Esi Edugyan is an award-winning novelist whose cultural heritage and diverse education fuels her rich stories of history, race, and finding one’s place in the world. Born in 1977 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Edugyan began writing poetry as a teenager and her talents were soon recognized by a high school teacher. She started her creative writing studies at the University of Victoria, where she studied under the novelist Jack Hodgins.
She published her first novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, in 2004 under Alfred A. Knopf. It was shortlisted for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in 2005. Despite the book’s success, Edugyan soon became disenfranchised with the publishing business when she could not secure a publisher for her second manuscript. Instead of giving up, Edugyan put the work on hold and accepted a writer-in-residence opportunity in Stuttgart, Germany. This time away from home eventually inspired her critically-acclaimed 2011 novel, Half-Blood Blues.
Half-Blood Blues is the troubled, tragic story of a “Rhineland Bastard,” or a child born to a white German mother and a black African father in Nazi Germany. Edugyan did not settle for writing about one facet of history or culture in this historical novel. She wrote Half-Blood Blues with the idea that the main character is a mixed-race jazz musician in a world that is unfriendly towards everything he is. This work was an instant national success. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in 2011 and won the coveted Canadian Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2012.
All of Edugyan’s works are imbued with feelings of belonging. Her mother, a nurse, and her father, an economic forecaster, both immigrated to Canada from Ghana, so as she grew up, Edugyan was met with the idea that she was neither Canadian nor Ghanaian. This frustrating dichotomy inspired the character of Hiero in Half-Blood Blues. Edugyan is married to author Steven Price. They have one child, born in 2011. She published her first non-fiction work, Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home, in 2014, and recently completed a writing residency at Athabasca University in Edmonton, Alberta in 2016.