December 28, 2009

12 Questions for Sarah Ladipo Manyika | Author Interview

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, author of the novel "In Dependence", was raised in Nigeria and has lived in France, England and Kenya. She has written essays, short stories, book reviews and academic papers some of which have been published. "In Dependence" is her first book and she has gained fans with this touching love story. Here she is in an interview she granted Incessant Scribble. Enjoy!

1. How long did it take you to write this book and get it published?
SLM: It took me several years to write the novel and about two years to find a publisher.

2. Is there a bit of you in this story?
SLM: In Dependence has an autobiographical base only to the extent that I am familiar with the places that I describe. The characters and the story are made up, although, of course there will inevitably be autobiographical elements in characters that are often an amalgam of people that I have known. And I am sure that little bits of me have, from time to time, crept into some of my characters “independent” of any authorial intent.

3. How did you begin writing? How did you get to this point in time?
SLM: At the time that I began to write In Dependence, I was looking for a really good love story set in the geographical locations and historical periods that I was particularly interested in (namely West Africa from the 1960s to present day). I found stories of war and civil strife; of tyranny and of corruption, but where were all the grand amours, the tales of love and heartache? There were, it seemed, very few love stories (and even fewer cross-cultural love stories) set in Africa and because I did not find the stories I was looking for, I wrote one for myself.

4. How did you get published? Do you have any tips for writers at home that want to get published?
SLM: It took a long time to find a publisher for In Dependence. There were many rejections along the way, and I had to learn (and continue to learn) how to deal with disappointment. And so the first tip that I would give any writer is not to get too discouraged by rejections for it happens to all writers. I would also encourage writers to write first and foremost for themselves, and only when they have worked and reworked their writing to think about sending it out. Writing takes a huge amount of time and patience. I think Achebe put it very well in his essay Empire Fights Back, when he said: “For me there are three reasons for becoming a writer. The first is that you have an overpowering urge to tell a story. The second, that you have intimations of a unique story waiting to come out. And the third, which you learn in the process of becoming, is that you consider the whole project worth the considerable trouble – I have sometimes called it terms of imprisonment – you will have to endure to bring it to fruition.”

5. Today parents still live in fear of children they send out returning with foreign women, it is something they dread. Do you think foreign and local attitudes towards interracial marriages have changed significantly since the sixties?
SLM: Yes, I do think attitudes towards interracial marriages have changed and certainly the numbers of interracial marriages seem higher than in the past. In this day and age though, when fewer and fewer marriages seem to last (irrespective of the background of the individuals involved) I think it has become quite clear that any marriage can be challenging.

6. When I look around I see very few prominent females in Nigerian literature. In the days of Achebe, Soyinka, Ekwensi and many other well-known male writers, we had only a few prominent female writers like Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa. More recently we have names like Ben Okri, Jude Dibia, Helon Habila, Chris Abani, Uwem Akpan and many other male writers who have made their mark. The only other female writer just as easily recognized is Chimamanda Adichie. Why do you think our women are not writing their own stories? What do you think should be done to draw them out?
SLM: I would agree that in the 1960s there were few prominent females in Nigerian literature, but today the number of Nigerian women novelists is greater than you might think. Take for example, Sefi Atta, Chika Unigwe, Adaobi Nwaubani, Helen Oyeyemi, Unoma Azuah and Lola Shoneyin, to name but a few. What is also exciting is to see some of our male writers writing strong female characters.

7. The Nigerian publishing industry is not doing well. There are few healthy publishing houses and many struggling writers who are frustrated and “throwing in the pen” in resignation. A lot are turning to self-publishing and there are only a few success stories. What do you think can be done to help our ailing industry? How do you think successful writers can help?
SLM: I think that the biggest thing that we can all do to help the ailing industry is to buy more books. If people don’t buy books, publishing houses cannot survive. It’s as simple as that. If local publishers are not supported, then American and European publishing houses will continue to dictate who and what gets published. There was a time when people complained about the poor production quality of local presses, but I’m happy to say that the production quality and editing done by my Nigerian publishers rivals that of any European or American publisher. Cassava Republic Press is doing a phenomenal job in producing really high quality books in all genres – children’s books, short stories, and novels so that there should be something that will appeal to any reader. As you can see, I’m extremely proud of my publisher and hope that readers will support them and other fledgling publishers in Nigeria.

8. Not enough is being done to encourage arts and writing. Not enough is being done to bring young ones into the industry and fine-tune their skills. How do you think that can be remedied?
SLM: What you are doing on your blog is great – thank you! I would encourage each of us to support the arts and artists in whatever way we can. For some this might mean buying more books, for others this might mean encouraging schools and universities to think about adding new writers to their curriculum, for others it might mean featuring writers and artists on their blogs and writing reviews, for others it might mean mentoring young writers. There are endless ways that we can all help even more than we already do. Although there is still so much to be done, I’m very optimistic that things are beginning to move in the right direction.

9. This book is bound to leave an impression on readers and get them thinking. Do you have any interesting feedback from readers you can share with us?
SLM: The very first email that I received on my website still makes me smile. It came from Lagos and went something like this …
Dear Sarah
Your book sounds interesting but please, what I REALLY want to know is where you bought your necklace.

But on a more serious note, I’ve been very touched by the emails I’ve received from readers who have found something that spoke to them in the novel. Quite a few readers have said that they would like to see the book turned into a film.

10. Whose works do you read most frequently?
SLM: Having grown up in different parts of Africa (Nigeria and Kenya), I have always been drawn by stories set in the continent, and now that I live abroad I find myself particularly drawn to immigrant stories. I have, for example, always loved the work of Sembene Ousmane (film, short stories and novels). Another favourite writer is James Baldwin who writes clearly and simply with a keen eye for detail, a deep understanding of history and a subtle sense of humour. I am drawn to many of Chinua Achebe’s essays for the same reasons as well as to Teju Cole’s new and brilliant work, Every Day is for the Thief. Recently, I’ve been reading and enjoying more short stories. I love the social satire in Edith Wharton’s stories, just as I love the eye for the diasporic in Jhumpa Lahiri and Rishi Reddi’s work and the startling innovativeness of Haruki Murakami. I am increasingly drawn to women writers, returning to writers such as Virginia Woolf and Mariama Ba and discovering newer writers such as Marilyn Robinson, Laila Lalami and Petina Gappah.

11. What do you think about life, love and music?
SLM: Life, love and music … where does one start?! I’ll take the easy way out and say that if a reader wants a glimpse into some of my thoughts on all of the above, they can start with my novel and short stories. But I’m particularly glad you brought up the subject of music because music features quite prominently in In Dependence and few people have asked about it. One of the beauties of the period that I was writing about was that it brought together such incredible musical talent ranging from Sarah Vaughan to Fela Kuti and Miriam Makeba, all of which feature in the novel.

12. Why don’t you have a Facebook account?
SLM: What a great question! There is a Facebook fan page for In Dependence that was kindly started by a reader and yet, you are right to notice that I’m not on Facebook. I am very tempted to join, but I fear that if I join it will be just one more excuse to keep me away from writing. I already spend far too much time on line, hence why I have not joined Facebook … not yet ;)

Author's website
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December 26, 2009

In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika | Book Review

"In Dependence" begins in the sixties, the early years of Nigeria’s independence, the days of postal services and journeying by ship. Tayo Ajayi is escorted by ecstatic family members to the Lagos dockyard to catch his ship to England where he has a scholarship to study at Oxford. Before he leaves, his mother whispers to him advice typical of Nigerian parents: “…Pay attention to your studies, and don’t be distracted by women.” In the typical fashion of red-blooded Nigerian males he ignores this counsel and unexpectedly falls in love with a white girl. Their relationship seems doomed from the start. They are in 20th century England when racial feelings are still strong and interracial unions attract unconcealed hostility and sometimes violence from everyday people and even policemen. Their relationship raises eyebrows among Tayo’s Nigerian friends and he dreads the reaction he will receive at home when he introduces Vanessa to his family as his bride to be. Just as it seems like they are ready to jointly face Tayo’s parents, they break up and Vanessa leaves Nigeria in a fury. She moves to Senegal and gains prominence because of her fantastic writing while Ajayi marries and continues his academic pursuits that also bring him into limelight. After decades of joyless marriages, unsuccessful parenting, “What-if’s” and keeping tabs on one another, they reach out to each other ….

This book is stirring; it’s a beautiful story of two people from different racial backgrounds who let societal pressure push them apart. You can immediately tell that Manyika is very familiar with the issues at hand and she handles them beautifully with a prose that has a British feel to it. Ajayi is the representative of young Nigerians living abroad who can’t decide if they should follow their heart or follow the expectations of their family and the Nigerian society with regards to who to marry. Guys this is NOT a silly romance novel. It’s an interesting book that you’ll enjoy and hopefully learn from especially if you’re living abroad. Ladies, this is not an attempt by Manyika to mimic romance novels. This is a book that is very close to home in its storytelling and I am sure you’ll identify with and empathize with its characters. Don’t worry about a “Nollywood ending”, "In Dependence" is splendid in that respect too. I have to say this to light readers: The characters in this book are sometimes in academic or secular circles and you might come across monologues and dialogues you might feel like breezing through. Whatever you do don’t drop the book. "In Dependence" is one of the best books I have read this year. Pick up this book.

[Image via Legendpress]

December 24, 2009

Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala | Book Review

After reading the first two sentences in this book my immediate thoughts were: ‘This is not pidgin english…' The buzz I picked up about this book was that it was written in pidgin English. If you heard the same and are expecting to see “Wetin?” and “na u sabi” kind of pidgin in here you will be disappointed. It’s not Nigerian pidgin Iweala's protagonist narrates in, it’s broken English, the sort that is not peculiar to Nigeria or any other West African country.

"Beasts of No Nation" is Iweala’s intrepid debut novel. The protagonist Agu is a child who is torn from his family by war, found by rebels and forcibly conscripted. As he goes through the daily horrors of living with the rebels and fighting the war, he flashes back to the happier times in his life before the madness of war comes and shatters the lives of his family and community. The women and girls are shipped away from his community for protection while the men and boys remain to defend the town in one last act of bravado. Now Agu is at the mercy of the rebels who have found him and he’s answerable to their commander who has other uses for the young boys under his domination. Exposure to the language, savage behavior, sexual acts and violent murders of the rebels changes him and he matures quickly. He may be tough enough to kill people by butchering them with a shiny matchete but inside he’s still barely out of childhood. The scenes of war will haunt him even in his place of refuge where he’s being rehabilitated.

This book is not the “unputdownable” sort but it is quite interesting. Iweala comes through nicely at the end. There are a few flaws I have to point out. Often times in his use of pidgin, the protagonist Agu uses words or sentence constructions that someone of his age and educational level wouldn’t be able to execute. Agu doesn't use them in that flashy, misplaced way uneducated people use big grammar and so those moments seem out of place, like Uzodinma Iweala couldn't find the right way to convey whatever needed to be expressed in broken english. Sometimes too Agu’s narration, especially the war bits, lack realism. There’s no doubt in my mind that the pidgin lends a flavor to the story telling and it's great that Iweala tells it in this fresh and impressive manner. This book make plenty sense o! Make una try read am, the boy try well, well, well.

Uzodinma Iweala was born in 1982. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was a Mellon Mays Scholar and received a number of prizes for his writing, including the Eager Prize, the Horman Prize, the Le Baron Prize , and the Hoopes Prize, awarded for outstanding undergraduate thesis. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Lagos, Nigeria” – Biography from book jacket by HarperCollins Publishers

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November 12, 2009

11 Questions for Uwem Akpan | Author Interview

Uwem Akpan, the brilliant author of "Say You're One of Them" (one of the most impressive debuts of 2008), fields questions from Incessant Scribble's Osondu Awaraka:

1. How did you get news of Oprah’s endorsement?
Thanks for coming to interview me…Oprah herself called me. I was so excited about that call. I was talking to a parishioner in our parish in Mushin, Lagos. In some ways it was strange. It took me quite a while to take it in. To tell you the fact, I have not recovered yet. It’s one of those things you can’t even dream of, you know what I mean? I used to think Oprah calls people like Obama and Beyonce…not some priest working in a slum in Lagos! Endorsement pass endorsement, as we say in Nigeria.

2. How did it feel to sit down with Oprah and answer questions from her and all the people who wanted to let you know how much your book has inspired and affected them? Was it surreal at anytime?
Yes, that is the word to use “surreal”. Yes, to be in that studio and be communicating with Anderson Cooper of CNN and all the folks on Skype was something else….But it was very nice to be there because Oprah is a good host. She makes you relax. She is very down to earth. Now I know that what you see on that TV is what you get when you meet her in person. I think this is why America loves and adores her.

3. Was it difficult to get this book published? How did it happen?
It should have been difficult but it was not. Once my first story got into the New Yorker mag in my first year of writing school, four big publishers asks me for contracts. But I was not ready yet and delayed for a year when my second story got into the New Yorker. Then 12 publishers became interested. I got an agent who ran an auction in New York City for them. There were two others in the UK and Italy.

4. Why did you delay? I mean why did you not secure a contract after the first story?
I wanted to be sure of the terrain. This was something new. I just was not ready. I wanted to finish writing school. So I waited till I finished writing school, till my heart said yes.

5. Your prose is candid in its description of the horrors these children face. There is the use of the f-word in one part of the book; there is that disturbing scene with Fofo Kpee in “Fattening for Gabon”. Did your office as a Jesuit priest force you to censor your prose in any way?
Did you tone down or take out scenes people might deem inappropriate for a priest to describe? No one tells me what to write or how to write. I must say though that my editors suggested that I shortened some painful passages for the sake of the readers and also that I should dilute the pidgin English for the sake of Western readers…there was just no way I could have done either of this. So to answer your question, my priestly vocation did not hinder my candid description of the horrors these children face. Why should it?

6. Islam and religion in general are subjects people handle very delicately. Did you worry about how readers would react to “Luxurious Hearses”?
It was a difficult story to write. But there comes a time you just want to write and say what you think should be said. I have criticized even my Church in that story. If the Christians had forgiven Jubril at the end, things would have been different. But they did not. And what does that say about Christians? Some Muslims also came out very well in the story, like the man who hid Jubril at the risk of having his whole household killed…I think people are very afraid to confront these issues or even to count the bodies after every religious conflict in Nigeria. So the local press normally brings down the death figures to check reprisal violence…followed by a hasty mass burial by the government, instead of fishing out the big politicians who instigate these killings. I think fiction allows you to enter more fully into something like this. We need this dialogue in Nigeria. We need this dialogue in our world. You can’t have that dialogue when the killing is raging. We should have this sincere dialogue when things are calm.

7. You bagged a creative writing degree in 2006. Why did you take the course? Had you already begun penning any of these short stories?
I knew I needed to improve my writing. I knew my writing could be better. And the University of Michigan writing program did that for me. Yes, I had already written the first drafts of most of the stories before I got there. So I applied what I learnt in the program to my work. Writing programs may not be for everybody though. You need to have a sense of what you need to develop your writing. I had nobody to show my work to, as all our successful writers live abroad.

8. Yes, our most prominent writers are overseas. Writers and artists in Nigeria are terribly frustrated. You’ve been there; you know how bad it can get. What do you think needs to be done to create a healthy publishing industry and a conducive environment for writers?
First, the government must do something about education. Are children writing essays in school? Are the teachers marking these essays? I say this because a lot of people want to write in a place like Nigeria, but they just don’t have the basics! Many university students would like to write; they want to work, but too many of them can’t even write letters when they graduate. It is a serious embarrassment to the country. The teachers are not treated well too. Employers in Nigeria are equally very frustrated by what the university churns out…it is into this system, if it is working, that you introduce writing programs. South Africa is beginning to do this. America and Europe are doing this. Second, a few good publishing houses are coming up. They are still fragile, but I believe they will grow with time. They need the financial muscle and clear vision to hire editors, people who will groom a young talented Nigeria writer. These editors need to be paid well, that way they can focus. Editing someone’s work is not a joke. It is not something you do while on the side you are running a kiosk selling bread and udara. If this happens, the publishing houses can publish great stories or books and then be in a position to sell the rights to foreign publishers. What is happening now is the reverse. And maybe it is like our crude oil now. We have the crude oil, but no working refinery. What to do? We send the crude abroad and then bring in the refined product. Why can’t we refine that oil in the Niger Delta? Why can’t we groom our writers at home? Third, we don’t need the kind of show of shame that was on parade in Abuja a few weeks ago during the NLG Nigeria Prize for Literature. That night should not be for politicians, but writers. But I heard the shortlisted writers did not even have invitation cards and were not there!

9. Who are your favorite authors?
I am very eclectic. Otherwise, I keep going back to the Bible.

10. What do you do to relax?
I watch soccer. I take long rides. I visit families. I eat out with friends. The parish, I have to say is a busy place with more than 13,000 parishioners. So you may not be able to get away to do these things.

11. Do you have any scheduled book tours and book signings?
Yes, I am going around the USA now, reading and answering questions and signing books. As soon as my book is published in Nigeria in January I will do the same.

November 11, 2009

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan | Book Review

"Say You're One of Them" is one of those books you’ll want to endorse from the top of the Eiffel Tower just to get people to read it. It’s a collection of five mesmerizing short stories that has lifted Akpan from obscurity to worldwide prominence, many thanks to Oprah’s keen eye for exceptional books. Akpan's debut is nothing short of impressive.

In “An Exmas Feast”, the first story in the collection, Jigana’s twelve year old sister Maisha provides for their family of eight materially, cancels the family debt and saves towards Jigana's schooling with the money she makes prostituting on the streets of Kenya. Life on the street is tough. Too often they have to sniff glue to stifle hunger and use their infant sibling to beg for alms. When Maisha elopes, Jigana changes his mind about schooling and chooses the only other option available.

In “Fattening for Gabon” two siblings, Yewa and Kotchikpa are taken away from their village family by a crooked uncle with promises of a better life. Slowly his sinister designs for them unravel. He changes their names and feeds them twisted lies to disguise his depraved intentions. Things spiral out of control and bring the story to a shocking climax. This is one of the most compelling of the lot. The last scene is haunting; Kotchikpa's last sentence is unforgettable. You will pause to catch your breath before moving on.

What Language Is That?” is the shortest story in the collection. Two little girls in Ethiopia are forced by their parents to end their friendship because of “faith differences”. The tension in the town forces her family to move but not before she learns a new language.

In “Luxurious Hearses”, Jubril, a Nigerian Muslim teenager is fleeing the religious crisis in his northern homeland and heading south hoping to find solace in the hometown of his estranged father. The bus he boards is crowded with displaced and embittered southerners mourning their losses and heading home to uncertainty. The grisly massacre showing on the on-board television does nothing but fuel their rage towards northerners. As they chatter, weep, fight, curse and stare in shock at the violence on-screen, Jubril, the lone northerner in the middle of blood thirsty southerners, struggles to remain composed and unobtrusive because his life depends on it.

Finally, in ‘My Parents Bedroom,’ Monique’s mother leaves her instructions and disappears into the night. She’s nine years old and alone with her younger brother. Outside, the conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsi ethnic groups rages on; smoke billows from plundered houses; vultures poke the newly mutilated bodies of her neighbors that are stretched out on the bloody streets. It’s only a matter of time before they get to her house; before she confronts evil that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Akpan dutifully gives his voice to the torn, forgotten, blighted children on the African continent who are at the heart of these stories. This book with its brilliant insight and impressive storytelling is Akpan’s ticket into the ranks of respectable third generation African authors. “Say You're One of Them" is a stunning debut. Do not borrow one, BUY it!

[Image via Readersread]

November 04, 2009

"Say You're One of Them"

The latest recipient of the coveted Oprah's Book Club seal is a Nigerian author, Uwem Akpan. His debut book "Say You're One of Them" is a collection of five spectacular and "profoundly moving" short stories that are garnering rave reviews from critics and book lovers everywhere. The collection won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book, Africa Region, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and has been nominated for various other prestigious literary awards.

Osondu Nnamdi Awaraka will interview Uwem Akpan for Incessant Scribble next week. Don't miss the Interview and Book Review posts!

Keep Reading!!!!

Watch Oprah talk about the profound effect of "Fattening for Gabon", one of the collections' short stories, here and on "An Exmas Feast" here. On monday, November 9, watch Oprah interview him simulcast on, and Facebook 9 p.m. ET/8pm (which is 3 a.m./ 2 a.m. 'Nigeria Time').

[Image via Readersread]

September 18, 2009

9 WRITERS, 4 CITIES: THE BOOK TOUR” Announces Final Tour Stop at The Garden City Literary Festival

The 9 Writers, 4 Cities authors will make a final appearance at the 2nd Garden City Literary Festival taking place at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt from September 23–26, 2009. Eight of the nine writers of the book tour will participate in a series of book reading and book signing sessions during the 3-day festival.

Earlier in the year, the 9 Writers embarked on a book tour across 4 Cities in Nigeria. The 6-week tour took the writers to reading and book signing events in Lagos, Ibadan, Benin and Warri.

The participating writers at the festival are Toni Kan (author of Nights of a Creaking Bed); Lindsay Barrett (journalist, poet and author of several books, including Song for Mumu), who is a contender for the 2009 NLNG Poetry Prize; Jumoke Verissimo (author of I am Memory), Tade Ipadeola (a lawyer and author of the poetry collection A Sign of Times); Joy Isi Bewaji (author of Eko Dialogue); Eghosa Imasuen (medical doctor and author of To Saint Patrick); A. Igoni Barrett (former managing editor of Farafina magazine and author of From Caves of Rotten Teeth) and Bimbo Adelakun (journalist and author of Under the Brown Rusted Roofs).

Also slated to appear at the festival are the writers Ngugi wa Thiong’o, J.P. Clark Bekeredemo, Buchi Emecheta and Sefi Atta.

For further information call 07061141232 or email For inquiries about the programme of events for the Garden City Literary Festival, visit

This post in its full form was provided by Auggust Media.

June 17, 2009

Of Earth ... Barks and Topography

Nnenna Okore, the talented and internationally acclaimed sculptor and installation artist, returns to Nigeria to hold her first major art exhibition beginning June 20th, 4pm, at the Goethe Institut in Lagos. After a successful series of exhibitions at galleries in the US and the UK, the Assistant Professor of Art at North Park University, Chicago will bring her vibrant and constructive approach to sculptural and installation art to a keen Nigerian art audience. The exhibition will be opened by her former professor and mentor at the University of Nsukka and famed art sculptor in his own right El Anatsui.

Nnenna often uses materials found in urban environments. Her artworks reflect the way that natural and man-made materials evolve, decay and transform, while other pieces can take on the character and flowing shape of traditional woven cloths or elements of nature. She has received several awards and residencies worldwide, and has been exhibited in several prestigious galleries and museums including the Museum of Art and Design, New York and the October Gallery, London. The German Cultural center, the Goethe Institut are her hosts for this show presented by Kachifo Limited, publishers of Farafina Books.

This event is sponsored by DANA AIR and proudly supported by FARAFINA.

The show runs at the Goethe Institut from June 20th until July 10th.

Learn more about this artist by logging on to

This post in its full form was provided by Kachifo Limited

June 07, 2009

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga | Book Review

The buzz surrounding Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Man Booker prize grabbing debut novel, The White Tiger, has been enormous and not without reason. The White Tiger is a fantastic story, narrated brilliantly by an amoral Indian servant who murders his master, makes off with a large sum of money and sets up a business that grows to become worth many more times the sum he “borrowed”. Local tradition demands that anyone telling a story must pray to a Higher Power, in Balram’s words “kiss arse”, and so he takes a moment to kiss the arses of the 36,000,004 gods Christians, Hindus and Muslims have between them before he begins his dark story.

At first Munna Balram , the protagonist, sounds like a servant who has discovered he can write and the first few pages don’t hook. He tells his story in seven nights via letters addressed to the Premier of China. He is brought up in “the darkness”, one of the two sides of India. It’s the side of India mired in poverty and far from the glitz of the big cities suffused with the wealth from the outsourced American companies. Here children dream to be bus conductors dressed in smart khaki uniforms with silver whistles; men struggle to feed large families with meager wages, and local politicians rig election after election, returning again and again with hollow promises and overtaxing the subservient masses.

Balram is christened White Tiger during a surprise school inspection, for his singular academic aptitude despite the decay and inefficiency of the local school system. He is forced to stop schooling by his brash, calculating grandmother but he never stops learning about life. Slowly but gradually he figures out why the impoverished masses never get out of the ‘Rooster coop’- the rat race, even as his disgust and discomfort with the life he lives now and the limited future ahead of him builds up.

He hires himself out as a driver to Ashok, a young man fresh from America and said to be ‘soft’ in the head because his American ways are ill-suited for the jungle he has returned to. Ashok is trusting and fickle; the weakest link in a family of shrewd and ruthless landlords and it’s his throat Balram slits on their way to bribe politicians. Balram in effect becomes that rare person in multitudes who break away from the mental shackles that bind the typical, unambitious, arse kissing, Indian servant to the same pathetic pattern of birth, poverty and death.

The White Tiger shows India throat deep in the corruption and moral decay that is pervasive in third world countries. Adiga brings the experience and skill that made him a seasoned correspondent for Time Magazine into his story telling. Balram is a voice for the masses stuck down in the impenetrable darkness of India's slums, making The White Tiger evoking and unforgettable. Adiga’s fresh voice and style make him one of the White Tigers of literature, that rare literary talent with a fresh voice and a stirring first novel.

[Image via FictionWritersReview]

June 04, 2009

FiledBy - Online Marketing Platform for Authors

Chances are you haven't heard of FiledBy. When I read the email from the company, my first thought was - 'It's "Facebook for Writers!"', a site where published and unpublished writers can socialize, network and share non-plagiarizable ideas. FiledBy, Inc is a "digital marketing company providing membership sites, web tools and community building solutions to content Creators - authors, writers, illustrators and photographers – and their fans." Here authors can create profiles, put up book signing dates, book reading dates and venues, blog and bookseller links and even promote their upcoming books. It's a pleasant concept.

If you search for big name authors like Stephen King, JK Rowling and John Grisham, a profile page with a biography, a list of their titles with "Buy It" links next to them comes up. Sometimes there's a picture. There's a readers list, which is to FiledBy what followers is to Blogger, and there's also a "Rate this Person" box. You're probably wondering if the profile pages of these big names were created by the authors themselves or if they are as fictitious as those celebrity accounts we find on social networking sites. That's why on the right hand side of the page there's a tab with "Are you this Author?" written on it. That eliminates the question of members of the public creating fake profiles.

If you search for big name authors from the African continent such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Wole Soyinka, Sefi Atta, Chris Abani and Jude Dibia, a corresponding profile page opens. There's no photo and no biography. In it's place there's a tiny paragraph that begins with "Are you this person? If so, join now to enhance your books and much more. Merge you listings into one account, update this bio, manage your books, add links and much more." Their books are then listed below with a "Buy It" link next to each one.

FiledBy's homepage reminds me of the iPod software, iTunes while some of its features remind me of Shelfari. The site has that "air" of one desperately in need of traffic which might be because it restricts itself to authors published in the U.S.A and Canada. Facebook isn't what it is today because Zuckerberg restricted it to Harvard students. The name should be reviewed because FiledBy sounds like something you'd christen a networking site for secretaries. It's site design isn't appealing and its content and provision for its members can be better refined. That's enough to make internet users hop other sites. True, anything too flashy or busy will repel older authors and make FiledBy seem less business-like but there are ways those two can be made to go together to make FiledBy come alive. In the meantime I'll keep my fingers crossed for a "Facebook for Writers".

May 20, 2009

Introducing Nigeria: A-Z

The book Introducing Nigeria: A-Z presents the wide natural and cultural diversity of Nigeria to young readers. Concise text and stunning photographs by George Osodi make this book a must-have reference for young Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, and for others interested in learning about Nigeria, the "Giant of Africa".

Introducing Nigeria is published by Farafina Books. It is available in leading bookshops in Nigeria and online via and
Price: N1500/ $18 / £9.50

Visit or email for more information on Introducing Nigeria: A-Z

This post in its full form was provided by Kachifo Limited

April 10, 2009

Measuring Time by Helon Habila | Book Review

Helon Habila is a familiar name among book readers home and abroad. Extracts from his collection of short stories, Prison Stories, were published in Nigeria in 2000. His full novel, Waiting for an Angel was published in 2002 and it won him the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book in the Africa Region. It has been translated into many languages including Dutch, Italian, Swedish and French.

His second book, Measuring Time, published in 2007, is a tale of twin boys, Mamo and LaMamo pushed out into the world with their mother’s last breath in a tiny village in North eastern Nigeria. LaMamo is healthy, extroverted and bold. He’s the one who stands up to their father, the one their distant father gives attention. Mamo, the elder twin, has to stay indoors and away from strenuous activities because he’s sick a lot of the time.

Mamo brings up the idea of their becoming famous. It’s the second commandment in his mental diary – “CHEAT DEATH, BE FAMOUS”. It’s the only way for him to “live on” when his body loses its battle against the sickle-cell illness he has. When their long forgotten uncle, Haruna, assumed dead in the Biafran war, returns and is celebrated and talked about by the whole village, they decide to run away with their cousin to the state capital to join army recruits. Mamo falls violently ill just as they are about to cross the river on the last lap of their escape. Instead of letting this ruin their plans, he selflessly tells them to go on without him. Alone in the dreary village, Mamo tries to find ways to occupy his mind while he takes pleasure in concealing his brother's whereabouts from their father. Later he gets an offer from the state university and leaves the village to spend two years at the state university studying history. Unfortunately, his illness prevents him from taking his final exam and he returns to Keti without a degree.

Grounded in the village by his illness, and watching with disquiet as his father dabbles in local politics, he accepts a teaching position at his uncle's school. Zara, a girl he was infatuated with as a teen, returns to Keti. Now she’s a bitter woman, bruised inside and out by her military husband, who has also forcefully takes custody of their child. She takes up a teaching post at his uncle’s school and they begin a strained relationship. When the school is closed and Zara travels, Mamo’s days seem twice as long. During his wait for something, anything to happen to take his mind away from the mundane, he measures time in the shadow cast by trees and walls, in the silence between one footfall and the next, between one breath and the next, in the seconds and minutes and hours and days and weeks and months that add up to form seasons.

He stumbles upon a book on Keti’s history, written by a foreign missionary, while in Zara’s house. She encourages him to review it, and then she sends it to a professor at her alma mater. It’s published in a Ugandan journal and slowly word of it gets round the village. Keti’s most flamboyant pastor puts it on his churchs notice board and even weaves it into his Sunday sermon. His uncle puts it on the school notice board for all to see. Suddenly everyone is talking about him, shaking his hand and thanking him for putting their village on the map. The Mai (local chief) contracts him to write his biography in time for his tenth year coronation anniversary; he is invited to address the local youths,to incite them to positive action; now he's rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty in exclusive social circles. Mamo becomes famous. Later on, things take an ugly turn. The research he’s doing for the Mai’s biography is unearthing a lot of dirt that will smear the Mai’s name; his father is planning to rig the local election and his aunt is held in custody to arm twist him into doing something against his principles.

LaMamo however has to die to become “famous”. He returns home one-eyed and lean to meet a home and a beloved village in disarray. Angry that his people are suffering from bad governance, he incites them to fight for their liberation. He gathers an angry mob and leads them to the Mai’s palace. They raze it down, kill the scheming Waziri but spare the Mai. LaMamo dies in his house from bullet wounds and Mamo continues alone.

In this book, Habila commands attention from the first page. Measuring Time is a remarkable story told compellingly and cleverly. The tone is confident and the prose is non-fat. Habila is a talented storyteller.

[Image via Ugandian Insomniac]

April 04, 2009

The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi | Book Review

Writing a second novel after the huge success of the first must be a little scary. There’s definitely enormous pressure to deliver a second time. Helen Oyeyemi’s second book The Opposite House, published two years after her critically acclaimed and successful debut novel The Icarus Girl, seems to be one of those books written either in a hurry or under pressure.

Sometimes a child with wise eyes is born.
Then some people will call that child an old soul.
That is enough to make God laugh. For instance there is Yemaya Saramagua, who lives in the somewherehouse.”

Those are the first four sentences in The Opposite House. It tells the story of Maja, a 24-year-old girl who has lived in London since she was five. She’s a mediocre singer about to graduate from college. She hides the early stages of her pregnancy from her devoted boyfriend Aaron, and refuses to marry him for some reason that translates into – I’m not ready for marriage just yet. She and her gay friend Amy Eleni, a Cypriot, who seems to have the same hysteric problem Maja does, bond tightly despite the usual ups and downs of friendship.

Her parents are black Cubans who have fled their country because of the turmoil created by leaders they had faith in. Maja yearns to visit what she calls “my Cuba”, to explore this fatherland that she has been thinking about for a very long time and buys plane tickets before telling her father. He refuses to give his consent because he’s disappointed and saddened by the events that are occurring in their homeland. He tells Maja that the reason they are not living in Cuba is because: “…it’s not safe…staying there is accepting the lies of a regime that in its aimlessness will destroy the country.” He has shifted base to London because he wants his family to be free, to be under a government that does not affect whether or not they can eat what they want to eat, see films they want to see and read what they want to read. "I brought you here so you don't have to live in a place where politics can actually bust your door down, or make you disappear..." He suspects that his parents and in-laws have have roots in Abeokuta, Nigeria. His wife's religion is a blend of Catholicism and old traditional customs, that he finds irritating and tries hard to tolerate.

In the book, Maja does a lot of thinking about her roots. There’s a part in the novel where a Nigerian kid in her class holds a special assembly of friends on the independence day of her country and passes around Nigerian snacks. Amy and Maja are irritated by this action and Amy asks out loud:

“Can I just ask you what you think of this idea: if your parents taught you to be so proud of Nigeria, how come they’re over here?” The embarrassed child stammers and fiddles with her tie and dye head wrap. Later on, Amy wrote:

You know what, if you want to talk about your country, if you want to be serious about it, fine. But you don’t need to pretend that you love the place. People need to stop using love of some country that they don’t live in as an excuse for their inability to shut up about it.”

That portion of the novel will ring in the head of immigrants long after they drop the book. The Opposite House still contains themes that Oyeyemi explored in The Icarus girl (you can find my thoughts on it here). Did I envisage that? No. Did I find that disappointing? Yes. It would have been more refreshing for her to steer clear of those themes, at least for her second book.

I hate to say this but I must. The Opposite House is the worst book I’ve read in a while. My mind kept screaming for me to put it down. It goes this way and then it goes that way. It’s a struggle to read this book. The only reason I ploughed through this book was for the purpose of this review. I forced myself to read lines that my brain repelled. This is no book for “light reading”. This is one of those books a lot of people will pick up then drop, then pick up again, and then fight through the prose in the hope of finding a more engaging center. The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi is one of those books you read and never recommend to someone else. Oyeyemi possesses incredible talent, make no mistake about that, however The Opposite House is a dreadful book.

[Image via]

April 03, 2009

Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta | Book Review

Enitan Bandele, Atta’s protagonist in her debut novel Everything Good Will Come, begins her story from age eleven, just before her first period, at the onset of both her attraction to the opposite sex and her friendship with Sheri Bakare, a rude and precocious eleven years old girl who lives next door. Enitan’s (pronounced Eni-ton) parents have their share of marital problems and she can’t wait to leave her miserable home for the boarding house.

After High School, London University and a few failed relationships she returns to Nigeria, to meet separated parents, the “nuisances” of Lagos and a nation in turmoil. Coups, suffering masses, fuel-scarcity, poor educational infrastructures, widespread corruption and many ills plague the nation even as it staggers under the dictatorial rule of the military. Initially everything seems to be going smoothly, a job with her father, a new beau and a resumed relationship with her childhood friend Sheri. Then she becomes unsatisfied and unhappy with the paltry sum her father pays despite her foreign degree, unhappy with the working conditions in her dad’s office and all over the country and later on she's unwilling to sit and watch. She gets married but refuses to be a “kitchen martyr”, refuses to be under total subjection to her husband. She’s repulsed by the way women give up their lives once they become hitched to become soulless beings. When her husband refuses to “let” her pursue her activism, she takes her young daughter and leaves him. But that’s not how the book ends…

Everything Good Will Come is very, very Nigerian in its telling. It’s not “westernized”. It’s refreshing. It’s like reading from someone who lives around the corner, who uses phrases like - “God saved all of you”, “Juju-ed”, “Like joke, like joke”… Sefi has done a fantastic job of describing Lagos, Nigeria. It’s so vivid you can see it all.

Everything Good Will Come is humourous and interesting but not “un-put-down-able”. Atta has a love for Lagos evident in this novel and the subsequent one (I read her second book before this). It’s a backdrop she seems to find irresistible. Like Swallow (Atta’s second book, published in 2009. READ my review HERE), Everything Good Will Come has Sefi showing Lagos as it is – dirty, overpopulated, corrupt, diverse but still lovable. So despite the fact that Atta has earned a reputation for being unpredictable in her story telling, her protagonists now seem to have a predictable trait. In Swallow and Everything Good Will Come, Atta’s female protagonists are irritated with the decay in their country and very much in love with Lagos city despite its maddening chaos.

However, Everything Good Will Come still remains the work of a gifted writer who weaves humour into her tales so that they are never too depressing. Atta’s debut novel has given her local and international recognition. Now, everyone’s waiting to see what Will Come.

[Image via]

March 01, 2009

Incessant Scribble - Anniversary The First

Exactly twelve months ago, I signed up for a blogspot account. I knew what I wanted the web address to be, but I hadn’t thought about the blog title before accessing the internet. Even though I had forgotten the sheet of paper on which I had scribbled a great part of my first post, I still flowed. The more I typed, the more confident I became, the more certain I was that I was taking the right step. I’ll save the rest of my scribbling history for Oprah.

Entering Blogville has opened my eyes. There is so much talent out there just begging to be discovered. So much. Blogging, in my opinion, gives the blogger some of the same thrill published authors get when they receive responses from people who have read their work. It’s great! Some people think there’s nothing to it, just sign up and readers will come. It’s not easy to shoot into the blogsphere with a bang and then consistently deliver afterwards. What’s easy is becoming complacent and losing the readers that peruse your pages. In the blogville race to be well read, it’s easy, too easy to lag behind.

Many thanks to Onyeka Nwelue and Eromo Egbejule for urging me to do this. I also want to thank my “blog-brothers” (remember you read it here first) - Aloofar, Jaja and Afolabi, my “blog-sister”- nigeriandramaqueen, and all the friends who have always supported this project. Thank you very much. Many thanks to my No.1- Crystal, and to my other regular commenters for keeping it real. I’m grateful.

After spending one year it’s only nice to share a few tips:

For those bloggers who put their intellectual properties for all to peruse, please, please, check out

For those who haven’t already done so, install a free blog visit tracker, it’s immensely valuable. This profile view thing just isn’t it. Check out and are many others out there).

READ my first post "My Blogenesis"

February 21, 2009

Grace Clinic

There’s a clinic situated in an area called Obigbo, on the outskirts of Port-Harcourt. I went there to visit someone who is related to someone I know well. The clinic sits on a large piece of land, but the building is not big and it looks smaller than it really is because of size of the land. Only the side of the building facing the gate is painted and the area is secluded, I had to walk a good distance inside to get to it. It’s called Grace Clinic.

I went inside the clinic and walked up to the front desk. There was only one nurse standing behind a box shaped desk. I heard sounds coming from a radio set but I did not see the radio. She looked up and kept staring until I reached the front of her desk. I gave her the name of the person I wanted to see and she gave me directions to the ward. On my way to the ward, I walked past doors with see-through glass on them. I could not see much and I did not try to peep. All I heard as I passed were indistinct voices and coughing. Before I reached the door of the ward I was going to, three nurses came out. I paused and spent a full minute, wondering if I should just turn back and go home, and then I walked inside after turning my tape recorder on. The nurse had said that his bed was the fifth one from the wall on my left. The guy that sat in the fifth bed was very thin, but not as thin as I thought he would be. His cheeks were hollowed, his arms were thin. He looked like he had shrunk, like he used to be big before. He saw me enter and stared at me until I reached his bed.

‘Good Afternoon.’

He stared at me and then at my Bagco bag. He was sitting down with pillows between his back and the iron post of his bed. He cleared his throat slowly and nodded, and then he pointed to a chair two beds away. I carried the chair and as I was returning to his bed, I noticed some of the other people in the ward were looking at me.

‘My name is Nnamdi.’ I told him after I sat down. ‘I’m Chiagozie’s (not his real name) friend. I don’t know if he told you I will come.’

‘Yes, he told me.’ His voice sounded tired and he took his time to answer. We were silent for sometime. He was looking at me and I did not know how to continue.

‘He said that you write.’ He asked me after a while.


‘What do you know HIV & AIDS is?’ He asked quietly.

‘It’s a disease that makes people get sick and die. It has no cure yet and it’s spread most of the time by sexual intercourse.’ I kept quiet and wondered if my answer was too elementary. He made a derisive sound in his throat, scratched his arm and looked at the empty bed beside us. After some time, he turned to me and said:

‘HIV does not make you sick, it only makes your immune system weak and that means your immune system cannot protect you again when other sicknesses and infections come your way. It’s a virus that damages the body’s immune system and allows other illnesses and infections to make you sick. Any infection that comes, your body’s cells will not be able to fight it. Shay you understand? Now, contacting any of those infections means a person is diagnosed with AIDS. I don’t know if you get me. Having HIV doesn’t mean you have AIDS. They are not the same thing.’ I nodded. To say I was embarrassed at that point is an understatement.

‘Did you come here by yourself or your family brought you here?’ I asked quietly.

‘No one brought me. I came when I felt too weak to continue work. All the excuses I was giving people about stress from work and exercise could not explain why I was becoming very thin and people began to show they suspected I had the virus. I don’t want to talk much about my family. My father is an educated man who doesn’t believe people with this illness should be doing all those adverts you see on NTA where people come out and say they want to be open about their status.’

‘How is this place? How does the staff treat their patients? I looked around. There was a crude structure on the ceiling to support his mosquito net, now brown with dust and dirt in some places. There were some broken louvers in the windows. The other people in the ward were either sleeping or lying down quietly. There was a small TV set in one corner that I know will be hard to watch from his position because of its size. Breeze was blowing across the ward because of the strategically placed windows that make cross ventilation possible.

‘As you’re seeing it, that’s how it is. NEPA wahala is worse than usual here because there are not plenty people living in this area. Anytime it comes, we take. There are some people who cook for the clinic. There are not enough nurses working here because people don’t want to work in this kind of place. We’ve had some nurses and caretakers who tell us to our face that we lived a bad, immoral life and now God is punishing us....God never sleeps, that kind of thing.

Some people who come here are brought by their family at night as if they have been hiding them since. The people that have money pay for private wards and special food. The patients who have Tuberculosis are kept at the other end of the hospital. This ward has more space now, before when there were more patients, they moved in more beds to contain more people. One thing is that many people come here in the final stages of the disease and die quickly, like the people that stayed in these two beds.’ He pointed to the empty ones by my side. ‘The ones that their people don’t come to carry their dead bodies- which is eighty percent of us, the clinic people bury themselves, there’s a special place they use, I don’t know exactly. Mosquitoes disturb us a lot, especially since that window was broken early this week. Sometimes, only sometimes, they spray insecticide inside here, those types that don’t bother us because we can’t leave the room. Some of us, who have it, always use treated mosquito nets every night.’

‘Where do you people get your medicine from?’ There were some medicine bottles on his side table but I could not see their names because I was far away.

‘We have to pay a different amount for the drugs. People complain most times about missing medicines, which is not funny when you look at how expensive it is, so everyone locks their own inside their bedside locker to keep them safe. The drugs are really expensive and then, sometimes we get good reason to believe some are fake. For instance a lot of our drugs have certain side effects. Some times when we take the drugs, we don’t get the usual side effects, it can be scary. I don’t bother myself with that one because I have no option. Only God can help us.’

‘How do you pay for all this?

‘I used to work for...' It’s one of the BIG telecommunications companies here in Nigeria. ‘My salary was okay. When I was working, I did not have a lot of people who depended on me so I kept most of my salary. A lot of it has gone into buying drugs and feeding, but there are so many people here that I’m better than. People with this illness need to eat very well and drink a lot of water, especially to wash down the plenty medicines. These medicines stop the duplication of HIV inside the cells and this stops the virus from taking over the immune system as it does when it’s not checked.’

‘There’s a bill the government approved that makes it punishable to discriminate against people with HIV & AIDS.’ I told him.

‘I heard about it, forget that thing. It won’t change anything. People are just too scared of the thing. Would you let somebody related to you stay in your house if you find out they have AIDS?’ He asked watching me carefully.

‘Yes.’ I replied. He looked doubtful.

‘Even if, will you still treat them normally?’

‘Yes I will.’ I answered.

‘So why is your chair so far away? Why are you sitting so far away, do you think you’ll catch it?’ His voice was still quiet and tired but I did not miss the accusing tone. There was silence. I was surprised by his directness.

‘When I came I was not sure if you had TB or not so I decided not to sit too close.’

‘Even if, there’s still a way you’re doing your body like you are afraid of contacting.’ After that statement, I did not know how to continue, I just shut up.

‘Where do you say you publish what you write?’ He asked me again, still watching me.

‘On my’s like a website. I write stuff and put there for people to read and sometimes they comment.’

‘What kind of things do you put there?’ He was asking in the same tone he had used to answer my other questions. It was as if nothing happened.

‘Experiences, sometimes stories…anything I can put.’

“Won’t they think this is another one of those your stories?’

‘No. There’s a way I let them know whether what I’m writing is true or made up.’ (Dear Reader please check the Label at the bottom of this post) ‘Do you want to read it before I post it on my blog?’

‘If it won’t stress you, bring me a copy.’

‘Okay. I brought some fruits...please manage it.’

‘You’ve tried. Thank you.’

‘I have to go now so I can get home early. There’s always hold up at Oil Mill junction on Wednesdays.’ He nodded. I stood up nervously, went closer to him and then I extended my hand. He looked me in the eye and grasped it. We shook and then I turned to go, and I felt his eyes on my back even when I closed the door of his ward. There were some other questions I had wanted to ask him but I lost the nerve.

I can’t find words to label the experience. I can’t find words my parents would use if they ever discover I went to visit someone living with HIV. My brother will never ever believe I did this. It’s another one on my list of unforgettable experiences.

February 17, 2009

The Abyssinian Boy by Onyeka Nwelue | Book Review

"No family in Delhi, or the whole of India celebrated Diwali more sweetly than the Rajagopolan family." So begins Onyeka Nwelue’s curiously christened debut novel The Abyssinian Boy, we are then drawn into the daily lives of the Rajogopolan’s, an extended family resident in India.

Rajaswamy Rajagopolan is a career-driven polemicist writer, who may have married a Nigerian wife for a reason other than love, and who harbours a troubling secret. Eunice Rajagopalan is the daughter of a former secretary at the Nigerian High Commission in New Delhi. Fully aware their parents won’t consent to their interracial marriage, they decide to force them into conceding by getting Eunice pregnant. They get hitched and give birth to David, the protagonist, the Abyssinian boy, who is now a precocious preteen with a penchant for swear words. David is puzzled about his identity, his race, the fact that unlike his friends, he has an Indian father and a Nigerian mother. He’s very familiar with racial bias because it’s something he deals with daily. He is like every other nine year old around him except he is being visited in his dreams by a mysterious albino dwarf. On one occasion, the dwarf visits him, his mother and his father in their dreams in one night. But for the most part, his parents and every member of his extended family go on with their daily life while David is traipsing with the dwarf, to strange places and going back in time. When the family makes a brief trip to Nigeria, the dwarfs’ visits become more regular and more disturbing.

Setting his story against a period of strained relations between Nigeria and India, Onyeka brings to attention the complexity of interracial marriages. He shows how discrimination can be mind-corrupting and pervasive and silly. He humourously shows how people sit in one corner of the planet and make ill informed generalizations about people who live far far away. People they've most times had no contact with in any way.

I found the many characters Onyeka created and the fact that he gave each of them attention, distracting and tiresome at times. In some places, he sort of rambles on, giving background knowledge about a character we need to know little or nothing about. It’s like having flies buzz in front of you when you’re trying to focus on something. It could have been better done. Onyeka’s sentence constructions are not the usual type. He tries to sound different. It’s the kind of thing Arundhati Roy does in The God of Small Things, and it suits this novel in some parts, in others however, it just doesn’t sound right. Towards the end, where the reader is supposed to feel loss, it’s fleeting. Even the grieving of the characters at that point seem rushed in a way. It doesn’t sink in heavily like it should. He doesn’t let us follow the bereaved immediately but distracts us with someone we do not want to read about just then. It’s frustrating. There are a few flaws, but nothing that mars the novel seriously.

The Abyssinian Boy is definitely unique. It’s unique in its storytelling, and in the way it handles the issues it deals with. I think it’s bold and commendable that Nwelue did not choose to write on something familiar, but he chooses instead to go into unfamiliar territory, and then juxtapose the two cultures at the heart of this book, so we can see into lives far away from ours. Onyeka’s debut novel is charming and laudable.

February 14, 2009

Second Edition of "From Caves of Rotten Teeth" Now Available

From Caves of Rotten Teeth by A. Igoni Barrett is a collection of short stories that was first published in Nigeria in November 2005. The Orange Prize-shortlisted author Laura Hird described the book as 'a brilliant debut collection' and in an interview with the literary magazine Pulp.Net named 'The Phoenix', a short story in the collection, as one of the best stories she had ever read. 'The Phoenix' won the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition.

The fourteen stories in this edition of From Caves of Rotten Teeth (five of which did not appear in the first edition) deal with circumstances that reflect the day-to-day existence of modern African life. Although the stories may at times seem surreal the reader will recognize the truthfulness and realism with which they delve into the lives of their characters. The author has an uncanny eye for detail and a deadly accurate, though sometimes satirical, ear. With these stories he has achieved a vision that is both lighthearted and profound.

Praise for the second edition of From Caves of Rotten Teeth

'In this collection, Barrett entrances the reader with his lush language and imagery that brings the essence of struggle alive…the effect on the reader's imagination will last for a very long time' —Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation

'A. Igoni Barrett's prose captures, with enviable depth, the emotions and circumstances of his characters…from addiction to everyday survival, these stories are delivered with sincerity'
Kaine Agary, author of Yellow Yellow

'These stories share the same beauty of language, the same keen sense of observation…reading the collection is a journey into a world that is sometimes humorous, but very often a reminder of all that is wrong in our world.'
Chika Unigwe, author of The Phoenix

Orders can be made by calling the number +234-702-533-5538 or sending an email to

The book is also available from the following places from Kachifo LimitedGlendora/Jazzhole, and Onyoma Research Publications, Victoria Island, Lagos (Call: +234-807-763-8752), Quintescence, on Awolowo Road, and Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos. Visit here and here for more information.

February 06, 2009

The Way I See It...

The way I see it, the last time I visited a promising blog by a newcomer was when I read the stirring first post of Journal of a Lil Woman. Everyone was excited on her arrival (I know because she has more than 60 comments on her first post. That's no mean feat.), but I have to admit that I’m still waiting for her to deliver…

Yesterday, I visited my friends’ new blog and…I think he’s got it, judging by his first post. However, only time will tell. Please check out The Way I See It and give a HUGE Blogville WELCOME to Stanley Azuakola.

Stanley, I’m hoping you bring that uniqueness and verve every blog needs to survive in this competitive cyber village. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Osondu Nnamdi Awaraka

February 01, 2009

Reader Recommended Nigerian Bookshops

Irritated because I could not find most of the books I wanted to buy in the bookshops I know, I invited my readers to send me the name and address of good bookshops around them so I could post on my blog. I hope this will help anyone in these areas who has difficulty getting books to read. Here are the responses I got -

ABUJAPen and Pages
Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja

Lanterna VenturesNo. 13 Oko Awo close, Victoria Island

IBADANBook SellersIt’s on Jericho Road (that’s all I got from the contributor. Hopefully it will be easy to spot once you get to that road). The contributor also suggests the open terrace displays of used books on Bank road, in Dugbe, Ibadan.
Iqra Books Nigeria
Here you can order Nigerian titles online or "request a reprint". The contributor says (in a comment on this post) "Iqra will get you any book once the book exists."

I want to thank everyone who bothered to respond to my post. Thank you very much and God Bless. If you want to contribute, just leave your response in the comment box of this post and I will update later on.

January 24, 2009

Swallow by Sefi Atta | Book Review

Swallow is set in Lagos, Nigeria and Sefi Atta does a commendable job of describing the city and the way of life of its residents, who come down from all parts of the country, in search of a better life. The protagonist, Tolani and her friend and roommate Rose, are on a bus ride to work when we meet them. Like many of the city’s residents, Tolani and Rose are dissatisfied with work, their romantic interests and life in the city. Rose is an untidy, loud and willful young woman from a dysfunctional family. Tolani is long-suffering and reserved. When Rose is fired for insubordination, she refuses to search for another job and decides to make a trip to an European country as a drug mule. Tolani is against the idea from the minute she hears it, but changes her mind much later when she feels she can no longer stand sexual harassment from her boss, malicious gossip by spiteful colleagues and when her boyfriend gambles her life savings on a shaky business deal. It’s interesting to follow Tolani’s journey throughout the book.

A little into the novel however and a lot of things begin to sound cliché. Atta’s characters sometimes sound like she’s using them to teach the reader about the customs, traditions, patterns and life styles of everyday people. There are a lot of tribal stereotypes and superstitious beliefs that Nigerians will find very familiar. It’s as though Atta is trying to mirror the Nigerian society. One moment it seems like you’re reading about everyday Nigerian people and the way they react to certain things, the next moment Swallow seems to be bursting with hackneyed terms and situations. There’s the clever business man whose limit is the sky if only he can lay his hand on a financial loan; the lowly masses irritated by the widespread corruption they see everyday and don't speak out for fear of being manhandled. Swallow is engaging but until I read Everything Good Will Come, Atta's first, I can't draw any comparisons.

People reading Atta’s work for the first time might have to flip through a couple of pages to discover Atta’s gift, evident in Tolani’s humourous narration of events and Atta’s unpredictability and descriptive power. From the book title you’d think swallowing drugs or being a drug mule is the main plot, but it’s just an episode in the book, another on Tolani’s list of troubles. Swallow’s unpredicatable plot line and unpredictable ending doesn’t make Swallow stirring or confusing, it makes it somewhat unsatisfying.
READ Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta - My Thoughts

[Image via CafeAfricana]

January 21, 2009

10 Questions for Onyeka Nwelue | Author Interview

Onyeka Nwelue's debut novel The Abyssinian Boy, published by Dada Books will be in bookstores soon. The Book Launch will hold at The National Library, Yaba on the 24th of January, 2009 by 12 noon. The book launch is open to the general public, so try to be there.

Onyeka has been so busy with preparations, I could only interview him via email. Enjoy!

1) Tell us how you felt when you held a copy of your book
ON: I felt like no one existed, except me and the book. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hold anyone I saw and say, ‘Na me write this. You don read am. You fit write am?’ (Laughs)

2) Who would you say are your literary influences?
ON: I have a lot of influences. Wole Soyinka was my earlier influence. At the moment, I look to Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Ian McEwan. Mr. McEwan makes British writing seem unBritish; anyone can connect with his humour. Roy and Rushdie just shaped Indian writing in English. And they are fantastic!

3) Tell us about The Abyssinian Boy.
ON: The Abyssinian Boy is my own tale about people navigating between cultures; it’s my take on the things I like, the way I want the world to look like, because in my opinion, I believe that a writer’s work is his own imagination of the world and how he would want it to look like. It’s a simple story about a child who gets haunted by a ghost, how he gets inflicted with a brain illness and the struggle of alienation.

4) You’re twenty-one. I know a lot of your peers who live solely for parties, girls, booze and getting a college degree. What helped you focus on this project some people might consider intimidating, emotion sapping, time consuming and “boring”?
ON: (Laughs) I also ‘live’ for parties, girls, booze and a college degree. But the thing is that I don’t let those things distract me from my ‘profession’. This is what I want to do for eternity- writing full-time. And yes, writing a novel could be ‘boring’ for some writers as they have said, but for one single moment, I never felt bored writing my novel, delving into the world of the dwarves, watching David frown and smile, seeing Swathi make her jams everyday and Vimala ‘sashaying’. I wouldn’t agree with the claim that writing a novel is intimidating, emotion sapping and time consuming; I think you can say that when you are forced to write. No one can do that to me. I’m always true to myself and follow my heartbeat.

5) Writers all over the country often ask how to get published, what’s your answer to that question now?
ON: My answer is that they should persevere and be patient. I know this is an old clichéd saying, but I think that’s that.

6) What do you think about self-publishing, knowing its ill effects and given that it helped Helon Habila get his book noticed?
ON: Self-publishing is very good, if you can’t persevere or can’t be patient. But in a way it degrades the writer in the eyes of the reader, like the reader is being forced to read your sister? While the standard method of publishing is you waiting for that publishing house to take years to respond to you and if you are fortunate you’d be accepted. In self-publishing, the writer takes up the whole task of designing layout, formatting the book, printing, marketing and doing all what not, which is not easy. I do praise the writers who tread that path.

7) Name two books you’ve read a second time.
ON: Unfortunately, I’ve read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy over 50 times. (Laughs) And recently, I’ve been addicted to Amit Chaudhuri’s A strange and Sublime Address. I have read it more than five times.

8) What do you think about Music, Life, Love and Books?
ON: I think of Music as Life. Music inspired most parts of my novel and while I was tapping away on my laptop, I listened to all tracks in Timaya’s first album. They helped me keep track of where I wanted to get with this book. And then, there’s this particular Hindi song, ‘Agar Tum Mil Jao’, that made me feel that Life is not only Love, but Music.

9) What do you think of writers in Blogville? Any words for them?
ON: I think of them as writers who don’t follow rules, which is good. Words for them? Well, I can only say: keep writing and perfecting your art!

10) What’s NEXT?
ON: Let me present it to public first, then I will know what’s next, if anyone would be buying me a car. (laughs). And then, I will polish my handwriting for autographs and learn how to talk politely to girls. And then, write that ‘idyllic’ Nsukka story I always wanted to write.