Maya Binyam’s “Hangman”
By LARB Radio HourSeptember 1, 2023
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Writer Maya Binyam joins Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher to speak about her debut novel Hangman. The book begins with a man who finds himself returning to his home country somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in 26 years. But the places, customs, and traditions he encounters there have become foreign or burdensome to him, and the people he meets, even members of his own family, strange and unrecognizable. Somewhere in the country his brother lays dying, but his journey to be by his side is marked by a series of losses—of money, clothes, and passport. Along the way, he’s forced to rely on the stories and experiences of the strangers he meets and speaks with at length to make sense of things, even as he sees himself as disinterested or apart from them. Working against more typical narratives of homecoming and migration, the novel pushes deeper into questions about the essentialism and continuity of self, the individual versus the abstract, the obligation of kinship and the necessity of faith, as well as the possibility of political change.
Also, Prudence Peiffer, author of The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever, returns to recommend two books The Nameplate: Jewelry, Culture, and Identity by Marcel Rosa-Salas and Isabel Attyah Flower, as well as My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland.
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