May Reads and Mini-Reviews

t’s almost June, we’re halfway through the year, and I feel like I just made all my New Year’s Resolutions yesterday. Time flies. Sometimes I feel like my days are dragging but at the end of the day, everything goes so fast and I feel like I need to stop and smell the roses more often. Anyways, before I get all philosophical and emotional, let’s get to what I actually wanted to talk to you lovely people about: my May Reads! Even though I have been SUPER busy this month, with loads of fires to put out left, right and center (hello adult life!), I still managed to read quite a good amount of books – mind you that the list below does not include all the glorious stuff I had the to privilege of reading for my PhD thesis….haha. By the way, is there anyone else who is doing a PhD at the moment? Let yourselves be known in the comments! No matter what topic you’re working on, we should encourage each other because writing a PhD thesis is HARD and we need all the love and encouragement we can get! Okay, enough rambling, here are my May Reads and their Mini-Reviews:

'The Hundred Wells of Salaga', by Ayesha Harruna Attah

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I have been raving about this book for WEEKS. You can read the full, spoiler-free review HERE.

‘What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky’, by Lesley Nneka Arimah

‘What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky’, by Lesley Nneka Arimah

This was the first short-story collection that I’ve read since secondary school. I am not really a big fan of short stories, but since everyone was raving about this, I thought I’d give it a go. Like I said before on my Instagram post, my socks were not necessarily blown off. It was a very okay read, but some of the stories just did not grip me and I could not really connect with them or relate to them. The one with the ‘hair baby’ is one of the few that actually stuck with me and made me think about the message that was beneath the surface. Other than that, like I said, it was just okay. I would still recommend it to people who like reading short stories because I feel like the stories do have a lot of potential, they just were not for me.

‘The Woman Next Door’, by Yewande Omotoso

Overall, I loved this book, the only critique I have for it is the length. Initially, I really enjoyed the story about the two women living in South Africa who could not be more different from each other but whose lives forcibly merged because of outside influences. I absolutely loved the characterisation of the the protagonists and how Yewande Omotoso managed to make the women feel so real, so relatable, and so full of life and character. The story, however, started dragging out a little bit halfway through the book. I think the problem was that the themes of the book had already been explored, and towards the half-mark of the book, it just became repetitive. The plot itself was also not that exciting to get me through the pages. Other than that, I liked the book, I laughed, I cried, I smiled and frowned, and it got me thinking about larger issues in some of the passages – and that is all I am looking for in good fiction.

‘Dear Ijeawele Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I am generally not the biggest Adichie fan out there. Considering the problematic beginnings of ‘feminism’ and the all too often white-centric tendencies within it, I am usually a little suspicious of black women passionately waving the feminist flag. I also read her book ‘Americanah’ a few years ago and I was not knocked off my chair, to be honest. After finishing ‘The Woman Next Door’, I decided to give Adichie another shot and read ‘Dear Ijeawele’ since I purchased it in Lagos a few weeks before. While I do not necessarily agree with every single point she makes in this book, I definitely appreciated it as a reminder for many things I already knew but sometimes forget in the daily struggle of being a woman in a patriarchal world. I feel like I will be going back to this book once I have a child myself, be that a boy or a girl, because gender equality is a man’s business, too. In this book she also talked very briefly about why she invests so much time in thinking and writing about gender equality, rather than race equality and racism. I am still not 100% convinced, but I got the audiobook version of her ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, since everyone seems to be sure that THAT is her actual masterpiece, so let’s see. I will keep you posted on that, in the meantime, I can only highly recommend this book to everyone and anyone – hardcore feminist or newbie to the topic.

‘On a Platter of Gold. How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria’, by Bolaji Abdullahi

I think this was my favourite read of this month. I honestly had very low expectations since it talks about the former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, and I have learned that in Nigeria, politics are very personal and carry a lot of emotions with them – even more than in other countries. In addition to this, and like with all recent / contemporary  history, I was suspicious of the author’s level of objectivity. I was, however, sorely mistaken, and so pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book. I spoke to many people about it, mostly Nigerians, and they were all quite against reading such a book, again, because politics is a very explosive and difficult topic in Nigeria. I can, however, only highly recommend it to Nigerians as well as non-Nigerians. It is so informative, well-written (albeit a little convoluted at the beginning), and even if you know little to nothing about the political situation in the country, this book will really help you understand this African giant. Some things are going to be more understandable for ‘insiders’, which sometimes had me asking my hubby some background questions, but even if you don’t have a Nigerian friend or partner to ask questions, you will still enjoy this book and learn a lot about politics in Nigeria, and the role of Western powers in the governing of African countries.

Having put together this recollection of my reads, I realise that the month of May was a very Nigerian affair in terms of books. Although I try to read widely and diversely, reading only Nigerian literature this month (apart from Ayesha Harruna Attah’s book) was not something that I had planned. The quality and diversity of literature that currently comes out of Africa’s biggest economy is just too good to not be read. So I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for contemporary Nigerian authors! Also, if you are into Fantasy at all, make sure you check out the works of Nnedi Okorafor  – she basically writes the African version of anything that is well-loved in the West, such as Harry Potter or Games of Thrones, and her books are just awesome (read the review of one of her latest books here).

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