ticketed for riding my bike on the sidewalk in the Lefferts Gardens community of Brooklyn was part of a persistent pattern. (I was pulled over by a car full of black woman police officers and a white couple literally rode past us on the sidewalk as I was being ticketed–without helmets! I was working as a consultant at the time and spent about 5 hours in court. So with lost pay and the fine, that ticket cost me several times the cost of my bike.)

Everyone should read journalist Jorge Ramos’ brilliant acceptance speech

Because it is quite frankly the most articulate explanation of the difference between being objective and taking a stand. They are not mutually exclusive. I had the honor of attending the CPJ awards ceremony and I was blown away by Ramos’ thoughtful remarks.

Reprinted from the Committee to Protect Journalists:

I have nothing against being balanced. Every story has at least two points of view and we have to report both. This has to be like a reflex. If a Republican said something, I bet you a Democrat has a response, and vice versa. If a president proposes a new law, the opposition should also have a say. This has to be second nature.

But to get all the facts and to present both points of view doesn’t mean that we got the story right.

When we deal with the powerful, we have to take a stand. Yes, we have to take an ethical decision and side with those who have no power. If we have to decide between being a friend or an enemy of the president, of the governor, of the dictator, it should be an easy choice: I’m a reporter and I don’t want to be your friend.