What I Am Reading

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

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.

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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.

Amethyst’s 2017 Holiday Reads.

It truly is a season to be jolly and  grateful.

The holidays here in Nigeria are usually exciting. It’s exciting because we have the Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year celebrations. I don’t have to spend this Christmas on campus finishing a semester. One of my rewards for the end of productive, well attended semester was getting books. For other reasons like my insatiable love of reading I have holiday reads!!

These are What I Am Reading this holiday.

A. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okpranta.

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“Watching her walk away that night, I felt more happiness than I had felt in a long time. If I could have sped up the hands of time, I would have done so, so that next week would be tomorrow”.

“With a man, life is difficult. Without a man, life is even more difficult. Take it from me”.

Those quoted parts of the book stood out to me. The first quote perfectly illustrates Ijeoma’s love for Ndidi while the latter depicts Mama’s view about the necessity of Ijeoma getting married. I must say I haven’t read a book with this many chapters, seventy-seven of them! The initial chapters of the book focused on Ijeoma, the main character’s childhood on the Biafran side during the Nigerian Civil War. I liked this because I was yet to read a none political narrative about this side of the historic war.

She loses her father during a raid on their home in Ojoto, Aba. Mama and her leave the village and she goes to become a housegirl at her late father’s friend house. There she meets Amina, falls in love and is caught as a lesbian. Mama who had settled somewhere else came to take her away.

Through out the book we see Ijeoma struggle with her sexuality, Christianity and responsibilities as a female. She later falls in love with Ndidi, finds a lesbian community and self loathes herself.  After an inhumane burning of some homosexuals. She reluctantly dates her childhood friend then marries him. Ijeoma is hunted about her abominable sexuality and struggles to be a good wife to Chibundu. Inability to get preganant or have a male child put a strain on their marriage that breaks the couple apart.

“My point is that business is the reason for things like doctrines. Business is the reason for words like ‘abomination’. The church is the oldest and most susuccessful business known to man”.

These were Chibundu’s comforting words to Ijeoma who was worried her child would have disabilities as a result of her past ‘sins’.  The narrative echoes many unanswered questions of mine about the Bible’s point of view on homosexuality. Showing how inhumane, disapproving and scary these views truly are. I found the many chapters were Mama drummed in these views into Ijeoma discomforting. Sadly I knew it’s something many Nigerians would do. It’s an apt depiction of the issues Nigerian homosexuals face. It’s also a stunning coming of age novel. I was delighted when Ijeoma finally realised it was her life to live. I loved this book set in one of my state of origins, Abia State. It’s already part of my library.

B. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

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This novel is dramatic! It perfectly depicted the antagonistic drama one finds in a polygamous home. A reader can, only chant ‘poor Bolanle’ while reading this revealing story. Lola Shoneyin’s classic is truly filled with secrets and well titled. This novel was a colorful companion during hours of road travel across Cross River during my vacation tour of the state last week.

What I found profound about this book is that each woman had her sad tale of irrelevance, humiliation, struggle that seemed to end with their marriage to Baba Segi. A triumph Bolanle’s presumed barreness threatened to destroy. I admired various qualities of all the characters. Bolanle, the university graduate who marries Ishola Alao aka, Baba Segi to escape an emptiness of self caused by rape is the heroine. She faces opposition, hostility, mistreatment, verbal abuse and even assault from other wives. These wives are Iya Segi, the first wife and frog, Iya Tope, the aponda and second wife and Iya Femi, the selfish beauty and third wife. There were the children and other minor characters.

Major themes of this book are infertility, infidelity, secrecy, antagonism. I found a few interesting ironies. Such as, ‘Baba Segi’s big testicles were empty and without seed’. Also he regularly ‘pounded his wives’ with his surprisingly large penis but all his wives felt sex with their lovers were better. Teacher, Baba Segi’s trusted confidant and advisor in the end ill advised him so he could patronize his establishment. All the wives disliked that Bolanle had something they had desired for a long time, which was education.

This novel paints how people’s antagonism can spring up not only from malice but from insecurities, or hidden agendas. A lesson I learnt earlier in life. I loved the book and the fact that Bolanle found herelf.

C. The Small Print by Abimbola Dare

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Honestly I haven’t finished reading this ebook. I had waited for Roving Heights to have it back in stock. Then I saw a post on the author’s instagram page. that showed I could get her books on Okadabooks. I bought the ebook quarter the price of its paperback. Grinning with excitement I started reading the inspirational romance with a mustard top wrapped around my dripping freshly washed hair.

I must say the way the novel started quiupped my curiosity beyond measure. I felt Wale’s anxiety, worry and determination. As the story progressed I met other characters like obsessive Andrea Jennifer Lennox, beautiful Sade, irritating Bode William, determined Eniola and other characters who help shape the progressing narrative.

The novel has themes of tempted faith, infertility, infidelity, quest for independence, deceit. I’ll admit many things some characters did upset me but I love how the narrative inserts relatable words of God. It’s been a while I have read an ininspirational romance. The plot twists and conflicts are just brilliant!

D.The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi by Chinedu Achebe

I saw this ebook advertised on Okadabooks’ instagram page with an intriguing description. Talk about a written reality show of a Nigerian family. I had to add it to my reading list.

E. Men of Valor by Kiru Taye

Men of Valor is made up of Book 1,2 and 3 by best-selling romance author Kiru Taye. I have looked for how to purchase this collection in Naira. I finally have! Men of Valor is an historic African romance series. If you loved A Woman In Her Prime, Joys of Motherhood, Things Fall Apart, you’ll love this genre also. I have read praising reviews of Kiru Taye’s writing. She writes heart warming romance and steamy erotic scenes. I read her scintillating Thighs Fall Apart erotic fan fiction of Things Fall Apart. I got it on Okadabooks for N899.

Dramatic Family Classics, Historical African Romance, Coming of Age Gay Romance, Inspirational Romance. I think I’m set to end 2017 reading enclosed in the finest of Nigerian literature.

Amethyst’s Book Lust

                  I.

I’ll be dropping the names of books that make the bookie in me salivate with lust.

Amethyst’s Book Lust, is a book list I have compiled from various months Purchase Lists, Literature Prize Lists, online literary magazine reviews and my journal entries. It’s my personal list of African contemporary reads anyone should lust after. These books are from various genres, forms and plot timelines which weave rich stories from the lives of colorful Africans on and off the continent. With their intriguing titles and in no particular order:

1. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotosho. This novel captures South African’s changing racial relations since 1950s through two feuding elderly female neighbors. It’s available on Goodreads and Roving Heights Books.

2. Your Father Walks Like A Crab by Tolu Akinyemi is a poetry collection for people who do not like poetry. It’s available on Okadabooks, Roving Heights Books and Amazon.

3. Like A Mule Bringing Icrecream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika. A wondrous tale of the effects of aging on eccentric yet sophisticated Dr Morayo Da Silva. It’s available on Cassava Republic, Roving Heights Books and Goodreads.

4. On Black Sister’s Street by Chika Unigwe. “is a probing and unsettling exploration of the many factors that lead African women into prostitution in Europe, and it pulls no punches about the sordid nature of the job.”- Bernadine Evaristo, Independent.Co.Uk. It’s available on Amazon, Roving Heights Books and Goodreads.

5. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. The highly acclaimed coming of age novel of Zimbabwean lead character, Darling who leaves for America. It’s available on Goodreads and Amazon.

6. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. “An unflinching portrayal of the slave trade explores it’s impact down generations, from 18th century West Africa to modern day US.”-Diana Evans, The Guardian. It’s available on Konga, Amazon, eBay, theguardianbookshop and Roving Heights Books.

7. Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole. This is a critically acclaimed collection of essays on art, literature, photography and politics. It’s available on http://www.faber.co.uk and Amazon.

8. Chronic School Hater by Ngozi Ilondu is a humorous but practical book on redefining learning in Nigeria sold exclusively on Okadabooks.

9. Aro’mo Leegun (Harbinger of Bone Pains) by Muideen Owolabi Bakare is an educative memoir of a warrior’s guide to living with sickle cell disease.

10. The Girl Who Can and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by irrepressible Ghanian author Ama Ata Aidoo. I love short stories and collections give me plenty of them. Roving Heights and buyreadlove.com have the book on sale.

Thank me and the authors after your climaxes.