Tag Archives: Melatu Uche Okorie

Sebastian Barry; Melatu Uche Okorie

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, the Laureate for Irish Fiction with the Arts Council of Ireland Sebastian Barry spoke about his Life Lines Book Club.

The book club initiative sees Mr Barry meet people who live in what the Irish Arts Council have termed “harder to reach settings”.

Mr Barry spoke about his experiences with the club and paid special tribute to This Hostel Life author Melatu Uche Okorie, who was born in Nigeria and came to Ireland, with her infant daughter, in 2006 seeking asylum.

They spent eight-and-a-half years in direct provision.

Speaking of the club, Mr Barry said:

“It just adds to my wondering sense that some of the most majestic people are these who seem to be in so-called marginalised places or their backs are against the wall.

“And when you go and see them, you know, as something as simple as a book club, to talk about a book, you find people in this really almost untoward state of grace.”

Speaking of how the club works, he said:

“…I have seven or eight novels, all sort of interconnected and they choose one of those to read.

“It’s often just a starting point for other more urgent and important things that people will talk about.

“But I will usually read from the book, just to give the birdsong of myself and the book.

“…And then they will respond to the book. But more often it’s a door into a sort of more brightly lit room of their lives and the things they know and the important information they have for me, actually.”

Mr Barry mentioned that next month he will be holding one of his book clubs with people who live in direct provision before he paid tribute to Ms Okorie.

He said:

“Having spoke to Melatu Uche Okorie last year, again, it brings to mind, it brings forcefully the issue to mind, the actual madness of direct provision.

“Because if you take Melatu for instance, I hope she doesn’t mind me speaking for her or about her.

“But there’s a woman now, one of our principle writers now – her opera has just opened a few nights ago and her book is being republished in England, ‘My Hostel Life’ it’s called.

“How long do you think it would take you or I to notice how amazing she was. I would say about two hours?

“But bureaucracy took eight years to notice how amazing she was. And how fit she was supposedly to be an Irish citizen.”

Listen back here in full.

Previously: ‘Lives Stunted By Purposelessness, Arcane Rules And Condescending Officiousness’

This Hostel Life.

Is a book of short stories written by Melatu Uche Okorie, above, who was born in Nigeria and came to Ireland, with her infant daughter, in 2006 seeking asylum.

They spent eight-and-a-half years in direct provision.

Donal O’Keeffe, in The Avondhu, writes:

“This Hostel Life is a slim volume made up of three short stories, bookended by an introduction by the author, and by a closing essay by Liam Thornton of the UCD School of Law. The introductory essay features a 2013 diary excerpt written when the author was based in “****** direct provision hostel” and makes for difficult and upsetting reading.

‘Apart from the arbitrary changes to our daily routine, the security men also try to intimidate residents like myself who they know will complain about the food options. I would usually find two of them standing directly behind me whenever I’m in the queue for food. It became obvious to me that it was a way of breaking my spirit more than anything. There are tons of cameras in ******, but I would find those security men trailing after me, sometimes, as I walk to my room.’

“The three stories in the collection are each very different, with the title story written from the perspective of a Congolese woman living in a direct provision centre. Written in a pidgin Nigerian English, it portrays people reduced to gossiping and pettiness, their lives stunted by purposelessness, arcane rules and condescending officiousness.”


Tomorrow, as part of the West Cork Literary Festival, Melatu will read from This Hostel Life and chat to Donal in the Bantry Bookshop at 11.30am.

A powerful new voice on the abusive relationship that is Direct Provision (Donal O’Keeffe, The Avondhu)

This Hostel Life (Skein Press)