March 09, 2016

Helen Oyeyemi Will Read in Houston, Texas!

Helen Oyeyemi will be in Houston, Texas on March 28th! She's one of the two authors featured this month in The Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, one of the best and most popular author series in the U.S.A. The other featured author is Mat Johnson, author of the novel Loving Day. Oyeyemi's new book What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours was released in America yesterday by Riverhead Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and my copy arrived yesterday thanks to Amazon's amazing & very reliable "release-date delivery" service. I will post my review of What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours as soon as I'm done reading it.

If you would like to see Helen Oyeyemi read from What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours you can purchase your tickets from Inprint Houston. Visit Inprint Houston's website and Facebook page for more information about this event.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi - My Thoughts
The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi - My Thoughts
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi - My Thoughts

[Author image via Green Apple Books]

March 07, 2016

Allah Is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma | Book Review

There's a repulsive quality to Ahmadou Kourouma's Allah Is Not Obliged that's immediately apparent when you begin this novel especially because of the narrator's choice of words. Birahima is a foul-mouthed child soldier who's somewhere between the ages of ten and twelve. He was born in Togobola, a village in Beyla, Guinea, a country on the western coast of Africa. After the death of his mother, his grandma makes arrangements for him to travel to Liberia to live with his aunt because she wants him to avoid the kind of life he's destined to live if he remains in their village. She wakes him up early one morning, puts all her life savings in the palm of his hand, and then tearfully sends him off on a journey to Liberia with Yacouba, a shady money-multiplier/fortune teller/maker of charms and amulets. Their trip is cut short by a marauding troop of rebels who absorb both Yacouba and Birahima into their ranks because Birahima cries and begs repeatedly to be made a child soldier. Allah Is Not Obliged is a memoir of the events that occurred during Birahima's time as a child soldier and he narrates it with an indifference that is surprising for someone his age.

I considered putting this book down so many times right after I started it. It took so long to plough through to page twenty-five because I wasn't captivated by any of it. There's an annoyingly large amount of political talk scattered throughout the book that is completely unnecessary. Some of it was needed to understand the ongoing wars but a lot of it should have been cut out of the book. This is not another child soldier story with an endearing protagonist. Birahima doesn't exhibit the kind of childish innocence that pulls you in and makes you wonder if he can ever be rehabilitated like I wondered when I reviewed Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Birahima's not like Biyi Bandele's protagonist, Banana in Burma Boy or Agu in Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation and that's fine with me. Birahima himself warns us on page four "Number six... Don't go thinking that I'm some cute kid, 'cos I'm not. I'm cursed because I did bad things to my maman [mother]." In the end, there isn't the overwhelming sympathy you might have come to expect from novels like this, just a numbness and an appreciation of a good story.

[Image via Goodreads]