With ‘And Then He Sang a Lullaby,’ a Young Nigerian Novelist Commits to ‘Queer Resistance’

Ani Kayode Somtochuk wrote her first novel without the internet or even a computer. He wrote it by hand on a large white notepad and transferred it to his phone with each tap.

It was later sold to a major publisher.

The novel And He Sang A Lullaby, a love story about two young Nigerians, will be published in June by Globe Atlantic’s new publisher, launched by author and social commentator Roxanne Gaye. It will be published on June 6th. Gaye has said he intends to promote authors from outside the regular publishing pipeline, with Ani (whose last name is often first in Nigeria) being the lead author for the publisher. A queer Nigerian man of working-class background, the manuscript was submitted without permission. The agent came from the mud pile.

Ani, also 23, is quick to laugh, quick to laugh, and apologizes for making other people feel bad about herself.

“He’s wise for his age, and he’s also a charming 23-year-old,” Gay said. “Despite living in Nigeria, where it is difficult to be gay, you can see that he lives a vibrant life.”

Ani grew up in Enugu, the second of five children to a schoolteacher and a market stall owner who sold stationery and gift cards. He had always been a writer, scribbling stories and poems and sharing them with his brothers and friends, but never thought it would be his future profession, instead studying Applied Biology and Biotechnology in school. I learned Currently he lives in Lagos, but he moved there because of his work. Nigeria Institute of Medicine.

“I grew up with a class background that has forced me to stick to things that are very realistic when thinking about my career,” he says. “For example, being a musician, being a dancer, being a writer, etc., are things that you are allowed to enjoy, but you don’t really consider it a profession.”

But in the end, “writing got me out of poverty,” he said. It’s his full-time job now.

“And He Sang A Lullaby” centers around two very different young men who meet and fall in love in college. August is wealthy, athletic, and passes for straight, while Segun is flamboyant, political, working-class and frequently targeted, although homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria. This novel explores how people respond differently to homophobia and how love is possible even under such difficult circumstances.

“This is a novel about queer love and queer pain,” Ani said. “But perhaps most importantly, it’s about queer resistance.”

Ani considers herself to be an activist first and foremost, and has said her writing contributes to that cause. He organizes campaigns in support of LGBTQ rights and helps raise funds to buy the freedom of friends and strangers who have been kidnapped and held for ransom because they are gay or transgender. is explained.

He was also targeted, said he was beaten twice, detained by police and threatened repeatedly. After protests in the Nigerian capital against a bill that would send people to prison in clothes that traditionally do not match their gender assigned at birth, Ani said social media commenters said they were He said he had to leave the city abruptly because he insisted it was. Others involved should also be killed.

“He came out of a very dangerous country so quickly. I have to say it’s really a miracle that he made it this far,” said Ani Uzoamaka Chinedu, one of his sisters. . “Kayode is a lucky boy.”

While studying biology at university, he also joined the writers club. Later, he found in a group chat that a gay publisher was accepting submissions and sent him several chapters.

Gay said he was drawn to the strength of Ani’s voice as well as the book’s message. By the time she contacted Ani’s representative, Emma Sharkliffe, she already had an offer.

Most traditional publishers require submissions from agents rather than directly from authors to editors, and books are rarely contracted otherwise. Submissions from agents are already vetted, so this is a practical consideration. But since hiring an agent is itself a steep hill to climb, this setup means that many authors may not get their manuscripts in front of editors, even if their work is excellent. To do.

When Gaye first announced her publication and acceptance of unrepresented submissions, she was receiving between 200 and 300 manuscripts each month.

“Does it take a lot of effort? Yes, and I had to hire someone to help me get through the line,” she said. “But if it means offering that opportunity, I’m happy to do it.”

A book sale and an advance payment allowed Ani to move alone into an apartment with a quiet place to write for the first time. According to his sister, he also gave money to his father to support his family. Ani retained his rights in Africa and allowed the book to be published in Nigeria by local publishers, lowering the price for readers.

This month, Ani will visit the United States for a book-related event, her first outside of Africa. She said she was not afraid of being targeted further in Nigeria due to her own notoriety, claiming that her notoriety afforded her some protection, and using it to defend her beliefs. He said he intends to push further.

“What I want people to know about me is that I am an African gay liberation activist and believe that Africa is my home and gay home,” he said. . I really believe so. “

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