#YNaija2020Review: Ogadinma, Black Sunday, new Wole Soyinka…The Notable books of the year

The titles that kept us reading through a pandemic.

A Broken People’s Playlist- Chimeka Garricks

Almost ten years after publishing his debut novel, Chimeka Garricks returns with his first collection of short stories. Garricks’ playlist may be made up of cheesy pop songs, but the stories that he pens are made of sterner stuff. One or two of them lead to happy endings but for the most part he seems to be attracted to the darker aspects of the human condition. Like the book’s title suggests, the collection is an ode to troubled souls and drifters who have been dealt a heavy hand.

Black Sunday- Tola Rotimi Abraham

Both ultra-specific and universal, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s debut novel follows the fate of four siblings over the course of two decades in Nigeria as they search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy. Written with intimacy and uncommon attention to the fickleness of fate, Black Sunday delves into the heart of family life and unearths the messiness embedded within.

Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth – Wole Soyinka

A Wole Soyinka book is an event, more so his first novel of fiction in forty-seven years, since Season of Anomy was published in 1973. Set in a contemporary version of Nigeria, Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth is both a savagely witty whodunit and a corrosively satirical examination of corruption, both personal and political, told in the unmistakable voice and style of the grand statesman of Nigerian letters.

The Death of Vivek Oji – Akwaeke Emezi

In this winning follow up to 2018’s Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi takes a more restrained approach to this tale of doomed romance and family drama. Emezi serves mystery as a side dish while constructing an aching portrait of love and death. In this steamroller of a story, Emezi tackles coming of age and coming out in southern Nigeria, probing one family’s complicity in the untimely death of a son.

Dreams and Assorted Nightmares – Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

This collection of interconnecting short stories by NLNG literature prize winner Abubakar Adam Ibrahim explores the spaces between life and death and beyond. The stories are mystical and dark, but the palpable compassion with which they are written give them warmth and light. This collection weighs the silent poetry and tragedies of everyday life, the darkness and tenderness of the human mind, and the crossroads between dreams and the supernatural.

The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abi Daré

Abi Daré’s debut novel is a rousing tale of pluck and tenacity. Adunni, a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl, endures a series of unfortunate events in her quest to get an education. Inspired by the memory of her late mother, who wanted her daughter to overcome cultural confines and find her voice, and with the help of a few unlikely allies, Adunni sets about overcoming her modest circumstances.

Love in Colour- Bolu Babalola

A Nigerian goddess, beaten down by her gregarious lover but longing to be seen. A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman forced to make an impossible choice. A businesswoman attempting a giant leap, in love and in life. In this debut collection, acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola reclaims familiar love stories from history and mythology with an eye for inclusivity and decolonizing the canon.

The Mechanics of Yenagoa- Michael Afenfia

The Mechanics of Yenagoa, the latest title by Canadian based Nigerian author Michael Afenfia is something of a guilty pleasure. Set in the capital of oil rich Bayelsa state, and boasting a colorful cast of characters- hustlers, sinners and tricksters, all of them- The Mechanics of Yenagoa bristles with mischief on every page. Published by Masobe Books, the fifth outing by Afenfia is a rollercoaster ride through suburban Nigeria.

Ogadinma Or, Everything Will be All Right- Ukamaka Olisakwe

Olisakwe’s debut is a tale of loss and resilience and finding the beauty among thorns. After an unwanted pregnancy leaves her exiled from her family in Kano, thwarting her plans to go to university, seventeen-year-old Ogadinma is sent to her aunt’s in Lagos. When a whirlwind romance with an older man descends into indignity, she is forced to channel her strength and resourcefulness to escape a fate that appears all but inevitable.

Sacrament of bodies- Romeo Oriogun

In this sizzling collection of poems, Romeo Oriogun bravely and openly interrogates how a queer man living in Nigeria can heal in a society that wants to break him down completely. With honesty, precision, tenderness of detail, and a light touch, Oriogun explores grief and how the body finds survival through migration.

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