Abi Ishola-Ayodeji.

I was born and raised in Miami, but my sister and I spent a year of secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria, where our parents were born. All my classmates were so passionate about politics, and I remember thinking that in America, sixth graders didn’t care about politics to that degree. I never forgot that.

My novel, Patience Is a Subtle Thief, takes place in the early ’90s, a particularly volatile time in Nigeria’s history. In my book, the main character, Patience, has been separated for much of her life from her mother, who was banished by her father. When Patience goes off to school in Lagos, she learns her mother is in America. But Patience needs money if she’s going to reunite with her mother. She visits her cousin and meets his friends. They are petty thieves, and she 
eventually gets involved with their scams.

Part of why I wanted to write this novel is because Nigerians became known for the 419 scams—even though plenty of thieves in other countries were guilty of them, too. [Ed.: The name comes from the section of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with fraud.] These scams swindled foreigners out of their money—letters and phone calls promising romance or some giant windfall in return for a small investment. I wanted to explore the motivation behind this behavior and its origins in Nigeria before foreigners had become the target. Sometimes poverty is involved, or greed. Much of it goes back to politics—in this case the unkept promise of democracy after the military annulled Nigeria’s first democratic election. Nigerians are intelligent and crafty, hard-working and ambitious, even when facing political turbulence.

I wanted to put a human face on this type of crime and explore the lives of those who were 
desperate enough to do it.
—As told to Denne Michele Norris


Black Power Wave: Weaving Helleborine, graphite and acrylic paint on hand-cut cotton rag paper, 49 by 67 inches, 2022.

Oasa DuVerney, Fine Arts ’07, is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work has been exhibited at Art Expo Chicago; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.; and the Studio Museum in Harlem; and is in the collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. Her art “reimagines elements from both the natural and urban landscape as active sites in building Black liberation. The figures in these works are rendered with the care, compassion, and understanding that the Black body deserves but isn’t always afforded.”