Literary Fiction by People of Color discussion

Nigerians in Space (Nigerians in Space, #1)
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ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
If anyone would like to lead the discussion for the June book of the month Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun, please let me know. You can respond here or dm me. Thanks!


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Discussion schedule:

Book 1 - June 4 thru 11
Book 2 - June 12 thru 22
Entire book open June 23rd


message 3: by Lark (new)

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 338 comments sorry to not be able to take on moderating, Columbus, but I'm looking forward to reading it together.

My local library has the sequel to this book, but not this book. Weird.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Lark wrote: "sorry to not be able to take on moderating, Columbus, but I'm looking forward to reading it together.

My local library has the sequel to this book, but not this book. Weird."


Thanks so much, Lark....and, I didn’t realize there was a sequel to this book.


message 5: by Lata (new) - added it

Lata | 293 comments Same here. The library has book 2 but not book 1. Weird.


message 6: by Aubrey (last edited May 24, 2018 04:19PM) (new) - added it

Aubrey (korrick) I'll have to make room for this, as I both bought this book and voted for it on a whim, and am surprised that it won. Hopefully my concurrent Journey to the West read won't interfere too much.


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
Lata wrote: "Same here. The library has book 2 but not book 1. Weird."

The same here for my library.

Not sure if this is the reason but libraries at times look at trade publication reviews to determine which books to purchase. The reviews and buzz seem to be better for the sequel and the buzz about the first book from people who have already read it also helped.

I have requested Nigerians In Space a couple of weeks ago via ILL (Inter Library Loan) and still have not received - I think this is the longest I have waited for ILL.


William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
Same here in DC. Not in the city or suburban systems. But the sequel is. But the title has me hooked so I downloaded the kindle for $9.60. Cheapest I could find it.


message 9: by ❄Elsa Frost❄ (last edited May 30, 2018 04:21PM) (new) - added it

❄Elsa Frost❄ (elsafrost) | 6 comments This looks like a very good read. I would love to read it, but I can't acquire a copy at the moment. Hopefully I will be able to get this one soon.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Our discussion for Nigerians in Space begins today. Looks like it’s a case of the elusive NIS with libraries either not stocking it or long hold times. I’m not even sure if delaying the start date will matter much. Let’s go ahead with that. Discussion begins June 4th.


message 11: by Lark (new)

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 338 comments I now have both Nigerians in Space -and- the sequel! I'm starting now...


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
I also have Nigerians in Space and will be able to start in a day or two.


message 13: by George (new)

George | 773 comments Got it and started it yesterday.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Great! We have three reading the book now. We’ll start the discussion tomorrow, but any early thoughts?


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Here’s some information on the Philip K. Dick Citation Award recipient- -

Deji Bryce Olukotun’s Website:
https://returnofthedeji.com/revamp/

Article in Slate magazine:
http://www.slate.com/articles/technol...

Strange Horizons Review:
http://strangehorizons.com/non-fictio...


message 16: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments Intriguing novel. Very much grounded in social and historical reality but living on the edge of the fantastical. A novel of frequent and frenetic movement, in space and time, it lures the reader on as it leaps from character to character in pursuit of meaning. The reader becomes the integrative element, weaving together the fractured lives and partial meanings each character possesses. Ultimately, the reader also begins to wonder about meaning, about the nature of the question that she/he asks


message 17: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa Dodo Seriki | 2 comments I just bought my copy in iBooks. Although I’ve followed the activities of the group, I haven’t engaged in the discussion. I’m looking forward to this!


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Vanessa wrote: "I just bought my copy in iBooks. Although I’ve followed the activities of the group, I haven’t engaged in the discussion. I’m looking forward to this!"

Great, Vanessa.....looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Well, Ronald has provided a fine opening for us to start the book discussion. We can start Book 1 now.

Ronald, your description here sounds really interesting. I’m curious if this is a genre you typically read or are you reading it just for the group? I’m hesitant to say what the specific genre is because articles I’ve read about the book have been unclear how to describe it exactly.


message 20: by George (new)

George | 773 comments Well, I've finished Book 1 and damned if I know what specific genre I'm dealing with so far. I originally thought this was going to be sci-fi but those elements seem a bit light at this point, but whatever it is, it's interesting. I really liked the Slate article where the author states he had no idea that Nigeria had a space program until he met the real life equivalent of his main character.


Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 220 comments I'm through part 1 and I like this book a lot so far. I like the feeling of the mixed genres, the intrigue and the pace.


message 22: by Lark (new)

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 338 comments I am reading with almost zero comprehension. My son has a reading disability where he can't track meanings even though he can read aloud perfectly, and understands each word vocabulary-wise...for the first time I think I understand what he experiences. This isnt a value judgment...there is just something about the choices the author is making about what information to provide vs. what information to withhold that makes the narrative really hard for me to follow.


message 23: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments Not sure if my note went through. The Baltic is slipping by, and I've had several glasses of port, so good luck


message 24: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments Third try. Forget genres. They don't fit. Think circumstantial impotence. The novel is predicated on a set of assumptions about the grandiosity of a moon landing invigorates the beginning of the novel. The reader too, is duped into thinking this is the point of the plot. The characters believe because the appeal is to their nationalism and their professional pride. Those two weaknesses lead the rabbit hole of expectations. Ultimately, they are betrayed by an impressive but shady government official who leads them not only to disgrace but death.
I have more to say but I keep losing my note since on the ocean. Will check in later


BernieMck | 95 comments I would never have chosen this book on my own. So glad it was this month's pick because I am really enjoying it. I agree with all the comments on not being able to put this book in any pre-existing genre.


William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
I'm enjoying it so far..three chapters in. I like the way the author keeps me on my toes with unexpected twists and misdirection. I would have thought that after Wale stole the moon rock and kept his coworker at bay that he would have gotten away clean but his car along with his tickets were being towed away! And Thursday after his meeting with his boss seems to walkaway unscathed only to be fired 2 days later. And the book is obviously very well researched, with lots of specialized minute.


message 27: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa Dodo Seriki | 2 comments I am just about finished with book I - two chapter away. I am thoroughly enjoying this book. I am particularly intrigued by the plot twist. After chapter one I thought the book was going on a particular direction, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. The theme that is resonating with me through this section of the novel is integrity and how the characters compromise their integrity for loyalty (allegiance to a friend-Thursday) or their personal desire (Wale and Femi) to be part of something great or for nationalism.


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
I have finished Book 1. At this point I am probably in middle in the enthusiasm level. It was a slow beginning but the last two chapters in this Part has raised my interest.

While I thought that this first part felt a little disjointed, I also felt that the threads would come together and the details of why certain things were mentioned will come together as the storyline develops.

I agree that a couple of themes (so far) are loyalty and trust. How far can these be stretched when challenged.


message 29: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments There is also the issue of failed expectation. I remember when Nigeria gained independence in the early 60s. There was palpable excitement in the revolutionary developing world because now we had a large African country free of British colonialism and seeming likely to add significantly to the resistance. Nigeria was never part of the leadership of negritude. That was left to nkrumah, kaunda and others, but Nigeria had scale and potential wealth. It did not have sufficient skilled people to fill out it's civil service or it diplomatic corps, so several West Indians went there to help. Such was the excitement.
That expectation of dynamic leadership collapsed fairly quickly, but my generation could, and did, blame colonialism for the failures. The modern generation of writers, however, have begun to turn the spotlight inwards, eschewing the historical explanations in favor of self- analysis. It has not hurt that they have found critical and commercial success in this shift in perspective as the publishing houses and the consumers of the writing gladly accept that their role is marginal to the conditions in the developing world. The anti-colonial argument has lost its force as other global realities - feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, etc - have been assumed by the African writer. The African American writer is still plying the racial/colonial waters, but, for the most part, Africans and west Indians have sought to fit into the new global reality.
In this context, the self critique is the new measure of literary maturity. So , this writer, like Amandie, sees what is wrong with their societies, unlike in the past, when the "oppressor" was the villain.
It is in this context that our current novel must be read. Nothing actually works in this novel. Everything is an approximation of the developed world's reality, no matter how ludicrous. Ergo, a space mission from a nation that cannot even extract it's own oil. Such is the desire for self belief, however, that intelligent people are willing to believe the improbable, and to criminalize their lives to boot in the venture. This theme of criminality becomes more explicit later, but I'm not sure how far along the group is.
Off to find some sushi


message 30: by William (last edited Jun 08, 2018 09:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
Not quite sure why so much of a book ostensibly about the Nigerian space program is actually taking place in an abalone farm in South Africa..I suppose it will become clear as I near the finish.

In a life or fiction type of coincidence..My wife did some of her PhD work on an S.A. abalone farm and had to carry official papers when she handled specimens so as not to be arrested for poaching!


message 31: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments My find in this novel is the abalone issue. Knew nothing about that, so it's good that you have some inside knowledge, William. It is possible that "spacd" in the title does not exclusively mean outer space. Think of disaporic space, where the Nigerian is distributed around the globe and only there can he/she discover a kind of viability. The scientists, after all, had to be brought back to Nigeria from this foreign "space". At the end of the novel, you will experience Nigeria.
I hope you are adding 10% difficulty to your workouts to compensate for my doing nothing.


message 32: by William (last edited Jun 10, 2018 12:50AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
Ronald wrote: "The African American writer is still plying the racial/colonial waters, but, for the most part, Africans and west Indians have sought to fit into the new global reality. ..."
Yikes!!! Besides being some of the most conservative people on this green earth, are you insinuating that its the AfAm writers that are stuck in the past and the Caribbean and Africans at the forefront of global progressives?
Wole Soyinka rejected negritude and the rest of the continent agreed, (And most of Africa) Nigeria would not lead a pan African diaspora. The Brain Gain reflects this thinking. Africa first.! Make Nigeria Great Again!
I suppose the reason most AfAm writers still trade in the racial/colonial waters is because the racial waters have never receded here while in Africa the colonial masters have receded from western Europe only to be replaced by eastern Chinese. But you are certainly right in saying that western publishers love books that "look inward" in other words, cast no blame at colonialism..but I have spent a good amount of time in Southern Africa.
The crimes are palpable even if the day to day people don't recognize it. Their countries were built to service colonialism and they will never be able to dig themselves out of poverty because the infrastructure, the capital, and resources are rigged. African-American writers continue to stir the racial waters while African and Caribbeans trade in pipe dreams of surmounting obstacles as high as home grown despots, (as if just getting rid of a few bad apples would solve the problems) the IMF. WTO, World Bank indebtedness and countries that literally were created only to funnel labor, resources and capital to European masters..


William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
Ronald wrote: "Think of disaporic space,..." Quite possible...People who travel know that Nigerians are everywhere! But in S.A., just as nearby immigrants in the U.S., they are blamed for criminality and drugs,
BTW, 10% of 10 times the reg workout and we'll call it even,


message 34: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 15 comments Columbus wrote: "Our discussion for Nigerians in Space begins today. Looks like it’s a case of the elusive NIS with libraries either not stocking it or long hold times. I’m not even sure if delaying the start date ..."

I was not able to find it in the Cincinnati library, which has almost everything. The only other time they've let me down was an out of print children's book from the '70s. Why is this book so hard to find?


message 35: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments Nice try, Willie me lad, but I'm not going to be baited by your inference transforming itself into my implication. I have no intention of seeing African Americans as stuck in the mud or the other two groups as progressive. What I meant to suggest, but inadequately stated, is that there is an incomplete revolution that seems to have been bypassed by the younger West Indian and African writers in favor of more globally acceptable liberal positions. "Anti-colonialist conversations are hard, except in the the U.S. where, as you rightly pointed out, the contemporary condition is still fraught with existential dangers. Your voice, therefore, whether heeded or not, at least has currency. The anti-colonialist conversations in the 60s, where my head is still stuck, sound hackneyed and somewhat tendentious nowadays.
The younger writers have moved on from accusation and have become self-critical, although they exclude themselves from the critique of their cultures.
You are the statistician but 10% of 10 works out to 1 workout extra, right? I'm gone for a month and a half, man. Have a heart


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
William wrote: "Ronald wrote: "Think of disaporic space,..." Quite possible...People who travel know that Nigerians are everywhere! But in S.A., just as nearby immigrants in the U.S., they are blamed for criminali..."

As I was reading through Book One I was beginning to see how the three main characters could be eventually connected in future storylines and was thinking to myself how, no matter where I have traveled I have ran into Nigerians, so was seeing one of the themes as the Nigerian Diaspora and those who remained in Nigeria.

For me the Prologue for Book Two (page 111- in the book I have) was the point that the light bulb went off for me and the storyline started to soar and became a quirky page-turning thriller.

I know that the discussion for Book Two doesn't begin until 6/12 but I did think that Book Two was well executed.


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Our discussion for Nigerians in Space begins today. Looks like it’s a case of the elusive NIS with libraries either not stocking it or long hold times. I’m not even sure if delayin..."

This may be an oversimplified answer but could be a possible reason why Nigerians In Space is not necessarily in a lot of public libraries.

While my library has been increasing their purchases from independent presses, if there is a book that that have not purchased I usually request via ILL (Inter Library Loan).

The book was published in the US in Feb. 2014 by Unnamed Press which is a small independent publisher.

Unfortunately, public libraries have limited purchasing dollars so often depend on industry publications to learn about which books to purchase for their patrons.

Over the past couple of years small independent presses have been reviewed more these industry publications, have displayed at industry conventions, and have outreach programs to library professionals. A lot of this can be contributed to technology.

This is a link to Unnamed Press which has published quite a few gems over the past couple of years.
http://unnamedpress.com/


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Phil wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Our discussion for Nigerians in Space begins today. Looks like it’s a case of the elusive NIS with libraries either not stocking it or long hold times. I’m not even su..."

Good point. Also, I typically send my library a big list of books to get about every quarter or thereabouts. I was hesitant at first but now they come to expect it. In fact, they encouage it. It’s always boooks from Indie presses.


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
Columbus wrote: "Beverly wrote: "Phil wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Our discussion for Nigerians in Space begins today. Looks like it’s a case of the elusive NIS with libraries either not stocking it or long hold times...."

Me too. :)

Especially when you realize how many publishers are out there and having to go through the publisher catalogs to determine which books to purchase for their patrons.


William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
James wrote: "Beverly wrote: "William wrote: "Ronald wrote: "Think of disaporic space,..." Quite possible...People who travel know that Nigerians are everywhere!"

As I was reading through Book One I was beginni..."


I co-authored a paper with a Nigerian economist once and we presented the findings at an international conference. She did the honors. I was rather shocked when she started her talk with the typical self-deprecating joke. But her joke in essence was that she was not there to scam or fleece the audience but to impart new findings. I thought the joke might have worked well in a comedy club but at an econ conference? If I or any other non-Nigerian had voiced those sentiments we would rightfully have been excoriated. It seemed to me that the my co-author was putting out a sentiment that no one but her was thinking. I suppose that's when I learned that the concept of Nigerian as trickster is held even by Nigerians. The authors repeats quite a few times that different characters in this book don't want to deal with Nigerians because they've gotten fleeced in the past. One of the tensions in the book is, is Brain Gain an elaborate con or a real effort to enrich the country?


William (be2lieve) | 1326 comments Mod
Ronald wrote: "Nice try, Willie me lad, but I'm not going to be baited by your inference transforming itself into my implication. I have no intention of seeing African Americans as stuck in the mud or the other t..."
HmmK, Ronnie ( and I really do hate the diminutive, Willie) But I do suppose its time to move on. Thinking of Angola which earns countless billions of oil money absolutely none of which makes it way to the people and has become poorer since the Portuguese left even though the revenues have skyrocketed. But navel gazing novels accomplish nothing....calling out homegrown despots with the same fury as colonists is a start. Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow comes to mind.


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
Yes, the Brain Gain and/or the reverse of the Brain Drain is an interesting concept presented in Book 1 & Book 2 (I haven't read the final part yet - Book 3).

Everyone has dreams on what they want out of life - what if your native country/place of residence cannot fulfill your dreams and you are offered other opportunities - should you not go for it!

The lure of the American dream and being able to come to America is strong pull. The image of America seen through movie/movie/word of mouth does present a distorted picture of reality but as the saying goes "the grass looks greener on the other side". Usually hope and desperation has you thinking that you will be the one to beat the odds in this "new country/place".

A society needs a stable middle class to be the fuel for growth and opportunities and provide the framework for Brain Gain.

Bello knows what to say to each person to get them to agree to return to Nigeria and fulfill their dreams.
And yes, it seems that Nigerians have gotten a reputation for being "tricksters".

Several years ago I read I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
It is a satirical novel about internet scams but as one the characters says in the book - Nigeria has to do the interest scams as the colonizers left them either stripped of their resources or without the skill set to effectively use the natural resources so we have something that generates revenue and provides jobs, etc and it is the reverse what colonizers did to them.


Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
The character I am rooting for is Thursday.
I definitely perk up when he is in a scene.


message 44: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 219 comments OK, it's late & my ILL still hasn't appeared, so I just broke down and bought myself a kindle copy. I'll catch up by tomorrow night - promise. Looking forward to this one after peeking at your discussion.


message 45: by Ronald (new)

Ronald A. Williams | 39 comments Sorry, William. Too casual. I do see the novel dealing with several of the issues mentioned in the responses. The one that struck me was James's note about the ambivalence of the diaspora when approached by members of the home country with requests for support. That is always a tricky moment because, as James suggests, it can feel vaguely exploitative. At the same time, it confirms, or affirms, a vision of the self as successful and, therefore, worthy of such an appeal. Wale, and, it appears, the other scientists face this choice, and the challenge is compounded by the demand for total commitment though the act of theft which alienates them from their current existence.
Bello is intriguing because, as Beverly points out, he is, to all appearances, the master manipulator. And yet, he is all but unknown, may be a representative of the government or his own interest, and seems to incite violence. When we finally meet him in South Africa it is not clear that he has the power implied in the first half of the novel. I hope that's not a spoiler. What/who Is Bello, therefore?
Ultimately, every single character exhibits significant vulnerability, and the question is, to whom? The answer to that question seems to inhere in the existential condition itself, something so profoundly wrong that it defies analysis. As William points out, the wealth of Africa is beyond imagination, and yet, the condition of poverty continues. Arabs, Europeans, exploitative African leaders and, most recently, the Chinese have seen in Africa a place where fortunes can made. Still, the fundamental condition of the African appears unchanged.
One last point, Africa's population is growing rapidly, and will be 2 billion by mid-century, 3.5 billion by 2100. There is an expanding middle class, but the question, as Beverly notes, is will they look to Europe, America or China for models of behavior or will they seek to improve their domestic condition? The novel, it seems to me, is uncertain about the answer and therefore intentionally invokes the fantastical.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Books 1 & 2 thru 22nd


message 47: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 15 comments Regarding genre, so far this book reminds me of thrillers and heist books that I've read by authors like Elmore Leonard and Chester Himes.

Quick question: How do you pronounce "Wale?" I've been saying "Wah-lay" in my head, but that's just a guess.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "Regarding genre, so far this book reminds me of thrillers and heist books that I've read by authors like Elmore Leonard and Chester Himes.

Quick question: How do yo..."


Well, about 2 years ago I was in a room with some youngish relatives, low to mid-twenties, and I found myself being the butt of jokes when I mispronounced the Nigerian rapper, Wale, like the whale in Moby Dick. They corrected me and said it’s pronounced “way-lay.” I’ve since learned to wait to hear others pronounce names I’m unsure of to avoid making that mistake again.


message 49: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 15 comments So the moon is important in all the storylines in this book. I am trying to figure out why. It seems to represent hope, or maybe dreams for a better future. Is there some significance that I'm missing out on?

I'm also wondering about the contrast between the '90s and present day. There seem to be generational differences between the storyline for the '90s characters- mainly Wale- and the present day characters- Dayo, Thursday, and Melissa.

Given that the book is written specifically about these two time periods, it seems like the author is trying to say something about the changes between them. It's hard to say more than that without spoilers, though.


ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3893 comments Mod
Entire book open for discussion.


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