The City Will Love You
By Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Stories that peel the skin off cities to reveal the beautiful dramas within.
Art Print (Only 100 available)
City Dinner (Only 12 available)
City Living Room
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I get my book delivered to?
How do supporter names work?
Will the book and rewards that I receive look the same as the images shown on the Unbound website?
In the city, even people who come from your own village don't know you or care about you.” – Edwidge Danticat, Between the Pool and the Gardenias (Krik? Krak!)
I believe that a move from country to city is more gut-wrenching than movement between countries. A woman from Lagos instinctively knows how to survive New York – city sensors kick in and she's soon alive to the music, the danger, the cons, the possibilities.
I wasn't born in a city, but I've always lived in cities. My first big city move was from darkness to light – London to Accra. I was 4 years old, too young to know what makes a city, but old enough to see the light. Within six months I had been duped out of ownership of my football by another kid, who was a year older. Luckily he needed to play with my brother and I so he came by with the ball every day and we got to enjoy it too – it wasn't a complete loss. That was my first city lesson; to survive the city, even when you give you can't lose.
Cities are kindred things. Cities love you by ignoring you, making you strive to be your best self – to borrow James Baldwin's thoughts on artists: because the city is so indifferent to us we feel compelled to make ourselves significant. Because we want to be important, because we don't want to disappear, cities make can make us behave in ways that can reveal the ridiculous or the great. Drama lives in the ridiculous and the great and that is what these stories explore, but with close focus on the personalities that the city ignores every day – the ones it really loves.
The stories in The City Will Love You can only happen in a bustling city environment. The collection opens with a piece of flash fiction that captures the realities of economic migration in West Africa in the late 1970s/early 1980s. In ‘Socks Ball’ a group of football-obsessed boys grapple with coming of age in Accra, robbed of the certainties of youth and imprisoned by an imposed language. A young Kenyan man takes very organic revenge on racist London neighbours in ‘Scotch Bonnets’. Tap dance, distilled via Nicholas Brothers videos on Betamax, becomes a means to escape hunger during the 1983 Sahel drought in ‘The First Shampoo Hair Show’. In ‘The Orange Story’ a filmmaker roots the beginnings of her craft in an affair of her part-Indian father's. A well-educated Ghanaian migrant in South London wrestles with the decision to tell his police girlfriend that his papers are false in ‘When We Were We’. ‘Whatever Song the Drum’ explores - through flashbacks - the dilemma of a young lawyer in Abidjan called upon to defend a gay classmate. In ‘Momentum’ a street porter plans to use her knowledge of physics to pre-emptively protect her younger sister from a rapist. ‘Wood’ recounts the unexpected return of an uncle presumed dead in Monrovia during the Liberian civil war. In ‘Karl's Gold’ a family secret haunts a young woman on the verge of sexual discovery; ‘Letters to the President’ traces an elaborate plot by a West African president to reset his country's economy and ‘La Bodega’ explores African students' experience of racism in 1990s Toulouse. With a cover designed by my old co-conspirator Inua Ellams (with whom I worked on the covers for the mouthmark series for flipped eye publishing and the cover for the US edition of my novel) and the wonderful bespoke production elements that Unbound is known for, I'm sure it will be a most lovable book.