Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jill Krementz covers a Book Party for Uzodinma Iweala

Uzodinma Iweala in his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
A Book Party
Honoring Uzodinma Iweala
Tuesday, July 16, 2012

Uzodinma Iweala, 29, has been hailed as a rising literary talent. 

In 2005 he published his first book Beasts of No Nation, a novel about child soldiers, to universally good reviews, winning four major first-novel awards. His short stories have been published in The Paris Review, Granta, and McSweeney's. In 2011 he graduated from Columbia Medical School. 

Before, and during medical school, Iweala spent time in Nigeria doing research on the HIV-AIDS epidemic. His recent book, Our Kind of People, A Continent's Challenge — A Country's Hope, has just been published by HarperCollins.

Iweala looks at the epidemic in Nigeria through personal stories of people from all walks of life. The stories bring more light to the complexity of the epidemic and the discussion people are having both domestically and internationally about this challenging illness.

The party was hosted by Julie Kennedy who worked with Uzo on the Millennium Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2006.

Dr. Iweala is now working on a novel set in Washington D.C. When he finishes his novel, he plans to start his residency.
Front door of Julie Kennedy's house with courtyard on East 12th Street. A table of books donated by HarperCollins.
Uzo with his parents Dr. Ikemba Iweala (his father) and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Honorable Minister of Finance (his mother).
Julie Kennedy and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Julie and Uzo are close friends.

"I run a small company that provides strategic and finance support to small and medium businesses in frontier markets; Haiti is an example. The company is also building a trusted community of business leaders in developing countries, connects firms to global networks of peers, information, and funding.

Uzo and I met in 2004 and have been close friends ever since. I hosted the party as a big vote of confidence in Uzo and because I deeply believe in supporting the arts, especially art that helps to build an audience for issues that affect people who live across the global south."
Uzo's auntie, Professor Chi Ogunyemi. Professor Ogunyemi recently retired from Sarah Lawrence, where she taught African/American literature studies. Cagle McDonald, Artistic Director of Irvington Clock Tower Players.
Cagle McDonald and Professor Chi Ogunyemi. Uzo's father, Dr. Iweala, is in the center.
Uzodinma Iweala and his auntie Chi Ogunyemi. Emeka Okafor, curator of Maker Faire Africa. He was the director for TED Global 2007.
Uzo with (from left to right) Chidozie Ugochukwu, Dominique DeLeon, and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
A view from upstairs of the party in the garden. That's Uzo on the far left in his white caftan.
Uzodinma Iweala with Jeffrey Posternak of the Wylie Agency. Posternak is Uzo's book agent.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Andrew Wylie. Mr. Wylie's agency represents Uzo. Wylie's stogie.
Uzodinma Iweala with younger brother Uchechi Iweala, who is a doing an MD/MBA at Harvard Medical School.
Chioma Achebe, Uchechi's girlfriend. Kayode Ogunro of Kuramo Partners, an investment firm.
Gerard McGeary and Chidozie Ugochukwu, both in finance. Sue Campbell and Julie Wurfel, friends of the hostess.
Polka dot dresses.

Abby Seldon is on the left.

She's just finished graduate studies in French language and is currently working for the NY Chamber of Commerce, leading their small-business-relationship division.

Hostess Julie Kennedy is on the right.
Dickon Waterfield, Steph Bridges-Waterfield (Acuman Fund), and Kayode Ogunro.
Willa Shalit ( and Julie Kennedy.
Julie Werfel, a friend of the hostess. Sue Campbell.
Uchechi Iweala and Larry Qualls. Mr. Qualls, a big fan of Uzo's novel Beast of No Nation, came to the party as my guest.
Gerard McGeary. Writer Dan Browdy and Thenji Nkosi, illustrator of the book cover.
Stephen Haskins, Gerard McGeary, and Dominique DeLeon.
Artist Victor Jeffreys. Anna Siciliano.
Julie Wurfel, Sue Campbell, and two visiting teachers from Berkeley, CA.
Mia Green-Dove, a film producer who is working with HBO on a documentary about genocide.
She did a previous documentary for them called Recruits.
Dr. Dan Burke (a resident in medicine at NYU) and Elliot Aguilar (completing his PHD at CUNY).
Jeff Posternack. Meehan Crist, a writer in residence in the biology department at Columbia.
Literary agent Andrew Wylie and HarperCollins Editor Tim Duggan.
Ellen Fedors. Uzo's brother brings more ice.
Elliot Aguilar and Thenji Nkosi.
Chioma Achebe and Michael McKenzie (director of publicity at Echo Books, imprint of HarperCollins) Marina Sagona and daughter Anna Siciliano.
Dr. Rita Charon, who runs the Columbia University Narrative Medicine Program, with Dr. Robin Friedlander.
Uzo thanks his hostess and all those who made this book possible, singling out his parents, editors Tim Duggan and Meehan Crist, agent Jeff Posternak, Thenji Nkosi for the cover art, and other friends and family for their support.

He talks a little about his book telling us how its goal is to spark a conversation about the way we have spoken about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.
And then he reads a few short paragraphs from his book:

Nigerians are not known as a quiet people. 'In the beginning,' writes the Nigerian essayist Peter Enaharo, 'God created the universe; then he created the moon, the stars and the wild beasts of the forests. On the sixth day he created the Nigerian and there was peace. But on the seventh day while God rested, the Nigerian invented noise.'

Ours is a noisy country, so loud sometimes that, even in the rural areas it can be hard to hear your own thoughts above the constant commotion of Nigerian life. At all times, someone somewhere is offering greetings, arguing, partying. The streets of our cities and the dirt roads of our small towns teem with a million conversations held over the background noise of music blasting from car speakers or twanging out from tiny handheld radios, as well as the nearly constant rattle and rumble of ubiquitous standby generators. We are opinionated, and we are loud even when wrong. We protest and we riot. We do not shy away from controversy.
And perhaps because we are rooted in an oral culture, we revel in the sounds of our own voices; introductory remarks take up volumes, toasts leave raised arms trembling; speeches, if they ever end, never end before the speaker's time is up. But for all the talking we do, until relatively recently, we have been noticeably silent on the subject of HIV/AIDS.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.