Spotlight Read: What Does It Mean to Survive

What Does It Mean to Survive by Tolu Daniel

“We are all Jesus. How many times have you died and risen? How many deaths have you conquered?”

“This is what I believed then, and even now, that sometimes avoiding trouble is also a form of running.”

Aching scars have stories to tell the narrator and us. I love how this essay makes one reflect on death, buried experiences with deadly danger and survival, which isn’t always instinctive. Living in Nigeria can be dangerous and often times we bury these experiences after survival with ignored questions and unprocessed trauma. Until we have to face death again.

I love the imagery used;

‘A memory of about twelve years punches me hard on the face and in my shock, I stagger back to regain my composure.’

If it’s one thing I love about Tolu Daniel’s writing its how he addresses unique social issues. In this essay of questions we are blast into the rampant cultism in some Western Nigerian state areas. Which made me remember how worried I’d get whenever their are violent cult clashes at Ojo, Lagos State or even the stories of their causalities.

I also reminisced on the death of my grandfather and a close friend’s Dad. My own memories of a close shave with death as a girl hit by a motorcycle years ago were simmered up.

“It makes me think that perhaps death is a way of surviving also. To escape the stress and the pain inflicted by life on your mortal body to a dimension of ease”.

Often times, questions are our answers, this essays let’s us know.

Recommended with four fireworks, read it on Barren Magazine.

The Origin of Butterflies

The Origin of Butterflies by Romeo Oriogun

‘The first rule of survival is to run’

‘Give a man words &he will build a castle/ full of darkness & light.’

‘You want to fill your bones with wine/till a boy swims into your hands.’

I’ve read this chapbook twice. Then my favorite poems some more. It is brutally truthful, graphic and lyrical work.

‘I want to love a boy/who tastes of fear & still smiles’

My Favourite Poems

Pink Club

The Origin of Butterflies


To The Boy Who Flew Away


Coming Out

‘I know how a body enters itself/ to hide desire behind sadness’.

Feeling exiled at home. Singing songs of truths in the dark. Violence against Nigerian gay men. Flight of Freedom. Resilience. Fear. Self acceptance. Longing. Search for love and home. Survival. Are themes of this poetry chapbook and they will make you feel, see, smell, fear, anger, soar and hope.

‘You can never/break songs/of sunrise/into dark spirits’

Repetition of themes made me uneasy after some poems. But I feel that is the desired effect. A flight through what queer males in Nigeria feel and experience. These poems call out homophobic attacks and Nigeria. Then disagree with horrific mob burning, family beatings, discrimination, criminalization, fear and more.

‘You know sanctuary is where your hips/grow feathers & fly’

I feel The Origin of Butterflies charts the map of how one takes flight to live and love in freedom not found in ones homeland while guiding one on how to beautifully survive.

I highly recommend this bold chapbook with 4 stars. You can purchase it from Ouida House.

More info..

Romeo Oriogun is the author of numerous poems published in Brittle Paper, EXPOUND, Afridiaspora among others. Departure, Kumbaya and Saddest Night Alive in this chapbook were first published in Brittle Paper. I wrote a review of Departure in 2018 here. He’s also the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine Online and the 2018 winner of Brunel International African Poetry Prize.

The Origin of Butterflies is published by Akashic Books, Brooklyn New York, USA in 2018.

Reading Update: Ours to Love by Shayla Black

Do you continue reading books with annoying cliches and characters?

Book Description

Between two brothers…

Xander Santiago spent years living it up as a billionaire playboy. Never given a chance to lead his family business in the boardroom, he became a master in the bedroom instead. His older brother, Javier, inherited the company and worked tirelessly to make it an empire. But while cutthroat corporate espionage took its toll on Javier, nothing was as devastating as the seemingly senseless murder of his wife. It propelled him into a year of punishing rage and guilt…until Xander came to his rescue.

Comes an irresistible woman…

Eager to rejuvenate Javier’s life, Xander shanghais him to Louisiana, where they meet beautiful London McLane. After a decade of tragedy and struggle, London is determined to make a fresh start—and these sexy billionaire brothers are more than willing to help. In every way. London is stunned to find herself open to every heated suggestion…and desperately hoping that her love will heal them.

And inescapable danger.

But at last a killer is watching, on a single-minded mission to destroy everything the Santiago brothers hold dear, especially London. As fear and desire collide, every passionate beat of her heart could be her last.

My Thoughts so far…

I have decided to stop reading ‘Ours to Love’ by Shayla Black. It’s been a while I’ve read an erotic book that has pissed me off. Honestly, I enjoy kinky erotic books eg. Exit to Eden by Anna Rice. I understand the power play that goes with BDSM narratives, the sexual adventures and character development. But this book uhn uhn I’ve suffered through but no more! Reading some chapters and muttering yuck is a sign this book should be off my CR.

Hoping the sex scenes would make up for the lousy cliches isn’t working for me. “Dom-male” who is attracted to the “inexperienced-natural sub” but all his thoughts are about changing her (eg. her demeanor and clothing to those of his past sexual partners which his thoughts slut shame). DISGUSTING.

I hoped it’d change but nope. I’m not waiting to find out. I also don’t appreciate narratives that shame casual, consensual sexual relationships. Especially when it wants to show a character is ready for serious commitments. It was a part of your life, own it without shame.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed the comical competition between Xander and his brother Javier over our heroine London. There is an unsolved murder being privately investigated by widower Javier who is drowning in grief and vodka.
A small community of great friends. A heroine trying to live without allowing her disability weigh her down. A pulsing sexual attraction between the main characters. All these make the book interesting. But I’m here to read kinky erotica not a surburbian romance.

This book is disappointing. Unlike Mine to Hold by Shayla Black which was an enjoyable erotic read in March.


Lie to Me Dan by Longrin Wetten

This book has been all the sauce I needed the past hectic, two weeks. I would read a chapter or two amidst my busy study and rehearsal schedule. I finished reading it on Wednesday. This passionate, action packed narrative was sensational!


“Lie to me. I’ll believe anything you say…” Seventeen year old Marylyn Zhasa is a very ambitious young girl who has her future all planned out. She meets Dan, a charming fellow student whose own ambition is to get her at any cost. Not the kind of girl to stand by and let things happen, Marylyn puts up her well practiced defences against Dan’s unusual advances, in spite of which she gets sucked into a fast paced world of danger and uncertainty, where plans don’t always work out as expected… … A thrilling tale of passion and ambition set in the fascinating world of a Nigerian University.

If you’d like to know how I felt while reading this book. Check out my reading updates here and here.

The title quipped my curiosity when I got this book from Penthusia Media (Nigeria) Ltd. Finishing the novel I can only grin at such cleverness. In this book we meet Marlylyn who is simply excelling in university. We also meet other students like Esse, Yvonne; Some cultists, Nelson and his gongs, and charming Daniel aka D-Man who is interested in our loveable heroine. Its set in Saro Wiwa University and aptly narratives alternate university experiences through different minor characters. Soon dangerous things happen in quick successions to Marylyn then D-man. The ambition of Marylyn and D-man and some other major characters like Prof, her Dad, Agent Dongs, Yvonne and Nelson. We learn of course, ambition can be evil as it can be positive. Our heroine saved two lives, our hero saved hers. Did I mention it was heart warming seeing these characters fall in love without them knowing.
I loved that the book had titled chapters eg. The Spy Who Got Licked, Hit the Nail on the Sin, Of Dark Knights and Iron Horses, etc. There are some sweet romantic scenes in the book. Various literary devices used made the plot rich. Reading this novel I noted the author used rhythmic words, vivid imagery, dramatic irony, flashback, all the points of views, poetry, soliloquy, numerous characters and their developments, everything to tell this story.
I learnt you should follow your intuition and repay kind acts with kindness. Often times, discouragement comes from selfish intentions or insecurity. Everything is never entirely as they seem. Ask proper closed questions to get precise, honest answers. Listening to examinations of witnesses as the practice Judge during Mock Trial rehearsals this week. I applaud the final plot twist from the answer to the open question Marylyn asked D-Man. My fifth lesson is that everyone should take responsibility for their actions. When they refuse to take responsibility, give them. Parents should know, understand and love their children. If Marylyn and her Dad didn’t have a healthy relationship there would have been doom. Shout-out to fathers who come through for their daughters.
If you’d like to read an exciting, unique romantic Nigerian story. I highly recommend Lie To Me Dan with 4 fireworks.