Ogadinma – Ukamaka Olisakwe
Ukamaka Olisakwe’s heart-wrenching novel tells the story of the naïve and trusting Ogadinma as she battles against Nigeria’s deeply-ingrained patriarchal systems in the 1980s, a time of coups, food shortages and religious extremism.
After a rape and unwanted pregnancy leave her exiled from her family in Kano, thwarting her plans to go to university, she is sent to her aunt’s in Lagos and pressured into a marriage with an older man.
As their whirlwind romance descends into abuse and indignity, Ogadinma is forced to channel all of her independence and resourcefulness into finding her voice and strength in the face of abuse and cultural expectations.
Dreams and Assorted Nightmares – Adam Abubakar Ibrahim
Zango is a surreal town where men, some with erect manhoods, die when leaves fall from a life tree.
Zango is both setting and spectre for ‘Dreams and Assorted Nightmares’, a collection of interconnecting short stories which explore the spaces between life and death and beyond.
There’s a poignant story of a special needs boy with prescience; another about the family of a philandering artist trying to pick up the pieces after his violent death; one of a teen forced to make a heart-breaking choice after her mother disappears; and another about a woman who reveals a terrible secret to her childhood friend who is in a coma. The characters come richly-layered and memorable — like Naznine who had but slowly lost the most perfect smile in the world; new bride, Nana Aisha, left alone to face armed marauders who invade her home; and brigands, Audu Kore and Maimuna Dajjaj, who share a pure and precious love.
The stories mostly feel mystical and dark, but the palpable compassion with which they are written give them warmth and light. Like rivulets, the stories easily flow into each other, aided by Ibrahim’s signature hypnotic writing and majestic prose. This is a collection to savour especially for its many enigmas — the silent poetry and tragedies of everyday life, the darkness and tenderness of the human mind, and the crossroads between dreams and the supernatural.