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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Book Review: Naija Stories: Of Tears and Kisses, Heroes and Villains

When I was asked to review Naija Stories by the editor, Myne Whitman, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm sure I've admitted it here a few times, I am not the biggest fan of short stories. Mainly because I am just getting to know the characters and then they are yanked away from me. I have also admitted that I am trying to read more short stories and be more open-minded. 


Naijastories.com is an on-line community, which aims to promote aspiring Nigerian writers and produce stories with a Nigerian perspective. Naija Stories: Of Tears and Kisses, Heroes and Villains is Volume 1 of the ‘Best of NaijaStories’ series. The 30 stories in this anthology are divided into 4 sections: 'Tears', 'Kisses', 'Heroes' and 'Villains', and were all originally published on the Naijastories website between March 2010 and March 2011.


Can I just say that I was pleasantly surprised by Naija Stories and if I am honest what sealed the deal for me was the introduction. There was something about the way it was written that appealed to me. And when I read "Most of us have only seen zebras in the zoo", I smiled as I felt like I was going to read the Nigeria that I know (the first time I ever saw a zebra was at Chessington Zoo in the UK). After reading the introduction, I was eager to find out what this anthology had to offer and I wasn't let down. I was drawn to some stories more than others and those are the stories I want to focus on - the ones that really stood out for me:


The Catalyst by Meena Adekoya was a haunting story written from the point-of-view of an unborn child. One Sunday Morning in Atlanta by Uko Bendi Udo was one of my favourite stories. Okon is spending one Sunday Morning in Atlanta with his devout Christian mother who is visiting from Nigeria. Mother of Darkness by Rayo Abe was fun because it reminded me of all the stories I used to here from cousins or friends who went to boarding school about ghosts and Madame koikoi. It is a tale of a woman remembering her youthful antics with her three friends as they tried to conjure up a powerful witch. Showdown at Rowe Park by Babtunde Olaifa is a simple story about a boy in primary school having to defend himself after unexpectedly being made the class captain. Visiting Admiral Bull by Adiba Obubo explores the issues going on in Niger-Delta, as a woman from the diaspora returns to interview her uncle, Admiral Bull. Blame it on a Yellow Dress by Uche Okonkwo, a tale of incest, was probably the stand-out story for me. Other stories I enjoyed were Its Not that Easy by Lawal Opeyemi Isaac, Two Straws in A Bottle by Remi Roy Oyeyemi, and How I Kissed Hadiza by Seyi Osinowo. 


This was an enjoyable read - I was finally able to read it last night and ended up finishing it this morning. While I enjoyed some short stories more than others, I absolutely love that Naija Stories showcased new and emerging writers. As a reader, I love that I was able to experience writing that I may have never experienced if this didn't exist. I also enjoyed the blurbs on the authors at the start of each story (I even went on to further explore some of these writers after I finished reading). It was also nice reading stories from different parts of Nigeria and the diaspora. If Naija Stories aim was to reflect the diversity of Nigeria and the Nigerian experience, I feel it was able to do that. For more on the anthology check here.


4 out of 5 stars.


A little side note: I tried to play it cool when I was contacted by Myne Whitman to review this book, but inside I did a little happy dance (actually it was more than a little). I am still finding my feet in this world of books so to be asked to actually do a review is such a pleasure. So thank you!!

4 comments:

  1. You have done a good review here. I totally agree with you that NS anthology is one good and enjoyable book of short stories. I did a review of the anthology here too:

    www.josephomotayo.blogspot.com/2012/03/naijastories-anthology-review.html?m=1

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  2. Thank you! I enjoyed some stories more than others, but even more than that, I loved the concept behind the anthology. Thanks also for the link to your review.

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  3. Myne Whitman is an incredibly talented lit-head, everything she touches just turns to gold! Well, while we are trading reviews, there's another one here by Unoma Azuah http://newbooksnigeria.wordpress.com/reviews/

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  4. I'm yet to read Myne Whitman's novel 'A Heart to Mend,' but it's on my TBR list. Thanks also for the link to the review - the reviewer and I seemed to like the same three short stories in the anthology.

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