The Center for Fiction celebrated the launch of Vanessa Walters’s exceptional debut, The Nigerwife. In this inventively told and keenly observant thriller, Nicole Oruwari, part of the Nigerwives—a community of foreign women married to wealthy Nigerian men—seems to have it all, but when Nicole disappears without a trace, cracks in her so-called perfect life start to show. Her estranged Auntie Claudine takes matters into her own hands, and as she digs into her niece’s life, she uncovers a hidden side filled with dark secrets, isolation, and even violence. Writer, editor, podcaster, and advocate Jennifer Baker joined Walters in conversation about this propulsive and poignant tale where nothing is as it seems.
By Vanessa Walters
Published by Atria / Simon and Schuster
Nicole Oruwari has the perfect life: a handsome husband; a palatial house in the heart of glittering Lagos, Nigeria; and a glamorous group of friends. She left gloomy London and a troubled family past behind for sunny, moneyed Lagos, becoming part of the Nigerwives—a community of foreign women married to Nigerian men.
But when Nicole disappears without a trace after a boat trip, the cracks in her so-called perfect life start to show. As the investigation turns up nothing but dead ends, her auntie Claudine decides to take matters into her own hands. Armed with only a cell phone and a plane ticket to Nigeria, she digs into her niece’s life and uncovers a hidden side filled with dark secrets, isolation, and even violence. But the more she discovers about Nicole, the more Claudine’s own buried history threatens to come to light.
An inventively told and keenly observant thriller where nothing is as it seems, The Nigerwife offers a razor-sharp look at the bonds of family, the echoing consequences of secrets, and whether we can ever truly outrun our past.
Vanessa Walters was born and raised in London and has a background in international journalism and playwriting and is a Tin House resident and a Millay Colony resident. She is the author of two previous YA books and The Nigerwife. She currently lives in Brooklyn.
Photo Credit: Jerrie Rotimi
Jennifer Baker was named the 2019 Publishers Weekly Star Watch “SuperStar” because her “varied work championing diversity in publishing has made her an indispensable fixture in the book business.” She is the recipient of a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship and a 2017 Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant (as well as the QCA Jr. Board Artistic Excellence Award) in Nonfiction. Her essay “What We Aren’t” was also listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2018. Her short story “The Pursuit of Happiness” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2017 by Newtown Literary Journal and is featured in the anthology What God Is Honored Here? Jennifer is the editor of Everyday People: The Color of Life—A Short Story Anthology with Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). Her YA novel Forgive Me Not will publish with Nancy Paulsen Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House) in August 2023.
Jennifer is a publishing professional with over 20 years’ experience in a range of roles (editorial, production, media) and is an instructor for Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction MFA, as well as the creator/host of the podcast Minorities in Publishing (a 2018, 2019, 2020 finalist for the Digital Book World Best Use of Podcasting in Book Marketing). She previously served as a contributing editor to Electric Literature. She freelances as a proofreader, copyeditor, and/or development editor across genres and has written for various publications in print and online.
From 2014-2017, Jennifer was panel organizer and social media manager for We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit organization that sprang to life from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks media campaign to increase minority representation in literature. She was the social media director and a writing instructor for Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. Previously she volunteered with I, Too Arts Collective.
Photo Credit: Gabby Deimeke Photography