Tag Archives: Nigeria

National Poetry Month featuring Yrsa Daley-Ward

Some of us love badly. Sometimes the love is the type of love that

implodes. Folds in on itself. Eats its insides. Turns wine to poison.

Behaves poorly in restaurants. Drinks. Kisses other people. Comes

back to your bed at 4am smelling like everything outside. Asks about

your ex. Is jealous of your ex. Thinks everyone a rival. Some of us

love others badly, love ourselves worse. Some of us love horrid, love

beastly. Love sick love anti light. Sometimes the love can’t go home

at night, can’t sleep with itself cannot contain itself, catches fire,

destroys the belly, strips buildings, goes missing. Punches. Smashes

heirlooms. Tells lies. The best lies. Fucks around. Writes poems,

impresses people. Chases lovers into corners. Leaves them longing.

Sea sick. Says yes. Means anything but. Tricks the body. Kills the

body. Dances wild and walks away, smiling.

– When it is but It Ain’t

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What She’s Reading: Love Is Power Or Something Like That

Its been a long time since we’ve written – sorry.  One major life update is that we got hitched!

We are back from our honeymoon and have not forgotten about our loyal readers. In fact, we read Incidence In The Life of a Slave Girl during our vacation and can’t wait to blog about it!  Yes, we read a book during our honeymoon.  We love reading almost as much as we love each other so it’s fitting that it was one of our activities 😉

Back to the matter at hand…

A. Igoni Barrett’s fascinating collection of short stories surrounding the lives of several unconnected characters living in both rural and urban Nigeria. This collection has completely captivated my attention since the new year began. The title is what initially grabbed my attention but Barrett’s prose is equally engaging.  He is outstanding in his use of witty and, at times, his devastating exploration of humanity in stories ranging from a trouble youth involved in money scams, a police officer balancing his unethical work life with his familial commitment, and an old woman struggling with isolation. These stories take you by surprise, unfolding the lives and relationships of each character masterfully.  It is clear that Barrett’s illustration that love is a dynamic force, transforming the actions of each character.

I’m in love with this collection. I highly recommend giving it a read but, as always, am interested in hearing your thoughts on Barrett’s work as well.  Share your impressions…
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A Short, Cringe-Worthy Post: Achebe and Emecheta

I HATE when critics compare African novelists – whether they be Anglophone, Francophone or Lusophone – to Chinua Achebe.  It’s as though Achebe is the only writer to have ever written anything noteworthy on the Continent and that all writers thereafter must somehow be compared to his work.  Don’t get me wrong, he was a brilliant man; but there are countless other outstanding African authors (both past and present) who will blow you away in a variety of unique ways.

With that said, I have to make a statement that I swore I would never make about any author, particularly one coming from Nigeria.  Buchi  Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood reminds me of Achebe’s writing, specifically, Things Fall Apart.  There I said it.

Both authors are from Nigeria, Igbo/Ibo roots to be specific, and both write in a descriptive and introspective manner.  Both novels tackle social and cultural norms from a gender specific lens – Emecheta from a woman’s perspective and Achebe from a man’s – rooted in their village’s practices.  Both protagonists also fall victim to their loyalty for tradition, obligation, and ancestral legacy.  I use the word victim because historic events play a strong background role in both novels, a role which neither protagonist foresaw.

For me, the similarities don’t end there but the purpose of this post is to ask our readers for their thoughts on the two novels …

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What She’s Reading

Of Africa by Wole Soyinka

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To be honest, this text is a bit all over the place and Soyinka’s conclusions are not as tightly drawn as I expected.  However, in Of Africa Soyinka is attempting to tackle “Africa’s culture, religion, history, imagination, and identity” and “understand how the continent’s history is entwined with the histories of others”.  This, quite simply, is no easy task!  Soyinka ambitiously takes this on and writes as though he is having an intimate but eloquent conversation with an eager yet indivisible (and well-read… as Soyinka assumes the reader’s familiarity with World history and politics) reader sitting at his feet.  Soyinka cements himself as a treasure. This is made evident in Of Africa by Soyinka’s vast historical and cultural knowledge as well as the plethora of notable gems sprinkled throughout the text.

The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

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“Her love and duty for her children were like her chain of slavery.”

The above is a powerful quote from Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood that encapsulates the dichotomy between modernity and motherhood.  In less than 250 pages, Emecheta succeeds in scripting a tale that is both social commentary and compelling story.  Set in a small village in post colonial Nigeria and moving to the bustling capital of Lagos, this is the story of Nnu Ego and the tragedy and triumphs of childbirth.  Thus far, this is a beautiful novel and one that I will more than likely recommend for our Afro-readers.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Afropolitan Anthropologist

This month the Afro-library is spotlighting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one of the best-selling contemporary writers of Afro-literary fiction.

I find Chimamanda to be one of today’s most introspective and insightful writers on race and culture. In addition to having a keen ability to create an engaging story, she unabashedly incorporates social commentary into each of her novels and short stories – sometimes, arguably, at the risk of artistic excellence. But the fact remains that her ability to conceptualize society’s idiosyncrasies is perhaps her greatest strength. She is the perfect example of an afropolitan author with the heart of an anthropologist.

After digging through the Afro-library bookshelves, we came up with a few samples that best illustrate Chimamanda’s unique voice. Check out these quotes, add your own, or simply tell us what you think of her work.

Fiction
“…humility had always seemed to him a specious thing, invented for the comfort of others; you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did.” (Purple Hibiscus)

“He tried to visualize a heaven, a God seated on a throne, but could not. Yet the alternative vision, that death was nothing but an endless silence, seemed unlikely. There was a part of him that dreamed, and he was not sure if that part could ever retreat into an interminable silence. Death would be a complete knowingness, but what frightened him was this: not knowing beforehand what it was he would know.” (Half of a Yellow Sun)

“You did not want him to go to Nigeria, to add it to the list of countries where he went to gawk at the lives of poor people who could never gawk back at his life.” (The Thing Around Your Neck)

“Poverty was a gleaming thing; she could not conceive of poor people being vicious or nasty because their poverty had canonized them them, and the greatest saints were the foreign poor.” (Americanah)

TED Talks and Other Quotables
“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

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Happy Birthday Chinua Achebe

In honor of the late, great Chinua Achebe’s birthday today, we are paying homage to his legacy. You may be familiar with his most famous work, Things Fall Apart, as it may have been your first introduction to literature from the continent. Achebe, a Naija born and raised, also wrote a number of essays, poems, and critiques that are as relevant today as they were when originally published.

So without further ado, Here are a few of our favorite Achebe quotes:

“I tell my students, it’s not difficult to identify with somebody like yourself, somebody next door who looks like you. What’s more difficult is to identify with someone you don’t see, who’s very far away, who’s a different color, who eats a different kind of food. When you begin to do that then literature is really performing its wonders.”

“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.”

“We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.” (The Education of the British-Protected Child)

“There is no story that is not true.” (Things Fall Apart)

“My weapon is literature.”

“People from different parts of the world can respond to the same story if it says something to them about their own history and their own experience.” (There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra)

“I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them” (Morning Yet on Creation Day)

Tell us your favorite Achebe quote . . .

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Poem of the Month: “An African Elegy”

“We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.”

— Ben Okri

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