Unoma Nguemo Azuah is a Benue exile daughter born away and staying same. She is a Tiv woman by birth born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta state. Her blood flows from ancestral roots in Ukan in Ushongo local government. Her mother is Igbo from Asaba, in Delta state.
There’s a history to her writing but the fun starts from her undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She edited the English department literary journal—The Muse and received back-to-back the awards of the best Creative Writing student in 1992 and 1993. This seems to have created a hunger for more awards. In 2004, Unoma won the Leonard Trawick award for a short story of hers. Her very first novel, Sky-high Flames clinched the Hellman/Hammett award, the Urban Spectrum award, and the Association of Nigerian Authors/NDDC Flora Nwapa award. Trust me, there are far many others but let’s not waste your time on her laurels alone.
Unoma has a collection of short stories, The Length of Light which focus on the quagmire of those normal choices we make everyday. It is a book that shows everyday people highlighting that gap between dreams, their creation, work towards attainment and all. All these are dramatized in scenes that reveal severed roots, patriarchal intrusions, socio-economic impositions, inhuman cultural values, and hostility. Underlining each story Unoma writes, whether in that collection or even in her other works such as Edible Bones there is that undertone of hope and faith held strong by people with a strong will to survive. In all, you find diverse themes and tenors, all marked with a laid-back style of fluid flowing narratives and easily absorbing diction.
At present, Unoma professionally teaches English in a four-year-liberal art College called Lane College. It’s in Jackson, Tennessee, USA. She does several other things.
In a bid to promote literature, she has conducted writing workshops and seminars in some major cities in Nigeria and the US. You would find that she has conducted writing workshops for incarcerated mothers and women in prison as a way of creating outlets for their expressions. Part of her focus in such workshops is to assist women in channeling their energy into literary expressions as a way of freeing their spirits in spite of their physical imprisonment. She is also involved with “The Griot Collective,” a poetry group that organizes workshops and readings for adults and high school students in the West Tennessee area. Her contributions to this group earned her the “Griot Hero” award in 2006. In the same year, she received “The Best Faculty,” award at Lane College for her outstanding teaching, research and service to the College community. You remember what I said about awards?
One of Unoma’s projects has been to explore the political disillusionment suffered by Africans due to corrupt government and their subsequent urge to migrate to the west even when they face alienation and homesickness. These themes are the focus of a poetry anthology called On Broken Wings which she recently edited. This is also the grasp of Edible Bones. Some of her affiliations include the International Resource Network (IRN Africa), a research and network group that focus on sexuality issues in Africa of which she is a board member. She is also the faculty sponsor of the Delta Sigma Tau: English Honors Society at Lane College.
Unoma writes lots of poetry as well as criticism being an unforgiving unsentimental critic. She is an Editor editing Poetry for Sentinel Nigeria as well co-editing for the Sentinel UK Annual Literature Anthology, co-editor “Outliers” a creative writing and scholarly journal about sexual minority issues in Africa; among several others. She has judged several literary competitions and won the Far Above Rubies award for being the Judge of the Year for the Cecilia Unaegbu Prize.
In addition to her many accolades, Unoma makes history this evening as the first SEVHAGE Guest Reader. This evening, she feeds us from her rich literary cuisine, a dish with the name ‘Edible Bones.’ This meal has passed through several places but is now coming home – to Benue with us. I would say Bon Appétit but in a manner of grace before meal, let us pour a prayer for this blessed reader:
Join me, by standing up to hail a woman worthy of her name ‘Aôndo Nguemo’ [God is with me] – whose various attainments keep piling. Unoma Nguemo Azuah, you have climbed high but you would climb higher; you have come far and you would go farther. Let greatness follow you everyday and more. May Aôndo give you so much more than you can imagine. Se sugh da vaan: We welcome you. Live long, and live great. Cheers to you and to everyone else here: may you live long enough to be far greater than your every dreams. Cheers!
 This citation was read by the poet and award winning short story writer, Maria Ajima at the SEVHAGE Guest Writer Session held on the 18th June, 2012 at NUJ House, Makurdi, Benue State.