BOOK REVIEW: ‘Naija Love Stories’ by Ola Awonubi

la Awonubi’s latest book ‘Naija Love Stories’ (which she self-published) is an unpretentious, engaging, funny, relatable, and exquisitely Nigerian short story collection that I could not put down and devoured in two sittings.

At the heart of every story is love, in all its facets, diversity, manifestations, and iterations. The stories are based in Nigeria and abroad, with Nigerians and their ways of loving (and hating) at their core. Even though love is at the centre of each story, we do not run into only ‘romantic’ love – in fact, the latter is almost absent from the collection. Awonubi seems to want to move away from those often-explored nuances, and show us that love is much more varied, much more complicated. If, however, romantic love is present within the stories, it is always complicated, carefully and skilfully explored, humanised and not depicted in an idealistic way.

This collection has much to offer in terms of representing the varied facets of love, but also in terms of depicting and representing Nigerians, a people that is often confined to reductive and negative stereotypes in the global discourse.

As non-Nigerians, we’re getting cultural insights, we laugh along to specifically Nigerian jokes, without being served the stereotypical and tired narrative about the country and its people. The stories offer funny moments as well as reflective and deeply critical ones. Social commentary mixes with the exploration of the human condition.

The prose alternates between lyrical and straightforward. Awonubi has a beautiful way with words, she successfully adjusts them to the characters and their stories, interjecting wisdom and jokes.

‘Naija Love Stories’ is a feat in short story writing, creativity and cultural criticism; it is a successful self-assertion by one of the many talented African writers of our time.