african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Fiction, Nigerian Author, short story, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Nearly All the Men in Lagos are Mad by Damilare Kuku

Leggy: The title of this book makes me laugh every time I say it. “Nearly all the Men in Lagos are Mad”. It’s such an eye catching title.

Taynement: Ha ha ha, why? Because it’s true? 🙃

Leggy: I mean…This book wasn’t in my library, so I was just going to skip it but you convinced me to get it so we can read it as a part of our Chit Chat series and I must say I don’t regret it.

Taynement: It was on every Nigerian bookstagram and a friend of mine got it for me. I’m glad you didn’t regret it. I enjoyed this book, which is saying a lot given my stance on short stories.

Leggy: I enjoyed it too. I thought it was super entertaining but I also went in with very low expectations. I just thought it was one of those books where everyone jumps on a bandwagon and it wasn’t going to give what it was supposed to give.

Taynement: Besides the compelling stories and compelling writing, what made this book a good read was knowing that all of the stories were realistic.

Leggy: I have a very different opinion.

Taynement: Let’s hear it!

Leggy: I did not find a lot of the stories realistic.

Taynement: ooooh, really?

Leggy: Sometimes I wondered what society she was writing about. Don’t get me wrong, Nigerian men are mad and the encompassing stories are realistic but some of the little details give American society.

Taynement: Oh ok, I see what you mean.

Leggy: Like in “The Anointed Wife”, the mistress gets a book deal and goes on an interview tour. That would NEVER happen in Nigeria. Ever. Especially when the man being accused of adultery is a pastor? She would be branded a harlot through and through. People would talk about it on twitter for a day, nobody will remember the pastor the next day but best believe they’ll always remember the woman to call her – ashawo.

Taynement: I think that’s where you have to suspend all belief to keep the story moving.

Leggy: Yeah, so little details like that made me roll my eyes because it was giving America not Nigeria but overall, I found the main threads of the stories true to form.

Taynement: Did you have any favorite stories?

Leggy: I really enjoyed “Ode-Pus Complex” because I found it realistic. That exact scenario has happened to someone I know.

Taynement: What a clever title. If you’re not Nigerian, “Ode” means fool.

Leggy: Yup. Such a clever title. And honestly, I didn’t hate the mother. She was direct and honest instead of doing that passive aggressive thing Nigerian mothers do.

Taynement: She was just being realistic and quite frankly, saving the girl.

Leggy: And the girl saw it for herself like woman, you can keep your son.

Taynement: One of my favorite stories was “Beard Gang” – the group of women married to closet gay men.

Leggy: I really liked that one too.

Taynement: I also liked “I knew You“, one of the few stories from the male perspective and acknowledging that he ain’t shit.

Leggy: He really wasn’t shit. I’m glad the girl was like – I’m out!

Taynement: I didn’t read reviews for the book but a friend let me know that Nigerians were up in arms about the sex scenes which were graphic. What did you think about it?

Leggy: I don’t remember any of the sex scenes to be honest, so it can’t possibly have been that graphic.

Taynement: Oh wow. Ose bad gyal! 😂😂😂😂 Well, I didn’t think it was inappropriate or too much but I know Nigerians are gonna Nigerian. In fact, I applaud a Nigerian author for not shying away from sex.

Leggy: Also, considering how much Nigerians have sex, it’s intriguing how much they don’t want that fact acknowledged. Which was your least favorite?

Taynement: Cuck up was up there. It was the story that most embodied what I hate about short stories. It felt incomplete and I didn’t get the point.

Leggy: Aww really? I didn’t mind that one. He convinced her to have sex with her rich customer and then started punishing her for it after the fact. Then had the guts to call a family meeting for her, in a house her “prostitution” got them. So she waited for the meeting, told them the full story and then asked him to leave her house for her. I quite enjoyed it.

Taynement: To be honest, I didn’t hate any story. It was a really good collection.

Leggy: I didn’t like Catfish.

Taynement: Ha ha, I didn’t mind it.

Leggy: Also was iffy about The Gigolo from Isale eko.

Taynement: I agree.

Leggy:mAlso, First Times had the cringiest sentences – “Hi, I’m Belinda but Idris calls me baby.” What? I thought the story had potential but she just couldn’t make the plot move forward in a grounded and realistic way.

Taynement: The two stories where the ladies weren’t so smart rank low for me – Sidelined and First Times.

Leggy: You know the one that made me laugh? International Relations. Honestly, this was a really good collection and very easy to read. Did you read her acknowledgment where she thanked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? She said she went to a reading at 16 and Chimamanda told her to take all the time she needs to write her first book and she hopes she reads this and It makes her proud. That was really sweet.

Taynement: Yes! There was also a shout out to a We Chit Chat alum author – Chiemeka Garricks.

Leggy: I’m glad older and more accomplished Nigerian authors are providing much needed mentorship for the young upcoming ones. Anyway, I definitely recommend this book. It’s very entertaining and it would make for plenty of fun discussions if you read it in a Nigerian book club.

Taynement: A nonjudgmental Nigerian book club.

Leggy: LOL. Apparently.

Taynement: Actually, I think it’ll be fun for any book club. I’d find it interesting explaining things to a non Nigerian. Anyways, what we’re trying to say is – go read the book!

Taynement & Leggy

african author, african stories, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Wahala by Nikki May

Leggy: The cover of this book is so pretty and eye catching. Do you remember why we decided to read it?

Taynement: I decided to read it because a friend of mine – who is white, mentioned it as a book she wanted to read by a Nigerian author.

Leggy: I think you told me about it and I looked it up. I wasn’t that eager to read it but the title was very Nigerian so I put it on my list. The first time I picked up this book, I read about 4% on my kindle and dropped it because I realised the protagonists were biracial Nigerians.

Taynement: Lol. What do you have against biracial Nigerians?

Leggy: Lmaooo. Nothing oh, but they made a comment about how they were called “mongrels” in Nigeria and I rolled my eyes so hard it almost stayed that way. Talk about revisionist history. Nigeria is a hugely colorist country, so hearing a biracial say that, did not ring true to me at all. Biracials are like gods in that country.

Taynement: Fair enough.

Leggy: But then it checked out to you and you convinced me to finish it. So I picked it up again and read the remaining 96% in one sitting. I think it was quite entertaining.

Taynement: Overall, I think it had a good story. I feel like I know the exact point in the book when you read it in one sitting because I got that feeling too. It got to a point where you knew shit was about to go down with the villain and I just wanted to find out how it unraveled.

Leggy: Yup, it’s hard to put down after a certain point even though the story is entirely predictable. I still was eager to read what I already knew would happen.

Taynement: That being said, this book has so many problematic points!

Leggy: Oh My God! So many! Every good man in this book is white. The Caucasians could do no wrong! They were perfect husbands, perfect fathers, perfect in laws. It was so glaring.

Taynement: OMG! There was a disdain for Africans. At some point, if you remember, I asked you if the writer was biracial. I didn’t want to pass judgement without knowing because as much as they are characters, I think the writer’s voice definitely shone through.

Leggy: Also, Ronke who they considered, the fat one was the only one who dated a Nigerian. At some point, one of the characters blatantly told her to go get herself a white man so that she’d stop dealing with all the crap she was dealing with.

Taynement: And the only Nigerian man in the book was unreliable. I was so uncomfortable with the heavy focus on Ronke’s weight. I completely understand it’s the Nigerian way to be weight obsessed but the way it was written was side eye worthy.

Leggy: Especially since the weight literally didn’t move the plot forward. It added nothing to the book, said nothing about our character. They kept mentioning it even though it added nothing to the character’s actions?

Taynement: At some point someone said to Sofia, the little girl, – “OmG, you pretty little thing, so skinny” – and she’s 5?! All the comparison they made to Isobel’s body like she was prettier because she’s skinny?

Leggy: One thing I’d give the author is – her dialogue is exactly how I expect these characters to sound in real life. There was nothing they said that shocked me as a Nigerian.

Taynement: Except one! Boo who apparently has been hanging with them but doesn’t know what basic Nigerian slang means like asoebi? That was ridiculous. She went as far as saying – now you’re making words up. You guys go to Buka all the time?

Leggy: Boo was my least favorite character and that’s saying a lot when Isobel, the villain, is right there. She was so irritating to listen to. Also, Kayode wasn’t as bad as they painted him and didn’t deserve what happened to him at the end. The author couldn’t even let Ronke have a happy ending and then she ended up with another Nigerian guy with two kids?! Why does the author hate her so much?

Taynement: You know, my biggest problem with this book was everyone was unlikable. Boo was annoying with her dissatisfaction, Simi was elitist, Ronke was a pushover. It was interesting how they turned on each other so quick. Do you think that was realistic or was their friendship just not as strong as indicated?

Leggy: I thought if y’all are such good friends, why would you let a stranger come in and destabilize y’all? They didn’t even bother talking to each other to confirm, they just assumed a whole lot.

But I actually thought it was realistic especially that text Isobel sent to Boo’s husband. She sent it from Ronke’s phone and Boo saw it with her own eyes. It made sense to me that she would believe. I do think there were already cracks in their relationship which made it easier to penetrate.

Taynement: You know it took me till much later in the book to realise that Boo’s husband, Martin, was white.

Leggy: Of course he was white, he was a good man and Nikki May was never going to let him be Nigerian!

Taynement: When Boo got the afro weave, despite having “good hair” and someone in the book said to her – “you look like a black woman” and for the first time in her life she felt black. That knocked my socks off because this meant they didn’t see themselves as black. If the author talked about them never fitting in, okay but they spent all this time talking about Nigerian food and hung out around as a group. Simi grew up in Nigeria, it was such a disconnect to me.

Leggy: I was surprised they ate so much Nigerian food, it didn’t ring true for who they actually were. They even went out of their way to go to the restaurants and introduce their husbands and daughter to the culture but then there was such a disconnect from what they actually identify as.

Taynement: “Why would any sane English woman go for an African bloke?”

Leggy: lmaoooo. I enjoyed those nuggets so much because it rang true that they’d say that, that these characters would think like that.

Taynement: It was hard for me to separate the characters from the author. Overall though, I think the book had a good plot and execution, where it was weak was in character development and having just plain unlikable characters. They made me uncomfortable. Would you recommend it?

Leggy: Yes, I thought it was entertaining. I told someone who asked me my thoughts on twitter, to have low expectations going in and think of it as a reality show and they’d enjoy it. I found it easy to read, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

Have you guys read this one? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

Taynement & Leggy

Memoirs, Non-Fiction, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat – You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

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Leggy: I really enjoyed Gabrielle Union’s first book. I even named it one of my favorite books of the year, the year it came out and I listened to it 5 times! So I was very excited to listen to this one.

Taynement: I honestly am still always shocked when you mention that you listen to books multiple times. Like how?? But yes, I was in the same boat as you. We’re Going to Need More Wine was so good, I immediately got on the waiting list for this one.

Leggy: I was disappointed. I did not think this book was a worthy sequel. I for sure did not need more wine.

Taynement: Ha ha. Or something stronger. They were quite different. Quite frankly, this one was unnecessary.

Leggy: So unnecessary and quite repetitive. Why did she have to revisit Bring it On? She already had an essay about this movie in her first book, which was perfect? Why are we rehashing it all over again? I guess it’s because it’s her only mainstream movie.

Taynement: It’s funny you say that because that was my favorite story. Not sure what that says about the book itself but I didn’t find a lot of the stories compelling. It just didn’t grab me.

Leggy: The only story I found compelling was about her surrogate journey, the rest of the book was just not needed.

Taynement: I enjoyed the surrogate story as well, which is what she started with but it went downhill from there.

Leggy: I’m sure as a celebrity and a black one at that, Gabrielle Union has multiple stories from her life to pull from, so I don’t understand the essays she chose to publish. They didn’t make any sense to me at all. Also this entire book reads very performative. It did not seem genuine. It’s almost like she’s writing for a particular crowd.

Taynement: She unfortunately did the thing where the best part of the book is what she used as promo, so even if you didn’t read the book, you already read the best part. I have always thought Gabrielle Union was performative but she could pull it off in We’re Going to Need More Wine because it was personal stories. In this book, she suffered greatly from a lack of direction. She wasn’t sure if she wanted it to be about race or personal and even with the personal it wasn’t completely her story. I learned more about her stepdaughter in this book than her.

Leggy: Yup. It’s as if she went about collecting all the twitter hot topics and then wrote very impersonal and contrived stories about them. I was so bored. I kept waiting for her to turn the book back towards her and it just never got there. Also, do you believe her when she said the woman she is now would have left Dwyane?

Taynement: It wasn’t more so I didn’t believe her. It was more so it didn’t make sense to me? If in fact that is true, the woman you are now, can still leave? From the book and interviews she has done, I did not get the sense that she is over that whole situation.

Leggy: Exactly. That’s how I felt. So what’s stopping you from leaving now? I think she thinks the audience this book is for, would hate that she stayed. But it’s your decision, it’s your marriage. You have to own the fact that you stayed and recognize that you don’t owe anybody any explanation.

Taynement: Yep. You chose to stay so screw everybody else.

Leggy: She sounded so angry with Dwyane in this book, I was a bit taken aback by it. All while trying to convince us that she’s done the work to make the relationship stronger and better.

Taynement: When she said that people have accused her of not talking about the break baby, I looked around cos I was definitely one of them and then she described it as a trauma. I am ashamed to say I never thought about the angle that he had a baby while they were going through conception struggles. That’s deep.

Leggy: Yeah that’s insane. I can’t imagine how she felt about that.

Taynement: In summary, I don’t think this book was as sincere as the first and the sincerity is what made the first so great.

Leggy: Yes, this book was extremely performative. I wish she hadn’t written it. I did not enjoy it and it sucks because Gabrielle really is a good writer.

Taynement: It definitely was a struggle to read and I have told people I don’t recommend it.

Leggy: I wish she had written something totally different and personal.

Taynement: Last thing, if you do decide to read the book I think we should let people know that it is very heavy on racial topics.

Leggy: Very heavy. Almost all the stories veered into a commentary on race.

Taynement: And I think we need to mention because if you are mood readers like us, sometimes you have to prepare your mind to read certain topics and it’s easy to think this would be a light hearted book because of We’re Going to Need More Wine.

Leggy:If you think this is going to be a fun and compelling book like her first one, just skip it. It’s nothing like it.

Taynement: What she said.

Leggy: Go read her twitter threads instead. It’s just that but in long form.

Taynement & Leggy

african author, Book Related Topics, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat – Love in Colour: Mythical Tales From Around The World, Retold by Bolu Baboola

Amazon.com: Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold  (Audible Audio Edition): Bolu Babalola, Ajjaz Awad, Nneka Okoye, Bolu  Babalola, Olukemi Babalola, Headline: Audible Audiobooks

Taynement: Wow. It’s been a while since we did a chit chat. Shame on us!

Leggy: It’s just so hard to coordinate reading during a pandemic. I’m glad we’re finally getting to do one and a young Nigerian author at that!

Taynement: Why did we choose this book?

Leggy: We’ve seen it all over bookstagram and twitter, plus the cover is so striking.

Taynement: Yes, a lot of people I know who have read this, liked it a lot.

Leggy: So what were your overall thoughts on the book? Did you like it?

Taynement: Yes, I have to say I did. Or maybe I liked it more than I expected to. Going in, it had two strikes against it in that, it was a romance novel and short stories – two things I don’t care for.

Leggy: I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t like it. It was okay. Nothing stood out for me. To be frank. It was elemental writing. Nothing was compelling about these stories.

Taynement: Agreed, it was regular. I do think it was a good premise.

Leggy: I think it was a good premise too. I went into it without knowing what it was going to be so reading the first story of someone called “Osun” in school, I was like what’s going on here? Then “Sango”, that’s when I immediately got it.

Taynement: I thought it was overwritten in the way of typical African authors. The book just wasn’t allowed to be. I mean…”water was generous but mostly it wanted to be left alone”?

Leggy: There were so many lines like that It just tried too hard to have flowery language.

Taynement: I liked how inclusive the author tried to be. It had characters from various parts of Africa (the author is Nigerian for those who don’t know). There was an attempt with an Asian character that fell flat for me. The story of Zhinu (the pop star) was not one of my favorites. I couldn’t connect.

Leggy: It was my least favorite too. It was pointless to me. It just seemed to not fit.

Leggy: What was your favorite story?

Taynement: Thisbe and Naleli. What were yours?

Leggy: I really enjoyed the Naleli one. Read like a teenage romance movie. The head girl, Keeya said the meanest things to her.

Taynement: It reminded me a lot of the Netflix show – Blood and Water.

Leggy: I can’t imagine always covering up in the hot sun. I also appreciated that she highlighted the vitiligo condition, that was good. I liked the one where the girl was basically Kerry Washington in Scandal (Scheherazade). That was my favorite. Yaa was my second favorite because it was the story with the most modern realistically African plot to me.

Taynement: I really wanted to know how you felt about the book because I was wondering if I’d appreciate it more if I loved romance novels.

Leggy: I don’t think so. I appreciate the romance genre but I don’t consider this to be a good one to recommend. Especially to someone who typically doesn’t do romance books. I wish the stories had more depth and something to connect with. A lot of it seemed so frivolous that it diluted even the great love stories she was retelling.

Taynement: I think the most intriguing thing about this book is the concept. I also recognize that depth in short stories is something that is tough to accomplish.

Leggy: I’m currently reading “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies”, It’s fantastic and a short story collection and it manages to bring depth to every story it tells, no matter how short. Reading it alongside this book made me see how frivolous it was.

Taynement: Did you like the new tales?

Leggy: No, I preferred the retellings and even at that I do not prefer these modern retellings to the old stories. I think the modernity stripped a lot of the stories of its context and depth. In as much as I loved Scheherazade, the original is a fantastic story. I remember the first time I read the Arabian Night classic – a woman telling a king a story every night, trying to keep his attention till morning to stop him from killing her? I found it amazing!

Taynement: I guess we are in agreement that it was an okay book but commendable for a debut?

Leggy: Yes, it definitely read like a first book. I would appreciate a stand-alone novel from this author next, maybe to flesh out more of her romance writing and give the stories a little more depth and context? I don’t think romance has to be “deep”. Everyone knows I’m a connoisseur of romcom movies, but readers have to be able to buy into the romance you’re selling.

Taynement: Yes, it’ll be interesting to see what she does with a stand alone. I agree that romance novels don’t always have to be “deep” but I think that letting the stories breathe would make for a more relaxed romance novel that would be far easier to enjoy.

Leggy: I still can’t pick out any line that stood out to me even with the over the top flowery language. The lines just made me roll my eyes and you know how much I love a good quote.

Taynement: We both do! Well, based on social media, we are in the minority of people. A lot of people have loved it so far.

Leggy: That’s fine. Art is subjective plus this book sure has a very good social media PR. Was it worth the hype for me? Absolutely not. It was an okay book. I wonder if I’d have finished if we didn’t have to do this chitchat but we’ll never know now. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what this author does next. I love supporting black authors and she’s Nigerian!

Taynement: Definitely!

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa

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Plot: Bontle Tau is living a luxurious and largely fake life in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has a gang of admiring older boyfriends who pay her rent, send her on vacations and even secure her high level construction contracts even though she doesn’t have a construction company. She narrates what life is like living the life of a “blessee”

 

Taynement: So, The Blessed Girl…lol

Leggy: Is this an actual book?

Taynement: I don’t want to be harsh but it could have been a PDF fan fiction, but let’s go back to how we ended up with this book. Given everything going on in the world, we wanted to read a fun book by a black author. We’ve been intentional with our chit chats. They’ve mostly been either black or female authors. Enter Blessed Girl.

Leggy: I think we took the fun read waaay to the left. I was actually excited to read this one, but once I downloaded it from my library and read the first 10% I put it down. It was so badly written.

Taynement: Same. It was such a fun cover till I read the first page.

Leggy: I actually would have never finished this book if we didn’t have to do this chit chat.

Taynement: I still don’t honestly know how to categorize this book because it was badly written but I do think there was fun in it? I could see the vision and the format was like it was her writing in her journal and we were the journal? Or it was a video journal and we were the viewers?

Leggy: I didn’t find fun in it. I actually found it very problematic and it ended exactly how I thought it would end. Because obviously we have to punish the “prostitute” by giving her HIV. There was nothing fun in this book for me. I’m also not going to recommend this book to anyone so there’s going to be a lot of spoilers in this chit chat. Can I talk about the author’s treatment of a full blown rapist in this book? He raped a whole 14 year old and they spent the entire time talking about letting him see the son that resulted from this rape instead of discussing the fact that he is an actual rapist!

Taynement: You’re right, I think I’m just reaching. Listen from the moment she said Donald Trump was her idol, I immediately went to search when this book was published and it was 2017.

Leggy: They just threw in the rape part to “explain” why she was the way she was? Fun would be just a materialistic woman who likes money and fascinated us by her exploits. This just turned in a Tyler Perry movie.

Taynement: I think she was wayy too easy on her mother also.

Leggy: Her mother was TRASH!

Taynement: I couldn’t decide if the author wanted us to be mad or sympathetic towards her because I would never speak to that kind of mother again.

Leggy: You handed your 14 year old daughter to a grown man! And then made a case for why this grown man can come back 13 years later and be a great arse dad. What the fuck?! Who approved this crap?! I kept getting really angry reading this book.

Taynement: And his wife supported it. Ewww

Leggy: Also, the main character was crap. I sympathized with everything she had to go through but I didn’t like her. Honestly nobody in this book was likable and I think to pull off a book like this you need a likable protagonist.

Taynement: I think her best friend was – the one with the steady boyfriend but she got no development in the book.

Leggy: Honestly, that girl just came off as a stereotype to juxtapose her “good” character with the main character’s “reckless” life.

Taynement: And of course, trust the abusive man to be Nigerian in a book set in South Africa

Leggy: So many Nigerian oil barons sprinkled in this book, Nigerian artist, even the salon the girl frequented was owned by a Chimamanda. Anyway, I knew she’d get HIV. I mean how can a badly written book get worse than to introduce HIV? The ultimate punishment of wayward women? *rolls eyes*

Taynement: I honestly didn’t see any twist coming. I was too engrossed in how bad this book was and how it got published.

Leggy: Immediately Mr. Emmanuel asked to not wear a condom, I knew it. They didn’t mention through the entire book if she was having protected sex or not so for that to be mentioned specifically, I knew he had HIV.

Taynement: Also, what was the point of telling us about the cheating with her aunt’s husband if nothing came of that plot line?

Leggy: I kept waiting for her aunty to catch her and nothing happened. She even ended up starting a business with her aunty. It was like once they punished her with HIV, her sins were forgiven and she became a whole new person.

Taynement: And her ex-husband never stopped loving her and was fine with everything. I didn’t understand why or how he was still mad at her mother but not her. How do you forget that she is materialistic and only now open to returning to you now that you are successful.

Leggy: Even HIV. The protagonist cheated on him while they were married, lied to him and deceived him but still, love conquered all!

I wonder what the publisher saw in this book and thought it was worth publishing. Honestly, I can list so many Nollywood movies that are better than this book and they didn’t even end with the girls getting HIV.

Taynement: Probably wanted to explore the idea of the blesser/blessee culture but needless to say, this book was a fail. Don’t get caught up by the cover, skip this one people!

Leggy: We didn’t even talk about her brother/son’s drug problems. For a short book, this book sure had a lot of story lines.

Taynement: Someone who got rehabbed in 30 days.

Leggy: And suddenly was a drug free, happy child chilling with his rapist father and his family. We have to export this fantastic rehab to the world. Anyway, like Tayne said, skip this one. I wouldn’t recommend it. Gave it 1 star on Goodreads.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

The Girl with the Louding Voice

 

Plot: Adunni is a 14 year old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants out of life – an education – but instead, her father sells her off to an old local taxi man as a third wife in exchange for money for his drunken escapades. A sequence of events leads Adunni to escape to the city, where she is forced to live a life of servitude to a wealthy family. This is a story about lack of choices but having a will to survive and come out of the other side with a loud, confident voice and sense of self.

“I want to tell her that God is not a cement building of stones and sand. That God is not for all that putting inside a house and locking Him there. I want her to know that the only way to know if a person find God and keep Him in their heart is to check how the person is treating other people, if he treats people like Jesus says–with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness.”

 

Taynement: So I don’t remember how I saw this book but I remember texting you immediately that we have to read it.

Leggy: The first time I saw this book was on Book of the Month. I didn’t even read the description. I just saw the Nigerian name and picked it as my book of the month.

Taynement: How did you feel about the book?

Leggy: It took me a while to get into this book because of the way it was written. It was written in the first person narrative form of a semi illiterate girl and it took me a while to find a rhythm.

Taynement: I completely know what you mean. It was definitely a con for me and I think it validates reading vs. audio-ing it. I can’t imagine it on audio. A friend told me she tried the audio but she couldn’t do it.

Leggy: It was very distracting. I dropped this book many times and finished so many books before finally getting through this one. I can’t imagine it on audio either, must be painful to the ears.

Taynement: I really liked this book. I liked it because of the message and because it could have easily been basic but I think Dare wrote it well. She steered away from that.

Leggy: I liked it too but not as much as you did. I gave it 3 stars.

1- Because of the author’s choice to write in the first person narrative voice of the main character, Adunni. Which as I mentioned, she was a semi-illiterate so, it was all in broken English with wrong tenses and words.

2- Because I never fully got into this book. I liked the message, but was never pulled in all the way through. I think I only pulled through because of this chitchat. But when I finished, I messaged a friend of mine to read it because I think it was totally in her wheel house. It just wasn’t in mine.

Taynement: I was pulled into it all the way through. Any book that has me turning the page and I don’t feel it’s a chore, is a win. I honestly think you had a right book, wrong time moment. Okay, let’s talk about the characters.

Leggy: I thought Madam Florence was a caricature. I didn’t find her character real at all. It’s not that I thought she couldn’t exist. What I had a problem with is that, I wish Dare could have made her more complex because at some point, the author wanted us to sympathize with her but I just couldn’t. After all the wickedness, who the hell cares about her feelings. They were beating her and I kept turning the page, with no regard to her feelings. When she went through a whole period of pain and reflection after catching her husband in Adunni’s room, I rolled my eyes so much. I just hated her.

Taynement: Really? I found her very real. In fact she reminds me of someone I know. I never felt like the author wanted us to sympathize with her at any point. She was a horrid person, through and through. Yes, her husband Chief was terrible but she was a monster herself. The forefront emotion I felt reading this book was foreboding. From the minute I started, I just kept waiting for the bad thing to happen. I kept saying: “Nothing good can come out of this”. I hated Adunni’s dad too.

Leggy: Girl especially when Adunni was in that marriage, I had such foreboding. I kept waiting for the ball to drop. I’ve watched enough Nollywood movies to know you don’t just get away unscathed. What did you think of Ms. Tia?

Taynement: I liked her and what she represented,  but I also thought if this was a Hollywood movie she would be the white savior.

Leggy: Yup, I found it weird how after the conversation with Adunni she suddenly wanted children after years of not wanting them. Her whole story line seemed to be rushed.

Taynement: The way I saw it, when her and her husband met, they both didn’t want children but along the way, she changed her mind but didn’t know how to say so. Adunni just somehow bubbled it up to the surface but it was something she’d been thinking about. I guess it would have helped if Dare had fleshed it out more.

Leggy: That makes more sense, I can see that being the case. She was so oyinbo pepper. Anyway, I was super happy with the end. I can’t stand authors who suddenly decide to pull the rug from under your feet after you’ve invested so much time in their story.

Taynement: I agree. One more thing, thoughts on Kofi?

Leggy: I really liked him. He was one of my favorite characters in the book. He was super upstanding and helped Adunni through out her stay in Madam Florence’s house. Also, he was the main person responsible for her happy ending. He’s the one who found the scholarship and encouraged her to apply.

Taynement: I do think the book was a good balance of evil and hope and I do like the idea of the book being a voice for the unheard in Nigeria. The domestic helps who seem invisible but probably have all these hopes and dreams that they aren’t even allowed to have. I can’t imagine being shackled with no choice and having to deal with whatever else comes with that. No food, high chance of sexual abuse, physical abuse and just being treated like crap. Nigerians have this evil and nonchalant behavior towards domestic helps who are mostly young girls brought to serve in households against their will.

Leggy: I agree with you. I do think this book was hopeful and would definitely recommend it.

Taynement: Oooh and I’m here for unapologetic Nigerian authors. I’m seeing way less explanations in books. They’re using words and languages and scenarios without explanations and I find myself wondering less about how western counterparts will interpret thinks. I think it’s great!

“You must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well.”

Taynement & Leggy

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction, We Chit Chat, Young Adult

We Chit Chat -Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Trust Exercise

“Thoughts are often false. A feeling’s always real. Not true, just real”

Plot: In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes while dealing with teenage issues and predatory teachers. 12 years later, they look back on their lives in this performing arts high school and try to dissect what actually happened to them there.

Taynement: It’s been a while since we had a chitchat. We ended up with Trust Exercise because I was seeing it win so many awards

Leggy: You know, I went into this book without reading any description whatsoever because you picked it. I was like Taynement likes plot driven books so this will be good.

Taynement: Ah, is that a first for you? Going in blind, I mean.

Leggy: It’s not a first but I usually read plot blurbs before I pick a book to read, just to see if it’s my cup of tea.

Taynement: Ah okay. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I went in completely blind

Leggy: I kept reading it and when I got to the 20% mark on my kindle, I had to go see what the book was supposed to be about. I just wasn’t getting any consistent plot.

Taynement: I think this was my thought for the entire book. I see what the main theme was but man, it did NOT work for me.

Leggy: I truly thought I was going to give this book 1 star. The beginning just didn’t work for me at all. The middle I liked more when the voice switched to Karen’s. I thought Karen had a stronger voice and point of view than Sarah.

Taynement: So I did this on audio and with each switch I wondered what I missed. It took me a minute to get back into the groove and realize the story switched and it honestly confused me.

Leggy: Karen is the only voice that worked for me and the reason for my one additional star. I thought this book could have been so much more but it’s very obvious it was written for awards. This book was a freaking Pulitzer finalist.

Taynement: The thing is if this book had the main goal of highlighting sexual assault or predators I think it did a piss poor job. I think my issue with this book was it tried to be smarter than itself and ended up all over the place.

Leggy: That’s exactly what I mean by it was written for the awards.

Taynement: I was so confused by their teacher’s story line. I thought it was borderline abuse and predatory but it was so vague I couldn’t tell if it actually was or if it was normal in the theater world. I’m referring to when he made Sarah and David reenact their breakup.

Leggy: I guess the theme seems to be that no one knows what exactly “truth” is. We’re all locked into our own points of view. Everybody has a spin. Sarah and Karen and David all lived the same things but came out of it with completely different views. David became friends with his abuser. Sarah is mad when she sees Mr. Kingsley at David’s show and wonders how David can be friends with him. Sarah portrays Mr. Kingsley as gay but Claire portrays him as extremely straight and masculine.

Taynement: Oooh, that’s an angle I can see. I really do not think this book should be done on audio. I was so disinterested by the characters, I just went through the motions of finishing the book.

Leggy: I think it shows the effects of grooming. They were all being groomed by Mr. Kingsley. In her retelling, Sarah makes Kingsley gay and invents Manuel as a character he was molesting. But then in the second part, Karen tells us it was actually Sarah Mr. Kingsley was having a “special” relationship with. And then Martin grooming Sarah and getting her pregnant. It’s all rife with abuse, different points of view and the subjectivity of truth. But my thing with this book is okay, so what’s the point?

Taynement: Yeah it never really wrapped things up in a clear manner. So you feel like you’re taking this journey and taking in the scenery but you never get to any destination.

Leggy: For such a popular book it barely has 3 stars on good reads. Ordinarily, I enjoy unreliable narrators and narratives and I do think this will make a good book club pick to discuss the subjectivity of truth and what actually happened to those kids in high school but I don’t think it was executed well.

If I wasn’t reading this for a chitchat, I would have dropped it after the first 50 pages. I found the first part of this book overwritten with these huge emotions and I understand that those emotions seemed so huge because they were teenagers. But if you’re going to write from an omniscient point of view and not a first person, then it’s just over written.

Anyway, this book is more fun to discuss with your book people than it is to actually read. My advice? Skip this one. I gave this 2 stars on good reads.

Taynement: The execution was shoddy. I agree, skip it!

 

Leggy & Taynement

We Chit Chat

We ChitChat: “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Image result for my sister the serial killer

“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder” 

Taynement: I felt like there was a stretch of time last year when I saw this title everywhere. The Nigerian name caught my eye and I added it to my TBR list.

Leggy: So, what was your first impression of the title?

Taynement: I didn’t think anything of it per se. I think I just assumed it’ll be a book similar to Helen Oyeyemi’s style. Which is funny because I have only successfully finished one Helen Oyeyemi book (I generally find her tedious), so it’s interesting that I still wanted to read this. I’m glad it’s nothing like her work though.

Leggy: It was definitely the title that caught my eye and I thought it would be fantasy or some kind of metaphor but it is actually quite literal. I wanted to read it because a lot of book people were talking about it and it’s on the indie next list so I figured it was worth my time. Also, because I couldn’t find it on the “just released” table at Barnes and Noble and that table usually has everything! So what did you think of the book?

Taynement: I really liked it. I think it was straight to the point, easy read (hovers a little above 200 pages) and enjoyable. It’s a simple story of an older sister, Korede who protects her younger sister, Ayoola (the alleged, more beautiful one) who has a bad habit of murdering her love interests when she tires of them. I enjoyed that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria because knowing how terrible the system is, it made me wonder how a serial killer would fare.

Leggy: Yes, I really liked that it was short. It told a good story in a concise amount of words. It’s an easy read and I was intrigued by the familiar places in Lagos I could recognize. I’ve always thought serial killers would thrive in Nigeria so it was fascinating even watching them try to cover their tracks.

Taynement: Quite honestly, a lot of books could take a cue from that. Strip off all the extras and just dive to the point. But on the flip side, it did have that element of a short story (I hate short stories) where it leaves you unsatisfied as I did not feel we got an understanding as to why Ayoola kept killing these men.

Leggy: I didn’t feel that way at all. It didn’t leave me feeling unsatisfied. She was very clear that she killed the men because they were all terrible and treated women like objects. I think she considered herself some sort of sexist avenging queen. And she managed to convince Korede of that at the end when a male character, Korede thought was a paragon of goodness turned out to be just another man.

Taynement: I also think the author handled the flashbacks very well, weaving the current murders to their childhood and fear of their father.

Leggy: I thought the flashbacks involving their father was so well done, and showed how far back the older sister has been playing protector to her younger sister. I also liked how modern this book was. It incorporated social media in a way that was relevant and not gimmicky. When she writes about how her younger sister has to act on social media to project the grieving girlfriend part. I quite enjoyed the commentary about our social media selves and our real selves.

Taynement: I think it will be nostalgic for a lot of Nigerians – the nosiness of coworkers, the mother obsessed with marriages and many mentions of familiar Nigerian dishes.

Leggy: Definitely – The father who was terrible at home but obsessed with this reputation outside the home, the mother obsessed with marriage for her daughters despite having had a terrible marriage herself etc. I think the writer didn’t try to cater to the western gaze. The writer calls things what they are and instead invites the reader to explore another culture that they might be unfamiliar with in its authenticity.

Taynement: Yes, that was refreshing. It had to have been done well because usually whenever I read foreign books, I wonder how the west would receive it but I actually didn’t wonder about that while reading this book.

Leggy: What did you think of the whole coma story?

Taynement: Earlier, I was going to say that another thing I liked about this book was that it was layered, I think the coma story is an example of that. On one hand, it could be seen as random but I don’t think so. I think it served as an outlet for Korede carrying this huge burden. And the aftermath of the coma as probably a wake up call for her to live a life that isn’t one always borne from a direct comparison to her sister, because she might have her own world where people see her as a star.

Leggy: I just knew he was gonna remember once he woke up, would you have told as the patient?

Taynement: Definitely not. I would have been too freaked out. I think a huge part of this book is Korede easily blaming her sister for everything without acknowledging using her as a shield. She gave up on herself from childhood, and assigned roles – she chose the ugly and protective sister role. She didn’t have to always save her younger sister but she chose to, it was safer for her to live in her sister’s shadow even when she’s murdering her ex-lovers.

Leggy: Did you like how it ended? I was super satisfied with it.

Taynement: I think I was okay with it. I’m not sure I can go into detail without it being a spoiler but I think it was true to how life can be.

Leggy: Would you recommend this book to anyone? I’ve recommended it to so many people. I think it’s a good read and short, so it’s easy to get through.

Taynement: Absolutely! I thought it was a great book and a great intro, if anyone asked for a Nigerian author that isn’t Chimamanda. I also think this would make a good book club pick.

Leggy: I think so too, there are so many layers to discuss and analyze. I gave this 4 stars on good reads.

Let us know what you think in  if you have or when you read the book.

Leggy&Taynement.

Non-Fiction, We Chit Chat

My Day At The 2018 National Book Festival

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Warning: Lengthy and photo heavy post

I am not from the area so I had never heard of this awesome event. A friend mentioned it to me two days before and I knew I had to make my way to it. It had an impressive and robust line up and best of all, it was free!

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It is basically a day long event, held every year in DC, from 8am – 7.30pm that’s all about books. It’s broken out into many different sections by genre such as Teens, Fiction, Science Fiction, Poetry and many more. There are different authors lined up to speak in sessions where they talk about themselves, their book, read excerpts and answer questions from the audience.

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The convention center is so huge that getting from one end to the other was a job in itself. The event does have a substantial number of volunteers who were very helpful in navigating me around. I also downloaded the event app to get alerts on any changes (which happened as Amy Tan subbed for Madeline Albright and I got the alert too late and didn’t make it in to see her) but maps were on hand and signs everywhere.

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My first stop was to see Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage (you can read our review here) and she was hands down the best person I saw that day. The event made me realize that just because you are a writer does not mean you are an eloquent speaker but this does not apply to Jones. She was fantastic and captivated the room and even people who had not read the book were eager to. She shared her struggles in finding an audience and how her life legit changed within a year.

I went up to ask a question and asked if she thought Celestial and Roy would have made it in marriage if he had never gone to jail, she said “who knows? But I think so” but I think she misunderstood my question as she went on to answer how it’s much harder to succeed at any thing being black so having the stigma of a jail sentence would probably have made it harder. I wasn’t going to be the one to correct her in a room full of hundreds.

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Next, I went into the Understanding Our World section as I knew no author in that area. I wandered into Sujatha Gidla’s session. She spoke on her book which is based on the caste system in India and living life as an “Untouchable”. It was an underwhelming session. Her excerpt was so long and she isn’t the best reader and kept stumbling over words. Overall, I left the room with no interest in reading her book, even though it was an interesting subject.

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Roxane Gay looks very uninterested but she was actually a bit funny. Can I also mention every session had an ALS rep signing for people hard of hearing. So cool.

I don’t think I have ever read a graphic novel or comic in my life but I headed over to that section as Roxane Gay was in session and it was about her Black Panther strip. Roxane was herself and as expected an outspoken advocate for black people, women, non size zero and worked that into most of her answers. I was however interested in a comic she said she is working on that features 3 generations of women who become thieves.

I then wandered around to the kids sections and there was a cool parade of states where states had their own booths and kids were given a map and they could go from booth to booth to get their maps stamped.

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View from the top for the passport of states

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I thought New Mexico had a cool aesthetic

 

If you have been reading this blog you know that I do not buy books as mentioned here so I had no business being at the book signings but I snuck in to take some pics.

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Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko

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Amy Tan best known for Joyluck Club

I was really looking forward to seeing Celeste Ng as I have just read Little Fires Everywhere which I absolutely loved (here). The room was packed so I didn’t get a good seat like the other ones and she seemed nice but she wasn’t a really captivating speaker. My friend wasn’t convinced to read her book.

Her session was moderated by Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty (which I didn’t think was a very good book, seemed like a man imagining how women operate) and although her book centered around race and was expected it took over a huge portion of the conversation which was good and bad because Alam did say he didn’t want to make her reductive to just race but proceeded to do just that. I did like a line she said where she said if there is anything she is an advocate of, she is an advocate of empathy.

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Overall, although long, I think it was well worth it. I like how inclusive the event was and when I say inclusive, I mean in all ways. It warmed my heart to see kids and their parents, just happy to be around books and an event for them to do with their parents. There were a lot of diversity with authors of color and women fully represented. There was even a booth that shared info on the National Library for The Blind and Handicapped.

It’s a cool way to also learn things and expand your mind on things you have never thought about. Seeing authors beyond the characters they put on paper is also an experience. So basically, if this ever rolls around in your area I’d recommend you attending and experiencing it for yourself.

Let me know if you have any questions and in the mean time…more pictures!

 

Taynement

 

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One of the lines

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One of the kid authors

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PBS was on hand doing interviews

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Snuck a pic of Madeleine Albright as she waited for her interview. She had just come from John McCain’s funeral.