Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah on writing rap music about Nabokov ‹ Literary Hub


You enter another dimension. A dimension of tweets and the authors who send them. You have just entered the Twitterverse. Each week, Gabe Hudson hosts one of his favorite writers and shoots four of their tweets. The guest reads one of these tweets aloud. Then, Gabe and guest use that tweet as an entry point into a conversation designed to illuminate the writer’s heart and mind. Rinse, repeat. Presented by Literary Hub and Best Case Studios.


Everyone knows that Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is the young rockstar, New York Times bestselling author and author of the Black Friday story collection. But what experiences shaped the brilliant mind behind this groundbreaking work of fiction? In this episode, you will get a real idea of ​​the breadth of Nana’s life. Nana and Gabe discuss what it was like growing up Ghanian-American with his family in Spring Valley, Rockland County, NY. And what happened when his father was diagnosed with cancer and how that changed everything. Nana & Gabe talk about his rap, which he does on the show and even break down his lyrics. Nana has learned many fascinating lessons during her life journey so far. Get ready to acquaint yourself with the intricacies of this writer’s dynamic mind.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: I was just in the middle of a review. I think I gave my book to my publisher during that part of the writing, which is my favorite part. But I was in the thick of it, you know, edits and notes and big changes need to be made. There is a deadline, but it wasn’t even that at the time. It was more just looking at this thing that you had to claw and scratch to get to it and realizing that it was nowhere near where it needed to be for you to feel satisfied with it. And so the writing hits hard. Getting into word processing is physically difficult. It’s mentally exhausting to think with that kind of focus. It’s emotionally difficult to see how much you suck every time.

Gabe Hudson: I can testify to that too.


Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: My father died probably six months after the book came out. I have kind of a complicated relationship with this whole period of time and really all about publishing a book now, because it’s hard for me to separate those two things. But in writing, chances are you’re going to sacrifice a lot to do it. At least I know I did. so when it happened, my mom kind of showed me and everyone else that it was okay. Give me a chance to appreciate what was in front of me instead of thinking about, Oh I’ll change that, I’ll change that, I want to change that, this is where I’ve been for so long and am still often.

Gabe Hudson: Seeing your mom dancing and doing those moves and giving off that energy kind of grounded you in the present, took you out of all those worries.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Yeah, it made me appreciate that.


Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: I kind of hid my face a bit and I have my laptop and I’m surrounded by books, which is a bit on the nose and cheesy, but also looks cool.

Gabe Hudson: It’s not corny, man. This shit looks cool. I really like that.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Yes, I call him Nabokov. There is a line in the song where I say: “A book that compares him to Nabokov. It’s really sick. I’m not trying to call you sweet, but I think you’re pale. I threw Molotov cocktails,” that sort of thing.

Gabe Hudson: It was cool. For example, you talk a bit about the literary industry, calling a book author. Did I hear that?

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: The song ends up talking a lot about that first year. I speak of myself as the author of the world book.

Gabe Hudson: Yes. OK. This is the key to understanding.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: The song starts with audio snippets and people are very congratulatory, which I really appreciate. But the beat I made is also really hard and dark. … I did this so I could get into it. Sometimes you have a break so you can get by. And if that is our destiny, we have to settle for knowing exactly what it takes to make music.

Gabe Hudson: That’s wonderful.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Appreciate it. What I was trying to convey is that this period was a very, very difficult time for me. I chose Nabokov simply because he is a famous writer whom some don’t know, but who many know.


Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: I guess what really struck me was your parents telling you, oh, I used to go do this. And for me, my father told me, we had to fetch a bucket and go to the well to draw water. And you’re kind of like, yeah, okay. And then I saw this and I was like, this was very literal. It gave me a whole new perspective, actually, on who he had been and what it took to become who he was.


Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Many stories take place in a mall. This is the mall where I used to work in West Nyack. And on my breaks when I was working, I was on the third floor, a store called Against All Odds, if you can believe that, and upstairs was Barnes & Noble. And on my break, I would go to McDonald’s, which was also on the fourth floor, and have a big sweet tea because that was the highest calorie intake possible for the cheapest amount of money. And so I would take this little meal and take it to Barnes & Noble and just read on my break. especially in the summer when I was coming back from my undergrad and it was the literary magazines they had there.


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Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is the New York Times– bestselling author of black friday. His work has appeared in The New York Times book review, Squire, The Paris Revieww, and elsewhere. It was the winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” award, winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the Saroyan Prize, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for Best First Book, among many others. accolades. . Raised in Spring Valley, New York, he now lives in the Bronx.

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