Category Archives: Nigeria

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.

Bookish Chat with Eniola

Eniola and I have been friends since we were 10. We met at secondary school. Eniola lives across the pond from me in the US so we mainly have our discussions about books over FaceTime. I remember Eniola once told me that the story of Ifemelu in Chimamanda’s Americanah was similar to her story, just that she didn’t have the interesting love life that Ifemelu had. Eniola completed a year at university in Nigeria before moving to the US. Ifemelu also spent a year at university in Nigeria, before moving to America. In terms of Ifemelu’s love life, it had to be exciting to get people interested in the story.

Recently, Eniola and I had a chat about books and that was the inspiration for this post.

Eniola and I

How did you get into reading?

I started reading at an early age. I was an only child for five years. My parents would take me to the British Council library in Ibadan every Saturday and I would read there. I had a typical reading childhood where I read a lot of novels by Enid Blyton and the Babysitters’ Club series. However, my favourite things to read were the Archie Comics. My best friend in primary school always had Archie Comics so I read them a lot. There were always books around me and I didn’t have many friends so I read.  My first exposure to African books was in secondary school where I read Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo.
Do you have any authors that stand out to you?
Lola Shoneyin, Ada Tricia Nwaubani and Chimamanda Adichie. My favourite books from Chimamanda were Americanah and The Thing Around Your Neck.

A lot of people say they struggle to find time to read. How are you able to balance reading for pleasure, alongside your day job?
To be honest, I haven’t found time to finish a book since I started working in January, this year. I started reading From Pasta to Pigfoot and The Kite Runner and I haven’t finished both. I’m nearly done with The Kite Runner though. Before, I could finish a book in two to three days but now I don’t. 
What are your top recommendations to someone who is new to African literature?
I would say it is important to start by looking for books that are easy to read. My recommendations are: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin, Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and From Pasta to Pigfoot by Frances Mensah Williams.



Do you have any books you would like to read in the near future?
Any books from Cassava Republic (they are an independent publishing company that produce titles mainly by African authors).

Beyond the questions, Eniola mentioned how it’s easier to access books living in the West. The British Council Library she visited frequently in Ibadan as a child, has been shut down. Eniola lives in Illinois and she mentioned how many of the popular titles by African authors are found in her local library. I know living in England makes it easier for me to get books that I enjoy. Blogging about books may not be an option for me, if I lived in certain parts of the world.

Do let me know in the comments section if there are any books on your reading wish list. 

Book Review: Love’s Persuasion by Ola Awonubi

Love’s Persuasion is a romance novel where two characters, Ada and Tony meet and the story explores their relationship and other situations they face as young people at work who have to deal with expectations from their families.

Tony was sent abroad to study in England at the age of 10. When he was 28,  his parents asked that he return back to Lagos to head his father’s finance company. Tony had other career interests in writing but his father wasn’t keen about that.

“I have spent my life building up my businesses for you and all you want is to do is to stay in London doing this writing thing…Do you think I sent you to London to become the next Chinua Achebe? You have a degree in business and finance and your ACCA for a reason, you know.”

Ada, on the other hand was from a low-income family and was expected to marry a rich husband to take care of her family. The story looks at whether Ada would succumb to that to raise her family’s living standards or if she would choose to work hard to build a well-paying career for herself. Ada had extensive financial responsibilities towards her family and she was also paying her university fees and working alongside her studies. An excerpt on her experience was,

‘Books call Ada’. ‘Money call Ada’. ‘The roof is falling down call Ada’. How many pieces do you want me to divide myself into?’

Tony and Ada are from different social backgrounds so we see if their love survives the class differences between them.

I think Ola, the author explored a different returnee experience when she wrote about Tony moving back to Lagos. I watched An African City, which is a web series about five female women who had lived in the West and moved back to Ghana. It was nice to read about a man’s returnee experience which maybe a bit different from a woman’s.

Exploring how Tony schooled abroad from a young age and turned out fine was interesting as I’ve listened to conversations on how going to boarding school overseas at a very young age can affect a child negatively. I once read a novel, Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo (it was required reading in secondary school) and was about a boy who left Nigeria to school in England and how he joined bad friendship groups in England and didn’t turn out great. Love’s Persuasion offers a different perspective on still being able to excel in life, even though the child’s faraway from home.

I met Ola, the author at the Africa Writes literary festival and that was where I bought a signed copy of her book.

Ola Awonubi and I

There’s a video review to the book as well.

Do you read romance novels? And what’s your favourite genre to read?

 

Story Time: My Experience at Boarding School in Nigeria

In 2004,  I resumed secondary school at Louisville in Nigeria. I was excited and told my older brother that I won’t be joining him at his school as I was going to Louisville. Little did I know what awaited me at secondary school. 
I had read two of Enid Blyton’s boarding school series, St. Clare’s and Malory Towers when I was in primary school but I knew Louisville wasn’t going to be like that. There was no way Louisville which is situated in the South-west region of Nigeria would be similar to the schools in England that Enid Blyton wrote about.

This picture was taken in 2010 near the end of my final year at school. I’m the third person from the left. 

Did boarding school meet my expectations? I had no expectations but boarding school taught me many things and instilled values in me that I live by today. At the time, I didn’t really appreciate the value of going to Louisville though I knew I was privileged to go to a good private school. There were moments when I cried because I couldn’t understand why I was under the hot sun cutting grass as punishment for not laying my bed properly. I left Louisville  knowing that outdoor labour like cutting grass isn’t for me. There were punishment times, happy times with my schoolmates and academic sessions to get the qualifications that I needed.


Watch the video below to hear me talk about my experience.

It was hard to capture six years of being at boarding school in a video of less than six minutes but I was able to share my memories of it and the lessons from Louisville. 
Let me know your fondest memories from school and whether you went to boarding or day school. 

VLOG: Nigerian Wedding at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire

I attended a wedding with my family in Buckinghamshire on the May 2 Bank holiday weekend. The wedding was at Heatherden Hall in Pinewood Studios, the production home of many films including Star Wars and James Bond movies.  I’d never been to Buckinghamshire so I didn’t pay attention to the location of the venue when I saw the invitation card. Well, I googled how I needed to get there and that was it. It was when I got there that it dawned upon me that I was at a major British TV and film studio.

We stayed at Pinewood Hotel and that was where I got ready. I couldn’t travel from London in my heels and outfit. 
I recorded a vlog on my time there. There was a lot of dancing and party food, but didn’t record the food for you. 
The wedding was also featured on Bellanaija

Book Event Recap: New Nigerian Writing with Cassava Republic Publishing

This year, I’ve been reading a lot of African fiction so I was excited when Cassava Republic said they were hosting an event where I could meet some African writers. To say a bit about Cassava Republic, they are a publishing company whose mission is “to change the way we think about African writing”. They launched in London in April but I think they’ve been based in Nigeria for about seven years. They had some events around the time of their launch in the UK. One of the events was An Evening of New Nigerian Writing and this was organised with Dulwich Books, a bookshop in South East London. I learnt about the event on Cassava Republic’s Facebook page. 
I picked up three of Cassava Republic’s new releases there and I met the authors of the books- Leye Adenle, Elnathan John and Sarah Ladipo Manyika. There was a deal where I could get three books for £25. I felt buying the books at the event saved me from having to order it online on a later date and wait for it to get delivered. I’m glad that Cassava Republic is establishing their presence in the UK as it’s a platform to showcase the works of African writers. A lady I met at the event told me that this was my first of many book events. 
One of the books I got
In the video, I mention the two other books I got and share a recap on the event. 
One of the issues raised at the event was whether people were reading less? Do you think we, as individuals are reading less?   

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?