“Hit the mute button. Let the vagina have a monologue.”-Janelle Monae, Django Jane in Dirty Computer.
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.
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!
WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by SANDHYA MENON
“She wept for her hardheadedness, and for a world that couldn’t just let her be both, a woman in love and a woman with a career, without flares of guilt and self-doubt seeping in and wreaking havoc.”
“You’re going to see a lot of it. People getting ahead unfairly because of the category into which they were born: male or white or straight or rich.”
“This is our life. We get to decide the rules. We get to say what goes and what stays, what matters and what doesn’t. And the only thing I know is that I love you.”
Reading this stellar romantic novel has been Kismet and I know Rishi will agree with me. I first came across it in June’s feed of some bookstagram accounts. Later when I will research, read then fall in love with YA Romance genre. I’d meet reviews, recommendation posts and sworn oaths about this amazing storyline. I decided to read it because of its main characters. I mean opposites attract right? Two young Indian American teens, one is a modern ‘woman in tech’ while the other is a traditional son who is ‘hobby comic artist’. Both who were matchmade had different views on love, stability and family traditions. Divine!
I appreciate the book being written in chapters alternating between Dimple and Rishi’s point of views. I fell in love with Dimple first then with Rishi faster. It’s also a coming of age novel wrapped in young romance tale. It discusses a lot of questions young ambitious persons with caring families ask. It was delightful that I got to watch Dimple and Rishi warm up to each other after their not so polite first meet. The friendship both characters build becomes a strong foundation for their mutual respect, attraction, and other things. How alive Dimple Shah is, is revitalizing. She would call to me in between lectures and my LL.B research time. Asking if I wasn’t curious about her and Rishi’s app development progress or treasured art in Rishi’s sketchpads or their kissing tab (I kept one). For teenagers, these two were mature, articulate, cultured, brilliant, bright and rightly matched. Their opposing views on family and responsibilities as an Indian child helped each other appreciate life a bit more. I’m now on a search for a bar like the one Rishi took Dimple to on their first non-date turned date night. I mean limited edition books, food and cocktails..sounds like I’m going to be searching Lagos.
Heck, halfway through the books I had mental fan art depictions of petite Dimple with her wild curls and taller Rishi armed with his sun rise smile and gada. Rishi Patel, unlike my suspicions, was kind, sweet, thoughtful and responsible aka a hundred yards of husband material. Their chemistry was erotica gold and fanfic worthy! I’m sure Karl felt it warm him up. Other minor characters also had diverse interests, races, financial backgrounds, personalities which added to the conflict and climax of this YA Romance. Surprisingly, both parents were much more supportive than the heroes felt. The best conflict is usually internal conflict of a character magnified by external conflicts. Sandhya Menon crafted this perfectly with the end of Insomnia Con and other things. Like the author said in her acknowledgements I really did see some sides of myself in Dimple and Rishi. Lord knows how many times I’ve painfully broken off budding love to focus on my career or reality.
It amazing how encompassing the themes and lessons are. Sexual responsibility, signs of growing love, crash course on being a jerk, date slay dressing tips. To sharing the importance of seeking your loved ones happiness, tips on sibling rivalry, peer pressure, planning meaningful dates, evading persistent mothers and kajal, stalking mentors to present an elevator pitch. Should I continue the list? The book was set in San Francisco in present day. The detailed knowledge of comic art and computer programming by the characters made the psychological set robust. With an easy to read vocabulary the writing style was simple but artistic. Vivid imagery, humorous irony, quirky dialogues give this story LIFE!!! There were Indian everyday words to those for food, endearments, feelings, etc. I learnt a few new words (a mean fit for a book to do these days.). The tone was warm, inclusive and descriptive. I noticed a few contemporary romance clichés reenacted beautifully (eg. the unexpected but fate destined end).
When Dimple met Rishi coffee splashed while hopes soared. Now the book is over I’ll miss watching Dimple push her glasses up her nose with Rishi or see Rishi smile and sketch characters for their app or being able to roll my eyes when the Aberzombies holler by. Although, I can’t pick out in clear words where the book title is from. It’s in how they first meet and Dimple’s character. Which is perfectly photographed on the book cover. In the beginning was the end, is really clear once you read this. Five bursts of riveting golden fireworks for resolved plot conflicts, answering difficult questions, teaching lessons about family and love.
YOU ARE NEAR YET YOU ARE FAR by NKIACHA ATEMNKENG
‘Travel between both Nigeria and Cameroon is supposed to be easy since citizens of both countries do not require entrance visas. However, the land route between the Cameroonian border town. Ebok and the Nigerian border town, Ikom is currently barricaded. Don’t ask why.’
‘You finally get jealous of the damn Sanja and feel like peeling it off your body and disappearing into the restroom. But if you peel it off just to pee, you will become naked and everybody at Ake will embark on a screaming spree. “Mad writer! Wahala dey for here o. Dr Dami, please bring that your mad bus. Carry y’im go. A man’s body is not a country!’
I finished reading this piece and the magazine it was published in, in June. Its incomplete review has sat in my draft since. In a bid to clear out my draft I’m published my thoughts about this second person travelogue. It makes me smile that the author’s first name sounds Igbo because of the irony the first paragraph presents. He began his non-fiction story stating many Nigerians drummed ‘you look and sound Nigerian’ into his Cameroonian ears. This was delightful reading this travelogue written by an African visiting Nigeria.
Halfway through this creative non-fiction piece I’d highlighted various honest paragraphs and comical sentences. I just knew this is my favorite work from the Saraba Magazine: Issue 22-OPEN. This travelogue made me reminisce about my tour of Obudu, Ikom and Calabar in Cross River State. Where no one could answer my questions about why the Cameroonian border was closed. Or why people kept asking if I was Nigerian.
Apart from the humorous yet observant tone and ironic experiences of the narrator. Its the second person point of view used makes this read very compelling. Apart from the Literary Exchange Programme, he visits the Ake Arts and Literature Festival. Since I missed the ‘This F-Word’ themed fifth festival, his narration made me feel like I was there. I attended the sensational festival through his thoughts, reflections, dialogues and famous Sanja. His bravery in publishing a food review that didn’t crown Nigerian Jollof Rice ruler mirrors his candid appraisal of Nigeria-Cameroon relations. I felt near to this Douala boy, involved in his discussions about culture, literature, geography, politics. Yet I am far, far away in Lagos.