Ike Anya is making a literary splash “Small by Small” – Toni Kan

...as memoir debuts to rave reception

Overnight literary success can take more than 10 years to happen.

If you don’t believe me, ask Ike Anya, medical doctor, public health expert, thought leader and now wave-making first-time author.

Ike at the BBC
Ike Anya at the BBC

His book Small By Small: Becoming a Doctor in 1990’s Nigeria has been hailed as “a small miracle of a book” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and received warmly by family, friends and fans since it was published on May 18, 2023.

There have been readings in Oxford, a book store in Fulham, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, The Africa Center, and an appearance on BBC.

At Oxford
Ike and friends

Each event has seen a gathering of Ike’s nearest and dearest, work and professional colleagues as well as writers and literary enthusiasts whose paths have crossed with his.

At The Africa Center

His parents even flew into London from Nigeria to attend.

The journey began with an introduction by Binyavanga Wainana to literary fairy godmother, Ellah Allfrey Wakatama who would publish Ike Anya’s keenly observed essay around depression – which was and largely remains a taboo topic in Nigeria where he started his medical practice.

In the essay which was published in Granta in 2012, Ike Anya writes that “In spite of our psychiatry lectures and placements, the hours spent in the wards and outpatient clinics at the psychiatric hospital in Enugu, many of my classmates, myself included, still look at depression as a largely Western illness.”

Qualified as a doctor in Nigeria, Ike Anya would eventually migrate to the UK where he is a successful public health expert. His book begins on the eve of the release of the results of his 2nd MB examinations and runs, albeit not chronologically, to the end of his housemanship at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

It is a personal story of a boy becoming a man and a doctor in a country caught in a dictator’s stranglehold.

As you read the book which pulses with hilarious and sometimes disturbing anecdotes and vignettes of life as a young doctor, one is reminded of Adam Kay’s This is Going To Hurt, another memoir from a doctor who had to give it all up following his disenchantment with a broken NHS.

Ike Anya’s book has been a long time coming but it is heartening to see that small by small, the book is staking its literary claim and drawing readers in.



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