5 Questions with Kabir Kareem-Bello

For the last day of #movember and #mensmentalhealthmonth we're highlighting The Street Hawker's Apprentice by Kabir Kareem-Bello.

Discover this Dickensian tale of two young boys from opposite sides of the track who form a bond of brotherhood and friendship as they survive the streets of Lagos.

Read our Q&A with Kabir below and get your copy of The Street Hawker's Apprentice here, it's also available at your favourite bookshop 😉


What would you say is the power of the story?

The power of the story is based on the four foundations; survival, love, friendship and the evolution of the main characters. These enable the true personalities of the characters and are revealed slowly through each chapter. It's a human story which explores the strengths and weaknesses of our characters who struggle to survive the harsh streets of Lagos. It explores the heights of compassion that our characters reach; through the love and kindness of strangers, and depths of anger and pain they experience in life or death decisions to survive.  

What writers have shaped your writing and how have you seen their impact challenge you?

The writers who have shaped my writing the most have been Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Khaled Hosseini. I believe elements of the writing styles of these authors appear in my fiction novel. At times, these presented a challenge because I held them in such high esteem that I felt insecure about my own abilities as a writer. How could I grace the same sphere as my heroes and call myself a writer? 

What was it like building the relationship between Temilola and Vipaar?

Building the relationship between Vipaar and Temilola was the most challenging and enjoyable part of writing my novel. These were two extremely different characters whose first encounter was very violent but they would go on to form an unbreakable bond. I would come to realise that it was their different experiences and backgrounds which enabled them to develop such love and respect for each other. They would find out that despite their differences, they had a lot in common; loyalty, courage and a desire for justice.    

What was it about Street Hawkers in Lagos that you wanted to portray?

Lagos is in many ways a city like no other on this earth. It is often described as the economic centre of Nigeria but i wanted to delve into what Vipaar called the 2nd citizens of Lagos. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, the unseen and unheard members of societies across the world, but through the prism of some of the residents of Lagos. Lagos is a writer’s dream, a kaleidoscope of unique events, people, foods etc. I loved writing about the things that inspired me, and also made me laugh, and cry.

What response to your story has been the most surprising?

Hearing people talk to me about my characters brought them to life for me. I thought that I was the only one who could love them like I did, but I was shocked by the deep connection readers had with Temilola and Vipaar. I once observed a conversation between my mother and wife; for a few minutes it sounded like they were discussing a biography rather than my fiction novel. The reaction to the descriptions of Lagos was phenomenal; DD Armstrong told me that novel transported him onto the streets of lagos with my characters.