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Nigeria in 2015 > Teju Cole

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (last edited Jan 31, 2015 12:13PM) (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Teju Cole is another popular and successful Nigerian (with very strong ties to the US) writer (and artist!).

Goodreads Author Page:

His website:

His twitter feed (although it appears he is on hiatus)

message 2: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I enjoyed Open City but have yet to read Every Day is for the Thief

message 3: by Laura (new)

Laura | 284 comments Thanks for the thread Marieke! I will post my comments once I finish it.

message 4: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Marieke wrote: "I enjoyed Open City but have yet to read Every Day is for the Thief"

Interesting, Marieke. I loved Every Day is for the Thief and could not even finish Open City.

message 5: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Ha, Shannon! I am hoping to really enjoy Everyday is for the Thief :)

I think Open City is one of those books people either really like or really don't. Or, maybe it's a mood book because it's so contemplative.

message 6: by Laura (new)

Laura | 284 comments Well I thoroughly enjoyed Coles Every Day is for the thief. Can he be defined a diaspora author? It seems his mum is American or of white descent in any case. His short stories - initially blog entries I understand - are day to day descriptions of his feelings in his country of birth after years of life in the States. It mirrors Saro-Wiwa's Transwonderland in his findings and meanderings of Lagos. Did he find what he was looking for? There's paradox, ambiguities, longing and laughter. I'm looking forward to reading his new text Radio Lagos, when it is finished.

message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I think he was born in the US and then grew up in Nigeria but returned to the US as a young adult (?)

I really enjoyed Transwonderland so I bet I really enjoy Thief, too.

message 8: by Aki (new)

Aki (akiishihara) | 6 comments I read his "Open City" and "Every day is for the thief". I will avoid commenting on "Open City", but "Every day is for the thief", I believe, could be very controversial. It was very easy to turn pages and I honestly enjoyed it in a way as a foreigner who is looking for something exotic and new.
But at many points throughout the story, I found his perspective very narrow and shallow minded rather than deep and open. Also, I quite didn't like the way he described many Nigerians he meets - obviously he thinks he is superior to them, just like many other western writers. For me, he lacks deepness in his insight of looking at things as of the native origin, as a consequence of which he only sees and succeeds to describe the surface of people's behaviors and expressions. After all, this could be called a travelogue written by a mere Westernized Nigerian. I'm curious what Nigerians in Nigeria (not "Tokunbo" or those who spent years abroad) would think about this book. But, I still recommend this book to those who are interested to get the general idea of lives of Nigerian (from a foreigner's point of view).

message 9: by Laura (new)

Laura | 284 comments Aki - good points. I rather think that his comments about Nigerians are not superior but self preservation strategies. His chapter on his parents I think is telling - he feels disconnected...somehow we adopt the cultures that embrace us and make us feel better and in returning to Nigeria he clearly didn't feel at home. Westernised cultures are all pervasive once you are e,bused in them - it's very tough to come from an individualistic society to one where you are expected to share everything..including money through bribes. I understand him.

message 10: by Mark (last edited Jan 31, 2015 04:11AM) (new)

Mark Wentling | 36 comments What about an American who has spent 45 years of his adult life immersed deeply in Africa? All the Africans who know me well say that I'm more African than they are. For sure, I've been in Africa longer than most Africans. Sometimes it is hard to define what being African means and there is a big gap between urban and well-educated Africans and rural and less-educated Africans. I usually dismiss those Africans who have spent man years abroad as having lost touch with their culture. It can also be awkward for me in dealing with my African wife and Africa-born and raised children. I tell people that I'm white on the outside but black on the inside. One of the worst things that can happen to me is for an African to see me as a white tourist. I've met few Africans who know Africa as well as I do and who speak as many African languages as I do. Yet, I cannot qualify as an African writer because I was born somewhere else. As I of often say, I was born in Kansas, but I was made in Africa.

message 11: by Laura (new)

Laura | 284 comments Mark thanks for sharing. I loved your post. The identity concept is a complex one. At the end of the day home is where you decide it to be, and so are allegiances to one culture or another. I like to think that for individuals who have lived and experienced different cultures it is possible to choose one way or another. Colour doesn't define us but I guess to most people it is a distinguishing feature. Without sounding too simplistic, I feel that at the end of the day it s not race or nationality but experiences that mould us.

message 12: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments I have only read Open City. I guess I would agree that it is a "mood" book as when I first started reading I could not get into it so put it down. But I did big it up again a little while later when someone recommended I give the book a second try. I was able to get into the book then mainly because the main character is a walker as I am and I am also think/contemplate/imagine when walking but I really did not like the character. I sensed an arrogance/superiority around him that I did not like. And based on a revelation at the end really did not like the character.

I agree that this is a book that either you like or you don't - not much middle ground with this one.

I am interested in reading Every Day is for the Thief because I like those type of stories, but I am not in a rush to read it.

message 13: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Laura wrote: "Mark thanks for sharing. I loved your post. The identity concept is a complex one. At the end of the day home is where you decide it to be, and so are allegiances to one culture or another. I like ..."

I agree that identity is a complex subject and how we identity ourselves is based on the many things you mentioned.

But I also think that other people also make assumptions on your identity and unfortunately that is color as that is usually the first thing people will see.

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments I'm excited to get to go to a reading/signing with Teju Cole later on this spring.

Just an interesting note - Every Day is for the Thief seems more recent but was written before Open City. I felt it was similar in theme to Americanah by Adichie, about how Nigeria feels once you've left and returned "home."

message 15: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Thief was very hard to get in the US until he had his success with Open City. I remember trying to get it but couldn't and then I have just failed at getting it since then.

Don't forget to come back here and share your thoughts on seeing him!

message 16: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Teju Cole is a 2015 Windham Campbell Prize Winner.

Winners were announced for the Windham Campbell Prizes, which "call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns," the Bookseller reported, noting that the awards are worth $150,000 to each of the nine winners and "can be given for a body of work or extraordinary promise.

message 17: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (jooniperd) i just want to say i love Teju Cole. :)

message 18: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Mark, I need you to put this in your author thread please and delete it from this one. Thanks! (I know the threads can be confusing)

message 19: by Soscha (new)

Soscha | 4 comments I finished Every Day is for the Thief a few days ago. I read it in 2 days but easily could have done it in one. I was struck by how he could capture the beauty & humor of Lagos, but then instantly turn to reveal brutality and despair. I would definitely be interesting in reading Open City.

message 20: by Mark (new)

Mark Wentling | 36 comments Teju Cole is an American citizen. He was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nigerian parents. He returned to Nigeria as a child and came back to the States when he was 17. He is now 40 years old and Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College in New York. He resides in Brooklyn, New York.

message 21: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 82 comments As a Scot who lived for a year in Abuja working as a volunteer and travelling a bit when I was there (central and north) I found Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief to be spot on with many of my own experiences there and a great introduction to people who want to have an insight into that country. For my full review

message 22: by Marcy (new)

Marcy (marshein) | 17 comments I'm reading Thief and enjoying it, and plan to read Open City afterwards.

message 23: by Ruthmarie (new)

Ruthmarie | 92 comments I had read Open City and recommended it to one of my book clubs, a group of very intelligent, widely read women (including one who was raised in Southern Africa and another who has spent much time in East Africa). I was supposed to lead the discussion, but an emergency meant that I had to be out of town. I provided notes and suggested discussion topics and questions. I was so disappointed to learn afterwards that the group did not share my enthusiasm for the work. In fact, they did not like it. I wonder if their response would have been different if I had been there? Nevertheless, to their credit, they are interested in including more African works on our lists in the future.

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