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The Chibok Girls
On the night of April 14, 2014, 276 girls from the Chibok Secondary School in northern Nigeria were kidnapped by the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram.
Fifty-seven of them escaped over the next few months, but most were never heard from again.
Acclaimed novelist Helon Habila, who grew up in northern Nigeria, returned to Chibok and gained intimate access to the families of the kidnapped to offer a devastating account of a tragedy that stunned the world. With compassion and a deep understanding of the historical context, Habila tells the stories of the girls and the anguish of their parents; chronicles the rise of Boko Haram and the Nigerian government’s inept response; and captures the indifference of the media and the international community whose attention has long moved on.
Employing a fiction writer’s sensibility and a journalist’s curiosity, The Chibok Girls provides poignant portraits of everyday Nigerians whose lives have been transformed by extremist forces. Habila illuminates the long history of colonialism—and unmasks cultural and religious dynamics—that gave rise to the conflicts that have ravaged the region to this day.
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Helon Habila was born in Nigeria. He worked in Lagos as a journalist before moving to England in 2002 for a writing fellowship at the University of East Anglia. In 2001, his short story, “Love Poems” won the Caine Prize and in 2002 his first novel, Waiting for an Angel was published. The novel went on to win the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section) in 2003. In 2006, he co-edited the British Council’s anthology, New Writing 14.
In 2005-2006, Habila was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, New York. He stayed on in America as a professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University in Virginia. In 2007 his second novel, Measuring Time, was published. The novel won the Virginia Library Foundation’s fiction award in 2008. In the same year, Habila’s short story, “The Hotel Malogo” won the Emily Balch Prize. “The Hotel Malogo” was also selected by the Best American Non-Required Anthology, edited by Dave Eggers.
Habila’s third novel, Oil on Water, which deals with environmental pollution in the oil-rich Niger Delta, was published in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (2011) and the Orion Book Award (2012). It was also a runner up for the PEN Open Book Award (2012).
In 2011 Habila edited The Granta Book of the African Short Story. Habila has been a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review since 2004. He also teaches every summer in an annual creative writing workshop series in his native Nigeria, the Fidelity Bank International Creative Writing Workshop.
Helon Habila lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.