Author E.C. Osondu, author of “Voice of America,” talks about being a man of two nations

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Author E.C. Osondu had an ideal of authors as a young man: carefree, bohemian and cool. As he presented two short stories with a shared theme of immigration Monday at Book People, he embodied that idea.

Osondu has won multiple awards for his short stories and has been published in publications like The Atlantic. He is currently a visiting writer at UT and is teaching two courses this semester. 

His fiction springs from a feeling of unease, Osondu said, because he belongs neither to his native land of Nigeria nor to the U.S. He said he likes to examine “what works and what doesn’t work.” 

“There is such a deep well of loneliness that makes you realize you also miss your own society,” Osondu said. “You never really belong. It’s like a disembodied spirit, you know. It’s like the superstition about the man who died in a car accident. They say his soul is in between worlds: It’s never here, and it’s never there.”

But it was Osondu’s love of reading, more than his admiration of authors, that fed his desire to write.

“I started reading quite early and I always loved to read,” Osondu said. “So I guess it’s a natural progression.”

Osondu’s talk is part of the New Writers Tour, a series of readings created by UT’s New Writers Program. Oscar Cásares, the director of the program, said that Osondu fit the profile of the authors the New Writers Program targets for its readings: a new author that has a debut novel or collection of short stories people will be talking about in the future, but who isn’t well-known yet.

Cásares first became familiar with Osondu’s work when he heard Osondu read his story “Waiting,” about two young boys in a refugee camp who discuss joining a child army while waiting to be adopted.

“There’s this sort of humor that lowers your defenses initially, and then as you get deeper into the story you realize how utterly tragic this is,” Cásares said. “But [Osondu has] that ability to draw a reader in and to make something that’s fairly difficult to listen to approachable.”

English senior Maysie Ocera, who read one of Osondu’s stories in her short story workshop class, came to the reading to see Osondu “bring life to [his] work” by reading it aloud, an experience she believes will help her own development as a writer. 

“I think the more widely read you are, the more developed of a writer you become,” Ocera said. “Definitely reading the works of different authors, definitely exposing yourself to different styles of writing.”