Borchardt Agency
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Riverhead (2017-04-04)
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2nd Pass Pages
Original language
Fiction & Related items



by Arimah, Lesley Nneka

A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.

In “Who Will Greet You at Home,” a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, A woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In “Wild,” a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In "The Future Looks Good," three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in "Light," a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to "fix the equation of a person" - with rippling, unforeseen repercussions.

Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human,What It Means When a Man Falls from the Skyheralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.

Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up wherever her father was stationed for work, which was sometimes Nigeria, sometimes not. She received her MFA at Minnesota State University. Stories from this collection have been published, or are forthcoming, in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Granta, Catapult, PANK Magazine, and Five Points. Most recently, she was named the winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize – Africa. She lives in Minneapolis.

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What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is an exciting and audacious collection. At turns otherworldly and heartbreakingly familiar, these stories represent all that we could ever want from short fiction. The humor is wicked and the heart big, beautiful, and full of want.

Quote: Diane Cook, author of Man V. Nature

This long-awaited debut short story collection is all about the ties that bind us, whether it’s from mother to child, husband to wife or lover to friend. Unforgettable characters, unexpected plot lines and Arimah’s vibrant prose have placed her firmly on our “remember this writer’s name” list.

Review: PureWow

When Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “Who Will Greet You At Home” appeared in The New Yorker in October 2015, its first sentence served not only as an introduction to a mesmerizing short story, but the announcement of an astonishing writer whose words dare the heart and mind to remain unstirred… That story, a National Magazine Award finalist, generated anticipation for Arimah’s next literary move, and she more than delivers with her electrifying debut, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky...

Review: Boston Globe

Arimah has skill in abundance: the stories here are solid and impeccably crafted and strike at the heart of the most complicated of human relationships. Against a backdrop of grief for dead parents or angst over a lover, Arimah uses Nigeria as her muse…Arimah confidently tests out all the tools in her kit while also managing to create a wholly cohesive and original collection. [This book] heralds a new voice with certain staying power.

Review: Kirkus, starred review

Another writer whose work you’re going to want to keep an eye out for in the future, Lesley Nneka Arimah’s story collection What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky features imaginative and mesmerizing stories…the women in this collection exist in an unpredictable, often dangerous world, one that is both markedly different from, yet startlingly similar to our own.

Review: Bustle

[Arimah] is a brilliant new African voice in literature…her writing is fresh and important and enjoyable and lovingly crafted in every way, sentence by sentence, word by word.

Review: The Contemporary Clerk

UK: Tinder Press/Headline

Quote: Borchardt

The UK-born, Nigerian writer released the original short story through Catapult in 2015…and it seems that she turned some folks’ worlds upside down when she did. Magical realism, science fiction, mathematics to explain the world and give us human flight without the need of airplanes or technology, plus the ability to remove grief and pain… I can’t wait to devour this.

Review: Black Nerd Problems

How does she make these stories so distilled and spacious at the same time? They are drained of excess but still expand so fearlessly. A remarkable debut, from a writer I’m sure we’ll be reading for years to come.

Quote: Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master

Glory Edim, founder of the book club Well-Read Black Girl, spoke to Ebony about five books that “honor the beauty, power and complexity of Black women.” She calls WHAT IT MEANS “completely captivating…Arimah explores the depth of the human experience through eccentric protagonists, unexpected plots, and exceptional storytelling. It’s a global perspective of what Blackness looks like and how the experience of Black women is inherently alike, whether you’re in Nigeria or Chicago.”

Review: Ebony

Without question, one of the finest story collections I’ve read in years. Arimah excels at capturing the kinetic ache of dislocation, of dwelling in the mysterious territory that divides places and selves and generations. Wondrous.

Quote: Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me and The Isle of Youth

Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut short story collectionWhat It Means When a Man Falls From the Skyestablishes Arimah as a remarkable new talent. The stories in this collection are incredibly human and examine the ties that bind us — between parents, children, couples, friends, even places.

Review: Buzzfeed

I’m having trouble losing myself in fiction these days, but I’m trying to work my way back to it by reading short stories. These promise to be ‘evocative, playful, and subversive,’ which just might be what I need to escape to a fictional world.

Review: Book Riot

it would be wrong not to hail Arimah’s exhilarating originality: She is conducting adventures in narrative on her own terms, keeping her streak of light, that bright ember, burning fiercely, undimmed.

Review: New York Times Book Review

Have you ever read a book and felt like the author inserted their stories straight into your mind, and you can’t quite shake them after? That’s how I felt after reading Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut collection of short stories, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. I read this book about a month ago now, but the characters and stories still follow (haunt?) me…Arimah suspends reality in the details to achieve the big picture reality, placing her finger on the intuitive truth of the matter…Clearly Arimah has found the sweet spot where her work has met up with her taste and ambition to create this magical, haunting, groundbreaking collection of stories.

Review: Hazel & Wren

In these gorgeous stories, Lesley Nneka Arimah dreams a world. These tales cut like razors, charm like poetry, and heal like love. International in scope, but deeply personal, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky marks the arrival of a stunning new voice.

Quote: Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow

Arimah, who was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and Louisiana, creates vivid worlds with a strong sense of displacement, accomplished in part with touches of science fiction and magical realism.

Review: Elle

Sharp and surprising, fantastic and dark, human and heartbreaking, this debut collection by Lesley Nneka Arimah is a must-add to yourshort fiction list this year. Arimah covers a lot of ground in these stories, digging into the tension of parent-child relationships (particularly mothers and daughters), the hollows of loss, and the small ways in which we move forward, sometimes with hope and sometimes not.Elements of magical realism drift through this collection…I was met with the unexpected, story after story, page after page. I loved every minute of reading this book.

Quote: Julie Wernersbach, Director of the Texas Book Festival

This much-anticipated debut collection is as marvelous as we all expected it to be—and then some…The stories are evocative each on its own and also as a whole, as tales of mothers weaving children out of hair are spun, and conflicts of love, family, and class clash on the page. The magical realism is so deftly blended into the tales that it’s always easy to suspend one’s disbelief. A truly gorgeous book that looks at humanity in all its angles, from the worst of greed to the best of compassion.

Review: Read it Forward

Powerful and incisive…Arimah gracefully inserts moments of levity into each tale and creates complex characters who are easy to both admire and despise…this collection electrifies.

Review: Publishers Weekly, starred review

Arimah’s stories of loss, grief, shame, fury, and love are stingingly fresh and complexly affecting.

Review: Booklist, starred review

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