Igoni reads in Abuja this weekend at Salamander Cafe: Saturday 2nd November at 2pm

Igoni reads in Abuja this weekend at Salamander Cafe: Saturday 2nd November at 2pm

The Nigerian edition of Igoni Barrett’s collection of short stories will be released in Abuja on the 2nd of November 2013 at the Salamander Café on Bujumbura Close off Libreville Street, Amino Kano Crescent, Wuse 2 Abuja. It promises to be a great event. Farafina is coming to Abuja.

On Race, Hair, and Chimamanda Adichie’s ‘Americanah’

Book Review by Blessing Omakwu

AmericanahWhen I heard Chimamanda Adichie was writing a new book that drew heavily from hair and race as themes, I was excited for two reasons: first, because the bibliophile in me lives for everything Adichie writes; and second, because race and hair are familiar territories as an ex-member of the African diaspora in America. Indeed, one of my first adult memories of America involves both hair and race. Although I was born in America, my family moved to Nigeria when I was child, and I spent all of my adolescent years there. When I returned to America for university, I found that adjusting to the culture change was not as easy as I had imagined it would be. I will never forget the puzzled look on one of my Caucasian-male friends’ face when I sat next to him in the cafeteria one day during those first few weeks. I had just gotten a weave put in my hair, and it turns out he was wondering how my hair had miraculously grown so long since the previous day. I laughed and began to mumble something about the versatility of black hair when an African American female who was sitting across from us fired, “Don’t come here with yo’ African self tryna think you black!” It was then that I first realized being American and being African, did not give me a membership card to the African-American club.

On the surface, Americanah is a riveting love story between high school sweethearts, Ifemelu and Obinze, that starts in Lagos during a time of military dictatorship. With Obinze, Ifemelu was “at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.” The two are separated when Ifemelu moves to America amidst ongoing university strikes in Nigeria. In America, Ifemelu becomes aware of race, falls in love with her natural hair, explores an interracial relationship and becomes a prominent blogger. Obinze, on the other hand, moves to England where he battles loneliness and struggles to make a living working under the table jobs after overstaying his visa: “[he] lived in London indeed but invisibly, his existence like an erased pencil sketch.” Eventually, the two reunite in Lagos, where Obinze has become a ‘big boy’ and Ifemelu is struggling to carve a new career after being away from home for 13 years. In the end, Ifemelu and Obinze must make a very difficult decision.  But Americanah is more than a love story: it is a social critique and a dissection of the politics of identity.

What is genius about Americanah is that almost anyone can find something to relate to in it: there is no doubt that this novel will appeal to an even broader audience than Adichie’s previous work.  However, the virtue of Americanah–its ability to cut across 3 continents and multiple subject matters–may also be its vice. The book attempts to do too much by cramming so many complex topics (race, politics, hair, class, interracial relationships, the immigrant experience, nouveau Lagos, etc) into one story line. Several of her full-length blog posts with titles like: ‘To my Fellow Non-American Blacks: In America, You Are Black, Baby’ and ‘A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor’ are included in the book. After a while, reading the blog posts can become cumbersome (they reminded me of all the assigned reading I had to do in law school for a critical race theory class). Also, at some points in the novel, the hair angle seemed forced (for starters, why was Ifemelu getting braids to go to Nigeria aka the land of cheaper and better braids?) and proselytistic. Interestingly, religion is subtly critiqued and slightly caricatured where explored: characters are found fasting themselves to sickness and diagnosing evil spirits.

Yet, the literary quality of Americanah is preserved despite its overt political tone and near nihilism. The characters are so fully developed and believable that you might think Adichie has met your friend, relative, classmate, or hair dresser. Unlike Purple Hibiscus and some of the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck, there is no unfinished business in Americanah. One leaves the novel at least certain of its conclusion, and at best satisfied by it.

Perhaps the only questions I had after reading the novel were about Adichie herself. There are pieces of the places Adichie has been littered throughout the book, such as Nsukka, Connecticut, Maryland and Yale. In the 24 hours during which I devoured Americanah, I found myself wondering: did she draw some of the dinner table intellectual banter from conversations she and her Doctor husband have had with their friends? And most importantly: how much of Ifemelu is Chimamanda?

In 2009, I had the privilege to meet Adichie during a book signing for The Thing Around Your Neck.  Alas, I echo the gratitude I gave her then for Americanah: thank you for giving a voice to the experiences that I have always remembered but sometimes forgotten how to articulate.

Republished with the author’s permission, this review first appeared on NigeriansTalk

This independent review does not represent the opinion of FarafinaBooks

Drum Roll… The Winners

ImageThank you all for following our e-love fest and for participating by dropping comments, tweets, sending in your love poems and stories, and for voting. We have had a fabulous time and all that is left to do now is announce the winners of our poetry competition. The three poems that received the highest votes in the comment section and via tweets are:

For As Long As Your Love Remains by dr2103. anonymous

Over Troubled Water by Izuchukwu Udokwu

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by Soon Nath

The three writers will each receive a copy of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. We will send them e-mails detailing how to redeem their prizes.

Love, Art and Africa!

Write Me A Love Letter

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For centuries, love has been the subject of many literary works. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day (which is just 10 days away – hope you have your gifts ready), Farafina is bringing you some of our favourite love poems and letters. It will be 10 days of mushiness, and we invite you to join our little e-love fest. If you are looking for a poem to include on your valentines card, something to make him/her feel special, then follow our blog.

Just to give you an idea of what to expect from us:

Day 1: TODAY!!! Today, Farafina is bringing you their editor’s top ten love poems.

Day 2: We teach you how to write a sonnet and provide a few examples, so that you are better able to express your feelings to that special person.

Day 3: Farafina will provide you with some of the greatest (and possibly cheesiest) love lines in history.

Day 4: We will show you how to write a villanelle (another popular love poem form).

Day 5: Our fair readers, do submit your attempt at a sonnet/villanelle. On Valentine’s Day, we will publish the best five entries.

Day 6: Write us a 6-word love story and we will publish the top five on our blog.

Day 7: Farafina editor’s choice of the top ten love stories; and join in our convo about some of the Farafina characters and their love lives.

Day 8: Some Nigerian love poems to get you in the mood…

Day 9: Famous love letters so that you can learn from the greats.

Day 10: We will publish top five love poems and top ten six-word stories. If the writers want, they may supply the names and/or twitter handles of their valentines and Farafina will tweet the poem/story at them (you may remain anonymous if you so wish).