Africa Feminism Fiction History

An Eccentric’s Attempt At Fiction- What Books Can Teach Us

The goddess Isis who supposedly is my most important one!

It is going well and that should be enough info for now. I shared my idea with my mother and she thinks it is interesting too. One day I decided that my style of writing closely resembled another author whose name I did not recall. I did not remember the name of the book I had read either but I knew it was a historical fiction set in China during the Ming dynasty. And so I initially searched for the wrong book but in a few clicks I found what I was looking for; Peony in Love by Lisa See*.

I adore that book and I loved the way See wrote in such a manner that even though the book was a historical fiction set in China, I still felt as though I could seat down for chai latte and cupcakes at Starbucks with the main character. See’s style of writing is the perfect blend of traditional and modern which I am searching for, trying to employ within my story or maybe I am not trying to employ it but it comes naturally. I may not be the best person to voice a traditionally African story. I am one of those ajebo (aje bota**) Abuja girls who speaks Yoruba haltingly with a oyinbo*** accent.

However I have this grand interest in African history and I want to share this history with others. I also want to brainwash people with my stories. Yes, that is the honest truth. I am targeting African girls because I want them all to be independent assertive women (to put it simply, I cannot share my manifesto even on the internet). I have had several conversations this past week with Nigerian teenage girls and women that left me shocked, sad and disappointed. Several times, I like to think everyone is like me but it was like they had been placed in a box and did not even know they were in it.

The woman told me that she wishs she could think like me. Believing she broke her hymen accidentally, she called me worried, asking what she was going to say to her future husband. This woman is older than me and I honestly thought this sort of mentality had died out. The teenaged girl is almost like a servant, willing to do several things for people. She also confessed to me that she believed, accepted that the only way a woman could ever be happy and fulfilled is through marriage. I find that bizarre as I fully endorse finding one’s own happiness within rather than looking for happiness outside. Anyway, my point is that I want to show a realistic heroine. My heroine is an unconventional role model.

I love that book (Peony in Love). It is about a girl called Peony who defiantly falls in love and goes to extreme measures for this love becoming a lovesick maiden. This part might sound a bit clichéd but I am not giving away the most unbelievable part of the story. I mean, I thought the story was going straight and all of a sudden it took a 360degree spin and changed. I loved the changed but others found it odd. Bleh, those people must not like surprises. Sadly my copy of Peony in Love is in Nigeria. I would have loved to read it again at this time. Anyway I am not complaining, thanks to that fateful search, I stumbled across a treasure chest full of the translated works of Chinese authors.

I saved a bunch of them as I would like to read their works. I am a bit of a so-so with books and I prefer to hear the story from the horse’s mouth. I notice a lot of white authors are given opportunities to write about other cultures and in this way they tell other people’s stories while the local people are not given a chance to tell their story in their own words. It is because of this that I have never read Memoirs of a Geisha and probably never will. To be honest, I am not really interested in geisha as you should know by now if you read this blog.

Instead of Memoirs of a Geisha, why don’t you read the woman’s story in her own words? Most people are unaware that the geisha who inspired the book Memoirs of a Geisha wrote her own book…oh well. I have not read the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency either though, I did watch and enjoyed the television series. Now I’ve read Lian Hearn’s books on the Otori legend and was greatly pleased at the potrayal of same-sex relationships/emotions among certain characters in the story though I do not really remember if there was any exoticising. I do make exceptions not once in a while but JUST ONCE.

I am pleased to have also discovered modern Chinese literature. It is amazing! I recently bought Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min because as a modern Chinese history geek I know that Mao’s wife a.k.a Jiang Qing a.k.a. ‘the white-boned demon’ a.k.a Lan Ping (stage name) a.k.a Li Shumeng (birth name…yes she has a lot of names) was indeed a force to be reckoned with and I’d like to know more about herstory. The book is a historical fiction but factual as always. The author, Anchee Min is well-known for recording the histories of powerful Chinese women. Almost like Lisa See who aims at giving a voice to Chinese women in history as well.

I’d like to do something like that for African women except the story I am working on right now probably is not going to be completely factual. There are historically accurate details in my story but my character who has been in my head for years now is more like a spectator who gets drawned into the drama. I hope in the future to write more about actual African women in our rich history. This is just my part in making sure that our (precolonial) history is not completely forgotten. I will worry regarding if it will ever be published later.

In conclusion, as it sort of connects to what I am going on about, please watch the greatness that is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie giving a TED talk on the ‘danger of a single story’.

*Before anyone goes to Lisa See’s site and upon seeing her picture, embarasses themselves by saying that I am a hypocrite because Lisa is a white woman writing about Chinese culture, Lisa See has Chinese ancestors and is part-Chinese. In fact, she believes that “…The American side of me tries to open a window into China and things Chinese for non-Chinese, while the Chinese side of me makes sure that what I’m writing is true to the Chinese culture without making it seem too “exotic” or “foreign.””

**ajebo is the shortened form of ‘aje bota’ which is basically someone who is like butter. I guess is another way of calling someone posh.

***oyinbo means foreigner or a white person. I think that is one Nigerian pidgin word most people know

7 Comments

  1. thanks for the support everyone! i'll tell you not to raise your hopes to high though as i'm guilty of always getting over-excited about things and in the process hyping them up. my story may be really really really boring.

  2. Write that book eccentric i know you'll do well. I've posted something on my page u may be interested in. Everyone else maybe as well.Sugarking, eccentric know that I'M her #1 fan.

  3. the Misses, you are seriously flattering me *blush*. i've visited your blog and i think i'll be joining that competition because i've got a box full of short stories and i've got a confident one. i'll let you know if i do join it in the end.

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