Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories

Amistad: HarperCollins. Sept. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9780063117044. $27.99. F
DEBUTFrom the first chapter, set in 1900s Nigeria, to a jaw-dropping finale that takes place in a dystopian 2050, this debut from Ogunyemi (a professor of preventive and social medicine at Charles R. Drew Univ. of Medicine and Science) imagines an unforgettable cast of characters, beginning with the unorthodox union of female leader Adaoma; her wife Fodo; and Fodo’s lover Imma. Their offspring become the thread that weaves together a tale of four smart, resilient women—Nonso, Remi, Solape, and Aisha—who first meet while staging an insurrection at their boarding school. Over decades, through professional successes, marriages, divorces, parenthood, and loss, the women move between Nigeria and the United States while navigating the émigré’s dilemma: they straddle two cultures and are at home in neither. Nonso climbs the corporate ladder yet feels lost in Brooklyn, craving the foods and smells of Ibadan, while Remi, a mathematician juggling kids and husband in upstate New York, resents her Lagosian father’s persistent demands for remittances. As a college student new to the Bronx, Remi’s husband Segun had conjured his dead father’s warning about the United States, tamping down fear and powerlessness when facing a couple of rookie cops with bad intentions.
VERDICT These beautifully rendered stories form an impressive whole that will please multiple literary tastes, combining Nigerian history with a touch of mysticism, and contemporary familial angst with a dire futuristic vision.
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