Scotiabank Giller Prize Spotlight: Francesca Ekwuyasi

October 2, 2020

Francesca Ekwuyasi’s novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread has been longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist, and filmmaker born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging. Her writing has been published in Winter Tangerine Review, Brittle Paper, Transition Magazine, the Malahat Review, Visual Art News, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and GUTS magazine. Her story “Ọrun is Heaven” was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread is her first novel. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

What/who inspires you to write?

This quote from Zadie Smith comes to mind: “The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.” It resonates with me as a reason for writing. I’ve loved reading since I was a small child. Books, stories, and my imagination have been my companions during the loneliest and happiest times of my life thus far, and writing is a way that allows me to engage with my imagination and storytelling. It’s one way that I know how to make meaning of my time.

Where is your favourite place to write?

My favourite place to write changes all the time! Ha! It tends to have more to with my state of mind, and much of my writing happens when I’m doing other things, so I end up stealing moments to scribble things down during my day job or recording voice notes on walks. Don’t tell anyone, but at one of my previous day jobs, I would write during most of the shift and only get to my list of tasks during the last two hours of the workday.

I also really enjoy writing at bars, I like to pretend to be a mysterious lady with my glass of wine writing very important things. I make a game of it and often end up getting a solid writing session in.

Is there an activity you do to help inspire your writing?

I read to help inspire my writing. I also listen to music and immerse myself in someone else’s art. It’s all the same thing in a way, witnessing someone else’s story through their craft- it helps me find the courage to tend to my own craft and share.

Do you have a tradition for every time you finish a book?

I’ve only ever finished one book, so no tradition yet. But I said a prayer before I hit send when I sent my first completed draft to my editor. I like having rituals though, they usually involve prayer and intention setting.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fatphobia by Sabrina Strings, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Sadiya Hartman, and Finna: Poems by Nate Marshall. I’m also picking at some other books here and there; I love going back to The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay. The list gets embarrassingly long, so I’m not allowed to get any more books until I finish at least five of my unread books.

What is your favourite CanLit book?

Tanya Tagaq’s Split Tooth, Zalika Reid-Benta’s Frying Plantain, Arielle Twist’s Disintegrate/Dissociate, Zoey Leigh Peterson’s Next Year, For Sure, Tea Mutonji’s Shut Up You’re Pretty and Dionne Brand’s Theory are on my list of favourites.

Is there a book that you find yourself reading over and over again?

Yes. Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House.

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