Teju Cole (born Obayemi Babajide Adetokunbo Onafuwa) is a Nigerian-American writer, street photographer and art historian based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the second Nigerian to win the PEN/Hemingway Award (after Chris Abani for his novel Graceland in 2005).
Cole was born on June 27, 1975 in the United States, was raised in Lagos and moved to the USA after completing secondary school.
Education and Career
Cole holds a BA from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He earned his MPhil and PhD degrees at Columbia University in New York. He has written two books: the first is a novella titled Every Day is for the Thief (2007), which gives an account of a Nigerian returning home from the US after many years abroad. The other, Open City (2011) focuses on the journeys through New York and other places of a Nigerian psychiatry student. It won the PEN/Hemingway Award in 2012, as well as the New York City Book Award for Fiction and the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011.
Cole is currently based in Brooklyn, New York and is a regular contributor to various publications including the New York Times, Qarrtsiluni, Chimurenga, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Farafina Press blog. He also authors a blog on the New Inquiry's website entitled Double Take. He is currently at work on a book-length non-fiction narrative of Lagos as well as on a Twitter project called -Small Fates'. He has been honoured twice as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities (in 2001 and 2002) and once as a Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College (in 2011).
Cole has worked as a cartoonist, dishwasher, gardener and haematology researcher. He has taught at Hofstra, Columbia andNew York universities. He is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College.
Watch Cole read from his non-fiction work-in-progress: