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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In Chris Abani's searingly accurate first novel, teenaged Elvis Presley impersonator Elvis Oke dreams of dancing his way out of the Lagos ghetto where he lives in uneasy détente with his alcoholic father and an imperious stepmother. In postcolonial Nigeria, American films and products define a young boy's ambitions, so young Elvis coats his black face with white makeup, studies the dance moves of an American cultural icon, and stages impromptu shows for tourists -- who most often pay him to just go away.
Despite his youth, Elvis is forced to support his family, and as his tips dry up, he's tempted by a friend to engage in a shady, but more profitable, way of life. Soon, the quietly destructive effects of poverty, desperation, and the destruction of a culture begin to catch up with Elvis, and he finds himself mixed up in the violent and gruesome underworld of organ trafficking -- an industry driven by an increasing demand from Western countries.
As the honor killings and injustices of his own country are held up against the ruinous impetus of Western encroachment, Elvis seeks to define himself and choose a path. And as the merciless government drives Nigeria violently into the modern world, Elvis must decide where his own "Graceland" will be found. (Winter/Spring 2004 Selection)