Bayo Ojikutu is reading at the Gage Gallery on February 2 at 5:00 pm as part of the Spring Reading Series. Mr. Ojikutu joins Roosevelt University, teaching a novel writing workshop in Roosevelt’s MFA program this spring, and we’re very excited about welcoming him to campus. Here are a few facts to get to know him a bit better before Monday’s reading…
Five Facts for your Friday about Bayo Ojikutu:
- Ojikutu’s debut novel 47th Street Black was released in 2003 and won both the Washington Fiction Prize and the Great American Book award. His short fiction has appeared nationwide in various places, including the anthology Chicago Noir and Shadow Show, an anthology celebrating Ray Bradbury’s work.
- Although he finds he is the most productive writing in an office, he says the subway throughout the city provides great inspiration for writing. “Stay on these trains in this city, end-to-end, north-to-west, south-to-east, ride with eyes open, there and back again, and you will see things for what they are. Blinking and shining and flinching and blue and bruised and blitzed and sagging and brilliant and swinging low and ever bombastic.”
- Ojikutu is Chicago born and raised, and sets both of his novels in the Southside neighborhood. Free Burning is based in the neighborhood Four Corners, “People like to think of places like Four Corners as hell, it isn’t hell. It’s part of our real world.”
- The work of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are cited as some early inspiration for his work. He also says that maybe inappropriately, his parents would take him to see Richard Pryor’s films and comedy, and they had a great deal of influence as he grew up. “Maybe they plugged our ears … during certain segments, but that was my exposure to the aesthetically illicit. Pryor was huge for me in terms of gaining confidence in a distinctive voice.”
- He has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University, and finds that teaching effects his interaction with his everyday reading and writing. “I find it difficult to read anything these days without scribbling in the margins and engaging some back and forth with the writer in my mind, as if they are among my workshop students. ‘Salman, be respectful of your colleagues here in the circle, man.’ ‘You too, Zadie, and stay in your seat back there, Jonathan. I can see you, you know?’ Just joking. I’d never speak to my students like that.”
Bonus Fact: If he had to choose another profession, he would be a big band leader, “Playing swing tunes so hard folks had no choice but to keep dancing, even after the ditties started to bop.”
Be sure to stop by the Gage Gallery this Monday, February 2 at 5 pm for the reading, refreshments being served at 4:30 pm.
Facts compiled from:
Cassandra Morrison is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 42 of Oyez Review.