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Of This Our Country: Acclaimed Nigerian Writers on the Home, Identity and Culture They Know

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To define Nigeria is to tell a half-truth. Many have tried, but most have concluded that it is impossible to capture the true scope and significance of Africa’s most populous nation through words or images.

And yet here, through personal essays from 24 of its writers, a more accurate picture comes into view: one that details the realities and contradictions of patriotism, examines the role of class and privilege in Nigerian society, juxtaposes inherited tradition with the diasporic experience and explores the power of storytelling and its intrinsic link to Nigeria’s history.

Within these pages, acclaimed and award-winning writers share memories and experiences of Nigeria that can be found nowhere else, bringing to the fore a country whose influence can be found everywhere.

Powerful, lyrical and entirely unforgettable, OF THIS OUR COUNTRY weaves together a living portrait of Nigeria, one that is as beautiful as it is complex.

With essays from: Nels Abbey, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Yomi Adegoke, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Oyinkan Akande, Ike Anya, Sefi Atta, Bolu Babalola, J K Chukwu, Abi Daré, Inua Ellams
Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ, Caleb Femi, Helon Habila, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Anietie Isong, Okey Ndibe, Chigozie Obioma, Irenosen Okojie, Cheluchi Onyemelukwe, Lola Shoneyin, Umar Turaki, Chika Unigwe and Hafsa Zayyan.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published September 30, 2021

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Ore Agbaje-Williams

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5 stars
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64 (40%)
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Displaying 1 - 28 of 28 reviews
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,907 reviews1,640 followers
September 13, 2021
3.5 stars rounded up to 4

Within these pages. acclaimed and award winning writers share memories and experiences of Nigeria that can be found nowhere else, bringing to the fore a country whose influence can be found everywhere.

Twenty four Nigerian writers have written essays bringing their thoughts and observations about Nigeria. Each essay gives us a personal insight into Nigerian culture, superstition and politics. Some of the essays are really good. This is an intriguing and informative book to read.

I would like to thank #NetGalley #HarperCollinsUk #TheBorough and the #MultipleAuthors for my ARC of #OfThisOurCountry in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Abiola.
38 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2022
Some of the essays in this collections were interesting to read, a lot of them, especially the ones written by the younger Nigerians living in the diaspora, were quite painful to read because of the clear disconnect between these young people and Nigeria. The glaring misrepresentation of easily verifiable facts was pretty astounding. For instance, only a person who has not gone through the National Youth Service Corps program would refer to it as a ‘mandatory three-week work program for Nigerian college graduates under the age of 30 who want to become part of the country’s workforce…’ To think that this was written in an essay entitled #RepresentationMatters. In the same essay, the author refers to NEPA as the National Environment Policy Act, that’s not what it stands for. This also brings me to an observation about the book itself, it really could have done with a couple of rounds of editing/fact-checking. A few pages further in the book after the NEPA snafu, the acronym is properly spelled out -National Electric Power Authority- by another writer in a different essay.

I think this book was an unfortunate missed opportunity to amplify the voices of young Nigerians based in Nigeria who are making life happen in spite of ASUU strikes, oppression from SARS, etc., who can talk first-hand about their life experiences and their hopes for the future of the country. Instead, what we have is a group of young writers of Nigerian descent pontificating about a country that they appear to have a tenuous connection to and refracting it through the Western lens, in ways that were cringey to read. Imagine an author writing about going to a primary school in Lagos and talking to the children about racism and being surprised that they did not understand it?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Elohor Egbordi.
188 reviews73 followers
November 11, 2021
This excellent collection by Nigerians on what it means to be Nigerian is one that's made me laugh a lot and almost cry sometimes because they are stories I can relate to. It also helps that these are authors I've known and loved for a very long time.

It's the best nonfiction I've read in a while. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Lolá .
83 reviews2 followers
December 15, 2021
Loved Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's essay so much and quite a few others too. The collective gave all it needed to give.
Profile Image for Gemma.
583 reviews134 followers
September 9, 2021
This is a wonderful collection of essays from 24 acclaimed Nigerian writers sharing their personal reflections, memories and impressions of their home country.

Each essay offers a unique and personal perspective and collectively they cover a broad range of topics and themes that gives the reader a real sense of Nigerian culture and identity. There are essays which explore childhood, upbringing and parental roles, others which examine the landscape, wealth, class and food, and some which focus on the importance of storytelling and language and much much more.

The inclusion of so many voices in this collection is powerful and really does justice to Nigeria's history and the influence of its culture and traditions which are far-reaching. I really enjoyed learning more and deepening my understanding about this fascinating country through the words of writers who have a close connection and roots in Nigeria. A wonderful collection that I cannot recommend enough.

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK for the ARC.
Profile Image for Ali.
1,359 reviews111 followers
April 12, 2022
A startlingly good compendium of non-fiction about Nigeria, from Nigerian writers - both ex-pat and resident. There is a dazzling array of perspectives here - from love letters to Lagos to some which challenge the narratives created by wealthier Nigerians obscuring the benefactors of corruption. I found myself dipping back and forth, as my understanding of this country grew, to compare and contrast at times. A country with one of the largest out-of-school populations but also some of the world's most elite schools, one of achievement and exclusion, science and corruption, a place many authors found hard to leave and hard to stay in. And now I've added another swag of authors to my to-read pile.
Profile Image for afternoonsunjeans.
109 reviews64 followers
Want to read
June 22, 2021
"In visiting her Father in Nigeria and recounting memories from childhood, Irenosen Okojie looks at the way family can reinforce identity in her essay, ‘Of Country and Reverie’."

→ the borough press: about this collection of personal essays by 24 award-winning authors, who catch Nigeria's soul and heart and tell the story of a nation

[publication set for Sept 2021]
Profile Image for Afiniki.
17 reviews
December 29, 2021
The book was an excellent idea and I enjoyed the diversity of the pieces in terms of style.

However, a number of the stories seemed to have "coming back to Nigeria" or "visiting Nigeria" as a theme or key event, which once again makes me wonder why so few homegrown writers are platformed.

The book could do with another proof read. There seemed to be some small-small errors here and there. Like there was one point where NEPA was referred to as "National Environmental Policy Act" and I was ??? There were also some sentences that read poorly, as if a word was missing or incorrectly placed.
December 27, 2022
Of This Our Country - ∞/5 stars.

This book was, without a shadow of doubt, the best thing I've read this year. I love anthologies and I don't think anything can top this one.

there were 24 beautiful beautiful stories about Nigeria, from Nigerians, to (in my case, that is) Nigerians.

I haven't read a single Nigerian book this year (apart from this) but this one makes all the difference.

can't share all my reviews but here's my ranking of the stories.

starting from the bottom, these are stories that I couldn't really relate to, stories that could have used a lil bit more (Lola Shoneyin, I'm looking at you), stories that are good in their own right but weren't as good as others.

24. Father's Land by Umar Turaki - 6/10 (couldn't relate to the identity issues).

23. Home History by Caleb Femi - 7/10 (viewed Nigeria from those pretty rose tinted diaspora glasses).

22. Nostalgia by Lola Shoneyin - 7/10 (felt half finished).

21. Life is A Marketplace by Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ. 7/10 (lost me at certain points).

20. Rites of Passage by Anietie Isong. 7/10 (cute. wanted to be personal but shied away from it, hid behind history and culture).

19. The Oppressor in the mirror by Yemi Adegoke - 8/10 (v.good, lost me at certain bits. I don't think I should have read this when I did).

18. Renewal by Sefi Atta - 7/10 (very nice, mellow, hm).

17. War and Peace by Okey Ndibe - 8/10 (The best in my opinion, among thrones written by the authors in diaspora).

16. Of Country and Reverie by Irenosen Okojie - 9/10 (the italicised imagery was not imaging but otherwise a very solid piece).

15. Against Enough by JK Chukwu - 9/10 (very good. very beautiful. lost me at certain bits).

14. Clarion Calls by Ayobami Adebayo - 9/10 (very very very painful. amazing but painful).

13. You are not going back by Abi Daré - 10/10 (stunning conclusion. beautiful. the truth dished with a side of hope unlike the opening which was just the painful truth).

12. Nulli Secundus by Nels Abbey - 10/10 (this man is my new favourite person. I loved his tone. So humourous).

11. Pride and Punishment by Chigozie Obioma - 10/10 (very painful. reiterates the need to know our history).

10. Contradictions by Bolu Babalola - 10/10 (this woman has been waiting to speak on Nigeria as evidenced by her lengthy piece. very good. very very good).

9. Coming to Lagos by Helon Habila - 10/10 (I didn't want this piece to end).

8. Still Becoming by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - 11/10 (can this woman ever write anything bad? no. I need a piece about Kano written the way she wrote about Lagos. won't lie, it _was_ impersonal but it's Lagos).

7. A Brief History of Suya by Inua Ellams - 12/10 (a smashing piece. Amazing. Wonderful. I hope this is the actual history of suya🤌🏾cause wow).

6. Amaechina by Chika Unigwe - 12/10 (idk how I didn't cry reading this because it was so personal. so beautiful. so wonderful. very very in touch and personal.

5. Until We Meet Again by Hafsa Zayyan.
I read this for the first time with my sister (who didn't give me her copy, shockingly) and aside from the wonderful opening and closing of this piece, the incredibly personal stories about this woman's roots and how well written it is, it was a perfect accompaniment to my day out with my sister.

4. A Banner without Stain by Ike Anya.
This was a painful piece. I honestly don't know how I didn't cry reading this. It was so beautiful, so well written (I keep repeating this because a well written piece always blows my mind), so tragic. it also reinforced in me, a need to know certain things about our history—example, the Biafran war which is seldom talked about. it's crazy how a historical event that upended the lives of many, affected so many people and is such an integral part of our history is swept under the carpet.

3. Elephants and Giraffes by Oyinkan Akande.
I didn't know I needed this piece until I read it. The in absentia wedding. The spotlight on Nigerian weddings and how one of the best things about us is how we party, the "Understand that I recognize our folly as a people. Understand, also, that I am proud of it, too.

2. Education as Saviour by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe.
it is a truth universally agreed upon (by my sister and I) that essays written by the authors who live in Nigeria are much more better than the ones written by the authors in diaspora. So good. So so good.
Love that she chose to highlight the educational system. Love ittt.
and now, for the piece of all pieces, the one that absolutely shattered me, I expected it form him but he still surpassed my expectations, my GOAT...

1. ONE SEASON, MANY DECADES by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim never ceases to amaze me. One Season, Many Decades is one that is pulled from the caverns of his heart— you can tell, you can just tell. His writing is never flowery, sometimes the really personal things might not even sound the way you want them to, but they have heart and they pack emotion nonetheless. This piece reaches into the heart of every Nigerian and pulls out all the truth we know about ourselves, about our country and brings it to light. He tells us the truth in simple terms, which brings a quote from an earlier essay to mind—"Understand that I recognize our folly as a people. Understand, also, that I am proud of it, too." this is everything he says in such wonderful words, such beautiful storytelling. Thank you, Amidst all the nostalgia and sunkissed memories of this country, all the pain and hopelessness, we have him who says it as it is. 1000000000/10. in fact, ∞/10.

I'm never getting over this piece.
Profile Image for Tóbi-Jaden Are.
19 reviews3 followers
September 12, 2022
4.5 stars rounded up to 5 stars.

This collection ate. There were just two or three I didn't really resonate with, but all in all, it's a great collection and I think everyone should read it. I can't even pick favourites because I loved the rest of them so much.
Profile Image for Folahan.
26 reviews1 follower
February 18, 2022
I especially loved how most of these writers had something to say about Jos (the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria)
Profile Image for B.S. Casey.
Author 2 books24 followers
August 29, 2021
How do you fully capture the essence of a country? Of a culture? Of home?

Well, Of This Our Country is here and has done a beautiful job of just that - bringing 24 acclaimed Nigerian writers together to share their collective memories, thoughts and observations about Nigeria and bringing light to a country not many of us know alot about.

Through honest, personal accounts, these writers bring us their unique experiences of growing up in or away from Nigeria, and their reflections of the country from the beautiful to the problematic. From learning about childbirth and childhood, to the culture surrounding food, to superstition, to politics - this honest memoir encapsulates the many aspects of a culture and shows us a multi-faceted account of what it is to be Nigerian.

"It's one thing to know the history of your home country. It's another thing to know your homes history of your home country." - Home History.

From the poetic and emotional, to the factual and informative - each essay stands out on it's own merit and style. Now of course, with twenty-four writers, you may not enjoy every essay and I definitely favoured certain ones but you will definitely be able to find one that will resonate with you.

To an extent it's always difficult to review someones own truth, especially one you've not lived yourself, but whether you're a reader who doesn't know much about Nigera or someone who already has love for the country and is looking for something familiar, this is definitely a must-read.

I have no relationship with Nigera, nor have I ever visited ... but reading this left me homesick for a country I've never seen.
Profile Image for Ashima Jain.
Author 4 books34 followers
September 11, 2021
Rating 4 1/2 Stars.

To define Nigeria is to tell a half-truth. Many have tried, but most have concluded that it is impossible to capture the true scope and significance of Africa’s most populous nation through words or images.

Nigeria is more than scams and con artists claiming to be Nigerian royalty asking you to help by wiring funds. Nigerians are making their mark in the fields of performing arts, creative arts, fashion, human rights activism, sports, medicine, and media, to name a few. As I’ve noticed in the last two years, many Nigerian writers are being recognised globally in the world of publishing. This is my third book by a Nigerian author and I have a few more lined up on my TBR.

This anthology, bringing together 24 established and emerging writers from Nigeria, explores the country through their pen. The authors reflect on the Nigeria they know and remember. They relive the memories significant to their Nigerian heritage and share the experiences that bind them to their culture and traditions.

The essays tell a powerful story of a country pulled in opposite directions. They weave deeply personal experiences of living in Nigeria, visiting Nigeria, or meeting other Nigerians away from home.

I recommend this beautiful, yet complex portrait of a country relatively unknown to outsiders. Profound, hardhitting, these essays will tear at your heart for the joy and pain behind them.

This ARC courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins UK.

For complete review, visit https://aquamarineflavours.wordpress....
Find me on other platforms via https://linktr.ee/AshieJayn
Profile Image for Precious Sagbodje.
361 reviews34 followers
June 20, 2022
What an absolute delight to read!

I don't think of myself as a Nigerian; my identity is not tied to any nationality or ethnic group. I don't know why that is, but it is what it is. However, I read most of the essays in this book with a smile here and a chuckle there. Like Caleb Femi says in his essay, "who of us can say they truly know this country? No one does...The only Nigeria a Nigerian knows is the one they knew in their own homes." But despite this, I found a shared denominator, especially with the writers who wrote about Southern Nigerian (West, East, and South). I'd nod in agreement when they talked about something I recognized, something so Nigerian even I could not have extricated myself from it. Mentions of the poor facilities at NYSC orientation camps, the countless (and pointless) checkpoints on the road leaving Lagos to the south, and Lagos itself, amongst other things, was like the unmistakable aroma of Nigerian party Jollof.

I haven’t and still do not read a lot of Nigerian authors. Still, this anthropology of essays has impressed me that Nigerian authors are brilliant with words. Naija no dey carry last! I will be looking to check out some of these authors soon.

Profile Image for Lydia Owuor.
15 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2023
As an African, I usually gravitate towards books written by African authors for the apparent reason that they, much like me, dearly love this continent we call home. So when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it because one, it speaks about a country that is considered the giant of Africa and two, offers me the golden opportunity to read essays written by the many acclaimed writers she has produced. I could be biased in saying this, but all of them, the 24 of them, are educative, gripping, funny, and beautifully written, which is expected from Chimamanda, Abi Daré, Ayobami Adebayo, and many others. What particularly stood out to me is that despite having lived through different experiences and times, their stories coalesced into the same hope and prayer for a better and functioning Nigeria. I sincerely believe that someday, their and millions of other Nigerians' biggest dream will come true.
24 reviews
July 4, 2023
I honestly love every aspect of this book.

The reality of Nigeria’s current situation really hit me in full force as I have come to realize that as a teenager growing up in Nigeria I’m never going to share experiences that some of these writers had in their youth. I’m never going to see the North because of insecurity nor am I taking the train in the near future cause of insecurity. I’m hardly allowed to leave my house unescorted and the realization that I will never be able to appreciate Nigeria in all her glory really upsets me.

I was confronted with the stark differences that are so evident in the society I’m currently living in and the one presented in this book. It really made my heart ache for a better future for my country and gave me a new love for my country.

If you are Nigerian I cannot tell you how much I would recommend this book to you.
Profile Image for Mary.
577 reviews
September 30, 2021
Twenty four Nigerian writers have written about their experiences and memories of Nigeria in short and eminently readable essays. The insights they share into the country, its culture, politics and beliefs are fascinating. I gained a great deal from reading this book.

Every essay has a powerful voice and the collection resonates with the personal and the unique. This is an amazing read which I recommend very highly.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for NCHS Library.
1,221 reviews20 followers
July 5, 2022
To define Nigeria is to tell a half-truth. Many have tried, but most have concluded that it is impossible to capture the true scope and significance of Africa’s most populous nation through words or images. And yet here, through personal essays from 24 of its writers, a more accurate picture comes into view: one that details the realities and contradictions of patriotism, examines the role of class and privilege in Nigerian society, juxtaposes inherited tradition with the diasporic experience and explores the power of storytelling and its intrinsic link to Nigeria’s history.
Profile Image for Hauwa Samaila.
82 reviews4 followers
October 13, 2022
Naturally, this is a difficult book to rate. There are multiple authors. One would expect that a specific theme would make the task of writing easier. Few of the stories successfully delivered sincere messages. Some of the stories were trying too hard to be Nigerian, mostly from the diaspora authors. Quite frankly, I was disappointed, for I have been hoarding this book for a while now. Trying to save it for when I was yearning for stories from the fatherland but couldn’t find any fresh narrative.
Profile Image for Simone.
252 reviews14 followers
October 10, 2021
Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

A wonderful collection of truly personal essays from a wide range of Nigerian voices which captures so much of diverseness and complexities of this vast and populous country. Equally funny, sad, infuriating, thought-provoking, mesmerising and joyful. A fascinating and insightful exploration of Nigerian culture both familiar and brand new. I want to Party like a Nigerian - You'll need to read this book to fully understand what this means.!
July 12, 2023
When I started reading this book in February, I immediately knew it was going to be my favorite read of the year. I took my time reading it because I wanted to enjoy it fully. Such a beautiful collection! I particularly loved the essays from Umar Turaki, Bolu Babalola, Chikodili Emelumadu and Chika Unigwe.

This is such an important read for every Nigerian. It is the kind of book you go back to again and again. Well done to the team who put this masterpiece together.
Profile Image for Annarella.
11.8k reviews128 followers
September 24, 2021
A fascinating read that introduced me a to a lot of Nigerian authors and made me discover a lot about the culture and the way of living.
It was an excellent reading experience and it's strongly recommended.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Profile Image for Nia.
57 reviews
April 14, 2023
A Great Account of Home

As I read each essay there is common theme of home. Despite events that shaped the development of Nigeria, it remains home. I understand the magnitude of the word home and that it means. There is no place like home. The essays also proved me with insight into some of the books that I have read by some of the authors. I plan to read more.
Profile Image for Blessing John.
196 reviews4 followers
August 26, 2023

Defining what Nigeria means to a Nigerian is such a complicated task, but these contributors did absolute justice to it. The essays in here are so good, both in terms of form and content, I had to read some twice before moving on.

Profile Image for Janet Ngocho.
88 reviews3 followers
June 28, 2022
Thanks to this collection , I have discovered what feels like an Oasis of very talented writers that were not in my radar.
124 reviews4 followers
April 25, 2022
24 Nigerian authors talking about what Nigeria means to them.
There are a number of famous accomplished Nigerian authors, my favourite amongst those here is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I will be looking out for some of the others also in future.

There were similarities in each of the author's tales, which is only to be expected given their remit.

I felt that these similarities reinforced each other rather than being repetitive.

Nigeria is an important country in the world and will probably be even more important in the future, and yet very few people in the UK know much at all about it..
Well done to the producers of this book, and a big thank you to each and every author.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Profile Image for Emily Dillistone.
82 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2023
A gush of beautiful stories of Nigeria’s rich culture and people. I loved learning about the centrality of partying to Nigerian culture. I enjoyed soaking up the gorgeous place descriptions and visualising the country, despite never having visited.

I particularly enjoyed the visa story. A few other moments stuck with me. Overall I wish there was more that connected the stories than simply being based in Nigeria. I enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozie Aidichie’s collection of short stories, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ much more.
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