What I Am Reading

My thoughts on books, comics, literary magazines, anthologies that I am currently reading and adding to the Amethyst Saw Library.

WHO FEARS DEATH

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

“Fate is fixed like brittle crystal in the dark still, when it came to Mwita, I bow down to fate and say thank you”.

“..but sometimes difference leads to sameness.”

Grateful For New

Originally shared as the 11th The Quirky Creative Fiction Newsletter, Caught My Eye pick.

Onye’s spiritual journey of her gifts learning reminds me of tales of my paternal great-grandfather who was an Igbo shape-shifter chief. While reading the book, I found myself liking each character that came along the way for their uniqueness and character flaws. How Onye interacted with them only helped me see leadership in a new light.

Onye was a perfectly flawed heroine. From her brash temper, impulsiveness, to her insecurities and adventurous personality. She was downright annoying and loveable!

A bulk of the plot carried me along her journey to face powerful sorcerer trying to kill her and wipe out Okekes.  The author told a vivid story of her paranormal world, juju, culture strives, wars and truly a post apocalyptic Africa.  On  the journey to rewrite and conquer history other characters embark on their journeys. Luyu, one of my favourite characters gets embolden to live her true self. Mwita becomes a renowned healer, soul bound love and supporter of Onye. I found Sola, the old sorcerer amusing. This story  line shows how war and strive affects women. Using Onye’s experiences, a child from weaponised rape ie Ewu we see a lot. Seeing a possible future of my world if people keep killing, destroying and warring based on their religious beliefs, cultural strives and racial clashes. I also loved how technology was infused into the plot. A portable disc here, a tablet there, hidden degraded computers.  The Vah people who travel in a sandstorm were an interesting, enlightened people. This enchanting story infused basic knowledge of African magic, spirituality, nature and vital bits of Africa. I found these references endearing. The food was unique and clothing apt. What would cactus candy taste like? I repeated asked the book to sell me some weather gel to rub on my clothes to repelled heat and sunburns.

The end of the novel and Onye’s journey is unexpected. Unexpected losses taint the triumphs. i asked myself the question Mwita asked about destiny. Did Onyesonwu beat her destiny and cheat death through her last shape-shifting feat or did she live her death and fulfil her destiny?

I highly recommend this book to mystic, magic, speculative fiction readers and lovers.

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author of African-based science fiction,fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults and a professor at the University at Buffalo, New York. Her works include Zahrah the Windseeker, Binti novella trilogy, Akata books and others.

Image source: amethystsaw

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Musings of a Tangled Tongue

 

Musings Of A Tangled Tongue By Yemi Adesanya

I.

because in our walking in the shoes of a writer through reading, we experiences something different, something new, that may call attention to yet undiscovered parts of our humanity”– Kola Tubosun wrote amidst his slightly lengthy Foreword of this excellent collection of poems.

A friend who saw the book with me asked what its title meant. Then I said, ‘thoughts from someone trying to say a lot’. But after typing, erasing and typing my own description of this collection. I realised my tongue got tangled while describing this collection of thoughts. I found this collection to be a delicious mix of engaging, mischievous, bold, well written and fun commentaries about contemporary life. This book lived from my handbags to my book stacks through January to February. Yet I haven’t finished beginning new daring and stimulating poems.

This is one of my favourite book photos from January.

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Below I share my favourite poems, titles, lines, stanzas and thoughts from February.

Bless This Day is my fav favie favourite poem so far! It has seven stanzas that bless, aptly describe and tell me about the personality of every day of the week. I plan on framing it.

Special Characters uses imagery and personification  to gossip about special characters.

‘Awaken from a Comma,

As someone shouted: “His Colon is on fire!”

Saved by a timely Exclamation!

Now he’s gotta live with a Semicolon;

Slayed by a Muse: I had to reread this poem a few times to understand it.  It’s first stanza starts with dope imagery and metaphor, ‘Once upon a heart beating oxygen rich lines. Valves of words and arteries of rhymes.’ This poem tells the story of the death of a mysterious persona. I was left to muse on how the drunk girl in stanza two was related to the murder continued in stanza three. Or was this poem just a poetic description of a creative overly inspired by a deadly muse? I’m still pondering.

Was Born in Sin: The persona in this short poem  does not confess but shares difficulties every believer faces without pretense. The last lines of both stanzas were written in Pidgin English. I could only say Shey? and Amen o!

Mind Mirage’s four stanzas were laced with lovely oxymoron and witty satire.

‘clean face, dirty mind

You look so good,

But smell one kind’

The second stanza brought an old roommate to mind ‘..You buy so much, But dress so razz’ and the fourth stanza aptly critics some men.

Snoring Is The Devil’s Chorus, I love the title of this poem. It was short, witty and ended with a sarcastic pleading. ‘Snoring is death, it’s the devil’s chorus; That’s not music, please sing a new tune’ The use of repetition, metaphor, simile, alliteration and imagery made the poem come alive. ‘Heartstorm rhymes like blunt knives.’

I found Evolution fascinating. The use of repetition didn’t stop the various stanzas from telling different  vivid, metaphorical tales. I love the third stanza; ‘In the beginning was a spark. With another, a flame. Burned by a game. And drained by his sport. Not a matter for court. Snack for a city shark’. What sport? I asked, Oscar of SA maybe? A spark ..a flame? I thought. Sport betting debts gotten him burned to death!

Hallelujah! The rhythm of this lengthy poem had me humming to Leonard Cohen’s hit Hallelujah tune.

McHunger was not on my list of fascinating or favourite poems. But when an online exercise asked what the first sentence on pg 15 of the book beside me was. I picked up M.O.A.T.T and flipped to page 15. I read the two lines and texted, ‘I shiver, but not from cold’. This is still my favourite line from this poem.

Seeing this title got me curious about what story Ailing Soul would tell me. The following lines from various four stanzas caught my eyes. ‘Live! Dont marinate your young soul’. ‘Fasting won’t matter if joy never comes. Life is what you make of its tick and tock.’

In No Kidding a mother tells me how to raise a forward, forthright and diligent being. Captivating poem about home training and motherly love.

Echoes from a Buried Ballad, Life on its Glide and Death Left You a Note are titles that powerfully used personification. I could reread these titles all day.

This collection has made a poetry lover out of me. With different personas sharing captivating or downright mischievous tales through the poet’s exquisite use of literary technique. As I continue reading, I anticipate more wondrous poems to fall in love with in March.

image source: amethystsaw

NATIVE, THE BIRTH ISSUE

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To me literature, food, art and music all form integral parts of culture. Mainly because they all involve the creative process of birthing, documenting and sharing life. This Friday mid morning I settled down to read NATIVE magazine. It’s first issue, BIRTH documents the rebirth of Afrobeats. A delightful, vibrant, talent curated music magazine.

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ROOTS: THE MEANING OF BIRTH

This segment of the magazine showed interviews with creatives from different fields about how they circumvent creative blocks. Their answers have taught me more ways to deal with creative blocks and lows. In between the interviews are crisp, tasteful photos of these creatives.

The Golden Question

“What do you do to get yourself out of the inevitable lows of the creative process(writer’s block,etc)?”

FALANA’s answer reminded me to enjoy the creative process. She’s at a point where she celebrates the lows. Also to do new things to get my mind off the specific project. This is something I already do.

I just walk away without judgement, trusting that I am closer to where I want to be.

LADY DONLI’s answer begins with ‘I look for new experiences.’

There is always something to write about, you just need to find it.

I can attest to the magical truth of this. Going exploring, travelling or going on road trips, as she stated do help. Whenever I remember my December week long vacation spent touring Cross River State, Nigeria. I feel uplifted from creative lows.

SANTI’s response to this question felt directed at me. Because often times facing reality (the things that might stress you, or certain problems you might be facing as he explained) or being too comfortable can cause creative lows.

The key to getting out of blocks for me is just understanding where you are at and allowing your mind make the best out of it.

Find new things outside to bring into the comfort zone, he states.

Other responses I loved..

There reaches a point when I just know it’s time to let go. Time is too precious to keep hanging back and hanging on; let go and watch with pride and wonder.

– Polly Alakija, artist.

You can be reborn in many ways. You can be reborn religiously, you can be reborn in art. It is in itself doing something better than you did the first time.

-Adey, music producer.

I almost forgot to mention the cover story was BURNA REBORN. Three four words.. I Love Burna Boy.

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Burna Boy says while welcoming his interviewer, Ayoade Bamgboye into his home.

I enjoyed reading about one of my favourite new age Afrobeat/AfroFusion artistes. I could wax on and on about how I was moved with his unwavering knowledge of who is his, his music and his purpose. How at ease with himself, life and others which Ayoade Bamboye observed. It reminded me of his personality and attitude when I met him at the Port-Harcourt airport years ago. He was so warm, friendly and positive with my baby brother. It isn’t everyday you read about certain similarities between yourself and such a music superstar.

This was an excellent first issue. Lovely quality, amazing photographs, sensational words, phenomenal insight into our current culture.

DEPARTURE

DEPARTURE by Roman Oriogun

I came across these poems on Brittle Paper while on a bus ride. I remember the poet’s name from the 14:We are Flowers Anthology I read last year. I enjoyed Departure. My heart aches with each line and smiled with others.

“i was born to be darkness hiding under a cave

& i know the weight of exile in a body”.

The first poem called Departure artistically narrates being queer in a dangerous and unaccepting place and painful departure of lovers to better places. It paints the experience of being gay in Nigeria where it is illegal and punishable by imprisonment or death by a mob. The poems are informal using imagery, repition, first person and stream of consciousness narrative techniques. These all make me love the poems.

“The streets hum with voices,

vehicles run into the rising sun,”

The above lines are an example from the second singing poem, Kumbaya. The last poem Saddest Night Alive, also narrates a tale of a distraught lover, fragile love, longing and nightmares of being killed.

“I’m learning how to live with this fear of not finding love”. 

I can say the above sentence is one that echoes a fear of mine. Why is it so difficult to find someone to genuinely love me for more than a minute?

Click the Brittle Paper link to read the poem. Share your thoughts on longing for love from a departing lover.

Call Me By Your Name, Something Like Summer.

November 2017’s Coming of age gay romance novels I read.

Following October’s themes of friendship, forbidden love and coming of age in February Flowers by Fan Wu. I read two coming of age gay romance novels. Early in November I came across their movie adaption trailers. Both named after the books, Call Me By Your Name (movie trailer) released in August and Something Like Summer (movie trailer)released earlier in March. Being the bookie I am, I downloaded the ebooks and read them.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by Andre Aciman

It’s the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver, a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

“You are my homecoming. When I’m with you and we’re well together, there is nothing more I want. You make me like who I am, who I become when you’re with me, Oliver. If there is any truth in the world, it lies when I’m with you, and if I find the courage to speak my truth to you one day, remind me to light a candle in thanksgiving at every altar in Rome.”

I loved this novel, its setting, characters and love story. You just have to love the hero, Elio. For a large part of the novel he battles with his growing affection for Oliver. Elio who played amazing classical music renditions with the piano and guitar, was sensual and endearing. Oliver was vibrant, outgoing, loveable. Elio’s parents were elegant people.  There were also other memorable characters. It was truly a summer of love, music and fun at their beautiful villa and town. Because the narrative had built up Elio’s attraction to Oliver. When they finally became intimate it was magical. You could feel the unease Oliver felt about pursuing the relationship because of Elio’s age and other unmentioned reasons. The story went further than that summer. It was a painful separation.

A few things about the book struck me. There was the irony later revealed in the plot. All the while Elio battled with his attraction, Olivier’s oblivious attitude and self loathing. He did not know Oliver had also been attracted to him while battling his feelings. Another irony was that Elio’s father knew about his love for Oliver. Even though they both tried hard to hide it. If you are in a heterosexual relationship its easy to take a grew things for granted. Things like the scent of your lover, showing public affection, etc.

Years later they meet again and we are reminded of what was and what could have been.

SOMETHING LIKE SUMMER by Jay Bell.

Love, like everything in the universe, cannot be destroyed. But over time it can change. The hot Texas nights were lonely for Ben before his heart began beating to the rhythm of two words; Tim Wyman. By all appearances, Tim had the perfect body and ideal life, but when a not-so-accidental collision brings them together, Ben discovers that the truth is rarely so simple. If winning Tim’s heart was an impossible quest, keeping it safe would prove even harder as family, society, and emotion threaten to tear them apart. Something Like Summer is a love story spanning a decade and beyond as two boys discover what it means to be friends, lovers, and sometimes even enemies.

“Falling in love is a subtle process, a connection sparked by attraction, tested by compatibility, forged by memory.”

Ben! He was one of my favourite book characters of 2017. The book spans his teenage years far into his late adult years. Various characters show us the extent we can all go in pursuit of love. Even though I loved Ben’s love for Tim. Their break up was painful. I kept thinking ‘damn you self denial and lying!’ I was relieved when Ben found and fell in love with mature, calm Jace. All the characters are loveable especially optimistic, open, talented and loving Ben. I must say I was deeply sad at Jace’s demise but happy with the end of the book.

Ben, Tim and Jace form a love triangle that made my heart skip with worry, thrill and excitement. The style of the story gives us a peep into each characters thoughts. However the story is told mostly through Ben’s perspective. I loved the relationship he had with Jace with all its make ups and vacation travels. Bliss.  I like how without being gay you can relate to a lot of issues in the book. How one can struggle with what one wants to do and what is expected of the person. Making a choice between two confusing delectable admirers or finding a career to pursue. And of course being gay in the 90s and now.