Category: Reviews

iNdigO by Molara Wood



“Don’t give me that! What kind of woman chooses not to have a child?”

This was the question posed to Idera by a supposed super authority on babies. Idera is a young, married, elitist woman who was of the notion that having children was not a priority for  newly-weds. She wanted to enjoy her husband first without the intrusion of children. The fact that she stayed in London also made her comfortable with her stand. The demise of her father-in-law however brought about some changes which included relocating back to Nigeria. The move back to Nigeria was a rude awakening to her that her stand while it was taken for granted in Western societies, African societies saw it as a huge anomaly. Idera’s battle between maintaining her stand, to her gradual realization that things had gone out of her control and her eventual compromise to listen to what people were saying is what Ms. Wood detailed in ‘Indigo’, one of the stories in the collection.

A collection of short stories told from the perspectives of different characters, ‘indigo’ features some stories that are very reminiscent of those folktales told to us by our parents, grandparents or elderly relatives. Spanning across various themes like love, superstition versus reality, tradition, and poverty, indigo aims to tell the story of the common man and the sophisticated; the battle between tradition and modernism.

‘Written in stone’, one of the stories, is written in a narrative that leaves the reader begging for more. Adenike was set on going to Jenwi to see for herself whether the rumours she heard concerning her espoused fiancé marrying another woman was true. Little did she know that she was about to have an experience that would alter the course of her life forever. The way ‘the legend of the stone lioness’ was resurrected in this story is particularly telling of the ingenuity of the story teller.

Ms. Wood doesn’t just tell folklores she also relates with the current economic realities facing Nigeria and Nigerians. ‘In Name Only; Leaving Oxford Street; The Last Bus Stop and Beautiful Game’ all enunciates that feeling of alienation, that battle of acceptance or rejection, camouflaging and the perpetual anxiety of getting the ‘green card’ that accompanies living in a foreign country. ‘Kelemo’s Woman gives a little insight into the lives of activists and the people that love them. ‘The Scarcity of Common Goods’ is a little admonition on being empathetic with others in their varying conditions or situations because we do not determine how the tide of life turns.

Reading through the book one gets the feeling that the author is trying to pass a strong message of the relevance/import of our traditions in today’s world. The author did not seek to impose her opinion on the reader but rather subtly through her stories she emphasized that no matter how far you go or how sophisticated you become, your roots still play a strong influence on you.



we need new names

Why do we need new names? Who are the ‘we’ in question? And what kind of name is ‘NoViolet Bulawayo? These were the questions in my mind when I first heard about the book and all through the period till I eventually got the book and started reading it. The questions were answered (except the third one) when I finished reading the book.

We need new names is the story of a country torn apart as seen through the eyes of ‘Darling’ the lead character. The story opens in a slum called ‘Paradise’ with Darling, then ten years old, and her friends engaged in tomfoolery and uninhibited enthusiasm as wont of children with no worries. But that description is also quite deceptive because as the story unravels we discover that the children had worries. Worries about having good food to eat and good clothes to wear; Worries about what they would eat when the guavas they feasted on goes out of season. Worries of ever reclaiming the lives they lived before coming to this slum called Paradise; Worries about losing one of theirs, Chipo, a pregnant young teen of eleven to death during delivery and so on. Amidst all these the children still had dreams. Sbho’s dream was to marry a rich man who will take her away from the hell she was living in Darling’s big dream was of going to ‘Destroyedmichygen (actually Detroit Michigan)’ to live with her Aunt Fostalina where everything worked which will put an end to all of her worries.

When you wish for something long enough most times you get it. As such Darling’s dream of going to America eventually came through. Life with her Aunt Fostalina and her husband Uncle Jojo left much to be desired to Darling. It was like the America of her dreams suddenly grew wings and flew away before she arrived.  While she often times felt the pang of going back home to her country she came to discover this was easier imagined than carried through.

Ms. Bulawayo tells a story about her country Zimbabwe without actually mentioning it’s name or the name of the President but gave the reader enough hints to be able to decipher the country she was talking about. Students of Literature will have a field day with this book because it is rich in those features that make literature literature. Sit-tightism, racism, patronizing attitude of the whites to the blacks, poverty, oppression, AIDS, brain drain,  bad governance, tendency to seek greener pastures rather than develop one’s country exhibited by Africans and many more are the issues explored by the author. The despair painted in this book is better read for oneself than being told about. Speaking through the voice of a ten year old Ms. Bulawayo was able to freely give expression to her thoughts without the inhibitions that are accustomed with older persons.

‘We need new names’ is a captivating and refreshing debut novel. No wonder it won the Etisalat prize for Literature.





Being born in a location different from where his siblings were born was enough of a sign to his mother that this child was going to be different. Yes for those of you who don’t know Julius Agwu was the only one of his mothers’ children that was born at the hospital and from there his journey has been full of so many curves and upheavals and the like.

Born in Choba, Portharcourt, Julius Chinweikpe Agwu was born to a jack-of-all trade father and a farmer cum petty trader mother. The fifth of six children, he describes his ‘pikinhood’ days and states that he had three major pastimes as a pikin which were sleeping, eating, and dancing.  No wonder he was eventually to hit limelight with his music-comedy act.

He goes on in his story and takes us through his parents’ continual struggle to send him to school, how he developed interest in the arts from listening to theatre arts students of the University of Portharcourt and how he eventually managed to study theatre arts at the University. He also reveals to us in this memoir all those people who helped him on his way up, those celebrities who were classmates or ahead of him at the University and seeing these names one would think Nollywood comprises only of Uniport graduates.

Far from painting himself in a blinding light of goodness, he also reveals some of his weaknesses and tries to let people know that he is only human after all.

His’ is the story of the average celebrity/star who was born amidst poverty and who through sheer hard work and hustle eventually made it. And if you’ve ever wondered why he is so short try eating Eba three times daily! That was how poor they were. A cross section of popular names also gave their testimonials about the man Julius Agwu and they revealed more about his character than you could ever learn reading articles about him online.


Baba Segi had four wives. Of course he was not the first man with multiple wives. He was just another man who believed that the more the wives and children, the better. So why did Lola Shoneyin decide to center her story on a polygamous family whose occurence is not new in the society? The answer is found in the web of secrecy and betrayal that surrounds the Alao family.

Baba Segi had been living happily with his three wives until he decided to marry wife number four. In came Bolanle.
Bolanle is a University graduate who chose to be a fourth wife because of the emotional scars she carried. She preferred the emotional detachment that comes with being another wife and not an only wife.

The first and third wife did not take to Bolanle mainly because they felt threatened by her since they were unlearned. They also knew she was going to disturb the rhythm of their home. Moreso, if they were not careful they feared she was going to bring their much guarded secret to light.

An uneasy atmosphere settled on the Alao home with the wives doing their best to drive Bolanle out but not succeeding. Things however came to a head when after two years Bolanle was yet to conceive and Baba Segi became desperate to find a solution to this. If he had known the chain of events his actions would spark off he would have let sleeping dogs lie.

Lola Shoneyin tells the tale of a typical polygamous home albeit with a twist which leaves the reader sympathetic to the man rather than his wives. A beautiful piece.

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