A Review of Abubakar A. Ibrahim’s ‘Season of Crimson Blossom’

We find love in strange places. The moral compass of the society tends to make us look behind our backs when rolling on the adventure of love. The spotlight in this novel is on Reza a young thug in his twenties falling strangely in love with a widow old enough to be his mother. The setting is in the puritanical Northern Nigeria, obviously this love will raise eye brows. Abubakar examines the society through the lenses of the characters and setting, he pokes how people live under the influence of approval or certain standards of the society. Hajiya Binta and Reza find themselves in this situation and they are grilled by religion, family and communal influences, and placing all these above their emotions, feeling and preferences holds the high points of the book.
The book is politically charged and it opens up a conversation that delves into seeing the human side of the characters, asides all the violence, religion, politics and societal norms. With subtle humor yet very strong themes this book beams with rays that penetrates how the society works.

This is in part what Abubakar A. Ibrahim sought to explore with his debut novel Season of Crimson Blossom. SCOB lays bare a vivid example of how we live to meet up society and norms. This novel is very contextual and it represents a new voice that is telling ignored stories in a recent and up to date voice that is Familiar.

In this book, the characters pop up and come alive with serious feelings of love, loss, grief loneliness and sex. Yes, sex.

Who puts sex in the same book that has Northern Nigeria and religion in it?Abubakar! He joins a new voice that is emerging in the Nigeria Literature that is telling, re-telling the Northern Nigeria story and breaking stereotypes.

The beauty of this book is in its ability to place contrasts side by side and in an objective manner. It lays bare the characters, leaves them to the mercy of the society while silently questioning the reasons why they cannot choose to live the way they want without the prying eyes of the society and family.  Hajiya Bintu and Reza are both adults, who can have sex, and also be in a relationship, while we see this in post modern view as okay, Abubakar puts a question mark on it with the allegory of the mother and son. Reza sees his mother in Hajiya and Hajiya see her lost son in him, this make it look like incest, he presents a context that alienates the act.

Sexuality is explored in a an unusual manner. Sex is pop culture, which often neglects the aged in the society, as against general belief Hajiya’s sexuality is brought alive, ‘awakened’ of sought, by Reza. Sex often paints as a total masculine affair, that often obscure the female form as a participant rather than an object. Hajiya was an object to her formal husband, she can’t control the act nor play a apart in the act. It was as if her sexuality was dead till Reza made it ‘born again’. Let’s face it, old people too crave sex, just as much as tyoung people do.

The awakening that this theme deploys washes up the sociocultural and religion facbrics of the locale and that of the contextual backdrop of the story. This is the beautiful thing that the contemporary writings of the new generation Nigerian writers are contributing to the literary scene. And in my opinion it is very interesting, because they genrate real time coversations, which in tunrn creates awareness. 

As for style, Abubakar pens like a god, he holds his character and puts life into them with vivid descriptions that carry the reader along, and make him want to forget he is reading fiction. He writes in such a way that the characters presents the society, and the society contain them. His language is good and strong, he has a special use if language that evokes imagery as tools of expression and communication, this gives the story a proper spine. I give him a plus on this one.

As for me I will give this book a nine. It is an excellent work. Well worked and written. Season of Crimson Blossoms was shortlisted in September 2016 for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature and it was announced winner in October 2016. Find it people and read it.

You can oder for it on Amazon. And if you are in Nigeria, check out Amab BooksRoving Heights and Bookville or any choice bookshops near you.

Book Review : Smithereens of Death by Olubunmi Familoni

This one is a sharp thrust into the short stories culture in Nigerian Literature. It is unusual for a debut, it is brilliant, intelligent and very driven into the superseding theme that dominates the stories in the book – death.  Familoni’s style of writing is somewhat new to me, he does not beat about in his narration – which is mostly done in the first person – it is like he wants to tell you a story and he does not want to look up from the script, and after the story he abandons the reader with thoughts and after thoughts to make of the story whatever s/he wants.

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The theme of death might seem unattractive for a debut, but in Smithereens of Death, Familoni presents a romance with the unusual and dumps different emotions and perspective about death on the reader, hence smithereens, little pieces of what Africa is slowly dying of. The stories are localized but they bear humanist spirit to the reader in vivid, figurative and expressionist form. Familoni is creative about this collection in a strange way, his narratives are not calling for attention, yet he expresses, he seems not to be asking the readers to discourse the intention or the whys behind his writing and stories, he just simply wants to state the facts and move on. Like in ‘Enough’ the response to how a person was killed is not emotional but blatant and plain, like some being chopped up and cooked is not new, the emotion runs in the reader while the characters are almost unreal and almost not there about it.

Familoni also employed local English, the Nigerian English flavored with pidgin and dialectic-ally  infested. It makes the reader who is a Nigeria fall in perspective with the character and it eases the mystery and the absurdist mode that Familoni engulfed the stories in. The language also helps break down the imagery employed in the stories and create familiar locale and contexts for the Nigeria reader. This is not to say that a non native reader would find it hard to read this book. The narrative are more human than local. They disrupt every known perception about death and make it look less horrible than it is.

Familoni’s imaginative strokes are rear and I think that is a plus for him. Little wonder the book won the 2015 Abubakar Gimba/ANA Prize for Short Stories. For a debut, I rate Familoni above average on this one. The book reeks of intellectualism and it is unique in the pool of the short stories cliche.

It Is Not Writer’s Block or Something Like That

My deep and sincere apologies for abandoning this little writing project of mine. Trust me, it is not writer’s block or anything close to it that is responsible for it. It is just the the demands of my 8 t0 5 job seven days a week. Okay, don’t let me come here and cry out my woes, a man has got to pay bills abi. All the same I am sorry for keeping my few followers waiting for fresh shares of my reading experience.

So, since I last punched in letters and words onto this blog I have read the following books and I have been dying to write a proper review or say personal reader’s experience about them. Here they are –

  1. Love Is Power Or Something Like That – A. Igoni Barrett
  2. Smithereens Of Death – Olubunmi Familoni
  3. The Fishermen – Chigozie Obioma
  4. Walking Shadows – Jude Dibia
  5. Season of Crimson Blossom – Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
  6. Blackass – A. Igoni Barrett

These books gave me new experiences and perspective into Nigerian Literature. From a debut like Smithereens of Death by Olubunmi Familoni to double doses from A. Igoni Barrett whose books show how a writer evolves in style and trend to Abubakar’s Season of Crimson Blossom where love is explored between two unlikely people and in an unlikely place, with dire issues of culture and social perspective tied around the plot and theme. No doubt these books gave me a roller coaster ride and my reviews of them are coming up shortly, one for each day of this week. Watch out.

Breaking Silence: A Reading of Elnathan John’s ‘Born on A Tuesday’

Northern Nigeria googled, cannot come up without a tag of violence, the BokoHaram Sect in particular. for Nigerians and many foreigners, the lives and stories of the people who come from the northern part of Nigeria are mostly nothing but the ‘pieces’ of news that we gather from the media. Just a very few have had first hand experiences of how life is in the area, and many of the few have not had the opportunity or are not ready to tell of their experiences.

I am not sure about calling BOAT a Northern Nigerian Literature, but I am sure that in the Nigerian Literature Scene, literature from the North are not many, and even the available ones are not of much interest of study or are not available or known. So, what Elnathan John has done with BOAT is to bridge this void to a  great extent.

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BOAT like ‘Season of Crimson Blossom’ by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim delivers current and vivid stories of the north into the mainstream of the Nigerian Literature. Other than steady news of violence, we are able to see, read and feel though in fiction, some close to real experiences of life in the north, that there are people living there excluded from the violence, survivors or victims who still have the capacity to live, love, bear pain, make decision and interact with the outside world, a normal process of life with ‘normal’ people.

BOAT transcends and projects beyond violence. The story is told in the voice of Dantala, the protagonist in the story, of how he lives on the streets, blends into a gang that gets employed by a small political party to fight its opposition. The attack on the opposition’s headquarters office turns ugly and Dantala escapes to another city where he finds solace (food, shelter, education, mentor-ship, love, betrayal, loyalty) in the hands of the Sheikh of the Mosque. He maneuvers through the story with the background of his sick mother and his brothers who have joined a rival sect considered extreme and dangerous, a point where his loyalty and quest for self finds expression.

Elnathan writes this story in a mixed tone, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes funny and sometimes tragic. His writing is very vivid, it describes to the letters, takes us to the scene of events and ropes us into the live of the characters and their environment which is of particular concern and interest. The language of Dantala is Nigerian, and many other instances there are code mixing and switching without any foot note or hyphenated explanation. This in some way project an inquisition into the cultural essence of the book, it draws the reader to find out, to explore and get into the language, cultural setting and experience in the book. A plus,I think, for the editor for the careful abandonment of trying to spoon the reader.

Elnathan story telling skill is superb. He writes in a linear way, the events roll into each other with a careful commitment to memory by the use of Dantala’s journal (a journal which also helps focus on his evolving process and integration). This style I think is close or similar to Achebe’s, in a more particular way of holding cultural essence in African Literature. BOAT offers a front row exposition into the burning issues of violence in the northern part of Nigerian, as a way to present the everyday lives of the people who live and base there, along religion, politics and culture. It presents them as a people not as victims only. For example, a reader can have a close imagination of what an Almajiri passes through and how they survive.The narrative is clean and a good debut for the two-time Caine Prize finalist.

BOAT breaks the silence and mono view that surrounds the Northern story.

 

 

April Bloom, Book Cases and Music

Okay, cheers of the new month. Since the last update for March, between you and I, I have not finished reading James Marlon’s ‘The Brief History of Seven Killings’. It has not been easy, keeping my day job which I have had no break from everyday since March. I am now on Page 150. Please clap for me jare. Sure, I am still reading it.

I found and joined The Port Harcourt Book Club. It has been very exciting. The book club had been existing under my nose for a while and I never knew. As usual, I stumbled upon its existence on twitter. They read a book every month and meet for the book discussion and some kind of review every last Sunday of that month by 4pm at a venue of choice in Port Harcourt. For the month of April, they, or should I say we are reading ‘Love is Power or Something Like That‘ by A. Igoni Barrett, the book is available at Bookville Bookshop, Mummy B road, Port Harcourt. It is an open book club, so if you are in Port Harcourt or passing by you can join. Find them on twitter, @ThePHCBookClub

Between March and now, I have knocked down two books, and both are short stories collections. The one for The Port Harcourt Book Club, ‘Love is Power or Something Like That’ by A. Igoni Barrett, a Port Harcourt boy himself and ‘Smithereens of Death’ by Olubunmi Familoni an Ibadan base writer. I am unto the third book, ‘We Need New Names‘ by NoViolet Bulawayo, the 2014 Etisalat Prize for fiction winner. It is a good progress on my reading habit if you ask me. And of course, their reviews are coming right up, maybe this month too.

Next on the blog should be my short review of Elnathan John’s ‘Born On A Tuesday‘. I have managed to finish the last two chapters which the pity that flushed me up for Ahmed did not allow me to read. Watch this space.

THE OTHER THINGS…

Nigeria in suffering from fuel scarcity. I know it is no news. But guys, it is not easy, the money I have spent on fueling my car since this brouhaha started is already double my monthly usual and mounting. It is not funny anymore.  I just hope that this week shall be the end of it, if not maybe what happened in 199somthing will happen again.

Among other things, I love music and of all kinds, so far it sounds good to me and fits my mood per time. There is this beautiful Nigeria  female sensation Aramide. She sings Afro Soul, and I came across her last year. She has a new music video out for her single Love Me, in which she featured Adekunle Gold, another Afro Soul sensation I will say.

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A shot from the video – Aramide & Adekule Gold                     Courtesy : BellaNija

I love the feel of the song, its mixture of Yourba and English Lyrics, the flush of the African feel in the instrumentals and the lush video shoot and quality. It has been on replay on my music player for a while. Enjoy the new video here.

Catch you later guys.

 

 

Book Review : Julius Bokoru’s ‘The Angel That Was Always There’

Memory is powerful; it is a very heavy burden that is not so easy to put down. Thanks to Literature, despite the painful remembrance, and occurrences that cloud Julius Bokoru’s mind, he was able to carefully paint a story of himself, his village and growing up, his losses and how he seeks identity even in the midst of family members, all these are featured in his faction novel ‘The Angel That Was Always There’.

The book reads like a bedtime story, it carries along the reader in an unwavering manner that completely wraps up in undivided attention. This book purges pity and mild feelings among others for the protagonist of the book Julius. And for people who grew up, lived or still live in Port Harcourt and Bayelsa State of Nigeria, the book is civil history at good notch, they should read it.

Love triangle between a fierce village belle Hetty, the author’s mother, and Trust Bokoru and Jonah Donghahbeyi, Trust’s distant cousin. Hetty loves Trust, ends up with Jonah and his American charisma, but gets pregnant for Trust and Julius was born. With this plot, Julius narrates how his sets forth to find his father and gain acceptance among his half siblings, and the most sweet rendition of how he loves his mother and how her love for him is like that of an angel that watches over one. The sad and pity feeling sets in when Julius lost his mother and his quest for his father became more of a necessity than just familiarization.

This book paints romance in its local flavour, no hidden shadows. It employs journals as a means of memory and poetry as a tool of love. And I must say the book is bearing an Ijaw placard and it is completely Nigerian.

Books For March and The Others That Amuse Me – Oluwaseyi G. Abidoye

First I apologize for the lateness on publishing the reviews of the books I read in February. My day job became a big baby that needed more tending than what the sunlight does for the earth. I was crushed in between writing, reading and working, since the later pays the bills for now, it took the larger part of me.

I am still reading Marlon James’s The Brief History of Seven Killings, contrary to the title, the book is not brief, it is bulky, and I am yet to pass the 100th page. I find myself grappling with the language and that, is slowing down my reading process, also, the book requires a very retentive memory from the reader and that demands paying keen attention, so I put a page divider somewhere in the book. So ‘ama’ continue reading Marlon’s TBHOSK for the month of march.

About Okey Ndibe’s Foreign Gods, Inc. I really enjoyed the book, find my short review here.

Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday is an eye opener to me, as it should be for many. It recounts the story of Northern Nigeria in a manner which no one has attempted before. I can say the book is a handbook for understanding the typical life of an almajiri, their vulnerability, hopes and how they are neglected to sheer destiny, unguarded and weary. My review of it will come up in a few days from now.

THE OTHER THINGS

Rivers State of Nigeria is bubbling with political killings and threats of more killings among election campaign and other political activities. Indeed power has changed hands and like karma, what went around is about to come around. I am not reporting news, this is just a mental note to self, to be careful this weekend and mind my own steps, words and actions. The rerun election is coming up the 19th of March, 2016. I hope it will not be re-killings, re-ringings and re-contesting the results of the election.

I MADE A FRIEND

For the kind of job i do, making friends solely for business reasons is the only thing that comes to mind when the phrase ‘making friends’ is mentioned. Outside work, the friends I keep are my childhood friends, asides them, I have virtual friends too, on social media.  I guess everyone knows how that kind of friendship works, stalking, likes, tweets and re-tweets and the likes. nothing really personal. But this week, I made a formal attempt to turn one of my virtual friends into a buddy friends. Let us see how that works out.

MICROPOETRY

So, while surfing the web as usual, I stumbled on the term ‘micro-poetry’. It is a kind of poetry that favors short words and concise thoughts, I do not know how formal or acceptable this kind of poetry is yet, I am still reading up about it. But I can say that this poetry favors the lazy writer, who have problems with words and too many verbose expression. Micropoetry is spontaneous in formation and dissemination and it is being made popular by tweets and twitter’s 140 character attribute. So, I decided to try men hands at it, I formed two and here they are:

TINGLING EARS

My ears want to hear good news,

Only that the windy evil men do

Clouds the sound wave,

Still, I hear whispers of love and conquest.

BURNER

No, don’t touch me,

I am not fire, so you feel you can toy with me,

I am the ice that burns from the crown to the sole,

Tips and curves all round

I hope I tired, who will score me now. Chao!