All posts by Tolu Akinwole

To a Life of Kisses and Quarrels

By Tolu Akinwole 

  • Title: Niyi Osundare: A Literary Biography
  • Author: Sule E Egya
  • Publisher: SEVHAGE Publishers
  • Number of pages: 334
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Biography

Some people’s lives compel biographies, and Niyi Osundare is one of them. Or how else does one describe a life that exemplifies the classic grass-to-grace tale? Niyi Osundare: A Literary Biography captures in rich detail the trials and triumphs of one of the greatest poets to have risen from Nigeria; it outlines in bold relief the tortuous road to greatness. Only a few writers other than Sule E Egya, a poet, critic, academic and Osundare enthusiast, are qualified to present the story as he does. More…

Give the Jew a Muslim Burial

By Tolu Akinwole

  • Title: Menorahs and Minarets
  • Author: Kamal Ruhayyim
  • Translator: Sarah Enany
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Fiction

‘They could hardly believe what they were seeing: a dead Jew, and a Muslim funeral’ (p 249).

These are good times for readers; novelists are boldly taking on issues of immense socio-political significance, and novels are igniting lively debates. Kamal Ruhayyim is one such novelist; Menorahs and Minarets is one such novel. Days in the Diaspora (2012) and Diary of a Jewish Muslim (2014) heralded Menorahs and Minarets, which concludes a compelling trilogy. Menorahs and Minarets does not merely paint ‘an uncompromising portrait of an older generation dictating how their children live and love’ as the blurb proclaims, it is an insightful x-ray of the socially significant effects of the clash of menorahs and minarets on the private life of a man caught in that conflict. More…

What about Meera?

By Tolu Akinwole

  • Title: What about Meera
  • Author: Z P Dala
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

What about Meera is not a question; it is a fervent quest for the place of the socially marginalised in the scheme of things. What about Meera is not a question; it is a witty record of the palpitations of broken hearts and broken dreams. What about Meera is not a question; it is a determined unearthing of buried sherds, tracing the quotidian struggles of the peasant Indians of Tongaat (‘in rich detail’, the blurb adds). Z P Dala’s debut offering follows the escape of a young, South African woman of Indian descent from Durban to Dublin in search of life and love. More…

Of the Crescent and the Crown

By Tolu Akinwole

  • Title: The Televangelist
  • Author: Ibrahim Essa
  • Translator: Jonathan Wright
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 483
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

In keeping with the need, in this age, for thorough intellectual scrutiny of dearly held beliefs, Ibrahim Essa deploys his novel, The Televangelist, as a means of examining and contesting the hegemony of Islamic ideology in twenty-first-century Egypt. Crammed into the 483-paged novel is a fusion of Islamic theology and socio-political analysis with a double dose of wit, as expected of the satire that it is. Engaging the reader on these levels, Essa lays out his own thesis on religion and the State’s involvement in it. More…

In Memory of a Coloured Crime

By Tolu Akinwole

  • Title: Born a Crime and Other Stories
  • Author: Trevor Noah
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan South Africa
  • Number of pages: 342
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Memoir

Ensconced in your cosy couch in your snug living room, you are watching a television show. It is one of these satirical television shows that analyse political happenings in the US. You are not, perhaps, an American, but you know these are very interesting times for Americans. The host is a fair-complexioned young man who is doing an impressive job of ‘cracking up’ his audience and incisively analysing the American political situation. Now you are asking yourself questions: ‘Who is that man?’ ‘Where did he get that insight from?’ You can easily figure out the answer to the first question because his name gleams on the screen almost as soon as you ask yourself, as if you and the television were elements of a piece of science fiction in which the television has learnt to read the human mind: Trevor Noah. The answer to the second question is hidden in Born a Crime and Other Stories, a charming summary of the first three decades of his life. Trevor Noah’s memoir recounts the adventure of an outsider in his own land, a lone leaf afloat on a troubled sea. More…

The Many Shades of Water

By Tolu Akinwole

  • Title: Water: New Short Fiction from Africa
  • Editors: Nick Mulgrew and Karina Szczurek
  • Publisher: Short Story Day Africa
  • Number of pages: 272
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

‘He sat by Lake Retba knowing its every shift of colour. Mauve, lavender-pink at dusk, magenta at dawn and crayon-pink during the day’. – Efemia Chela, ‘The Lake Retba Murder’ (p 24)

The twenty-one stories that make up Water: New Short Fiction from Africa acquit themselves as articulate contributions to the (re-)negotiation of a place of pride for African literature in English, each of the stories deftly exploiting the complex configuration of the thematic focus of the anthology. These twenty-one brilliant writers attempt to problematise the seemingly bland, colourless liquid that nurtures life, to discover within its essence the many shades and hues of the turbulent existence of the humans it nurtures. The stories in this volume engage the reader on many levels. The reader travels from the familiar present to the blurry past and even to the inaccessible possible-future. This fine blend makes for an enjoyable voyage through the entire landscape of the African story. More…