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Ayanna Lloyd Banwo Books In Order

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When We Were Birds (2022)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Ayana Lloyd Banwo is a literary fiction author from Trinidad and Tobago best known for her debut novel “When We Were Birds.”

The author went to the University of East Anglia from where she graduated with a creative writing masters degree. Before then, she had earned her bachelors from the University of the West Indies. She would later on earn her critical and creative writing doctoral degree from the University of East Anglia.

As a writer of short fiction, her work has been published in several magazines in the Caribbean and in the United Kingdom. She has also been nominated for several awards including the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, and the Small Axe Literary Competition.

Ayana currently makes her home in London, where she lives with her husband.

Lloyd Banwo has always been a lover of reading and was writing stories from when she was but a little kid.

She grew up in a family of readers where people were always telling stories. She has said that on most Christmas days the only presents she and her cousins could expect from their grandfather were books.

It was from this experience that she developed a passion for words and over the years he became very good with them.

Banwo would later on take jobs that involve writing such as being a literature teacher for the best part of a decade, advertising, corporate communications, and writing for the “Express Vox Magazine” as a freelance writer.

In 2005, Ayana Lloyd Banwo got her bachelors from the University of West Indies, majoring in English literature and minoring in history. However, even though she loved writing, she did not know anything about publishing.

As such, starting in 2012 she learned about book writing and publishing when she attended the Bocas Literature Festival among several other workshops.
When she lost her grandmother and grandfather in 2013 and 2015 respectively, she tried to deal with the grief by interacting with people working in occupations that deal with death.

For the better part of four years, she surrounded herself with people such as grave diggers, nurses working in terminal wards, embalmers, the NIS, and morgue workers. Most were very kind and sensitive about her grief at having lost some of the most important people in her life.

It was around this time that she started making characters in her head based on what her new friends and acquaintances did. The deaths also reminded her that life could change on a dime and that she needed to do something with her life.

She gave all her energies to writing and published her first short story in 2014.

In late 2016, she embarked on the writing of the short story that later on transformed into her debut When We Were Birds.

It was during this time that she got into the University of East Anglia where she started her masters program. Banwo’s professors at East Anglia loved her story and believed it had great potential. However many believed that it would be better if she converted it into a novel.

She had come far from when she left Trinidad to become a budding author with a lot of potential. When she left her home country as a thirty seven year old, she did not intend to go back home and hence was encouraged by the words of her professors.

She took advantage of the opportunities she had and she was fortunate enough that everything worked out as her debut novel became a blockbuster
When We Were Birds was finally bought by Hamish Hamilton in 2020 as Lloyd Banwo landed herself a two book deal.

Ayana Loyd Banwo has always said that her work is not high fantasy but rather magical realism. Her work harks back to the superstitious nature of Trinidadians where she grew up and spent much of her childhood up to her late thirties.

While most people in Trinidad are now very modern and some superstitious stuff might seem silly, they remain part of Trinidadian ancestral tradition. As such, for many in the country what might seem supernatural is just part of the fabric and who the Trinidadian society and people are.

Banwo has always been emotionally connected to how Caribbean islanders see the world. In her blockbuster debut, she delves into the various traditions and supernatural beliefs and practices of people of African descent that include aspects of mourning, death and ancestral connections.

Over the years, she became interested in the Lapeyrouse cemetery among other cemeteries in her home town. Some members of her extended family had been buried there. However since hardly anyone had died in the recent past, no one knew where they had been buried.

She still remembers how she used to walk the cemetery hoping to get an intuition where the graves were.

“When We Were Birds” by Ayana Lloyd Banwo is a ghost story that has romance and thriller elements. At the center of the work are two young people Emmanuel Darwin and Yejide St. Bernard, who are grappling with destiny.

Yejide St. Bernard comes from an ancestral line with women who commune with the dead. Petronella, her estranged mother, always hated the legacy of her ancestors. But now she is on her deathbed and knows it is up to her to induct Yejide so that she can be remade into what her destiny decreed.

On the other hand is country boy Emmanuel Darwin who needs to regularly purchase medicine for the ailing single mother that brought him up. But he can only find work in Port Angeles and his mother has warned him it is a dangerous place that could swallow him whole just as it did his father.

Moreover, the job is at the cemetery which goes against Rastafarii practice that prohibits adherents from communing with the dead.

But Darwin is defiant and shaves off his head to start his new job. It is at the Fidelis cemetery that the two meet where Yejide appears to him dressed in all white as an apparition shaking the gates during a strong storm.

They have an electric connection but will they be able to have a relationship given their widely varying pasts?

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