A is for Acholi
Otoniya J. Okot Bitek
Publisher: Wolsak & Wynn
A Is for Acholi is a sweeping collection exploring diaspora, the marginalization of the Acholi people, the dusty streets of Nairobi and the cold grey of Vancouver. Playfully upending English and scholarly notation Otoniya J. Okot Bitek rearranges the alphabet, hides poems in footnotes and slips stories into superscripts. The poet opens up ways of rethinking history as she rewrites both the 1862 contact of the Acholi people with the British and the racist texts of Joseph Conrad, while also searching for a way to live on lands that are fraught with the legacies of colonization, similar to her ancestral homeland. With writing that is lyric, layered and deeply felt, the poems in A Is for Acholi unfold maps of history, culture and identity, tracing a route to a present where the poet dreams of writing a world without empire.
Otoniya J. Okot Bitek is a poet and scholar. Her collection of poetry, 100 Days (University of Alberta, 2016), was nominated for several writing prizes including the 2017 BC Book Prize, the 2017 Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Alberta Book Awards and the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry. It won the 2017 IndieFab Book of the Year Award for poetry and the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. From the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021, Otoniya had the privilege of being the Ellen and Warren Tallman Writer-in-Residence and one of the SFU Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellows. She has recently moved to Kingston, Ontario, to live on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe people. Otoniya is an Assistant Professor at Queen’s University, Kingston.