Easy Motion Tourist – Leye Adenle

I have to say that I’m super glad and impressed to see that more books authored by African writers are finding their way into mainstream book stores. We are also seeing a growing number of refreshing and gripping literary fiction titles being released. Take Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle for instance; Easy Motion Tourist is a crime story, a contemporary dark thriller set in Lagos featuring an naive tourist, Guy Collins. He meets up with and Amaka and together they set out on a quest to expose the trade in body parts. This engaging thriller conveys a vivid account of a dark and violent Lagos making you forget that this story is just a fiction!

Leye Adenle was in South Africa for his book tour a few weeks ago, and I needed to understand some few things:

AAB: I love Nigeria, well Lagos. Never been there but of course reading literary fiction set in Lagos, I get to imagine it, the city & people. For instance, Guy Collins and I are tourists in Lagos, we are both intrigued and fascinated by the city but we went there as two naïve tourists! Would you think the context(dark/violence/corruption/intensity) of Easy Motion Tourist displays a fair view of contemporary Lagos?

LA: I think Lagos, like most mega cities of the world, is a complex character. In Lagos you will find beauty, the most moving acts of human compassion, the resilience, creativity, inventiveness of people. You will find faith like you have never observed it before. People praising and worshiping an almighty giver and protector as if he were standing at the pulpit in their church. You will find kindness and forgiveness, you will find goodness and yes, godliness, but you will also find darkness where you expect to find it and where you don’t. I believe this describes most cities in the world and the people who live in them.

AAB: And how was it received? I mean readers in Lagos, Nigeria?

LA: Lagosians, as they are called, have largely loved the book. Till date, touch wood, not one Lagosian has said to me, ‘Leye, how dare you.’ Rather, the recurring soundbite has been, ‘Wow, you really know Lagos.’ Again, touch wood. The honourable minister for tourism might yet read it and say, ‘you are banned! You and your book. Banned!’

AAB: It came across well to me anyway, in a way you are exposing these injustices happening in Lagos. Again, it blew me away when I felt like you are aiming to get across this gross violence against women – violence against sex workers. Where does this come from? Perhaps an activist for the welfare of women? I mean how or why did you decide to tackle this issue?

LA: The story came to me out of a conversation with my mum and her boys. My two brothers. We were discussing everything under the sun, as usual, when the debate segued to naked mutilated bodies often found on express ways in Nigeria. Usually female. Usually young. The consensus has always been that the bodies are victims of murder for rituals, and that they were prostitutes.
We were debating and discussing cause and protection, especially the argument for decriminalization of sex work (which I strongly advocate) when the idea for the story came to me.

AAB: I will assume prostitution is not legal that side but the constant brutality surrounding them is quite hectic. Even here in SA sex workers are not well protected.
And then there is the ‘heroin’ Amaka. I need to understand how you managed to voice her. How difficult or easy was it to write for a female character?

LA: Writing Amaka is simple. She’s exactly like many women I know. She’s an amalgamation of friends, relatives, colleagues, lovers, potential lovers who shunned me. She is, to put it quite simply, woman. Phenomenally.

AAB: I refused to think this is a romance story. When you started writing Easy Motion Tourist, were there thoughts/ideas of the book leading to a romance relationship between Guy and Amaka?

LA: When I started writing, I did not foresee anything beyond the theme. On a line by line, chapter by chapter basis, for instance, I did not know what any of the characters would do. They sometimes surprised me with their actions. On Amaka’s part, she shocked me. At times while writing I was like, ‘Amaka!’ Other times I simply shook my head at her. She’s her own person, unapologetically and with complete agency. I cannot take credit or blame for any of her actions.

AAB: Lately we speak and hear of decolonising African Literature. The contemporary African Literature. We hear and speak about books authored in African languages. Your opinion? Would you write in Yoruba? And why you think it matters? Which it does.

LA: My grandfather wrote in Yoruba. I write in English. No one can lay claim to any language as theirs. Language belongs to humanity. I cannot be accused of cultural appropriation for use of English, or any other language for that matter. The important issue for me is communication. I want to communicate. I want to be read. I want to be heard. I communicate well in English, as do a lot of people in the world that I write for. Would I write in Yoruba? Of course. If I’m telling a story that can only be told in Yoruba, or that is only meant for Yoruba speaking people. Until I’m about to write such a story, I’ll be content with being translated into Yoruba.

I would rather the colonised people of Africa shed the imposed religions of their colonisers

 

Easy Motion Tourist – Leye Adenele is an incredible, brilliantly written story that surely should be adapted into a (well-funded) film.

 

Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

One of my biggest fears around marriage was not the long-term commitment I would be facing, it was the thought of the in-laws I would end up with that made me shudder. That over-protective mother, the meddling aunts and worse, the sisters who would rip into me because I cannot cook to save my life.

Reading Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo played out my fears. For three agonising evenings, this couple (characters) invaded my lounge. Over a glass of wine, I listened to both sides of the story justifying their reckless actions. Femni explains how she felt betrayed, manipulated by her husband and in-laws. Her husband Akin thought that his actions would surely help and only make his wife happy. On our “last day” when trying to dissect this story, it dawned on me that both of them are at fault! Such a pity I cannot call them back and say “well hang on, actually you are both in the wrong and need to apologise to each other.”

I quite appreciated my marriage after reading Stay with me. Last December we were celebrating our paper anniversary. My in laws live far across the ocean and my parents live 1200 km away. We all chat over the phone and I’m grateful neither party interferes in our marital affairs. We do not have kids and have decided should  we not be able to have kids, we’ll adopt – an Indian or Chinese child just to mix it up. We are after all in a biracial relationship so why not.

Femni and Akin also loved each other very much, perhaps they were soul mates but they let family impose in their marriage. Without resorting to spoilers; Akin was not man enough to tell the love of his life the truth. He decided to play God, but when it didn’t suit him anymore he went mental. Femni, well I can understand her frustrations but that cannot justify infidelity. This love story is a tragedy, an unnecessary tragedy but shows why communication and trust is central in a relationship.

I applaud the author’s uncomplicated and easy writing style. She simply told a story that happens to many a couple. A sad reality for desperate couples finding themselves vulnerable to pressures of societal norms. A single story of love, grief and betrayal.

I cannot wait to hear reviews and opinions from single and married feminists and the men who claim culture and tradition. It will be interesting again to hear from the author. What drove her to courageously write on this topic? The book will hopefully come out in March this year. It will surely be one of the best reads for 2017.

5 stars from me!

Well done Ayobami 😉

 

 

 

Great Book Recommendation by The Guardian

Read quite an absorbing article on The Guardian where leading authors had book recommendations on international classics that should be on student’s bookshelves.

Some of these book recommendations include a book I’ve been looking for; Black Sisters’ Street by  Chika UnigweI have not yet had the privilege of reading this book – ”Not in stock at the moment” but reading snippets from Goodreads and The Guardian, sounds like I won’t have any regrets.

The novel is a haunting story about 4 different women in Nigeria ending up as prostitutes in Belgium.  They open their bodies to strangers but their hearts to no one, each focused on earning enough to get herself free, to send money home or save up for her own future. One of the girls, Sisi gets murdered shatters their already fragile world. Drawn together by tragedy and the loss of one of their own, the women realize that they must choose between their secrets and their safety. It is a story of courage, unity, and hope, of women’s friendships and of bonds that, once forged, cannot be broken.

Chika Unigwe was born in Enugu, Nigeria, and now lives in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four children. She writes in English and Dutch. In April 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature – GoodReads.

Read more on which books where chosen to be The non-western books that every student should read but are often neglected by universities here:The Guardian