One of the things I love to do is go to an author event. I get to sit with authors I love and admire, surrounded by other book lovers, interact with the author after the event and maybe get my book signed. The latest event I attended was for the amazing Lesley Nneka Arimah, which was held at Strand Book Store in New York City.
If you’ve never been to Strand, I implore you to visit because it is a book lovers dream. The store contains 18 miles of books. 18. Miles. Of. Books. Let that sink in. Now imagine you have a problem buying only one book from Strand like I do. Then imagine having to sit in that place for an hour while listening to Lesley Nneka Arimah speak about her book, which was being released in paperback, surrounded by nothing but books. I was in heaven.
Lesley (she would want me to call her Lesley) is an absolute joy. She first read from her short story collection, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky, which I wrote about previously (read the post here). She chose to read part of the story “Glory,” about a very unlucky young woman. Lesley’s voice is mesmerizing and I found myself being drawn into the story easily. I didn’t think that would be possible, since the event was held on the second floor of the bookstore in an open corner, which had me worried about noise. But I felt like I was in someone’s living room, surrounded by friends. There was an intimacy to the space that made it ideal for this event.
When Lesley was done, she was joined by one of Strand’s employees, who asked great questions and kept the conversation lively and engaging. One great question Lesley was asked was how her writing process has changed now that she’s working on a novel. She said that it has changed very much because now she has more of a writing schedule, which she didn’t really have when writing her collection. Lesley also talked about the way in which Nigerian writers are always pressured to represent the diaspora and write to inform others about Africa. She said that she has no intentions of doing that and instead writes about whatever she wants.
After the talk, the floor was opened to questions from the audience, and for once, I asked a question. I was curious how Lesley came up with the idea for the story “Windfalls,” and learned that it was from a writing exercise. It made me love the story even more to know that it was borne from a one-line exercise in a writing class. Once the Q&A was over, Lesley stayed for a bit to sign copies of her book. And yes, I did have my copy signed, and Lesley drew a little doodle in it after I told her how I reacted to “Windfalls.” She gets me.
This event was the first I’d attended at Strand and it was wonderful. The staff there was very helpful and friendly and made sure that we were able to enjoy the event with minimal noise while not impeding other book lovers from browsing the aisles. I was pretty proud of myself for not draining my checking account and buying every book in the store, until I came down the stairs and saw the most beautiful book of Caravaggio’s complete works. Although I didn’t buy it right then and there (which was a miracle), I know I’ll be back to purchase it and a few more books. And a tote bag. And a couple of book marks. And possibly another tote bag.
To purchase Lesley’s book, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky, now in paperback, or to see the calendar of upcoming events, go to Strand for more information.