Skip to Content

The Stories of NYC

The Stories of NYC: Diane Richards on Ella with Sidik Fofana

Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT May 8, 2024

The Center for Fiction
& Livestreamed

All year long, The Center for Fiction is exploring The Stories of NYC in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the city’s establishment in 1624. Join us for a magnificently rich imagining of one of Harlem’s most turbulent and triumphant life stories in Diane Richards’s debut novel, Ella, which follows the early years of legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.

Following her journey from Depression-era Harlem to the biggest stages in the world, Ella is a heart-wrenching exploration of Fitzgerald’s turbulent beginnings, battling racism, sexism, and colorism on her way to becoming the First Lady of Song. Richards, the Executive Director of the Harlem Writer’s Guild, “has blended her literary magic with the sonic boom of Fitzgerald’s life, poetically resurrecting the great vocalist’s journey” (Kevin Powell, Grammy-winning poet).

Richards is joined by Sidik Fofana (Stories from the Tenants Downstairs), a Whiting Award-winning writer and The Center for Fiction / Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellowship alumnus. Richards will engage in a rousing conversation with Fofana about her novel, her connection to Fitzgerald, and how she brought new life to her story. After the conversation, Richards will sign books.

Richards_Ella_HC Large

In Conversation

  • dianerichards20231012_184423 (1) Large

    Diane Richards

    Diane Richards

    Diane Richards is the Executive Director of the Harlem Writers Guild and a writer, playwright, music producer. She is also a singer who cut her own album in the 1980s and performed backup for Whitney Houston. Like Ella, Diane won a talent competition that launched her career—singing “Watch What Happens,” a song made famous by Ella Fitzgerald. She lives in New York City.

  • Fofana - Author Photo_credit Roque Nonini - Claire Fennell Large

    Sidik Fofana

    Sidik Fofana

    Sidik Fofana is a graduate of New York University’s MFA program and a public school teacher in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in the Sewanee Review and Granta. He is a 2018 alumnus of The Center for Fiction / Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellowship. Stories from the Tenants Downstairs, his debut short-story collection composed of eight narratives about residents of a fictional building in Harlem, was published by Scribner in August 2022.

    Photo Credit: Roque Nonini