Month: August 2018

ILEYA IN LAGOS

ILEYA IN LAGOS is a creative non-fiction piece written by Adaeze Feyisayo Samuel.

ILEYA, is a Yoruba name for the Eid-al-Adha festival. It’s loosely translated to mean Going Home. It’s a specific synonym for ram meat, Fuji music, golden laughter, new clothes and traffic free roads in Lagos. Everyone you know looks forward to the second Sallah as they call it. It’s trite you get a public holiday. So you begin to call your Muslims friends weeks before to secure invitations. In spite of your preparations weeks ahead before Ileya, you’re always surprised with each celebration yearly.

You go to bed the night before contemplating your visiting schedule. Should you spend the day with your parents’ close Muslim friends or yours? There had been heavy rains that afternoon. An attempt to hold the rain for the next two days of the celebrations people say. What you don’t expect is to wake up hours before dawn to find your furniture, clothes and documents submerged in water. In your warm car, you doze off remembering books and movie scenes saying it’s cold sleeping in a car. The shock of your temporary displacement rings through your wet feet up your shivering body as loud as the mosque call for prayers. A daily, dependable, morning alarm in Lagos.

The visiting schedule is suspended as you make calls to your parents and apartment caretaker. While you salvage the dripping contents of your home. You know Mommy Moyo and her Ankara clad Olopos, skilled cooks, are already laying out fragrant, unbound firewood for the agbari ojukwu. The traditional stove that holds huge metal pots which boil her famous Sallah jollof rice you love so much. There is an eerie silence in the air as you turn on your data connection and Snapchat. Videoing your flooded apartment, collecting evidence you call it, you’re grateful your laptop was on a chair. Snaps of people travelling to their ancestral homes are online. You’ve watched them so you continue calling the caretaker’s phone number.

As your hungry stomach rumbles. You hear it. The sound of King Wasiu Ayinde”s voice. The voice and lyrical dexterity that got him crowned Oluaye of Fuji. This melodic singing in Yoruba language you recognise as the official soundtrack of Ileya. The piano, percussion and rumbling drums of his Fuji Fusion signify the men have began killing, cutting and dressing rams and cows. Which had stood unassuming in certain compounds days ago. You fry breakfast while standing in water. The smell of smoke, hot oil, steaming ram perfume the winds of the city you call home. Home! You remember Lagos is the ancestral home of certain city dwellers. With this a list of friends and their invitations to their Sallah celebration come to mind. You text your mother to apologise to her friends about your absence. The text says you sadly won’t drive three hours to Ikorodu to attend their spectacular yearly Ileya parties. What your text doesn’t say is that you won’t be there to kneel in greeting, chew mouth watering ram meat, laugh with strangers, gossip with friends, escape match-making parents, ogle stunning Aso Ebi and abayas or drop thoughtful gifts.

A loud bang scares the peace. Has the frying yellow plantain slices exploded in the kitchen? It hadn’t. The banger is followed by colorful fireworks you spot glittering in the sky relieved. Your misfortune almost made you forget it’s Ileya. A warm smile spreads the worry lines on your brown oval face.

Hours after the transculent water is scooped into large buckets and disposed. You drive out with your weekend bag headed to an hotel. As the car swerves onto the highway it seems the wind is singing Wasiu Ayinde’s Berlin. You smile knowing Aisha and her family would be back from the prayer ground lectures. Lagos streets seem too calm so you observe why. Less people are milling around bus-stops, few danfos speeding by and almost no hawkers. Many people have gone home or stayed indoors. The neon digits of your grey dashboard clock says Dami would already at the beach with her son, husband and father. She’d said they wanted a private Ileya away from her great-grandfather Lagos Island home robust celebrations.

After jumping on the white duvet covered stiff bed you cheer up as you roll around, sniffing clean cotton. Your phone buzzes and your hello sounds exhausted. It’s Nasir. He wants to know when you’ll be at his house for their exclusive Sallah party. This invitation is surprising considering what happened at Christmas eight months back. You explain why you’d miss– meeting his numerous cute cousins, speaking Yoruba with his favourite Aunt, savouring the chefs’ menu, turning down pot belly advances, getting reports of your afro bun photo bombing selfies, loosing count of full beer crates that morph into plenty empty green and brown bottles. He is shocked but agrees to drop your food and drinks at the hotel. You won’t miss savouring the Chefs’ menu after all.

Beads of cooling water land on the white towel wrapped around your curvy hips. You type HAPPY HOLIDAYS! to your social media friends. The #eidblackout and #barkadesallah are trending with melaninated slay selfies, happy family photos, unbelievable throwbacks, noisy videos, artsy Quran prayers and adverts. Your fingers leave your typeface to massage castor oil into gold streaks circling your lower back. From the window you see a shiny, black Gwagon drive into the shrub decorated compound. Nasir steps out from the passenger door. You happily note he could escape the white canopies and festivities. Your aqua-green lacquered fingers pull on denim shorts over your peach bodysuit and walk downstairs.

He’s lanky frame looks more handsome in crisp, white, native trousers and embroidered Buba. Grateful, you collect the warm large plastic dish, cold fruit juice pack and sweating cans of malt. He invites you to come around in the evening for ram pepper soup and champagne with his friends. You promise to think about it. You ask questions. Is he okay? Did he change his car? Is that a new friend in the driver seat? He says this his mother’s other car and her driver brought him to you. Outlawed you! The surprise doesn’t slide off your face fast enough but he ignores it. People tend to be more forgiving and generous during Ileya.

When the steaming scent of boiled tomato pureed rice, real Nigerian party jollof rice escapes the bowl you feel at home in this day. Each spoon filled with orange, red specked grains ignites memories. You remember how during Ileya, your Aunt would cook delicious turkey stew and jollof rice. Unlike your mother who never cooks during the celebrations. She’d dish out from her friends’ vintage China bowls of Odun food. Then go remove her mules, gold jewellery, iro and buba. A small bite into a succulent chunk of ponmo reminds you of Mommy Moyo’s late afternoon-evening parties. Well dressed guests eat and eat from a seemingly never ending supply of rice, moi-moi, coleslaw, pounced yam, semo, juicy pieces of brown meat, small chops, efo riro, egusi soup, suya and peppersoup. The three pieces of meat left make you smile. Your mother’s voice softly tells you Yoruba people believe you shouldn’t give gifts in odd numbers.

Another memory of Ileya, from Aisha’s grandmother’s Ikeja house shadows your chewing. Licking oily, spicy fingers you smile remembering driving her and two cousins to share food parcels for beggars. When you all got back her controversial, older, distant cousin Yetunde was being hugged by family members who’d watched Mama admonish her. It’s magical that family feuds are settled during Ileya. Faint fuji sneaks into the room through the billowing curtains. The opening snap of the malt can reminds you of Nasir’s finger nails tapping a dark, red wine bottle he served your mutual friends last year. Your clit almost misses those slim fingers. The hand wash is the colour of bubbling champagne in frosted flutes he usually reserved for you both.

With clean hands you look through whatsapp pictures and watch festive videos. Each status remind you everyone will have a different holiday. Not every Muslim goes home. But some unexpected family members will travel into Lagos. Some families may not kill a ram, after all it isn’t an explicit instruction. Not everyone will get parcels of fried meat. Many neighbors will miss the locked shops. A few after party invitations are disguised booty calls.

E ku Odun, this holiday greeting is padded with prayers. Even though you aren’t at Ikorodu unpacking vintage China bowls or sipping from champagne flutes perced on woven, raffia table mats. You thank God for the day, for family and friends that called, texted, checking on you, for life, for Ileya, for party jollof rice and free wifi.

END

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Thin Book Spines and Titled Chapters

Earlier this week creativity nudged me to rearrange my book stacks, update my Did-Not-Finish reading list and take newly themed book pictures. Amidst all these I noticed a few things about my book arrangements. I arrange differently every time. Sometimes I could put thick spine books atop or beside each other in a word graffiti rainbow. Other times, book spines in gradients of colours, like beige to bright yellow books, beside mustard next to orange and coffee brown. After reading how Dr Da Silva in Like A Mule Bringing Ice cream to the Sun by Sarah Manyika, kept books with characters she felt would love to meet or settings they should visit together. I added that to my system of arrangements.

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Books with thin spines I noticed get put together at the very top of stacks or right end of my shelf just before pocket-sized novels. Thin book spines have always fascinated me. Have I assumed I could finish them in two hours? Yes and wrongly so at times. I’ve noticed thin spines are used for novellas, tiny print novels and poetry collections. A thin spined book can be a condensed or quick read. Not knowing what to get can quickly fast track a reading slump for me. The curiosity, really, does the fast tracking. I recall when I was to read Last Days At Forcados High School by A.H Mohammed, a Nigerian coming of age novella. I procrastinated it until I discovered how full but quick it was to read. Unlike, Independence by Sarah Manyika which was condensed. I began it having learnt my lesson only to have a long read ahead. Thanks to the multiverse for reading vigils!

I remember secondary school days when we’d pick positions on novel lending lists. Or during book swaps, I’d always smile when fellow bibliophiles would carry the book, turn it around to look at its spine and width. The borrowers use quick reader maths (ie. book lust × the book spine/ weight + page numbers ÷ reading speed) to estimate how long they’ll read the novel. It was always an intriguing sight. How come we rarely did that with thin spined books? Maybe because romance and thrillers came in thick spined, brown leaved, pocket-sized novels.

Then there is the aesthetics of thin spines in book photography. I had to prop up a stack of thin spined books and zoom in high-definition into the smaller lettering of their book titles. Aesthetics of words is another way I arrange my books. How can I write a mental fill in the gap story with titles on book spines, is the game this arrangement plays. The beauty of lit words made me begin to note and admire titled chapters. I can’t remember my first favourite titled chapter. But two books on my current To-Be-Read books list have many intriguing titled chapters. I feel my admiration and preference for titled chapters came from loving short-story collections.

Laughing As They Chased Us by Sarah Jackman has beautifully names chapters, ie. explain love, the love bit, etc. I can’t forget chapter 13’s title in Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera. ’13. Didn’t Come to Kill Anyone. I Came Here to Die’ was so mysterious! Excitement led me through each chapter of this queer coming of age novel. That’s the thing with titled chapters, they promise intriguing insight into the plot and characters.

I don’t mind chapters named after the characters narrating them like Dimple and Rishi in When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon or in Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi narrated by Zélie, Amari and Inan. Titled chapters at the upper edges of books just add so much witty beauty to book photos. For example, in my Instagram picture for The Sun is Also a Star by Nicolas Yoon which I dubbed “A Guide for falling in Love within a day: Using Science and Fate.” The book edge of ‘explain love’ in the picture was a metaphor to the theme of Nicola Yoon’s YA Romance ebook. Am I the only one that has noticed how thin spined books and titled chapters influence their book lust, book arrangements, purchases and photography? Either way I’m still a book nerd who loves titled chapters and thin spines.

Don’t forget to have a booked weekend gemstone!

EVERY DAY

EVERYDAY by DAVID LEVITHAN

“It’s as if when you love someone, they become your reason.”

“Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen.”

“I am always amazed by people who know something is wrong but still insist on ignoring it, as if that will somehow make it go away. They spare themselves the confrontation, but end up boiling in resentment anyway.”

“And once again I think about how people use the devil as an alias for the things they fear. The cause and effect is backward. The devil doesn’t make anyone do anything. People just do things and blame the devil after.”

I found Everyday to be filled with wisdom. A had me living the existence of an intersex teenage soul. I’m yet to a more inclusive first person story. My ebook is littered with highlighted sentences which made me think a lot about my life. The choices I make, my appreciation of my family, friends, lovers, habits and daily routines, my financial status, beliefs and spirituality, my relationship investments and even cybersafety.

“Deep down? That sounds like settling to me. You shouldn’t have to venture deep down in order to get to love.”

I really liked A, the soul character of this novel. Everyday A wakes up in a new teenager’s body and tries to live that person’s life responsibly then leaves. Until A is Justin and falls in love with his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Then it’s everyday in a different body but in love with the same girl. A just don’t stay in love with Rhiannon but finds her everyday in  various bodies to build memories and make her know them. Slowly Rhiannon develops affection for A while enduring her unsatisifying relationship with Justin. I was very happy about their budding romance. There was the monotony of A’s existence which changed to adventure after attending a party in the body of good boy Peter who wanted answers afterwards.  Everyday they and Rhiannon communicated in person or via email was a treat. Their dialogue was honest. 

“Falling in love with someone doesn’t mean you know any better how they feel. It only means you know how you feel.”

A had a lot of wisdom to share with me. I people watch a lot and observe life so I found many realisations true and learnt new things. I agree with writers of other reviews that a major theme of this bestselling novel is identity. Infact, simply reading the novel broadens one’s mind on identity (all its aspects). Almost every reality is reresented through’s A’s journey. From religious teenagers to drug addicted ones to Beyonce-slay, black queen to low-income, buff, white boys and asian teens. Everything—even a Latino gay boyfriend attending pride, menstrual cramping, illegal, immigrant maid and a suicidal girl. It was admirable how responsible A was with each body lived in, sometimes doing something good for the person before midnight. 

“Self-preservation isn’t worth it if you can’t live with the self you’re preserving.”

This novel was character dense. Its Chapters written in number of days, eg. Chapter 5999. All these were tools used by the author to address issues of gender, identity, soulful love,finance and tech, humanity and societal rules.  The narrative was in simple English, honest tone and thought provoking. Written in stream of consciousness and first person point of view, it was intimate and emotional. I really recommend this book which now has a movie adaptation. It was set in various homes across Maryland in the US. Rhiannon’s house was a focal point A and their bodies kept charting to each day. I was upset about the end of the novel but A, always being fair left Rhiannon with a kind of lover she needed while going to find themselves. This amazing read gets four fireworks. if you’d like to know answers to what makes us human and how to live consciously daily. 

“I don’t have the heart to tell him that’s the wrong way to think about the world. There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.”

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE BY TOMI ADEYEMI

“I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war. I give you the strength to fight, but you all must learn the strength of restraint.”

“When your opponent has no honor, you must fight in different ways, smarter ways.”

Many bookstagram reviews of this international bestselling YA Fantasy all put the first quote without its accompanying second sentence on strength. This sentence cautions restraint, without it things can go wrong. Gosh! I’m enchanted by this novel. The last time I read fantasy that resonated this much with me was with Georgina Kincaid and her Succubus series by Richelle Mead and Carter and Sade Kane of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan  I dropped reading A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Meet Cute (Young Adult Fiction collections) to read Children of Blood and Bone during the last week of July. I’d wanted to read some different after a long stressful day.

If you peer closely you’ll see small drops of ogogoro in my mini mug. I sipped that shot like Zelie in celebration of the victorious last sentences.

A world of magical wonders and brutal realities..Orisha. The narrative introduces one to the new Orisha where magic is missing and Zelie’s biggest worries include passing initiation and taxes. The old Orisha had Majis who were white-haired, Orisha Mama’s magic blessed, children of blood and bone. It’s amazing the fantasy woven around the Orisha gods was inspired by Yoruba deities. I kept nodding to the various magical powers each maji clan possessed from their sister goddesses and brother gods. Reapers who summoned souls, Tiders and Yemoja, Burners who blazed fiery, Healers and Cancer, and Seers. When various characters touch with a magic scroll it sparks magic in Divîners and Kosidans alike. You can take a quiz to find out which clan you belong to here.

This heroine’s narrations are shadowed by fearful memories of her mother’s execution and past beauties of magical Orisha. I was always pulled away from these to her meagre existence. Yet Zelie had a strong drive for survival and freedom. Zelie is impulsive, silver-eyed beauty, gifted Reaper, smart, seasoned trader, skilled fighter, leader and compassionate heroine. Amari and Inan, both children of the tyrant king narrate the plot with Zelie on a quest to return magic to Orisha. One of the beautiful things about these characters describing the plot and other characters were their unique personas. Growth of Zelie, Amari and Inan occurred slowly throughout the novel. Amari, the scared Princess grew bravely to be the Lionaire. Inan, Little Prince who sacrificed everything to be everything his cruel father wanted. He struggled with his sense of duty and being himself. Tzain, Mama Agba, Kaea, Nailah, Zu, Baba, Roën and other minor characters play huge supporting roles in this tumultuous quest. I was sad that Amari and Tzain’s budding romance was halted while Zelie and Inan’s passionate one was fervently frustrated. But I remain a hopeful romantic while waiting for a sequel. 

Children of Blood and Bone mirrors a lot of real life issues we face in our societies like police brutality, racial or ethnic discrimination, gradual loss of culture, poverty and political tyranny. This mirror holds the themes and lessons one can learn from the novel. It’s robust plot was hijacked by plot twists, suspense and intrigue. CBB is written in simple English with Yoruba phrases and coined terms. Irony was one of literary techniques expertly utilised in this fantasy. Flashback and character dialogues were used to fill in the plot. Simile and imagery are two literary techniques artistically employed in this novel, (eg. the light’s voice is smooth like silk, soft like velvet. It wraps itself around my form, drawing me to it’s warmth). I found it ironic the King destroyed other families and his children while avenging his dead family. Another major irony was that Zelie hungered for change but was afraid of the possibilities magic could create. Out of the Eighty-five chapters my favourite chapter was Fifty-seven (plus the Epilogue of course). This chapter’s festivities and pet Lionaire Nailah inspired by book photo. Coincidentally it’s the author’s favourite chapter.

Landscape and animals in Orisha are nothing like anything I’ve read. Blue whisked bee-eaters, large panthonaires, snow leopanaires, stalking hyenaire. A map of Orisha is presented before the first chapter began. I enjoyed that the plot took us around that map and Orisha’s interesting landscape. It’s a highly recommended African Fantasy and YA Fiction book. For its plot twists resolutions and unexpected end of the last battle, four and a half fireworks! Did they succeed in bringing back magic? Did tyrant King Saran and his reign end? You’ll have to read to find out. To see more gorgeous book pictures or fan art click #childrenofbloodandbone.

 

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Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian American writer and creative writing coach. Children of Blood and Bone is her first novel. Published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company, a trademark of Macmillian Publishing Group LLC.

*this is a Flashback Friday Fiction feature review.*