Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, Uncategorized, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat : Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other

 

“… ageing is nothing to be ashamed of
especially when the entire human race is in it together”

Plot: Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve black (save for one), British women. It tells the story of their joys and struggles in navigating the cards dealt to them as they journey through life.

 

Taynement: I started this book right at the start of the pandemic and I became so overwhelmed that I kept starting and stopping before I finally finished it. I’m glad I did.

Leggy: I only read this book for the blog. I had absolutely no interest in it and didn’t even know what it was about till I had to read it at the last minute for this chit chat.

Taynement: I recommended it for the blog because it made Obama’s best books list and it won a Booker prize. I also (as usual) did not know what it was about. I went in blind. It was a pleasant surprise for me that it was about different people. I enjoy stories like that.

Leggy: I think it was super easy for me to get through it because of the structure. I could read about one person, step away and pick it right back up. It’s a very easy book to read in sections.

Taynement: Yeah, it’s not a hard book to read even if it didn’t have punctuation and capitalization for each paragraph.

Leggy: I totally forgot you had warned me about the punctuation before hand so when I downloaded it on my kindle, I thought my library had sent me a badly formatted book. Anyway, what was your favorite and least favorite story?

Taynement: My favorite story was the one with Winsome, the one whose mother was sleeping with her husband and yet she felt smug that she was in a perfect marriage. Other standouts were the story of Bummi (can I just say her spelling this Nigerian women’s name this way kills me) and Dominique in the abusive lesbian relationship.

Leggy: I loved the mother one! That was my absolute favorite because we get her daughter’s story first and she talks about how her mum goes off with her kids and husband on some weekends to give her a break and how amazing her husband is. Then BAM! we get hit by the mother’s story. It was fantastic. I enjoyed it.

Taynement: I was like WHOA because she tells us so casually. It was a one sided crush at first.

Leggy: Really enjoyed Bummi’s story too. I’m super glad she found peace and accepted her daughter’s choices at the end. Also glad her white son-in-law actually turned out to be a good person.

Taynement: But she didn’t herself find peace. Nigerian guilt goes deep. I liked that the author went there with the story.

Leggy: I actually think she did. She seemed quite content at the end. The Morgan/Meghan story was my least favorite. I confess that I skimmed it, it gave me nothing.

Taynement: Yes, I was going to mention that story as my least favorite. It didn’t capture me and I get it was a set up for GG’s story. I will say what I liked about this book is how it was so many things. Many different kinds of women were captured and it explored many themes. I’m not sure how she managed to do it but it worked.

Leggy: Do you think it did too much or just enough?

Taynement: Hmmm, that’s tough because on one hand I liked the freedom having many stories gave, but on the other hand, I will say I’d get confused due to many characters and found myself trying to see how the characters related to each other vs. enjoying the story.

Leggy: I thought it did too much. I think there could have been fewer characters. I think she tried hard to cover a variety of black women and their experience. It got super hard to keep track of who was who and how it all connected. I don’t expect one piece of literature to cover the total experience of a group of very diverse people and I think she tried to do that and it got exhausting after a while. The first 50% of this book was a breeze to read but as I got to the end, I struggled to even care anymore.

Taynement: I did a deep dive on the author and was surprised she is half Nigerian, probably why there were so many Nigerian mentions. Anyway, what was the point of Yazz?

Leggy: She was irritating but she’s also a good representation of a lot of young people growing up in this social media age. They’re sponges. She went to Morgan’s lecture and suddenly started calling herself “non-binary”. She wants to seem enlightened without actually doing any work to support that.

Taynement: Makes sense. Can I just add that there was something I liked about Mrs. King and Carole? Perspective. She legit hated this woman for so many years and it took a chance encounter to realize that Mrs. King saved her life.

Leggy: Carole was so ungrateful and I just don’t understand how she got to that conclusion.

Taynement: You have to remember she had a very traumatic experience and I think it’s so common in life to be so fixated on a story in your head so much you don’t even see the reality.

Leggy: I’m glad she finally met Mrs. King and realized she didn’t have to do all the things she did for her to get her to Oxford.

Taynement: I liked this book but I actually don’t think it’s for everyone. If someone said they didn’t care for it, I could see how. I liked how boldly unapologetic and modern it was and I think Evaristo’s dedication sums it up:

“For the sisters & the sistas & the sistahs & the sistren & the women & the womxn & the wimmin & the womyn & our brethren & our bredrin & our brothers & our bruvs & our men & our mandem & the LGBTQI+ members of the human family.”

Leggy: I agree. I liked it and I think there’s a story for everyone but ultimately, I don’t know who I’d recommend the entire book to. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement: I agree but overall, worth adding to your TBR list and checking out to see if it would be something you’d like.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

 

 

Fiction, Nigerian Author

Book Review – Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

Review: 'Black Sunday,' By Tola Rotimi Abraham : NPR

“I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.”

The year is 1996 and we are introduced to twins, Bibike and Ariyike, who live with their mother and father and two younger brothers, Andrew and Peter in Lagos, Nigeria. Their house is not exactly a happy home as their parents are constantly at odds. Their mother is the sole bread winner as their dad continuously loses money in hare brained schemes and investments. The girls have different personalities – Ariyike is the friendlier one while Bibike is the more cynical one.

After their mom loses her job, the family joins a Pentecostal church where their dad meets men like him who are “loud, noisy dreamers”. He takes a huge gamble with the money they have that eventually breaks the family apart. The kids are shuttled off to their grandmother’s house and are forced to grow up and face their pain individually. The girls are forced to lean into their individuality and begin their separate and different paths to life for the next two decades.

“I did not believe in love, in marital love, in righteous men or justice”

The quote above captures the tone of this book which I would say was cynical. Black Sunday is the complete opposite of a fairy tale and can be described as gritty but don’t let that scare you because I still enjoyed this book. While the focus was on the twins, we do get the perspectives of the younger brothers at some point. I think Abraham’s goal was to have a jarring, true to life description of how it goes when lives get disrupted and the sole goal is to survive.

“Every girl who hears it is shamed for all the things she otherwise feels no shame for. Shame is female just as merit is male”

When speaking about survival from a female perspective in a patriarchal society, it is inevitable that the difficult topic of sexual assault and also using sex as a weapon to get ahead, will come up. This is woven into the story but not as a lesson or as a sad story but was written rather matter-of-factedly. My guess is so the reader digests it like the girls did – things happen, you get hardened and just do what you have to do without much emotion tied to it. While both sisters chose different paths, Ariyike early on had a clear resolve what she wanted her life to be and made it that way regardless of the cost.

“I learned when I was a little girl that people always lie. I am not sure that everyone means to lie. It is just that they have in their hearts ideas of who they should be, and they are trying to convince themselves that they are who they insist on being. It is tiring”

There were several different thought provoking story lines in this book that could easily have been confusing but Abraham did a good job of weaving all the stories together and you were captivated by each character’s narration of their story. I wish we had more insight into their mother’s side of the story and there was a part of Bibike’s story that had me confused a little bit, because till now I don’t know if it was real or not.

“There were many easy ways to be a stupid girl in Lagos. We were not stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t a book with a neatly tied bow on it. What it is, is a well written thought provoking book that wasn’t afraid to be messy and complex and all the while you know that this is a cumulative representation of many a Nigerian girl’s story. I highly recommend this one.

Taynement