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Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions

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Member Reviews

Set in Nigeria and America over different time periods including one set in the future, these stories were engaging and the women's friendships were strong.

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.
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A group of interconnecting stories that share the lives of 3 women, from the time they meet at school through out their lives and into adulthood.  This was such a great mix of friendship and culteure.  Not only did I enjoy the story, and flow, I especially enjoyed the plot twists.  This was an eye opening read, and I plan to see what the author does in the future.  

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher and am voluntarily leaving an honest review of my own thoughts and opinions.
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I really enjoyed this series of interconnected stories, even if somewhere in the middle of the book I temporarily lost the thread of how they were connected. 

This may just be a me problem with multi-generational sagas, but I got attached to the first generation and was surprised the rest of the novel wasn’t about them. Having said that, I did enjoy writing out the names and ages of the protagonists in each story to see how they linked up and how their lives evolved.

My favorite story (no spoilers) was the one set in the future, painting a very realistic yet dystopian scenario that I think everyone in the US needs to pay attention to.

But each story is interesting, and all in all, the book is excellent.
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Send me to Africa!
 
Sit me down, right here right now, and spoon-feed me some of this jollof rice, will you, please please please? Or hell, send me to Nigeria where I can get the real deal. Well, actually, you don’t have to feed me, I’ll be gobbling it down all by my solo. It’s true, I don’t even know if I’ll like it, but if it’s anything like these linked short stories, it will be yummy. This is the second African short-story collection I’ve read this year, and I’ve loved both.

This book plopped me down into Nigeria. Oh, so many detailed sights and bites; so many characters that popped off the page. It’s a rich and textured book with a lot of atmosphere, and happily the descriptions aren’t boring or overkill. The story revolves around four upper-middle-class girls who meet at boarding school in Nigeria. (Don’t worry, there is just one story about them as teens; it’s not a YA book.) They all are warm and smart and likable. A couple of them move to America, marry, and go back and forth to Nigeria, so there’s a cross-cultural thing going on, which I loved. Though many of the stories are a “splice of life,” there’s a haunting tragedy that happens when the women are young.

The first story, “Fodor’s Better Half,” is about one of the girl’s ancestors from 1897. I loved it, up until the end, which annoyed me royally—no closure, and a touch of magical realism, which I didn’t appreciate because the story had been realistic. I don’t like it when there’s a left turn into magic at the end of a story. The tale has to do with traditions and with the idea that everyone is expected to pro-create. A husband takes a second wife when his first wife doesn’t get pregnant, and the first wife is fine with it—even instigates it. Later in the story, a woman marries another woman. The marriage is in name only, a deal put together so that a barren woman can raise another woman’s children. At first I didn’t get it—I kept looking at pronouns, and I thought there was a typo when the author used “she” for both people. I was so not expecting a same-sex marriage in those times and with such restrictions. It sure made a fool of my assumptions.

The last story, “Messenger RNA,” takes place in the future—2050 America, though it starts in Nigeria—and there’s a weird and awful law in place that greatly affects one of the women, now 75. Though the story is grim, I give kudos to the writer for her imagination. Not sure I completely understood the ending, but I still liked it.

Of course I have a favorite, “Czekolada,” about one of the women visiting Vienna when she was in her 20s or 30s. It just hit me the right way. There is tension; I always like tension, lol. The woman befriends a guy and they have an unusually heartfelt discussion, given that they’re strangers. It’s a story I think I’ll remember.

One story, “Area Boy Rescue,” is written in dialect, which sometimes made it hard to understand. And there were way too many words in an African language, which annoyed me because I felt like I was missing a lot. After a while, I got into the groove of it, though I was disappointed that I didn’t get the ending.

Because the names are African and unfamiliar and because there are a bunch of characters, it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was who in these linked stories. Thank god for the Kindle, with its handy Search feature. I used it constantly.

The blurb calls the book “dazzling,” and that’s a great word to describe it. The characters and culture are rich and vivid, and I was invested; I couldn’t wait to pick up the book every day. I’ll be anxious to read what this writer comes up with next.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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Such wonderful writers are coming out of Nigeria so i was happy to have the opportunity to read this collection of linked stories about four young girls and their coming-of-age and ventures out into a wider world. I look forward to more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.
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Loved this collection of interconnected stories. The beginning stories described  cruel bends of fate and the characters grasping at life’s small mercies with both hands. There’s a wide range of emotionality in these stories that’s not to be missed. 

Review up shortly on IG and Goodreads.
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I’m still processing how I feel about this book overall. I was captivated by the stories interwoven throughout time and sitting at the intersection of the African and African American experience. I enjoyed jumping throughout different points of a friend groups life and seeing experiences through not only their eyes but also their ancestors and children. The touches of magic realism and even the supernatural brought additional layers to an already complex and thought provoking novel. 

One of the passages that stood out the most to me was when we jumped to 2050. The authors perspective on the events of 2016 and the true mastermind behind it was chilling and brilliantly written. For now I rated this a three but that is not a depiction of the beautiful writing or the story that is emotionally gutting at times and more of a reflection of me processing how I feel overall.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC, I’ll be thinking about this one for quite some time.
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Equal parts joy, surprise, and heartache, this novel told in interlocking stories follows the lives of four girls who forge an unbreakable bond in a punishing Nigerian boarding school. As the world shakes and changes, Remi, Nonso, Aisha, and Solape’s paths take radically different directions, but their friendship is an anchor. Ogunyemi charts their trajectories and those of the 
people who drift in and out of their orbit, across multiple decades and continents—from West Africa in the 1980s to Europe, North America, and back, deep into the 21st century. Through these women, we gain insight into the social and political landscapes of the places and times 
they inhabit and our own.
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Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is an excellent collection of interconnected short stories. The stories follow a group of girls/women as they traverse their lives in Nigeria and abroad. The collection shares poignant experiences of growing up in Nigeria as well as experiences from the Nigerian diaspora. So many Nigerians now straddle two cultures, and I loved reading about how those experiences influence women. 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for a review.
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I really enjoyed these stories! I sometimes have a hard time really appreciating short stories because I want more so these interlocking stories were great.  I loved Nonso, Remi, and Aisha - their individual lives and their friendships spanning decades.  This was just wonderful.  

Thank you Amistad and NetGalley for the review copy of this book!
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~Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi~ 

A special thanks to Amistad Press for the privilege of reading an advanced copy of this multi-perspective novel. It was so enjoyable to dive into the lives of Remi, Aisha, Nonso, and Solape, (so much depth of character!) and the others whose stories were also interconnected. 

The girls’ experiences, starting in  boarding school and continuing into their later lives, treat some of the most relevant social and cultural issues without being pedantic, and reveal that the effects of prejudice are much more far-reaching than what is detectable in the here and now. I especially reveled in the final section of the novel, which is set in a not-too-distant future — not-too-distant both in a chronological sense and in the context of what developments are believable with regard to the social strife of our press world. 

I’ve really been loving works that expose me to cultures other than my own, so this was a very timely read for me. But anyone who appreciates strong characters and multiple perspectives will surely love it, too. Definitely look out for it when it’s published on September 13!
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Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi is a collection of ten short stories all intentionally woven together. In the stories we first meet Solape, Remi, Aisha, and Nonso at a Nigerian boarding school where they experience events that forever alter their lives as girls who are coming of age. The other nine stories are all composed of flashbacks from the past, present and future and feature characters from the lives of the girls and who they will become. 

I really enjoyed reading the story of Remi's future husband, Segun, who grows up in the Bronx after leaving Nigeria to join his Dad in the States as an eight year old. Segun shares his experiences with law enforcement through the lens of developmental trauma he experienced early on in Nigeria when he witnessed his mother get whipped by police. There are a series of cascading events in the aftermath that make a powerful statement about the experience of Black boys becoming men in America. This is just one of many stories that I know I will be reflecting on for some time. 

There are many powerful themes throughout these stories that remind us of the ways our own stories are connected to those who came before us and those to come after we cross over. This is hands down one of my favorite short story collections of all time. 

Thank you to the author and publisher for the E-arc copy!
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Three young girls bond during their time at school.  As they grow up and move on, their lives move in their own directions. While this is more a compilation of short stories, it tells the lives of the women they have become and how their lives interconnect and weave through the years. 

I have recommended this book to everyone I know that is a reader and I still can’t sing it’s praises enough.  You MUST read this one!
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In essence, Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is an insightful celebration and exposition of Nigerian culture via a series of interconnected short stories over several decades.  At its heart, the collection focuses on the adventures of four Nigerian girls who met at boarding school.   Early on, a hazing event and acts of kindness spawn a lifelong friendship amongst the girls.  It is also the place where the first of several pivotal “revolutions” occur – a reference to the title of the collection.  Each revolution impacts the main characters in various ways and each has life-altering consequences.

 The stories offer glimpses into the girls’ adult lives at various points as they travel abroad, experience love, loss, successes, and failures.  Some are their reflections on their childhood through adult eyes which reveal historical aspects of the region and complicated relationships with their parents, siblings, spouses, and children.   Others feature adjacent character viewpoints with a “six degrees of separation” connection to the main characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey with the girls because the author each gave distinct personalities, voices, passions, and flaws.  The stories are timely and relevant – young Black males police encounters; microaggressions, discrimination, racism in the workplace; American xenophobia and controversial Immigration policies; and in the last story, the imagined state of evolved US health care policies gives the reader a lot to ponder.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an opportunity to review.
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Jollof rice is the stuff my dreams are made of. The whiff of tomato, chili, white-, and black pepper, piquant and nose-tickling, the aroma of ginger and garlic and onion. Jollof is West African, but the recipe and desire for it is universal. In my case my dreaming mind classifies jollof rice as nasi goreng, Malaysian style with Maggi's cili sos, a sweet and spicy ketchup. Chunks of browned chicken thighs, that crust of flesh and crispy skin, dotted with red grains of rice. 

Coming from a rice-eating culture I like to think of myself as a specialist in the business of rice-eating and rice dishes. As a historian and reader of postcolonial literature and archival text, I like to think myself an expert in those domains too. But, I remain amazed by what I do not know; there is always a new rice dish, a new recipe, a new flavor to make my tongue and memories alight. There is always a new perspective, a newly discovered history, another layer of human experience to see, enjoy, and revel in. 

Ogunyemi's Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is that new rice dish, that new revelation. You see, the stories in Ogunyemi's novel are like jollof rice, grains tossed together, held together in harmony by a dry sauce. Sweet and salty and spicy, a mouthful of emotions that are sometimes in conflict, sometimes piquant, but always in balance. 

The novel is familiar and comforting in its focus on men and women of color, their lives indelibly part of the muss and tumble of Nigerian marketplaces, cities, and villages, so similar to those in Southeast Asia, where chickens are still sold live, butchered and feathered at the time of purchase. A place where fish and seafood lie on slabs of ice that are slowly sweating like the people haggling with each other over their prices. There is the aroma of overly sweet fruit in the air: jack fruit, bananas, some kind of incense. There is smoke and pungent exhaust from a motorbike put-put-putting away. A glot of languages rumbles in the background, ever-present as there is no reprieve for the ears in places like these: dialects, pidgins, mix-n-matches of accents and lilts. On occasion there is a puncture of British English (always British it seems), and a few heads turn to see the foreigner. (It is usually me.) Like a Nigerian market place, Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is dominated by women and their stories; men are present, they form part of the fabric of the novel, but it is the women and their experiences who thread the pattern and the connections between motifs in its cloth. 

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is a collection of Nigerian and transnational Nigerian, historical and contemporary experiences, spanning from a time under the British and under British influence (for Britishness and Western-centrism continued even after decolonization) to the present -- and here is where it gets really interesting -- the future. Ogunyemi's novel recalls to mind another like it, Yaa Gyasi's Home Going (2016), but it differs on this particular point: Ogunyemi reaches into the future and lets the reader dwell on our current states through poignant examinations of the present. 

Jollof Rice ranges across multiple generations, includes the lives of members of different and intertwined families. The reader is given a glimpse into the past when precolonial gender relations were more fluid. The reader accompanies characters in their education under the British, travels with them as they become transnational cosmopolitans, and will find themselves in the uncomfortably familiar place of racialized, racist America. The reader will find themselves in a near future moment, built on the present and past as we know it.

Sometimes, alongside the odor of modernity and vehicle exhaust, there is a faint scent of history and the supernatural, that which exists beyond the usual plane of our understanding. This is like biting down on a pepper seed in your rice, getting that jolt of zing on the tongue. You can't be sure if it was a seed or a pepper or a tiny grit of sand. You hope it was the former and not the latter, but then the moment is gone, the thing is swallowed and you continue on with your meal, with your life. The next story is waiting on your spoon. I deeply appreciated how Ogunyemi wove these elements into the novel; what the West deems supernatural is not so in many parts of the "formerly" colonized world. Spirits, ghosts, and memory were part of our cultures before and remain so. 

Ogunyemi's characters and their experiences are what give the novel its unique quality. The characters connect to each other through their shared experiences in schools, in migration, in marriage and love, in childhood and navigating adulthood, in how they reconcile their colonial pasts with their "post"colonial presents and futures. Ogunyemi brings the Nigeria of the past into the present and future through their transnational and transcultural journeys. The characters are related by bonds which are sometimes considered casual; in Jollof Rice unbreakable relationships are broken, death is a cause for life, and disappointment is a gateway to revival. In this way, Ogunyemi delivers to the reader the nuances of human love and its endurance across time and space, makes a case for their eternal universality. 

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions makes me want to grab a friend and say, "You must try this! It's new!" And how special must it be, that it has taken the old topic of history and identity and made an original spin on it?
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I was immediately drawn into these interconnected stories and the lives of the characters we see throughout the book. Watching how these women were all shaped by their shared experience was the most interesting to me. I also was surprised by the final chapter written in the future but it completely worked.  Even though these were short stories it didn't not feel disjointed at all but more like scenes from a play. I highly recommend this as a first purchase for library collections and for book discussions. Can't wait to read her next one!
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I like short stories, and this is quite good. It's a bit unusual to find collections with interlocking stories, and that's what this a little different. Recommended.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!
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Great novel about 3 friends and their lives. I enjoyed how each chapter was from a different perspective and the endurance of their friendship. Highly recommend.
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