What I Am Reading

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

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.

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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.

 

STAY WITH ME

Was it only my friends and I who chanted Sam Smith’s stay with me chorus when they saw this book?

Ayobami Adebayo’s moving romance has some sparing truthful quotes about love:

“If the burden is too your much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.”

and..

“Besides, what would be left of love without truth stretched beyond it’s limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?”

After reading lauding reviews, captivating interviews of the author and visual feasting on three paperback designs of the novel. I longed to read about the Nigerian marriage assailed by infertility, family interference, infidelity, loneliness and sickle cell disease. I was curious about the characters their feelings, their love and how adultery, polygamy would hinder their love. Would this love and struggle to have a child bring them closer or heal their loneliness? The struggle did not.

Ayobami Adebayo’s profound tale of Yejide and Akin Ajayi’s marriage will stay with you. With its engaging themes of love, desperation, loss, infidelity, family interference, loneliness and insecurity. It is geographically set, in Ilesa, Osun state, Jos, Plateau state and Lagos state in Nigeria during the 80s and 2008. The narrative is told by the main characters, Yejide the motherless heroine and Akin the secret hiding hero. It bounces in between the present 2008 where Yejide goes to Akin’s father’s burial ceremony and the 80s tale of their marriage and it’s tribulations.

It was an emotional read during my weekend. The story showed the beauty and unbearable pressure of Yoruba culture on the couple. Stay With Me takes you to the traditional Yoruba setting of family and marriage. By sharing similar tales you’ve heard your neighbors live. The raw, hurt, hopeful, despair filled, angry yet hesitant tone of the novel follows it’s plot. There were two revelations in the book that had me agreeing with Jennifer Makumini, author of Kintu that Ayobami is an astounding story teller.

“Rotimi”

“Rotimi- stay with me”

This was the name given to Yejide and Akin’s third child. The source of the title of the blook was revealed well into the book. Earlier I had assumed it came  from Yejide’s alarming need for Akin and his love for her, in hopes it would dispell their loneliness.  Later my guess was her desperate, heart breaking struggle to have Sesan, the second child not die from sickle cell disease. I was mistaken. Unlike the first two children who died. Rotimi, Timi stayed.

This book taught me not to assume. Revelations of truths about the paternity, source of title and also Yejide’s fatal assumption all had me screaming twice. It also drew me to think about sickle cell disease a lot more. Weeks prior to this I watched Wanawana Udobang’s Warriors short films on YouTube interviewing adults living with sickle cell in Nigeria. These are films worth watching. A person who has a child does not own the world. Don’t attach your worth as a human to relationships or children.  I love this heart wrenching romance novel. It was worth the read.

The author holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English. Ayobami is a recipient of fellowships and residencies. She also autgraphed the book for me. An almost lover had her do that across seas, how romantic. She writes my sweet name beautifully.

Brief Thought: There is a popular Nigerian saying that a woman who can’t have a child is a man. What is a man who can’t impregnate a woman?

Image source: amethystShotX

 

 

HERO KEKERE

African Superhero comics exist with riveting storylines, unique settings,and adventurous heroes who remind one of childhood folklore legends.

The memory of my first taste of Ewagonyin still colours my tongue like Palm oil. I ate Ewagonyin for the first time at Laminsin Peperenpe’s house in Bariga. Laminsin Peperenpe, my maternal grandmother was a Diva. A drama goddess who only ate Ewagonyin from bukas. I knew I had eaten food of the gods. After obediently swallowing the first grandchild honorary spoon. When I saw the Instagram post on children’s day about a hero and Ewagonyin. The foodie living in between my nose and upper lips was enticed.

The comic humorously depicts an Ewagonyin battle hosted by Hero Kekere amongst the contending heroes of Hero City.
The tone is one of fun, enthusiasm, excitement and food adoration. Set in Iya Takeaway’s blue, orange, beige and pink hued restaurant. A colourful yet relatable read, Hero Kekere is the perfect children’s comic. I read it three times because I love the language of the comic. The use of emojis and urban Naija exclamations and slangs elevated the traditional comic bubbles. In Nigeria, daily speech is made up of Pidgin English, Nigerian English (all local language accents apply), Native languages, British and American English. Hero Kekere captures this like Kelechi Amadi.

Guardian Prime, sentinel of faith
Power Boy, the unstoppable
Bush bay, the forest prince
Max-speed, king of velocity
Alaric, the perennial
Eru, fear himself
Who won the battle? Who paid for the fifty loaves of bread?
Go to m.thecomicrepublic.com to find out.
Hero Kekere is a Comic entry in the Amethyst Saw Library.
Hero Kekere is created by Comic Republic. Comic Republic Global Network is a Nigerian comic character franchise that produces digital comic books to tell more compelling stories of Africa and her rich culture.

Image source: m.thecomicrepublic.com
Glossary
Buka- is a hausa word in Nigeria, it means little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Everyone knows you get really good food there

Naija-means Nigeria

Peperenpe- fashionable elite woman

Kekere- a Yoruba word that means small. A popular word used to call a child, small one.