Waila Reads

Waila Reads: Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie

americanahA few years ago I heard Chimamanda Adichie speak and something about the way she came across didn’t appeal to me. Over the years I’ve watched interviews she has given and heard her speak at literary events. While I respected her success, there was something about her demeanour I wasn’t a fan of. I concluded we weren’t destined to be friends…until I watched her Channel 4 interview with Jon Snow. Chimamanda, we can now grab a coffee when you’ve got a minute. Now that’s we’re friends, I am of course allowed to call her Chimamanda, just Chimamanda. Experience, training or perhaps both have awarded her a degree of charm and grace that in my probably irrelevant opinion, she previously hadn’t mastered. I like her new aura and I like it a lot.

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the Orange Prize but despite several attempts, I haven’t managed to read the entire book. Hard though I’ve tried, I can’t connect with the writing and characters and that makes it a tedious read. I’m in a minority though because it’s a best seller and most people I know who have read the book, sing its praises. I much preferred her initial offering, Purple Hibiscus. It’s not a Waila favourite but it is worth a read.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that my copy of her latest publication, Americanah, landed in my hands six days ago.

Americanah is without doubt, her best work yet. And I say that like I’ve read every word she’s ever written, which of course I haven’t but I quite like how it sound so I’ll say it again. Americanah is without doubt, her best work yet.

I was hooked from the first page and she had me reeled in till the very end. The central character Ifemelu is witty, sassy and charming in equal parts and on occasion, a little annoying. Obinze her love interest, sounds like a man I’d quite like to date. I know next to nothing about Chimamanda personally but I can’t help but think that Ifemelu’s character is a type and shadow of her creator. Americanah bravely attempts to tackle issues of race, identity, migration, prejudice, stereotypes, and love (and that’s not the half of it) and in my opinion, she did a brilliant job of it.

As always I won’t say too much because I’d quite like you to make up your own minds but what I will say is if you don’t own a copy, I suggest you get yourself one… it’s a Waila likes a lot. If you’d like to read a review before you commit your pennies, here’s a link to a brilliant one in The Guardian online.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/15/americanah-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-review

And no MrsOhgee, you can’t borrow mine.

xxx

Waila

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A Memory Time Erased + Waila Reads: On Black Sisters’ Street

I was in Lagos a couple of weekends ago to marry off one of my lover girls, Shally of ForStyleSake. The detailing on her dress gave the analyst in me a lot to analyse. Goes without saying she looked stunning on her big day, what bride doesn’t?! Actually I take that back. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the wedding pictures of one the vendors my mother enlisted to plan my traditional wedding. To each their own but seeing her in her rather interesting bridal get up gave me reason to intensify my prayers. Thankfully, God is and was kind to me.

Much as I profess to be anti-weddings, I love watching my friends get married and I’d trek to the moon to see it happen. I’m amazed at how far we’ve all come in our lives, with or without men, and I’m pretty excited to see what the future has in store for us.

I digress.

Yes, Lagos. The city never ceases to amaze me. It’s a pretty cool place to live if you have enough money in the bank to create your own world but it can be scorchingly unkind to the poor and struggling. That said, it’s such a vibrant city, it’s easy to get caught up in its vibe.

I was in Lagos for all of 52 hours but it was long enough for me to run into a reality I had assumed was long dead. We were driving along the streets of Ikeja late Friday night hunting for food when I noticed a voluptuous girl in a miniscule white Lycra mini skirt striking a pose on the sidewalk. Her ample breasts were spilling out of her umpteen sizes too small top and her makeup was like something out of a how-not-to tutorial. It took a few minutes for my brain to register that she was a prostitute. I was stunned.

Growing up in Lagos and living pretty close to Bar Beach, spotting prostitutes was part of everyday life. I grew up knowing too well that they existed and on occasion, watched them get picked up by punters. Somehow, my brain had deluded itself into thinking such things didn’t happen in 2013.

In the age we live in, there are many sophisticated forms of prostitution but like my grandma says, “Pikin wey resemble goat no be goat, na pikin.” In other words, you are what you are regardless of how you choose to portray yourself. It’s no less heartbreaking to meet a girl who dates a man purely for financial gain but to see a woman standing on the street corner, body parts hanging out, desperately trying to attract the attention of every passing male, stripped it back to its most basic form. I really had forgotten that standing on the streets is still a viable option for some.

As I watched them sashay from car to car trying to reel in dinner, I couldn’t help but fear for their physical safety among other things. Absolutely anything could happen to those girls and the soles of their feet would be none the wiser. I slept uneasily that night.

Prostitutes exist because there is a demand for them.  If no one was willing to pay for sex, no one would be selling it. It’s that simple. Much as I worry about the women who sell their wares, I also worry about the punters who part with their cash. I call it the meeting of troubled souls.

People prostitute themselves for all sorts of reasons and contrary to popular belief not all prostitutes are women struggling to put food on their tables or a roof over their heads. Sometimes, it’s an act born of pure unadulterated greed. I’ve met a few. That said, I am weary of condemning such women because personally, I am yet to encounter circumstances, financial, mental, emotional or otherwise, that would make selling my body a viable option.

I earnestly pray that someday, somehow, these women find a way out.

Seeing those girls reminded me of a book I read a while back and leads me on to a Waila Reads recommendation.

black sister

On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe isn’t a Waila favourite but it’s definitely worth a read. It tells the story of four young and rather naive women who make their way from Lagos to Belgium in the hope of raking in serious cash. It’s a story full of clichés but sadly, these clichés are born out of an embarrassingly stark reality.

I won’t say too much, I’ll let you read and make up your own minds. For the curious, I’ve included a link to a review by The Independent below.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/on-black-sisters-street-by-chika-unigwe-1728899.html

I hope you enjoy reading but more than that, I hope that the next time you get on your knees to pray, if you pray, you remember to say a prayer for these women.

Love & so much more,

Waila

My Stash

Hello people,

As promised, here’s a picture of my stash and a heads up on the titles to come in Waila Reads.

Please, refrain from insulting my picture taking skills. I have many talents but photography isn’t one of them!

The last time I was in Lagos and wanted to buy books, someone suggested I go to the CMS bookshop as they supposedly stocked a large variety of books at competitive prices. I dragged my friend Moin-Moin all the way to CMS and I tell you, if I’d had a cane, I’d have flogged the staff out of the bookshop, locked it u and thrown away the keys. It was that useless.

This time around when I asked, everyone recommended The Palms mall in Lekki. All the books I picked up last time, I picked up from The Palms so I didn’t question their knowledge. The day after I bought most of my stash, I had lunch with a friend at Terra Culture on Tiamiyu Savage and  discovered they have a library/bookshop there…and books there are cheaper than at The Palms. I didn’t do the Maths but I’m pretty sure the savings I could have made would have been enough to buy me another two cartons of Indomie.

Oh well, here’s a list of the titles and authors;

  • The Mrs Club by Ekene Onu
  • Weep Not Child by Ngugi WA Thiong’O
  • A Squatter’s Tale by Ike Oguine
  • Dew In The Morning by Shimmer Chinodya
  • Nights Of The Creaking Bed by Toni Kan
  • The Housemaid by Amma Darko
  • The Son Of Your Father’s Concubine by Seun Salami
  • Burma Boy by Biyi Bandele
  • Nine Lives by El-Nukoya
  • Zack’s Story by Abidemi Sanusi
  • Kemi’s Journal by Abidemi Sanusi
  • Yellow-Yellow by Kaine Agary
  • Treachery In The Yard by Adimchinma Ibe
  • London Life Lagos Living by Bobo Omotayo
  • Tomorrow Died Yesterday by Chimeka Garricks
  • 26A by Diana Evans

Yes, I know, I bought another copy of Tomorrow Died Yesterday. The last pair of hands that housed my old copy must have left its doors open for rats to enter. Some people just never learn to shut doors. I keep saying I will stop lending out my books to people because many of them never find their way back to my bookshelf and some of the ones that do, escaped from rat infested hands.

I’m currently reading 26A so it lay hiding in my handbag during the photo shoot.

Have you read any of them? Tell me! Tell me!  I’m trying to decide which one to read next.

Happy Thursday people. May Friday come quickly and Sunday, slowly!

xxx

Waila

Waila Reads: Imagine This

Imagine you were born in England. Thirteen months after you were born, your parents marriage falls apart. You and your brother are thrown into the care system and are lucky enough to be caught by loving foster parents. You live happily with your foster parents and brother. You see your father every now and again but that’s okay. Your world is sunny, your future looks bright. Eight odd years roll on by. One day you father shows up for a visit and before you have time to comprehend what is happening, you find yourself in your a village in western Nigeria with your grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and other members of your extended family whom you’ve never met. Life as you once knew it changes irrevocably.

 

Imagine This, written by Sade Adeniran, was a random discovery. I stumbled on it while searching for another book on Amazon. I’d never heard of the author but as you know, I’m on a mission to explore African Literature (I hate that term by the way) so I coughed up £9 for a copy. It was £9 well spent. The book is a journal of the experiences of a young girl Lola, whose life is turned on its head when her father, afraid of permanently losing parental rights over her and her brother, all but hijacks them from their foster home and whisks them off to their village in western Nigeria to be raised by his extended family. The journal chronicles Lola’s slightly sweet, largely bitter experience of village life, her dysfunctional relationship with her Father and her struggle for survival in the new world she find herself in.  

As always, read and tell me what you think!

xxx

Waila

Waila Reads: Tomorrow Died Yesterday

In January while I was in Nigeria I went book shopping. The Nigerian literary scene is pretty vibrant at the moment and I was keen to discover new authors. There were three books I was particularly interested in but while I was in the store, I stumbled on a book by an author called Chimeka Garricks. If I’m honest, the book looked like a QC literature text. The quality of the paper and cover, typography and layout of the print was less than impressive. The synopsis got my attention though. The story is set in the Niger Delta and tackles the world famous issues surrounding oil and kidnapping in the region, using the lives of four young men as a platform.  As a full blooded child of the Niger Delta, I was interested to read what the author had to say.

That said, I put off reading the book for as long as I could because it really is very unattractive and looks like a drag. One day when I had nothing else to read, I decided to give it a chance. I’ve been playing it cool and holding back on my opinions on my recommendations but I have to quell my resolve and tell you that this book is genius! It is brilliantly written… the plot was well researched, artfully constructed and delivered with truck loads of verve. What really struck me about this book was how powerful the dialogue was. You’ll notice from my blog posts that I tend to lean quite heavily on dialogue when story telling. It is very difficult to keep sustained dialogue punchy and captivating but Chimeka Garricks does it flawlessly.

I was in two minds about recommending this book because if you don’t live in Nigeria, I’m not sure how you can get your hands on a copy. I’ve scoured the internet but no online retailers or bookstores in the UK (or US) seems to stock it. I’m trying to get my hands on a copy or two to give away and as soon as they arrive, I’ll let you know what you need to do to get your hands on them.

If anyone has read this book, I’d love to know what you thought about it. To the rest of you, happy reading…if you can find it!

xxx

Waila

Waila Reads: “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Prejudice, particularly of the racial variety, isn’t something I think about often. I am proud of who I am, comfortable in my own skin and not the least bit perturbed by people who have a problem with me. It is their problem, they can deal with it.  That said, racial prejudice has never blatantly stared me in the face so I cannot say I know what it feels like to be discriminated against on the basis of my skin colour. I suspect I will find myself singing from a  different hymn sheet should it ever happen.

Interestingly, no individuals or people are spared the contempt of others. Some white people hate all black people. Some black people hate all white people. Some black people hate other black people. Some black people hate Indian people. The French hate the Brits. Yoruba people hate Hausa people. Hausa people hate Igbo people. The Tutsi’s hate the Hutu’s, the Hutu’s hate the Tutsi’s. Muslims hate Christians, Christians hate Jews. The chain of hate is endless and it permeates every barrier the human mind can erect.  Thinking about it gives me a headache.

Ever so often I read an article or story that makes me seriously ponder the evil that is prejudice. The depths some people sink to for prejudice sake beggars belief. Over the Christmas holiday the Nigerian media was full of stories about Christians in Jos being burnt to ashes by their Muslim neighbours. Some Christians retaliated by killing their Muslim neighbours using equally barbaric methods. It is a sad state of affairs.

On that note, my book recommendation for this week is “To Kill A Mockingbird” written by the legendary Harper Lee. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the novel tackles the issue of racial prejudice. First published in 1960 it’s an oldie but still very relevant. As always, read and tell me what you think.

xxx

Waila Caan

Waila Reads: “I Do Not Come To You By Chance”

Every other day (that’s no exaggeration) my English colleagues, SugarDaddy and Teddy, receive emails from Nigerians desperately needing their help. Last week SugarDaddy received an email from a man called Nuhu Ribadu from the EFCC asking him to invest in a billion dollar project to fight corruption in Nigeria. On a $300,000 investment, he was guaranteed a return of $1,000,000. Yesterday Teddy received an email from an elderly Nigerian woman battling breast cancer. She had $35,000,000 tied up in an American bank account which she needed to offset her medical bills. Problem was the bank wouldn’t release it to her unless she paid a $3,000 admin fee.  She promised Teddy that should he be compassionate enough to hand over the admin fee, he would be rewarded with 10% of her tied up cash.  Do the maths.

Each time a 419 (fraudulent) email find its way into SugarDaddy’s inbox, I hear a chortle followed by a shout of ‘MEE, your mates are at it again!’ SugarDaddy is notoriously politically incorrect. Plus, we have the sort of relationship that gives him the right to take the piss out of me, no holds barred.  When the story of Tobechi Onwuhara went viral, I had to show it to SugarDaddy. I needed him to know that some of my ‘mates’ were professionals at what they did. They weren’t all ‘bloody amateurs’ as he likes to call them. We had a good laugh reading the article and it wasn’t till I got home that night that it occurred to me to feel bad for further tarnishing the image of ‘my mates’ in SugarDaddy’s eyes.

Luke O’Brien who wrote the article for CNN (http://bit.ly/dLOUsW) did a fantastic job.  The article reads like a Nollywood script directed and produced by Martin Scorsese. My friends cast Don Cheadle in the lead role but I reckon he’s a wee bit puny.  Chiwetel Ejiofor on the other hand, has the kind of swagger needed to make it thunderstorm. It is the best-written article I’ve read in ages.

A few years ago, I met a guy who had 419 inscribed on his forehead.  I go to know him quite well and was surprised to find he wasn’t a monster. He was actually a good friend…kind, thoughtful, considerate, warm and generous. Very generous. His generosity was what ended our friendship.  Every time I let him buy me a pizza or a cinema ticket, my conscience wouldn’t let me forget where the money came from. My refusals to let him pay for anything became an issue. He wanted to know why and I didn’t have the guts to tell him it was because he was a thief. I avoided him and eventually, he stopped calling.  A mutual friend of ours thought I was crazy. Why on earth would I let what he did get in the way of our friendship? According to her, as long as he didn’t involve us in his activities, we had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t convinced.

On that note, my book recommendation for this week is “I Do Not Come To You By Chance” by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. The central character is a young man who finds himself drawn into a life of fraud.

As before, read and tell me what you think!

xxx

Waila Caan

Waila Reads: “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives”

Someone’s been doing an awful lot of reading lately. I’ve always been an avid reader but over the last three months I’ve been averaging two books a week. I feel like I’ve entered a reading competition only I’m not sure what the prize is. It’s probably just a phase but while it lasts, I’m making the most of it.

For my fellow readers, I thought I’d recommend a few books for you to read. One at a time though; I don’t want to bombard or bankrupt you.

I considered reviewing each book on my list but I thought I’d keep my opinions to myself. Some of them are brilliant reads and others somewhat lacklustre but I’ll let you make up your own minds.

Consider this an online book club of sorts and please, don’t hesitate to recommend any books you think I ought to read.

The first book I recommend is ‘The Secret  Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.’  It is written by Lola Shoneyin, a poet and novelist I recently discovered. If you have any thoughts on this book, please post them as comments on this entry. I really want to know what other people think of it.

Go on, get reading!!

xxx

Waila Caan

p.s.

I love all three covers but my favourite is the one on the right, which is the Nigerian cover. The one on the left is the US cover and in the middle, the UK cover.