african author, Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, race, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

Ties that Tether - The Stripe

“How much more of yourself, of your culture will you lose to accommodate him in your life?” 

As you may have heard me say a million times this year, it’s been a struggle reading year and I have been doing all I can just to read anything my attention can focus on. I have no recollection of being on a waitlist for this book but once it popped up as available and I saw a Nigerian author, I decided to go for it. Also, is the cover gorgeous or what?

Azere is a 25 year old Nigerian woman who lives in Canada. Before moving to Canada from Nigeria when she was 12 years old, she makes a promise to her dying father to preserve the culture and marry a Nigerian man. Her mother takes this promise to heart and is always on her case to get married and is always matchmaking and setting Azere up on dates. Azere always obliges her mom and goes on these dates and confines her dating pool to just Nigerian men.

Yet another date goes awry and Azere goes to the bar to decompress, meets Rafael and ends up in a one night stand with him. The relationship goes beyond the one night stand and Azere is torn between pleasing her mom and a chance at happiness.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d landed on a romance novel but I decided to stick through it to support a Nigerian author. I liked this book enough. Any Nigerian/immigrant can relate to the story and realize it is not far fetched. This book was very heavy on pop culture references but was a good balance of both Western and Nigerian pop culture. A bit on the nose at times but I think it symbolized Azere’s internal struggle of growing up Nigerian and Canadian and identifying as both.

I liked that the book provided insight into the Nigerian culture. Even as a Nigerian, I learned a bit more as Azere is from Edo state. For example, I didn’t know Ogbono soup was from that region. I liked the Edo names mentioned and their full meaning and Azere explains some traditions and their origin. I picked up some names that I thought were just beautiful. I liked the overall message of choosing your happiness and not being tethered due to unhealthy obligations.

The flip side of the book is that you can tell that it is a debut book. It has a slight amateurish feel to it and suffers from the verboseness most Nigerians have. Azere’s character came off as almost childlike/immature. The way she kept wanting to please her mom and keep a promise to her dying father annoyed me. I almost couldn’t believe she had the one night stand given the strong hold her mom seemed to have on her. To be quite honest, her mom came off as a bully to me.

Some storylines felt disjointed in a bid to create anticipation and further the story. It sometimes read like dress up where the story being told was like a recreation of all the various movie and book plot lines we’ve read so some conversations came off clunky. A big blowout between Rafael and Azere and their reaction to it had me scratching my head.

Overall, flaws withstanding, I think it worked. It goes by quickly and is an easy read. It’s one of those where you have to overlook things and just take it for what it is. I gave this 3stars on Goodreads.

Taynement

african author, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, Uncategorized

Book Review : His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

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“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”

Afi is a young seamstress who is offered a life changing opportunity. She is offered the position of the chosen wife of Elikem Ganyo – a man she doesn’t truly know. His family gives her a task – make him fall in love with you and leave his wife (the mysterious Liberian woman) who everyone seems to have terrible things to say about. He doesn’t even show up to their wedding, her only contact with him before the wedding day is a phone call acknowledging her presence in his life. After the wedding, she is whisked to Accra and installed in a luxury apartment, with a driver, a huge allowance and anything she can ever wish for except of course, the actual man she married.

“Please, put love aside and be practical. Love will not put food on the table; it won’t hold you at night.”

If you enjoyed Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, you’d probably enjoy this book. I’ve heard white book people compare this book to Crazy, Rich Asians and that’s ridiculous, this book is nothing like that. It’s not frivolous or “fun”. This is a quick and easy read but it tackles a lot of familiar African issues.

What I enjoyed about this book is that it shows how the status of an African woman is always defined in relation to the men they are bound to. The women in this book are all different and it shows us the different ways women adapt to the society they find themselves in and the ways they decide to exist in it. Some women end up being the pillars of the patriarchal society that has oppressed them, some women discover that they can rise above it and define their own paths and some decide to just go with the flow and take the little wins wherever they can get them.

I loved the tension between Afi’s family and the Ganyos as Afi became more of herself and built a sense of self. She stopped being the grateful girl who was indebted to the Ganyos and became a woman demanding better for herself. I loved watching the power dynamic play out between this powerful and rich family and the young woman they empowered unknowingly.

“All men are the same, they only know how to love themselves and to sit on women.”

As much I enjoyed watching Afi grow, I still found Afi extremely naive. I’m Nigerian and this story is as old as time and everyone knows what the deal is. First of all, I couldn’t believe Afi believed all the things her in-laws told her about Elikem’s first wife – that she is ugly and rude and everything bad. I couldn’t believe how the entire story played out. I must admit that I was extremely irritated with Afi demanding more from the arrangement. I thought she should have been old enough to accept the perks and ignore the drawbacks. I found it hard to accept that a girl who grew up in Ghana was this naive when she walked into this arrangement knowing fully that there was another woman involved in the mix. So whenever she talked about loving Elikem, I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes. Nothing about Afi’s behaviour rang true or realistic to me.

There were some plot threads that the author started but never took anywhere. In the beginning of the book, Yaya (Elikem’s sister) takes Afi to a party where she meets a young handsome young man. This meeting is told to us in great detail and she runs into the young man some other time but nothing happens. That character just disappears and the author does nothing with him for the rest of the book, so what was the purpose of those scenes? This is her debut book so I’m going to be looking out for what she writes next because I think this book had the potential to be great but just stopped short.

This book is very readable and the imagery the author conjures is so fantastic that you can see the book play out right in front of you. The descriptions of the various uncles and aunties who are there to suck your entire resources were spot on! The Uncle character in this book is so realistic and the descriptions of contemporary Ghanaian life were great. Even though I gave this book 3 stars, I hope you still give it a chance. I recommend it!

Leggy

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