Poor Nigeria has gotten bad press in the last few years, what with e-mail scams, corruption and bribery, and the conflict surrounding oil extraction in the Niger delta. I could go on and on.
It is still a place close to my heart. Before the Biafra war, my uncle and his family lived in Port Harcourt. Two of the first men I loved were Nigerian students in America, and I studied Yoruba for a year to try to understand what they were saying to their friends. I myself later spent a summer in Nigeria as a volunteer. After all I had read, I was like a Back-to-Africa devotee. If there hadn’t been so much sewage running in the gutters, I would have kissed the ground. Ebute-Meta in Lagos, the markets, the women in wrappers carrying goods on their heads, the scent of wood fires, the talking drums…. reading this blog can be to your most humble advantage. Please send 50 million naira to the following address:
Oh, sorry about that.
Anyway, I wanted to write this time about some books about Nigeria – and some music, too!
I was disappointed in this book. Having spent time in Nigeria, I looked forward to a return visit with the added interest of a mystery. But the writing was dull and there was very little local color, for my money, except for references to the heat and corruption. There are other, better, books set in Nigeria.
This is a well-written novel with a quality I look for in good fiction: surprising sentences. There’s a full spectrum of local color, and the story highlights important issues in Southwestern Nigeria. For once, a white writer focuses on Black people in Africa instead of making everything about “us.” (Watson is a British woman married to a Nigerian man.) I really liked the main character, Blessing, a 12-year-old girl, and continue to wish her well. Highly recommended.
A classic – deservedly on many summer reading lists for students. Tells how European colonialism and missionary work disrupt an Igbo village in Nigeria. But that village, and the central character, are not perfect even before the coming of the foreigners. It’s an almost universal story about life in the twentieth-century developing world. If you’ve already read it, why not read it again?
Soyinka is a Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian playwright, poet, and novelist. His widely praised first memoir, Aké, was about his childhood. Here he talks about his life as a writer and public intellectual, who has been imprisoned and gone into exile because of his insistence on speaking truth to power: that is, to the authorities in his native country.
In this first novel, Adichie tells the coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Kambili, who finds freedom when she and her brother are allowed to leave the home their father rules with a brutal iron hand. In the home of an aunt in the Nigerian city of Nsukka, they find laughter, nutmeg, curry, and affectionate disagreements. Her brother learns to garden and is given purple hibiscus to plant. The story has a tragic denouement, but ends with tender family feeling.
Cheerful high life music by the great King Sunny Ade and His African Beats. You’ll need it after reading some of these books. Some consider this a masterpiece.
Another terrific King Sunny Ade album – his first studio album in ten years, apparently. Like “Juju Music,” it gets five stars on Amazon.
Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia
Vaughn H. works at Half Moon Bay Library and goes out on the Bookmobile.