February 16, 2013

Take Me Away...to Nigeria


Take Me Away Saturday

Take Me Away showcases fiction, nonfiction, and children's books that take place in a specific country and/or within a specific culture.  Take a trip in books!  Look for where we are going next and places we've traveled at the bottom of the post.


This week we are visiting the African country of Nigeria.  Nigeria is a country in Western Africa.  It is slightly more than 2x the size of California. Once under British control and influence, Nigeria became independent in 1960.  It is Africa's most populous country and is composed of over 250 ethnic groups, the biggest being the Hausa and Fulani.  Nigeria plays a big role in the development of West African music and is also home to the first African Nobel Laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka.  It's film industry is known as "Nollywood." 
Info from World Factbook and Wikipedia


Here is a map of Nigeria:




Famous Nigerians:


Nobel Laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka

Author Chinua Achebe

Sade is half-Nigerian and was born in Nigeria.

Singer Seal is half-Nigerian.


Now here are some books about these cultures, organized into a variety of fiction, nonfiction, and children's books. *Note I am not an affiliate anywhere.

(P.S. There is a list of  the countries and cultures visited in past Take Me Away posts at the bottom of this post. Check them out and discover some good books to read and recommend some, too!)


FICTION SELECTIONS:


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.            

           Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had. 



The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives: A Novel by Lola Shoneyin

When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife's childlessness.

Meet Baba Segi . . .
A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.

And his wives . . .
Iya Segi--the bride of Baba Segi's youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband's home.
Iya Tope--Baba Segi's second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.
Iya Femi--the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.
Bolanle--Babi Segi's fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life's misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all. 



THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. 
The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.



In the decade since it won the Booker Prize, Ben Okri's Famished Road has become a classic. The narrator, Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria exists between life and death. The life he foresees for himself and the tale he tells is full of sadness and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the land of the dead, he is resurrected. But in their efforts to save their child, Azaro's loving parents are made destitute. The tension between the land of the living, with its violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits propels this latter-day Lazarus's story.



The incredible adventures of a young man who is "The palm- wine drinkard, and his Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Dead's Town". This is one of those germinal books, that stretches the imagination in directions one never expects. Written in English by a West African, the use of the language and the imagery it creates is extraordinary. 



Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past.

But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul. 


Mamo and LaMamo are twin brothers living in the small Nigerian village of Keti, where their domineering father controls their lives. With high hopes the twins attempt to flee from home, but only LaMamo escapes successfully and is able to live their dream of becoming a soldier who meets beautiful women. Mamo, the sickly, awkward twin, is doomed to remain in the village with his father. Gradually he comes out of his father's shadow and gains local fame as a historian, and, using Plutarch's Parallel Lives as his model, he embarks on the ambitious project of writing a "true" history of his people. But when the rains fail and famine rages, religious zealots incite the people to violence—and LaMamo returns to fight the enemy at home.
A novel of ardent loyalty, encroaching modernity, political desire, and personal liberation, Measuring Time is a heart-wrenching history of Nigeria, portrayed through the eyes of a single family. 



NONFICTION SELECTIONS:



Ake: The Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate Soyinka is a prolific playwright, poet, novelist, and critic, but seems to have found his purest voice as an autobiographer. Ak√©: The Years of Childhood is a memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and perception--a lyrical account of one boy's attempt to grasp the often irrational and hypocritical world of adults that equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief anecdotes into history lessons, conversations into morality plays, memories into awakenings.
  


Kalakuta Republic by Chris Abani

Kalakuta Republic is a powerful collection of poems detailing the harrowing experiences endured by Abani and others at the hands of Nigeria's military regime in the late 1980s. Abani's poems are dedicated to those who shared in but did not live through the suffering. In them he describes the characters that people this dark world, from the prison inmates to their torturers, the generals. Kalakuta Republic is based on his experience as political prisoner between 1985 and 1991. 


  My Nigeria: Five Decades of Independence by Peter Cunliffe-Jones
His nineteenth-century cousin, paddled ashore by slaves, twisted the arms of tribal chiefs to sign away their territorial rights in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Sixty years later, his grandfather helped craft Nigeria’s constitution and negotiate its independence, the first of its kind in Africa. Four decades later, Peter Cunliffe-Jones arrived as a journalist in the capital, Lagos, just as military rule ended, to face the country his family had a hand in shaping.
 Part family memoir, part history, My Nigeria is a piercing look at the colonial legacy of an emerging power in Africa. Marshalling his deep knowledge of the nation's economic, political, and historic forces, Cunliffe-Jones surveys its colonial past and explains why British rule led to collapse at independence. He also takes an unflinching look at the complicated country today, from email hoaxes and political corruption to the vast natural resources that make it one of the most powerful African nations; from life in Lagos’s virtually unknown and exclusive neighborhoods to the violent conflicts between the numerous tribes that make up this populous African nation. As Nigeria celebrates five decades of independence, this is a timely and personal look at a captivating country that has yet to achieve its great potential.  


There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe

The defining experience of Chinua Achebe’s life was the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967–1970. The conflict was infamous for its savage impact on the Biafran people, Chinua Achebe’s people, many of whom were starved to death after the Nigerian government blockaded their borders. By then, Chinua Achebe was already a world-renowned novelist, with a young family to protect. He took the Biafran side in the conflict and served his government as a roving cultural ambassador, from which vantage he absorbed the war’s full horror. Immediately after, Achebe took refuge in an academic post in the United States, and for more than forty years he has maintained a considered silence on the events of those terrible years, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry. Now, decades in the making, comes a towering reckoning with one of modern Africa’s most fateful events, from a writer whose words and courage have left an enduring stamp on world literature.

Achebe masterfully relates his experience, both as he lived it and how he has come to understand it. He begins his story with Nigeria’s birth pangs and the story of his own upbringing as a man and as a writer so that we might come to understand the country’s promise, which turned to horror when the hot winds of hatred began to stir. To read There Was a Countryis to be powerfully reminded that artists have a particular obligation, especially during a time of war. All writers, Achebe argues, should be committed writers—they should speak for their history, their beliefs, and their people.

Marrying history and memoir, poetry and prose, There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid firsthand observation and forty years of research and reflection. Wise, humane, and authoritative, it will stand as definitive and reinforce Achebe’s place as one of the most vital literary and moral voices of our age.


CHILDREN'S BOOKS:


Why the Sky is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale translated by Mary-Joan Gerson
The sky was once so close to the Earth that people cut parts of it to eat, but their waste and greed caused the sky to move far away.


National Geographic Countries of the World: Nigeria
Discover Africa's most populous country. Learn why this oil-rich land is so troubled. Visit Lagos, Nigeria's teeming mega-metropolis. Come see the sacred city of Ife-Ife. 



Ogbo: Sharing Life in an African Village by Ifeoma Onyefulu

A profile of contemporary Nigerian village life is seen through the eyes of Obioma, a young girl who explains how she and other children find fellowship and support within her ogbo, a family-like community of people her own age.



Yoruba Girl Dancing by Simi Bedford

In the tradition of The Whiteness of Bones, the poignant, funny, and utterly winning story of an African girl's metamorphasis into an upper-class English schoolgirl--with an edge. Bedford, who herself survived leaving Nigeria behind for England, turns her heroine's passage through the labyrinth of race and culture into a bittersweet but triumphant odyssey. 



This is, of course, just a sampling of books on Nigeria and Nigerian life for you to read. Do you want to recommend/share books that feature Nigeria? Or do you want to share other thoughts?  Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for our next trip in books! :)

Here is what is coming up next:

The European country of Scotland
The Asian country of Thailand


Where we've been so far in our literary travels so far:



Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand
Fiji
    

4 comments:

  1. Wow-2x the size of California? This post makes me feel so ignorant because I never would have guessed it was that big. I really need to check out some of these books.

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    Replies
    1. Actually I did not know it either until I began researching it for this post. So I was ignorant, too! These books are a great way to learn more!

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  2. Great post! I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novels.

    ReplyDelete

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