Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Bayo Ojikutu  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction

Born: 1971 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Website --
-- Bayo Ojikutu on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

The author was born, raised and has resided in Chicago through most of his life. Spent junior high & high school years in south suburban Glenwood (1981-88) and Country Club Hills. Completed undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Biographical and Professional Information

Ojikutu's father is a Nigerian medical doctor who immigrated to the US during the late-1960's; his beloved mother is a second generation daughter of the Great Migration of northbound Black-Americans. Ojikutu attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned a Bachelor's degree there in 1995. He then returned to his parents' basement in Country Club Hills, where he penned the draft of his first novel, 47th Street Black, over the first year of his postgraduate life. Crown/Three Rivers Press published 47th Street Black eight years later, followed by Free Burning in 2006. He has taught creative writing, literature and film, and in the liberal studies department at DePaul 2003- ), along with novel workshops at the University of Chicago (2005) & with the University of Chicago's Graham School of Continuing Studies, (2007- ). His short prose work has appeared in various venues. In 2008-09, Ojikutu's short story, "Yayi and Those Who Walk on Water" earned Special Mention designation (Fiction) from the national Pushcart Prize.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

47th Street Black: A Novel
ISBN: 0609808478

Broadway Books. 2003

The prize-winning debut of an incendiary new voice in contemporary American fiction, 47th Street Black is the story of JC and Mookie, whose rise in the gangster-driven ghettos of Chicago is as swift as it is brutal.

In the early sixties, 47th street is the heart of black Chicago, where recent migrants from the South come to move up in the world. JC and Mookie are high school dropouts, playing stickball in the street when they stumble upon the dead body of the area's black liaison to the mafia. Where others would run, Mookie sees opportunity, and in no time he and JC are working for Salvie, the local boss. Within a year, they are the most infamous figures on 47th Street, best friends and partners with flashy cars, clothes, and women.

As they alternate telling their stories, the balance of power shifts: smooth, charismatic Mookie becomes the de facto leader and small, violent JC the enforcer—roles that send JC to jail for a murder they commit together. In the 15 years he's away, JC gains an education and a resentment he can't control, while Mookie gains power over the entire South Side. By the time JC is paroled, both the neighborhood and the two men's lives are on an inexorable path to an explosive confrontation with simmering injustice.

Chicago Noir (Akashic Noir Anthologies)
ISBN: 1888451890

Akashic Books. 2005

"The population of Chicago Noir is as diverse as any crowd at the lakefront fireworks show...As representative of Chicago as Oprah, MJ and a Gold Coast hot dog."
--Chicago Sun-Times

"Chicago Noir asks us to consider whether Chicago is, specifically, a noir city and, more significantly, how noir plays out in the current landscape...Its stories push us to think about how noir might still be relevant beyond a bad-ass sort of nostalgia."
--American Book Review

"Chicago shouts noir from the top of the Sears Tower to the nether regions of Wacker Drive, from the crime-ridden West Side to the moneyed taint of the North...Perhaps most impressive about Pollack's collection is the wide variety of writers selected to contribute."

"The stories that editor Pollack has chosen to represent his former hometown vary wildly in voices, approaches and style...New interpretations, juxtaposed with classic structures, bring together the different faces of Chicago: North and South, old and new."
--TimeOut Chicago

"Marshaling the talents of eighteen award winning and acclaimed writers, most of whom have professional and/or personal ties to Chicago, Pollack . . . pays homage to the city that epitomizes the noir genre . . . Demonstrating crisp, riveting pacing, dialog redolent with sardonic despair, and dark, nihilistic atmosphere, nearly all the entries are stellar examples of noir at its best."

"The latest urban noir anthology provides the audience with eighteen delightful tales that pay homage to the ethnic neighborhoods and to the sports teams."
--Midwest Book Review

"Chicago Noir is a highly readable story collection which offers numerous fresh, inventive takes on the well-worn noir genre . . . A very enjoyable effort overall."
--Pete Lit

"Chicago Noir is a legitimate heir to the noble literary tradition of the greatest city in America. Nelson Algren and James Farrell would be proud."
--Stephen Elliott, author of Happy Baby

"If ever a city was made to be the home of noir, it’s Chicago. These writers go straight to Chicago’s noir heart."
--Aleksandar Hemon, author of Nowhere Man

Brand new stories by: Neal Pollack, Achy Obejas, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Adam Langer, Joe Meno, Peter Orner, Kevin Guilfoile, Bayo Ojikutu, Jeffery Renard Allen, Luciano Guerriero, Claire Zulkey, Andrew Ervin, M.K. Meyers, Todd Dills, C.J. Sullivan, Daniel Buckman, Amy Sayre-Roberts, and Jim Arndorfer.

The city of Chicago has spent much time and money over the last decade marketing itself as a tourist-friendly place for the whole family. It's got a shiny new Millennium Park, a spaceship in the middle of Soldier Field, and thousands of identical faux-brick condo buildings that seem to spring from the ground overnight. Chicago's rough-and-tumble tough-guy reputation has been replaced by a postcard with a lake view.

But that city's not gone. The hard-bitten streets once represented by James Farrell and Nelson Algren may have shifted locales, and they may be populated by different ethnicities, but Chicago is still a place where people struggle to survive and where, for many, crime is the only means for their survival. The stories in Chicago Noir reclaim that territory.

Chicago Noir is populated by hired killers and jazz men, drunks and dreamers, corrupt cops and ticket scalpers and junkies. It's the Chicago that the Department of Tourism doesn't want you to see, a place where hard cases face their sad fates, and pay for their sins in blood. These are stories about blocks that visitors are afraid to walk. They tell of a Chicago beyond Oprah, Michael Jordan, and deep-dish pizza. This isn't someone's dream of Chicago. It's not even a nightmare. It's just the real city, unfiltered. Chicago Noir.

Free Burning: A Novel
ISBN: 1400082897

Broadway Books. 2006

Tommie Simms was supposed to be the community hope, the young man from the neighborhood who made good. He attended a state university, married a respectable woman, and landed a position at a white-collar insurance firm. Watching over Chicago from the thirty-third floor of his company’s downtown high rise, Tommie ignores the gnawing sense that he doesn’t belong on this path—and that in a blink of an eye, he could stray from its given destination. And then he does . . .

Soon Tommie is laid off, and he begins to see himself as just another faceless entity on the city’s fringes. After each fruitless job interview, Tommie’s wife withdraws from him further, and in the mirror he faces
the reflection of failure his family never intended for him. Stymied by rejection and mounting debt, Tommie is seduced into peddling dope as his best opportunity to define himself and to provide for those he loves.

But a corporate job is no preparation for hustling, and when Tommie finds himself on the wrong side of a crooked cop, everyone wants a piece of him: his street-hustling cousins, the police, friends, loan sharks, even
a panderer from his white-collar past. In order to break free, Tommie must find a way to dig himself out of a deepening hole, before the city buries him.


  • Washington Prize for Fiction , ''47th Street Black ''

  • Great American Award , ''47th Street Black ''

  • Black Excellence Award (Outstanding Achievement in Literature-Fiction)

    , ''Free Burning ''

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability: (Yes)

    If interest exists in Ojikutu's participation in readings/panel discussions/speaking engagement, the hosting entity may contact his agent, Katherine Boyle, at 650-234-9971, or reach him directly at (312)

    343-6076. Although his work ostensibly wrestles with matters most pertinent to urban/civic settings, his interest are broad, and he is excited at the opportunity to engage audiences from diverse environments. Colleges/Universities, Bookstores, Libraries, Arts Guilds, Community Centers, & Cultural Organizations are most apt (& preferred)

    settings for the treatment of the author's work. Honorarium for speaking/reading engagements is negotiable, typically falling within the $350-$1,000 range at this time, with factors such as travel, timing, extent of visit, etc., taken into consideration.