My debut work of fiction VAGABONDS! will be published next year by Riverhead Books. My publishers (what?!) describe the book as: “a tumultuous and unexpectedly joyous novel of oppression and defiance among the people and spirits of Lagos.” That feels correct. The book, like Lagos, is full of flawed people, spirits of all dispositions, children, lovers, squatters, families in their many iterations, queerness in all its forms, people of all classes and abilities. I’m proud to have written this. I’m proud of every time I fought to give myself what I knew I’d need to complete this book. I’m proud of the day I decided to choose this work with my chest and stop playing it safe. I wrote this because it’s the book I’ve been missing. I wrote it because I wanted a book that wasn’t shy to say what it meant, that wasn’t afraid to disregard and overwrite and upturn what is considered normal or upright or worthy; a book that isn’t afraid of its own madness; a book with its own secrets, rules and commandments.
On my birthday last year, when asked what I wanted the most from my new age, I said stillness. Later in my journal, I also wrote: joy. My main goals for the year had been written down in clear terms: book deal, travel with/to friends, dance in as many countries as possible, [redacted], [redacted]. I wanted a balanced year. Well, I’ve found ways to stay connected to my friends even through the madness going on. Thank God for that. I dance alone and often in an apartment I’m safe in. Thank God for that. And I’m an author. How wild is that? This year I’ve worked through feelings of helplessness by reminding myself that I’ve done and continue to do my own part of the work. I remind myself that I have imagined the world I want to live in — where no one gets left behind; where freedom for all isn’t just conceivable but taken for granted; where we can blow the limits off stifling definitions— and I’ve fleshed that out in pages. It’s real because I live it, despite. It’s real because it is written.
Making stories is my work (what?!) and I have a stubborn provable faith in the power of words. This world was fashioned out of them. I write with compassion, with grit, with rage, with lightness, with hope and with younger versions of myself in mind. I wrote what I needed then. I wrote what I still need now. I wrote a book of stories that comforts my friends and makes them laugh and cry; that makes them feel seen. That, to me, is success. I don’t fight the way most people do, but that’s okay because there are people who occupy the spaces I can’t in excellent ways. But on the page? I’m unstoppable, untouchable, unkillable, unsinkable. My strength is at its clearest when I’m writing and I’m not shy to say that that strength is a giant. I can’t change the world but I can flip it on its head. I can’t stop the threats we face but I can make us a new world. I can’t change the violence, but I can insist that the story ends differently. Over the past few years, I’ve quietly written my way out of stories I was stuck in. It hurt to do sometimes, but it also taught me that there’s nothing trivial about writing. Nothing at all. Stories are my third lung. The books that saved my life never stop mattering to me even when the world is falling apart. In fact, that’s when they matter the most. Books are where I run to when my head needs resetting. Books are where I go when my heart is breaking. I’m thankful for the day I realised I could add to that list, that I didn’t have to wait or hope for a book like the one I’ve written. I’m thankful to have realised I could just write it. I’m thankful for my agent who is steady even when I’m not. I’m thankful for my friends who showed me all the love in the world while I was writing, who show me all the love in the world now, who work(ed) through the fears with me. I’m thankful for their reminders when I can’t remember my reasons. I’m thankful for my editor who saw and loved this book for what it was. I’m thankful to be getting published by the same house as some of my favourite authors of all time.
What to do when the thing you’ve wanted the most comes to pass? On the day I got the news, I screamed, cried and told my friends. I sat down and exhaled. I upped the volume of my music so high it brushed the ceiling. I shook off the world and rejoiced. I felt a thousand things. But mostly sure. This is what I was born to do. This year has been insane, but I’ve been still and I have felt deep joy, despite. I’ve watched my wildest dream start to unfold in real time. This is a moment that lit up my life and I wanted to tell you. I wanted to say thank you for all the times you’ve read something I’ve written. Thank you for your support over the years and for the letters and questions and DMs about the book. Thank you for amplifying my work and sharing it and engaging with it. It means so much to me. So so much. I can’t wait for you to read this book and all the others after it (what?!). I hope you stick around.
& may all your dreams come true,