GraceLand by Chris Abani
This novel is set in Maroko, a sprawling, swampy, crazy and colorful ghetto of Lagos, Nigeria, and unfolds against a backdrop of lush reggae and highlife music, American movies and a harsh urban existence. Elvis Oke, a teenage Elvis impersonator spurred on by the triumphs of heroes in the American movies and books he devours, pursues his chosen vocation with ardent single-mindedness. He suffers through hours of practice set to the tinny tunes emanating from the radio in the filthy shack he shares with his alcoholic father, his stepmother and his stepsiblings. He applies thick makeup that turns his black skin white, to make his performances more convincing for American tourists and hopefully net him dollars. But still he finds himself constantly broke. Beset by hopelessness and daunted by the squalor and violence of his daily life, he must finally abandon his dream.
With job prospects few and far between. Elvis is tempted to a life of crime by the easy money his friend Redemption tells him is to be had in Lago’s underworld. But the King of the Beggars, Elvis’s enigmatic yet faithful adviser, intercedes. And so, torn by the frustration of unrealizable dreams and accompanied by an eclectic chorus of voices, Elvis must find a way to a Graceland of his own making.
Graceland is the story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria, where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.
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