By Olamide Babatunde
You never get a second chance at a first impression, goes a cliché. This is true. First impressions matter a lot where impact needs to be made. First time authors know this as well, that is why they put their best hand forward. In almost all situations, it is similar that one will be evaluated by what is offered at an initial meeting and whatever happens afterwards is determined by it, too. With the evolution of new Nigerian writings, some new breed of writers have, in the last two years, become authors to read after emerging with
riveting debut novels. Below is the list in no particular order:
The Fishermen –Chigozie Obioma
Four middle-class Nigerian brothers, Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Benjamin, decide to go fishing in a river. They do this without their mother’s knowledge, carefully hiding away their fishing kit when they come home. Their career lasts six weeks before they are discovered by a neighbour, who tells their mother. One day, at the river, they meet
the local oddball, Abulu, who has the power of prophecy, and who predicts that Ikenna, the eldest, will be killed by one of his brothers; by a “fisherman”. It is from this simple, almost mythological conceit that Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel grows. Obioma’s fiction was nominated for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
Born on Tuesday –Elnathan John
Elnathan John is a lawyer turned writer. Born on a Tuesday tells the story of a young boy in far north-western Nigeria, Dantala, who finds himself at
the centre of conflicts. First, he finds himself among street boys who sleep under a kuka tree. He flees leaving his best friend behind when attempts to burn an opposition’s headquarter fails. At the Mosque, he tries to find a new life but that also becomes impossible when he has to choose a side. Dantala, in this stirring story, must decide what kind of person he should be and how he should live his life. John is a two-
time Caine Prize finalist and was longlisted for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature. He grew up in northern Nigeria and has been able to give voice to the political and religious violence which threatens to break the existence of naïve lives.
Under the Udala Trees –Chinelo Okparanta
Okparanta grew up in Port Harcourt and, at the age of ten, moved to New York. In 2015, she published her novel, Under the Udala Trees, which carries on the discourse about a story of love and war, the forces which both strives to out weigh each other. She weaves these forces around Ijeoma’s obsession with Amina, her fall from upper
middle class student and the impact of Biafra’s defeat on Nigerian, particularly the Igbo. It is an addition to the works of Chinua Achebe (There Was a Country) and Chimamanda Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) who have both found ways to reassess the Biafran conflict and the
effect it had, and continues to have, on Nigerians. Her twist is the delicate strip of gay relationship which is disappointing at best to Ijeoma’s mother.
Satans and Shaitans –Obinna Udenwe
This is an action packed narrative. It cleaves to the untoward development of insurgency and religious militancy arising from conspiracies and collaborations from the rich and powerful. Each character involved sees himself as larger than life and keels to a downfall like that of Narcissus. The themes of power, love religion, revenge and murder blend into a riveting cocktail.
Season of Crimson Blossoms –Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Adam Abubakar, who recently won the NLNG Prize, penned Season of Crimson Blossoms, his first novel, which gives an insight into the contemporary Northern Nigeria society. In this compelling story of a sizzling romance between 55 year old Hajiya Bintu and 26 year old Hassan Reza, a drug dealer and ringleader at San Siro, we feel Abubakar’s compassion towards the plight of widows. Underneath Hajia Binyu’s veil, there is a longing way deep to ignore. This novel will make a great read for anyone who wants to learn new words in Hausa parlance and loads of African nuggets.
Blackass –Igoni Barett
Yet another humorous entry is Blackass. It is an exciting tale of Lagos and its experiences; a tale of the privileges
that come with being white skinned. Barett certainly stings with this satire of his and leave the imagination running wild. It is really funny to think of any one waking up to discover he has turned white all over save for his ass which remains undoubtedly black. This transformation for Furo Wariboko presents a whole new life with perks and problems alike. It questions the values of society, brings race and recognition to the fore in a ball of comic satire. Barett also has a short story collection titled From Caves of Rotten Teeth.
Prodigals in Paradise –Henry Akubuiro
Told in a racy pace and pulsating, poetic language, the novel unfurls hilarious episodes as it relives the harsh experiences of ordinary Lagosians as they struggle to make ends meet, resorting to dog-eat-dog. A work of realistic fiction, Prodigals in Paradise derives its name from an abandoned building curiously named Paradise, home to benighted squatters from different parts of Nigeria and beyond. The hero of the novel, Nicodemus, arrives Lagos with high hope, intoxicated with a university degree, only to find himself in the midst of despondent Lagosians raped by the city. He soon takes to menial jobs when white collar job becomes elusive, and his dubious uncle, Job, metamorphoses into an evangelist, deploying deception and ending up in jail. Recognition for the novel came just weeks after it was published as it was shortlisted for the 2016 ANA Prose Prize.
Easy Motion Tourist –Leye Adenle
Set in Lagos, it is a crime fiction. Typical of the metropolis, it is easy to get sucked into a world of crime, and that is exactly what happens when Guy Collins, the tourist who has just set foot in Lagos is sucked into a murder. The whirlpool goes so deep that he, unfortunately, finds Lagos to be dangerous and the super rich Nigerians who live on the Island too busy keeping up with their affluent lifestyle to unravel a murder case. The only hope for Collins is Amaka who appears right in the middle .She does
not steal the show from him as with the many other entrances of view.
If you enjoyed Toni Kan’s Carnivorous City, you should enjoy this, too. Leye gives a voice to the foreigner whose discoveries equally shock and amuse the readers with its craziness and violence and the sex worker immunity to share their own stories.
Bongel –Maryam Bobi
Often times, feminists talk about equality; no violence against women more than child marriages are addressed in narratives. Girls are forced to walk this path of self denial as we see in this fictive story. Bongel opens our eyes to this more than perpetrators would care for. She hoists herself between what and where a woman’s place should be even in a world that reflects reality.