Category Archives: RCQ

My African Literati Love Story

african-literati-love-storyOur love story began years back, over two decades ago. Every weekend I ransacked my mother’s makeshift library which was a stack of books piled up in termite bitten and dust laden cartons on her wardrobe. Despite stern warnings to stir clear of the books, reminding me all the time that some of those books were older than i was and that she had bought them before ever thinking of marrying my father, the bond between us grew stronger and there was no turning back.

I remember the sleepless date nights we had with the Pace Setter Series, my favorites still remain Too Cold For Comfort, The Undesirable Element and The Deliquent. These series stirred my thirst for adventure, they were the perfect dessert after a long hard day at school solving algebra and calculus. Then I stumbled on the Chinua Achebe series, breaking into the world of young Chike and how he had to navigate his way around the river. No Longer at Ease and Okonkwo’s journey to death in Things Fall Apart opened my eyes to the rich culture in Eastern Nigeria. Wole Soyinka’s Ake: The years of childhood and Ola Rotimi’s The gods are Not to Blame stimulated my appetite to dig into the archives helping me to embrace our political history. From Buchi Emecheta’s Bride Price and Joys of Motherhood to Elechi Amadi’s Sunset in Biafra, Chukwuemeka Ike’s Bottled Leopard, the list is endless. They formed the building blocks of my addiction to fiction and flair for writing.

But along the line, I fell for the seductive lines of JK Rowling and was whisked off to Hogwarts, spellbound from Harry Porter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Porter and the Deathly Hallows. As I moved from JK to Danielle Steel, Sidney Sheldon and Tolkien, the flame of our love began to fade as I lost track of time engrossed in their pages. Then I felt a shift in my taste buds, as I sailed across the Trans-Atlantic Ocean on the hardbacks of Stephen King, Patterson, Grisham and others, I felt you were not good enough for me again.

Years have gone by, and I had to join the rat race in the daily hustle to have butter on my bread which has eaten a large chunk of my time. But thanks to the likes of Adichie, Wainaina, Ama Ata Aidoo, Habila, Sefi Ataa, Okoroafor and more, my heart yearns for those late nights we had in the past and to hide myself in your embrace. You were a great companion who never complained when I needed a place for my loneliness. I do not fear death when things fall apart because I have you as a thread of gold beads around my neck. I will always remember the memory of love, we shared under the udala tree on the famished road. But I know everything good will still come because I am no longer at ease to write about your brilliant literary exploits.

Your Runaway lover and reader

Originally published on Brittle Paper

The Sellout | Paul Beatty’s Tragicomedy about Racism in America

imagesThe Sellout by Paul Beatty is about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. Born in the ‘agrarian ghetto’ of Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of the The Sellout was raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

The Sellout was praised by critics for its humour and satirical content. It challenges the tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.

Excerpt
“We lived in Dickens, a ghetto community on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, and as odd as it might sound, I grew up on a farm in the inner city. Founded in 1868, Dickens, like most California towns except for Irvine, which was established as a breeding ground for stupid, fat, ugly, white Republicans and the chihuahuas and East Asian refugees who love them, started out as an agrarian community. The city’s original charter stipulated that “Dickens shall remain free of Chinamen, Spanish of all shades, dialects, and hats, Frenchmen, redheads, city slickers, and unskilled Jews.” However, the founders, in their somewhat limited wisdom, also provided that the five hundred acres bordering the canal be forever zoned for something referred to as “residential agriculture,” and thus my neighborhood, a ten-square-block section of Dickens unofficially known as the Farms was born. You know when you’ve entered the Farms, because the city sidewalks, along with your rims, car stereo, nerve, and progressive voting record, will have vanished into air thick with the smell of cow manure and, if the wind is blowing the right direction-good weed. Grown men slowly pedal dirt bikes and fixies through streets clogged with gaggles and coveys of every type of farm bird from chickens to peacocks. They ride by with no hands, counting small stacks of bills, looking up just long enough to raise an inquisitive eyebrow and mouth: “Wassup? Q’vo?” Wagon wheels nailed to front-yard trees and fences lend the ranch-style houses a touch of pioneer authenticity that belies the fact that every window, entryway, and doggie door has more bars on it and padlocks than a prison commissary. Front porch senior citizens and eight-year-olds who’ve already seen it all sit on rickety lawn chairs whittling with switchblades, waiting for something to happen, as it always did.”

48574434-cached“The first 100 pages of [Paul Beatty’s] new novel, The Sellout, are the most caustic and the most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read in at least a decade. I gave up underlining the killer bits because my arm began to hurt . . . [They] read like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility . . . The jokes come up through your spleen . . . The riffs don’t stop coming in this landmark and deeply aware comic novel . . . [It] puts you down in a place that’s miles from where it picked you up.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Swiftian satire of the highest order . . . Giddy, scathing and dazzling.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize, 2016. He is the of three novels— Slumberland, Tuff, and The White Boy Shuffle—and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. He lives in New york.

The Sellout – Wall Street Journal Best Books of the Year, NPR Best Book of the Year, Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award – Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Awards – Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Awards Winner, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, Man Booker Prize Nominee, NYT Outstanding Books of the Year, New Yorker Best Books of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, Boston Globe Best Books of the Year, Time Out New York Best Books of the Year, Buzzfeed Best Books of the Year, Man Booker Prize Winner, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year.