Category Archives: African literature

Book Review: Love Me Unconditionally by Ola Awonubi

Love Me Unconditionally is a romance novel set in Lagos and London. It’s about a lady in her thirties known as Deola, who has been a long-term relationship. Her boyfriend promises her marriage if she can get pregnant for him. However, she doesn’t get pregnant so that puts strains on their relationship. The relationship ends on a sad note and Deola has to move on from it.

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She decides she needs a change of scenery so she moves to Lagos. As Deola is in her thirties, she faces pressure from her mother to get married and her family tries to set up with potential suitors. The novel follows her time in Lagos and whether she’s able to find love again.

There’s a full review of the novel on my YouTube channel.

*Love Me Unconditionally was kindly sent to me by the author, Ola Awonubi. However, all views are mine. You can find the book on Okada Books and on Amazon.

Literature At School and Its Influence on my Reading

Reading through my last post where Damilola spoke about books and reading, I realised that she liked some of the literature texts we read at secondary school. Damilola mentioned that she liked Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Both are books we read at school. I remember struggling to get through these books for my IGCSE literature exam.

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I preferred the poetry section in literature at school. One of the poems I studied that stuck with me was The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

I don’t know if it was the thought that I had to read a book to pass an exam that made me not like literature. I wonder at other times if it was the selection of books that didn’t appeal to me. Primary school and junior secondary school literature was fine. I enjoyed reading Without A Silver Spoon by Eddie Iroh which was about a young boy from a poor background in Nigeria. Oliver Twist was also good.

I think a few of the books I read at school between ages of 8 and 13 had a common theme on how a family’s income can influence a child’s life chances, from Oliver Twist to Without A Silver Spoon.  I read Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo when I was 11. This had a similar theme. It was about a young boy from a rich background in Nigeria and his parents send him to boarding school in England at a young age. He becomes wayward when he starts school in England.

The books at senior secondary school were the ones I struggled to read. It was at this stage that my class read Things Fall Apart and Romeo and Juliet. I feel because I was in a large literature class, it was hard for me to learn during classes. We usually had about 30 people in an average class. However, for literature, we were over 40 students in a class that was meant for 30 people.

If I were to suggest an improvement to my secondary school literature class, it would be that the teacher breaks the class into small groups. People can then discuss each book as though they were in a book club. That would have aided my understanding on each book. We could have had these book discussions in small groups during the many prep times we had. I went to boarding school and we had a lot of prep (periods in the afternoon and evenings meant for personal study).

I got through school and did well in literature but I think I should have taken more time to read the books. When it came to choosing subjects for my A Levels, I thought of doing Literature but I ended up choosing Sociology in place of English Lit. I also did French and Economics.

Although, I didn’t carry on studying literature at A Levels, I still enjoyed reading. I volunteered last year as a tutor in a secondary school in London and I assisted with their English lessons. The Year 7s read The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas and I read that with them. It’s about a boy who lives near a concentration camp in the Holocaust but he didn’t know what was going on in the camp. It was an interesting read and I also watched part of the movie adaptation.

Given that I didn’t really understand some of the literature texts I read at school, I’ve decided to re-read Things Fall Apart and I picked up a copy from my local library.  I think I might prefer reading it as an adult. Damilola recommended it and I’ll let you know my thoughts when I’ve read it.

Let me know if you studied literature at school and what books you enjoyed.

Book Review: Radio Sunrise by Anietie Isong

Radio Sunrise is about a radio journalist, Ifiok who loses funding for his radio drama on a public station in Nigeria. The government stops the funding the programme so he starts to look for alternative funding. The fact that the government cut the funding for the programme made me question whether we can rely on the government. One minute, they are helping the people and the next minute, the help stops. He is then called to work on a documentary about ex-militants in his hometown and the story follows his experience while he’s there.

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Ifiok is a journalist so he chats often with people and discovers new stories along the way. The novel ignited my interest in journalism and how it can expose things going on in society.

Ifiok’s interest as a journalist meant that sometimes he was more interested in recording a story than helping at an incident.  A fire started in Ifiok’s neighbourhood once and  he quickly brought out his tape recorder to record the event, rather than helping his neighbours who were trying to get water to quench the fire. You may wonder why people had to stop the fire themselves. It’s because the firemen arrived without any water and only came to record the incident.

One of the conversations that stuck with me from the book was Ifiok’s conversation with a woman who’s a street food seller. She mentioned how KFC’s arrival in Lagos had affected her business negatively. I remembered how I only thought about buying crispy fried chicken and chips in Lagos when KFC arrived. I didn’t think about the livelihoods it affected.

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In all, I enjoyed reading Radio Sunrise. Anietie writes in a way that talks about society in a funny way but questions important parts of society. I laughed a couple of times while reading Radio Sunrise. But, it also made me think a lot about the government, journalism and what it’s like being a young man in Nigeria facing societal pressure.

If you’re looking for a book that is easy to read, definitely pick up Radio Sunrise. It’s quite quick to get through too; it’s less than 200 pages long. This is Anietie’s first novel and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

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*I received Radio Sunrise as a gift from Jacaranda Books but all views are mine.

Books on my Christmas Wish List

I created a mental list of the books I wanted to get at the end of the year. But because, it was a list in my head, I would add new titles each time. This was making it difficult for me to decide what books to get. Also, it wasn’t going to be good for my bank account. Writing the list on the blog should help with my book shopping at Christmas and help me not go overboard with my spending on books. (Click the book titles to read the blurbs of each book on my wish list on Goodreads).

Not Working by Lisa Owens is a novel I first heard about on Emma Gannon’s podcast Ctrl Alt Delete. It’s a book about a young lady who quits her job to find her purpose. I am interested in this as I’ve always thought about the idea of work and our career interests. I’ve heard the book is really funny and it’s been compared to Bridget Jones so I’m looking forward to reading this.

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was one of the most talked about books by an author of African descent in 2016. I read blog reviews about Homegoing, listened to a podcast on Homegoing and watched a YouTube review of Homegoing. I also came across a twitter chat about the novel too. Having heard so much about the novel, I want to read it for myself. Darkowaa from African Book Addict recommended that I read Homegoing before any of the books on my wish list.

Homegoing is a novel that tackles a big topic- slavery as it explores a family that is split by slavery where one sister is sold as a slave and ends up in the United States and the other sister stays in Ghana. It traces the experiences of the descendants of each sister in Ghana and in America. It’s a book I’m looking forward to reading based on the great reviews it has received.

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The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell is a  non-fiction book on my wish list. Jen Campbell is an author and booktuber. I watch her videos on books on YouTube from time to time and would love to read her work. The Bookshop Book is a book about bookshops around the world. As I love books, I would love to read the bookshops and how they have survived over the years. I also see it as a way of supporting Jen’s channel.

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My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal is about a young mixed-race boy whose white brother is adopted and Leon isn’t. Leon family is falling apart and the book explores their experience of social services and foster care. Leon’s experience on not being adopted is an important issue as sometimes white babies are preferred in adoption over black children.

I think reading My Name is Leon would help me understand what it’s like to require social services. Most of the discussion I hear on social services are from documentaries on people depending on benefits and I want to listen to a different perspective from people who genuinely need the social support that the state provides.

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While compiling the list, I went on Book Depository to gauge whether my budget would be able to cover all the books. Hopefully, I’m able to get all the books on the list.

Let me know in the comments what books are on your Christmas wish list.

Non-Fiction November: Reads + Lit links

Fiction has always been my go-to. But recently, I’ve developed an interest in non-fiction books. I’ve read more non-fiction works this year and I’ll be discussing some of the books I read this year as well as the ones on my TBR (to be read) list.

I read  The Elephant and The Bee by Jess de Boer in the summer. It’s the story of a young Kenyan woman who’s trying to discover herself and her career interests. Jess tries her hands at different things from insect farming in Thailand to working as a chef in Switzerland and New Zealand before becoming a beekeeper. She also participated as an athlete in the Commonwealth Games and while reading her book, I wondered how she got to do everything she did.

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Then, I read Safe House edited by  Ellah Wakatama Allfrey which is a collection of creative essays from across Africa. My favourite stories in the book were on the experiences of second-generation Chinese immigrants in Senegal and the chapter on living in Liberia during the Ebola crisis. Safe House explored stories beyond what the media tells us. When the Ebola crisis happened, there was a lot in the news but what was it like for the people who lived in Liberia at the time.

I liked the story on Chinese immigrants in Senegal as a lot of the media coverage is on African migrants in the West but it’s important to know the stories of people who migrate to Africa.

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I was sent some lovely non-fiction titles from Jacaranda Books recently which I’ll be reading over the next few weeks – Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart and a biography, Evelyn Dove: The Black Cabaret Queen by Stephen Bourne. In Beyond the Pale, Emily writes about her experience  as a mother to a daughter diagnosed with albinism. She also explores cultural beliefs associated with albinism in the book.

Evelyn Dove: The Black Cabaret Queen is a biography of Evelyn Dove, who was the first black female singer on BBC Radio. I received the biography a few days after watching Young, Gifted and Classical on the BBC, which is a documentary on Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who is the first black winner of the BBC Young Musician competition. Sheku plays classical music and his story can be compared to Evelyn Dove’s as they are both minorities on the musical scenes that they appear on.

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A non-fiction essay, I would recommend checking out is This is Personal by Benjamin Zephaniah.  He writes on his experiences of racism in England and the opinions of others towards immigration within the country. His writing is amazing.

As someone who loves to know what’s happening in the world, non-fiction keeps me informed. Non-fiction covers stories on disability, history, immigration, everything really and it deserves our recognition.

Let me know in the comments if there are any non-fiction books you would love to read.

Day Out at the Africa Writes Literary Festival

I found out that there was going to be the Africa Writes festival at the British Library on social media and given that I love African literature, I was interested. The event ran for 3 days but I only attended on the second day- Saturday.

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I chose to attend sessions on digital publishing and diversity in children’s publishing and a book launch. Yewande Omotoso launched her book- The Woman Next Door so I was able to find out more about her writing and the book. 

I enjoyed all the sessions and the panel discussions were very interesting. I’ll give you a mini recap on the session as the issues they discussed are topical. The sessions were:

The Digital Debate: A New Era of Reading and Publishing
This was facilitated by the ladies who founded Bahati Books, a digital publishing house. What drew me to attend was the constant conflict in my mind on whether to buy e-books or hard copies. The latter always wins the war. I’ve only read 2 books on Kindle and the first time I bought a Kindle book, I thought e-books were cheap. I bought it for £1 but I guess there must have been a promotion at the time. 
The publishers on the panel mentioned how they can play with the prices of their e-books and that’s why it may seem cheap at certain periods. They can afford to change prices on e-books but hard copies have the prices already printed on them. The panel spoke on how it can be costly producing e-books so we shouldn’t expect it to be free.
There was a discussion on free content and how “just because it’s digital, doesn’t mean it’s free.” However, I feel there’s a place for free digital content from authors. I like when I’m able to read blog posts or short stories from authors online for free before committing to buying a book. There are short stories on Brittle Paper which I read from time to time to discover new authors.

An interesting issue was also whether certain genres like erotica do better in e-book sales. It was said that 50 Shades of Grey did well in e-book sales as people perhaps felt more comfortable reading it digitally than holding a copy version and reading it in public. 

“There’s no such thing as a Black Princess: Diversity in Children’s Publishing”
This was about the need for representation of characters from different backgrounds. I knew growing up, I read many books by Enid Blyton where I didn’t see any characters like me and I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, it’s important that children see themselves in books because every background is valid.

One thing I took away from this were that stories are for everyone. Just because, a book has black characters doesn’t mean it’s only meant to be read by black children.

Then, there was a question on whether books should have raceless characters. For example, there was a casting of a black actress as Hermione in the West End play, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and this caused a lot of debate. JK Rowling defended this casting as the ethnicity of Hermione was “never specified” in the book. From the session, I figured the panel was more drawn to ethnicity of characters being specified.

Finally, what’s a book event without an opportunity to buy books? There was a book marketplace and I bought a romance novel by Ola Awonubi, called Love’s Persuasion and chatted with Ola.

Ola Awonubi and I

Overall, I enjoyed Africa Writes and I plan to next year and attend more of the sessions. It was a lovely way to spend my Saturday.

Let me know in the comments section if you’re a lover of e-books or you’re a hard copy girl like me.

Book Review: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie

I thought I had read Purple Hibiscus while I was in secondary school. This was because it was required reading for the students below me at my secondary school. I thought I borrowed it from one of them. However, when I picked up the book to read this year, the story seemed very unfamiliar to me. That was when I realised that I had never read it before. 
Everywhere I hear about African writers, Adichie’s name is mainly mentioned so I was interested in reading her work. I share my thoughts of Purple Hibiscus in the video below. 
Have you read any of Chimamanda’s books? If you have, let me know which one you liked the best.  What books have you enjoyed lately and would like that I check out?