I was born in Enugu, Nigeria, and lived in the university town of Nsukka until I was 13. My family then moved to the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I completed high school. My younger sister, Simi, is a professor of sustainable design at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her partner, Ezra is an atmospheric scientist, also at Drexel, and their oldest kid, Vesper, is 12, and their twins Esme and Quinn are a cutie 10 years old. My little brother Maher is an actor, and a scrum master for IRALOGIX. He lives in Pittsburgh along with its other football addled residents (see jollybengali.net for evidence). My parents live in Pittsburgh where my father is a fiction writer and retired professor of geology and my mother teaches computers and economics.
I consider Philadelphia my first real home in the US as I spent the decade after high school in that vastly underrated city. I did business undergrad and grad school there and also worked and played frisbee and danced and biked all over town. However, San Francisco, where I lived for four years and did my writing degree, is my favourite city in the US, maybe in the world.
In the summer of 2005, armed with a one way ticket to Bangkok, I left San Francisco to go travelling for a year (this turned into seven). I spent two years, on and off, in Bangladesh and India, funded in part by a Fulbright Scholarship, during which I researched and wrote my novel in stories, The Lovers and the Leavers (Bengal Lights Books 2014; HarperCollins India and Harper 360, 2015).
The rest of the seven nomad years, my pitch perfect if penniless gypsy life took me to over 30 countries on five continents with longer stints in Bangkok, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London, and Mexico City. These years of travel are documented in a coffee table book of photographs and poems called The Long Way Home (Ogro Publishing, 2013).
In 2016, HarperCollins India published my memoir Olive Witch, about growing up in Nigeria, the States, and Bangladesh. It was released in the US by Harper 360 in 2017.
I currently live in New York City, and am working on a novel, Memory Alone (about memory loss, set in Berkeley and Brooklyn), a screenplay, The Straight Path, a collection of photo-poems called The Passage, as well as a 4-generation memoir with my mother and grandmother.
The best way to get in touch with me is via email, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I give good email, so bring it on…
writer, photographer, editor, teacher, traveling fool. Author of #OliveWitch, a memoir. Instructor at @catapultstory & @latimerhouse. Black Lives Matter