The National Book Foundation recently named Baba Badji, PhD '21, one of 10 poets awarded a place in the National Book Award for Poetry’s 2021 longlist. Badji wrote his nominated book of poetry, Ghost Letters, while in the doctoral program in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently a postdoctoral associate in comparative literature at Rutgers–New Brunswick University.
A Senaglese-American poet, Badji is fluent in English, French, Wolof, Mending, and Diola – and he calls on these languages in his writing. As a cohort member of the comparative literature program’s innovative PhD track for international writers, he wrote and studied alongside fiction writers, journalists, translators, and screenwriters from around the world. Badji called the program “an amazing gift” in a 2017 profile, when Ghost Letters was a work in progress. “As a young writer, I see the world differently when I walk on this campus,” Badji said.
Ghost Letters is the first publication by independent publisher Parlor Press to be recognized by the National Book Foundation. In the collection, Badji offers an interrogation of what it means to be Senegalese, Black, and an outsider in America. The letters, written for a “ghost mother,” travel the African diaspora across distance, race, and colonialism.
See reactions to Ghost Letters on the Washington University bookshelf.