Riverhead. Mar. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780593330029. $28. F
DEBUT In 2014, Nigeria’s president enacted a draconian law targeting LGBTQ+ residents with torture and imprisonment for freely loving the person of their choice. Marginalized, forced underground, or compelled to exist in two different skins, gay, lesbian, transgender, and nonbinary Nigerians still manage to overcome boundaries and soar with pride in this bold, erotic first novel from Lambda Literary Fellow Osunde. Blending stark truth with a jolt of magic realism, the narrative prominently presents the devil as a force for good, with Osunde creating vivid characters whose emotions run the gamut from shame and desperation to joyous abandon as they seek compassion and acceptance. These so-called vagabonds, introduced in a series of vignettes, hide in plain sight in Lagos, ranging from a single father who’s unaware of his daughter’s sexual abuse, to a mother who will die to protect her gender-neutral child, Gold. Readers will witness a dance of seduction between two beautiful women who eschew the gazes of men, and they’ll recoil from the violent end to the burgeoning love between Johnny and Livinus.
VERDICT Osunde writes like the visual artist they are, having directed and produced Tatafo, a forthcoming film based on this novel. Their vibrant style breathes life into people whom hypocritical politicians would prefer remain hidden. Ideal for readers of Akwaeke Emezi.
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