Alain Mabanckou is considered to be one of the most talented and prolific writers in the French language today and the first Francophone sub-Saharan African writer to be published by Gallimard in its prestigious La Blanche collection. He was born in Congo-Brazzaville in 1966 and is mostly known for his novels, notably Verre Cassé (Broken Glass) and Memoires de porc-épic (Memoirs of a Porcupine), which garnered him the Prix Renaudot, one of the highest distinctions in literature written in French. This is an excerpt from his new memoir, Letter To Jimmy (Soft Skull Press). His novels are published in more than fifteen languages. He is currently a professor of French and Francophone studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.