The Center For Fiction welcomed Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist, Hunger) to launch Ani Kayode Somtochukwu’s And Then He Sang a Lullaby, the inaugural title of her new publishing imprint, Roxane Gay Books at Grove Atlantic. Somtochukwu’s enthralling debut follows God-fearing track star August on his matriculation to university, where almost everything is going well–except that August cannot stop thinking about Segun, an openly gay student who works at the cyber cafe. In Nigeria, as a new anti-gay law is passed and Segun struggles to keep their new relationship behind closed doors, the pair fight to stay together with the power of love in a difficult landscape.
Gay and Somtochukwu discussed issues of craft, the influence of Somtochukwu’s queer liberation activism on the creation of the novel, the societal issues reflected in the story, and more.
And Then He Sang a Lullaby
By Ani Kayode Somtochukwu
Published by Roxane Gay Books / Grove Atlantic
August is a God-fearing track star who leaves Enugu City to attend university and escape his overbearing sisters. He carries the weight of their lofty expectations, the shame of facing himself, and the haunting memory of a mother he never knew. It’s his first semester and pressures aside, August is making friends and doing well in his classes. He even almost has a girlfriend. There’s only one problem: he can’t stop thinking about Segun, an openly gay student who works at a local cybercafé. Segun carries his own burdens and has been wounded in too many ways. When he meets August, their connection is undeniable, but Segun is reluctant to open himself up to August. He wants to love and be loved by a man who is comfortable in his own skin, who will see and hold and love Segun, exactly as he is.
Despite their differences, August and Segun forge a tender intimacy that defies the violence around them. But there is only so long Segun can stand being loved behind closed doors, while August lives a life beyond the world they’ve created together. And when a new, sweeping anti-gay law is passed, August and Segun must find a way for their love to survive in a Nigeria that was always determined to eradicate them. A tale of rare bravery and profound beauty, And Then He Sang a Lullaby is an extraordinary debut that marks Ani as a voice to watch.
Ani Kayode Somtochukwu
Ani Kayode Somtochukwu
Ani Kayode Somtochukwu is an award-winning Nigerian writer and queer liberation activist. His work interrogates themes of queer identity, resistance, and liberation. His writings have appeared in literary magazines across Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.
Photo Credit: Ileleji Prince
Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women, the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects. She also has a newsletter, The Audacity and in Spring 2023 started Roxane Gay Books an imprint of Grove Atlantic.
Photo Credit: Reggie Cunningham