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When We Speak of Nothing

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  14 reviews
"Some of the women walked so slow they were, like, floating. For real. Heads perfectly straight. Hips swaying, left, slow, right, slow, step, slow. If you didn't concentrate you would think they weren't moving at all, their bodies just hanging in space..."

Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. Its 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across L
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 3rd 2017 by Cassava Republic Press
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  116 ratings  ·  14 reviews

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Eric Anderson
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Back in 2011 when riots flared up in England, I remember riding home late at night on a bus that had to be diverted because Brixton was in chaos. Everyone on that bus was charged up with the news scrolling through their phones and checking social media for bits of information. It's interesting how when any major events like this happen in our local areas now a collective conversation occurs, but only within our circumscribed social groups and rarely with people we're actually sitting next to on ...more
The Book Banque
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
To be young, a person of colour and in search of a concrete identity are major concerns of Olumide Popoola’s debut novel - When We Speak of Nothing. Set in a council estate in the borough of Kings Cross in central London and simultaneously in the oil rich city of Port Harcourt, this novel is a story about two boys - best friends discovering that there is a distinct difference between having an individual voice and, making oneself heard.

Abubakar (Abu) and Karl are in the heart of working class
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sharm
Recommended to Christine by: Rob
Shelves: 2018, book-club
One of the benefits of joining a book club is that you will be surprised by a book. This book was a complete unknown to me and hit my surprise nerve more than once.

To describe it requires some careful grammar and clear writing: it's a book written by a German-Nigerian woman living in London. She writes about best friends Abu and Karl living in council housing, navigating school and bullies and girls along side their personal challenges. The challenges are mostly for Karl. He more or less lives w
Two friends so close they are like twins. One who never stops talking. The other who never stops running. In the summer before their eighteenth birthdays, their lives pull them in different directions. Karl flies to Nigeria in search of a father he never knew existed. Abu stays behind, in a London about to explode into riots.

Port Harcourt gives Karl a chance to be himself, free of other people’s assumptions. In company of new friends, he learns how oil companies are despoiling the landscape whil
Xan West
I didn't get past the first few pages before I decided to put this down for now. I may try again another time.

Trigger Warnings (view spoiler)
Angela Kelly
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This novel has to go in the category of 'very well written but not my thing.' I enjoyed the sections of the book where Karl was in Nigeria, as I always like to learn more about other countries and Popoola writes in such a way that the setting really comes alive.

Reading this novel reminded me of the many Booker Prize nominated books I have read. The prose is dense and filled with urban slang; furthermore it is written in a stream of consciousness which makes it difficult to put down and pick up a
Mary Adeson
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt, 2018-read
It took me almost two thirds of the book to really settle into the characters, Abu and Karl. But this could be Popoola's intention as in reality it isn't easy to connect with a lost soul or someone trying to find themselves.

I expected more from this book, particularly with Karl's character given he had chosen Nigeria to develop his transgender identity. A country where LGBT persons face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT's.

This is a book which provides an insight from the p
When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola is a raw story about two best friends forming their identities in London and Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

I enjoyed it and yet I didn't. This was in the Young Adult section of the library so perhaps it wasn't intended for me 😉. But I couldn't resist picking up a novel published by @cassavarepublicpress and one with such a striking cover.

I liked how the LGBT identity and experience was handled and I liked the use of slang, pidgin and dialect.
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a slim novel at 256 pages, but it’s absolutely bursting with vibrant themes. Best-friendship, parent-child relationships, first love, race, class, and trans identity are just a few of these. Popoola has previously written against the belief that queer identity is a “Western” idea, and she continues to follow this thread in When We Speak of Nothing, refusing to capitulate to the single narrative of Nigeria that we get in the media. The novel probably could have been longer to further expl ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't often enjoy the whole stream of consciousness style, but it's tight and carefully crafted here so you never get lost along the way and I love it. It does what it's supposed to do, put you right in the place of these guys as they go through their lives and get thrown into disconcerting new stuff, without info-dumping or talking down to the reader.
Lamar Latrell
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, fiction
This book was absolutely amazing. I didn’t know anything about it when I started: it’s a coming of age story about a young man from London with roots in Nigeria who goes to Nigeria to find his father, and, as expected in such a story, finds much more. But more than that, it’s about the people around him and what makes a relationship work and what destroys a relationship.
Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
'When we speak of nothing, we don't end the silence' this is one of the many lines that have started with me since I read this book. I loved how it normalises queerness. A story of family, friend, and love. I enjoyed reading this book so much.
Nicole Jolley
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Annie Holmes
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London-based Nigerian-German Olumide Popoola is a writer, speaker and performer.
Her publications include essays, poetry, the novella this is not about sadness (Unrast, 2010), the play text Also by Mail (edition assemblage, 2013), the short collection breach, which she co-authored with Annie Holmes (Peirene Press, 2016), as well as recordings in collaboration with musicians.
In 2004 she won the Ma