What I Am Reading

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

THE LAST DAYS AT FORCADOS HIGH SCHOOL

THE LAST DAYS AT FORCADOS HIGH SCHOOL BY A.H MOHAMMED

”Efua said nothing and Nene continued, feeling desolate. ‘I’m very , very,sorry and I understand if you hate me now, but I’ll never give up on our friendship.’ She stood up and twisted her hands.’

‘He suddenly thought: ‘you stood up for me and I didn’t do that for you, and his eye filled up.’

 

Wow! This novella was a short yet surprisingly sweet and emotional read.  I thought of my secondary school experience. This is the main reason I procrastinated reading the book. Gosh! I dragged it onnn, regrettably. I really admire the book art that highlight the beginning of each chapter. An exciting, coming of age novella of the Nigerian teenage experience. It’s honest with characters you will like only to discover you love at the end.

The plot twists with Jimi relationship with his brother Wole, Efua’s past, Forcados and its students were stunning. The double climax with Efua’s school embarrassment and Lab robbery were ingenious. I loved how it focused on the main characters and subtly showed how their parents and environment largely influenced them. Also, I liked the upsetting but truthful depiction of how Nigerian secondary school students react to ‘scandalous!’ LGBTQIA relations amongst themselves. The narrative had a few unpleasant but important surprises. I loved how Jimi Solade’s flaw as the hero was naivety. A young man dealt a lot of blows intermittently by life within his last days as a senior. Efua Coker could be mistaken for the villain, but is really an amazing anti-hero.

**spoiler alert

Themes of friendship and betrayal ran through the novella. These boldly emphasize the values of family and friendship. This also reminded me of how loved ones can act when hurt, jealous or frightened. I found Jimi to be the more likable brother but felt grave sympathy for irredeemable Wole. Their father blamed their mother for having ‘bad children’, instead of communicating and connecting with his sons. This made me angry and sad because the average Nigerian would make such a statement yet be poor parent. The behaviors of temperamental Mr and indulgent Mrs Solade to Wole were on opposing extremes which wasn’t helpful. One investing time, guidance, love, values and not just money makes one a positively impacting parent.

Expressing admiration is often misconstrued as subtle flirting. Forgetting intimacy isn’t always for lovers, it becomes scandalous, forbidden, embarrassing when two females are intimate. Efua ignoring boys’ interests and requests made it easier for her letter to be misunderstood. It sadly contributed to her humiliation by other students. I did not like that this discrimination occurs in real life either. The environment was as vivid as its characters were real. Settings; the time, psychological and geographical settings of this novella added a warm, life-like quality to this story. Sometimes I was standing at the sandy assembly ground of my secondary school or leaning in between buildings at Forcados High School.

Although it is a material for Joint Admissions & Matriculation Board(JAMB) and Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination(UTME). I highly recommend this novella with three bursts of fireworks!

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SARABA ISSUE 22-OPEN

I shared that I was reading this on my bookstagram over the weekend. I know it isn’t on my June reading list but when Saraba Magazine sent a newsletter (finally!) with a link to download their Twenty-Second Issue, OPEN.  I dropped The Last Days At Forcados High School and closed the Research Methodology pdf I’d been reading. I was so excited I stayed up two night giggling, reflecting, sighing, crying and smearing yellow highlight over this Issue.

This issue opens up unique narratives in short-lenghty, bittersweet bursts of prose, poetry and creative non-fiction. Saraba Magazine is known to publish themed issues four times a year. These issues usually showcase poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, art and photography portfolios. Every past issue has been filled with new narratives, delightful stories, artistic wisdom, many perspectives, african literature and pure condensed magic.

I’ll share my favourite works from this literary magazine issue and quotes from them in no particular order.

HOW TO CHANGE THE NAME OF A PLACE by Chinacherem Oboo was written superby. It was subtle how the narrator’s tone grew from that of a pondering boy to one of an observant man. A story of a village city, ethnicity, discrimination, steorotypes and feeling like a minority in one’s homeland.

‘At home, you ask your father if Abakaliki is a village..You see, Abakaliki is the capital of Ebonyi State. A village cannot be the capital of a state, only a city can.’

GREAT RIFT VALLEY was delightful recollection of siblings love and mountain climbing in Mieso, Ethiopia.

‘Once, we even had a flippant argument about “No woman, No cry”. Mo thought it meant “if you have no woman, you no cry”. I thought Marley didn’t want any woman to cry’. This sentence made me exclaim with happiness, so I am not the only one who wondered about the double meaning.

LOSING MY FATHER by Ola Osifo Osaze this was a moving memoir of a Nigerian immigrant queer, loss of fatherly love, guilt and reflections. I look forward to reading its full length manuscript to be published by Saraba soon.

 

PEACE IN THE TIME OF WAR by Daisy Odey

‘They say/guns boomed/ as midwives slapped mother’s thighs/told her to quit being lazy/and p-u-s-h, p-u-s-h, p-u-s-h/ what was she thinking/ when she swallowed the prick whole?’

This poem told a hilarious story of childbirth during a frightening time. I loved the literary devices ie. repetition, imagery,etc used to birth Peace.

YOU ARE NEAR YET YOU ARE FAR by Nkiacha Atemnkeng was by far my favourite because of the second point of view used to make me live the funny yet reflective tour of West African.

PS: You can download this Issue and previous Issues for free at their site. If you enjoy the Issue don’t forget to click the donate button.

Sunday Midnight and African Superheroes.

After a really late night call with a close friend, short midnight prayers and reading legal jurisprudence on ownership I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t feel like reading any novel off my reading list. A self ban had been placed on my ebooks folder. I had to finish my project abstract and Chapter 1 framework before its lifted. I decided to check out the new Comic Republic Galactic Core comic. I’m impressed with the new look of the Comic Republic site.

I read Aje Issues 1 and 2. which had me silently screaming for the conclusion of Iya Aje and the Cross Faced Warrior’s battle. Galactic Core began with boom boom bam! action, her Highness isn’t a damsel in distress apparently. Plus I’m all for afrofuturism comics. This comic is set after the Galactic War.. I haven’t finished reading it though.  Next to Eru, Itan  is my third favourite comic. I’m eagerly waiting for its next issue. Like its title ITAN tells the story of creation in a unique twist to what you think you know. I love how bits of the comic reminds me of a folklore from my childhood.

“The arrogance of Light is believing it is the fastest thing in the universe, but it finds continually that everywhere it goes Darkness is already there waiting”.

ERU is an unusual hero who I’ll admit I didn’t understand well last year. That was because I began reading this comic at its Issue 4. *sigh. I read ERU from Issue 1 through 5  a few hours to dawn. They were delightful. Eru means Fear. Basically, he is the nightmare of our demons, monsters and fears. Believe it or not, Eru’s announcements to his opponents inspired me to overcome MY fear of writing a unsatsifactory, average project. This fear has paralysed my efforts over the past two weeks leading to worry and procrastination. Reading Eru battle Xaaanaq, daily irritations, evil men, ritualists.  He gobbling down their attacks and fears strengthened me to analyse mine. Thank you Eru, for inspiring me to create action steps that helped me battle my fear of failure.

Reasons why I love Comic Republic…their comics are

  • African themed and set on the continent during different eras.
  • infused with African languages and history.
  • the comics are colourful, witty dialogues and suspense filled plots.
  • filled with endearing Superheroes and characters, intriguing villians who look like different Africans.
  • don’t even get me started on the true African experience each issue shares in varying narratives. I know that Amala, gbegiri and ewedu do taste deliciously magical.
  • filled with that one extra page of Hero Kekere mischevious fun.
  • made with very durable glossy paper. My apartment got flooded last year and the above ERU Issue IV got soaked. It dried out well with just a little part of the comic slightly blurred. Talk about impressive.
  • created by a talented team who are lively and mysterious.
  • also afrofuturistic!

I love you guys long time!

Wayward Men

“ The realisation that she could not have a baby for the man she loved brought tears continuously to her eyes. What the, was the essence of living and loving if she coukd not have a baby for the only love she had ever had.”

“The telephone, Tony noted as he dropped the red biro and picked up the blue one, was a very rude instrument. It was the one thing without the simple courtesy of asking for permission before intruding on someone’s discusssions or thoughts.”

I guess the first quote explains certain desperate baby mama sentiments. While the second one echoes a truth still relevant now in the 2000s.

I loved the time setting of the novel. From the glorious civil servant, greater value of small denominations of the naira to Calypso- Nat Cole music references. I love! The author’s language, pace, point of view and the setting all depict the Nigerian 80s. A backdrop of a intriguing story of infidelity, fun, suspence, lust and misguided love. I had purchased it after I saw a picture of it on #throwbackthursday Alaroro Books instagram feed.

What I did not like was how the first 100 pages of the plot line focused on Tony’s affairs and little on his wife, Lillian’s own. The synposis promised me a damning tale of wife’s extramarital affair.  I found the actions and thoughts of certain minor characters funny, irritating, often shocking and sometimes offensive. ‘Remember it’s a different era’, I’d murmur to calm my inner semi-militant feminist. This made me grateful for the times I live in.  The imaginative metaphors, similes and expresssions were unique and graphic. For example, “when he stopped talking, silence hung in the room like a wet blanket, dampening the atmosphere. The suspence was delightful. But the end of the plotline annoyed me! I felt the end of the novel was rushed. An unrepentant cheating husband didnt end the marriage but his wife’s first affair leds to an unfortunate event. Come on!

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