It was Chinua Achebe in his "The Novelist as a Teacher" who affirmed that stories are not innocent. The power of a story cannot be overrated. Stories are the first forms of learning and acculturation anyone gets. Owing to the power of stories, the story-teller is important. The sequence of the story, the end to which it is told and the parts of it that are emphasised say something about the constitution of the story-teller. More importantly, stories re-present not just the identity of the raconteur, but the perception of the people and place in the story, to the whole wide world.
This January, we have crushed on, promoted and informed about Nigerian stories. Suffice it so say, no one tells a story like Nigerians; no one can narrate the Nigerian experience like Nigerians. We hope you enjoyed reading these stories as much as we did. We hope you'll get any ones you haven't and ask us about what's trending in Nigeriana.
Here's to greater possibilities of friendship, love and partnerships, and of course to many beautiful happy endings.
A Box of Chocolates (Jude Idada)
A box of chocolate is often thought to be metaphor of life. Just as life's events are varied and sometimes you never really know you'll get, one never really know what he'll meet in a box of chocolates - warm creamy stuff, dark crunchy stuff or truffles.
However, chocolates are gifts of love- thoughtful pass-ons from people who care. A gift to be received with an open, dimpled, gap-toothed smile.
Jude Idada's short story collection is a lot things in eighteen stories. We encounter the inner workings of a dead man's mind via his will and testament in a "A Will is A Will;" seeing how he takes revenge on his family even even in death. In "Babalawo," a face-off between a trainee priest and a professor of African Spiritualism leads to an examination of the rationale behind practising western religions in Africa. "Bottom Power," one of the hilarious stories in the third section (truffles) shows the dexterity of a woman whose voluptuousness is accompanied by a daring wiliness. With "They Came To Set the Captives Free," Jude Idada clearly establishes the historical and political relevance of this short story collection.
Beautifully rendered in accessible prose, A box of Chocolates is meant to be enjoyed and laughed over. One often gets the feeling that he is listening to a friend recount some of his most favourite stories. And like the recipient of chocolates from a loved one, one feels warm, and loved, and accepted.
THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES
If genitals could talk, what would they say?
Thinking stereotypes for a sec, the phallus would probably boast of conquests, strength and of charting new courses; the female genitalia might talk of playing host to visitors (Read: invaders) - hasty, temporary, selfish visitors.
Well, as it turns out, the pudenda has been talking for more than two decades.
Think libido, clitoris, sex, smells and all that stuff nobody openly talks about in this part of the world; link that up with twenty first century women's lib, and there you have it.
This is a whole new discourse.
If you have read this book or discovered yourself, share your testimony.
This is a safe space, or is it?
DAUGHTERS WHO WALK THIS PATH
In Daughters who walk this path, Yejide Kilanko has tackled child sexual abuse and albinism - subjects seldom considered in the Nigerian literary space. In our real quotidian world, child sexual abuse has moved from being uncomfortable and far between to being an uncomfortable recurring metonymy. As is contained in Daugthers... it should be sounded over and over again that ninety percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse suffer at the hands of known persons (look this up). Unfortunately, and as is contained in Daugthers... parents and guardians are not available enough, are not conscious enough to be their children's confidants.
While child sexual abuse is a constant trope in this novel, we notice that the novel walks other paths also. Eniayo, the protagonists younger sister is born an albino. As she grows into adulthood, she breaks away from the stigma that is usually accompanied with albinism and becomes a woman in her on right, demanding respect, love and giving both back in return. As Eniayo gains a space for herself in the world, Morayo, her elder sister is battling her demons.
Morayo is able to triumph over her demons because she found strength in the examples of women who have suffered, and succeeded before her. It becomes clear, among other things, what this novel preaches: everyone needs every one. Daughters Who Walk This Path is not feminist in the sense that it blames the gender other for the woes of women, or calls them out to strut feminity. This narrative is feminist because the women in it rise after their terrible falls. It's one thing to suffer something that no one ever has to go through, its another thing to rise and move on, and that without bitterness.
Kianko's prose is fine and accessible and amplifies the story, with all its pains, with all its love and with all its truth.
NIGHT OF A RED MOON
Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye has a market area popularly referred to as the motion ground. In that ever bursting space, there is a popular cafeteria, perhaps the biggest one, named "June 16". That cafeteria is so named as a memorial of the events that is chronicled in Ojay Aito's Night of the Red Moon.
The events that unfolded in Ago-Iwoye on the 16th of June 2005 remain alive in the memories of natives, parents, and students of Olabisi Onabanjo University. For those did not witness the event, the story has been passed down by word of mouth. Needless to say, the event has birthed a deep seated angst between the student population and the indigenes.
Ojay' Aito's novelization of that bitter episode comes in the form of a faction. Charting the trajectory from the death of one student from at the hands of brazen OPC members, the narrative follows the students as they attempt to register their displeasure with the Ebumawe's palace. The palace authorities' response does not please the students, and the situation quickly degenerates into a full blown communal crisis. Lives are lost on both sides; rape, theft and other dastardly acts are carried out with impunity on that fateful night.
To make the story interesting, Ojay Aito foregrounds it on a budding romance between Temmy and Tubor, and between Seun Phiips, who is and ex-soldier and Kate. Unfortunately, it is on that fateful night that Temmy decides to visit Tubor in Ago-Iwoye. They both barely survive the night.
Night of A Red Moon definitely has much to recommend it. The narration is breezy as well as the characters are interesting. However, a discerning reader notes that the novel could have done better with some patient copy editing. That notwithstanding, the author's powers of description and attention to details make Night of a Red Moon worth reading. Ultimately, it is the well successful attempt at preserving memory that makes writing this novel such a worthy undertaking.
THE BEST OF TIMES
The Best of Times is a collection of three novellas by Femi Osofisan (a.k.a. Okinba Launko). The three stories demonstrate the yearning of the times as they turn on personal an collective experiences in telling the narrative of a society that is crippled by both a combination of ineptitude, poverty and disease.
In Kolera kolej, Cholera ravages countries on the west African coast and eventually makes its way into a university college where it first strikes the English Vice-Chancellor. In Abioa Irele's words, ‘Kolera Kolej is a satirical novel which presents the comedy of politics in a style that is brilliantly funny and reveals a penetrating insight into the human weaknesses that too often affect the conduct of public affairs. Underlying the satire however is a critical examination of African politics, a deeply serious concern of the state of the political and social condition of collective life on the continent.'
Maami shows the dedication of a single mother to her only son. In this story, the can-do spirit of woman, as well as the love of a child to his mother is put on display. One learns that love can break barriers and reach for the impossible. Beyond that however, the society that impoverishes a woman so much that she has to resort to scrapping bones in the market before her son can eat meat. However, the humanity of the people in the setting of Maami is also commendable. What comes out in this narrative is this:people are often the solution to the problems that confront us. Niyi Osundare said it well when he said, 'people are my clothes.'