Naija Love Stories by Ola Awonubi | Short Stories | 101 pages | Conscious Dreams Publishing | Review by Jenn Augustine
Ola Awonubi is an award-winning Nigerian author and blogger and her short story collection Naija Love Stories: Delve into Twelve Tales of Naija-Style Love includes her two award-winning short stories, The Pink House and The Go-Slow Journey. Naija Love Stories is the result of Awonubi’s experiences living in both Nigeria and the United Kingdom. While she found the cultures differed tremendously, she also realized that they shared commonalities when it came to the universal experiences of love. Through twelve short stories, Awonubi explores different types of love, including a love for one’s culture, familial love, and romantic love, including the different stages of romantic love. By telling these stories, she allows readers to see a fuller picture of the African experience, specifically the Nigerian experience, which is often depicted in Western media as one solely about poverty, pain, and suffering as opposed to seeing the richer and fuller human experience, which includes an expansive definition of love.
Different Types of Love
Naija Love Stories explores the themes of love for one’s culture, family and romantic love through stories of everyday life.
The love one has for one’s culture is present throughout the short story collection, with both overt, direct and tender references to Nigeria as home, and more subtle affections, such as finding British mashed potatoes a poor substitute for pounded yams. This love for Nigerian culture is particularly evident in The Go-Slow Journey, in which a young man is stuck on a bus in Lagos’ infamous ‘go-slow’ (traffic jam) on his way to a job interview. During the trip, the passengers build a joyful camaraderie, that may seem familiar to the reader, but is distinctive to Nigerian culture.
Familial love is another type of love examined consistently throughout Awonubi’s collection, with a particular focus on the relationship between mothers and daughters. The story A Very Serious Matter exemplifies this, recounting the pain and protectiveness a mother experiences when she discovers her daughter has been accused of taking part in a severe, high profile crime. She relates to her daughter, “You see, a mother’s love is a very serious matter. It is like the sea. You can never tell where it begins, and you will never know where it ends, because it has no ending” (63).
Different Stages of Romantic Love
Additionally, romantic love and the different stages of romantic love are major themes across the stories.
While The Go-Slow Journey showcases one’s love for their culture, it also illustrates the very beginning stages of love, infatuation and the possibility of love. On the bus with the young job seeker is a young woman he determines God must have created on a Sunday, the day the most beautiful women are created. The reader is aware of the young job seeker’s attraction to the young woman and his hopes for a possible future for the two.
There are also stories about couples in established relationships navigating difficult times. The short story, Moving Forward, shows a young family struggling financially and without the support of extended family, but still deeply in love and determined to support themselves and one another despite their current hardships.
That not all relationships work out successfully is also reflected in the story collection. With Love From Tuscany tells the story of a woman who returns from Italy, where she worked to support her family, only to find her husband is having an affair and her family is ungrateful for her sacrifice. The story chronicles her heartbreak and anger as she devises a plan to leave and exact her revenge against those who have taken her sacrifices for granted.
Ola Awonubi’s Naija Love Stories highlights Black love in its many forms. In doing so, the short story collection disrupts the narrative that the only Black stories worth telling, or that exist, are those that detail Black suffering. While romantic and familial relationships and the relationships Black people have with their home countries may be fraught with tension, pain, and grief, Awonubi’s short story proclaims, “There is so much more to us than that.” Just as love is multifaceted, so are the experiences of Black people. We are not all hardship and misfortune, we are also happiness, joy, and pride and Naija Love Stories allows that proclamation to be heard loud and clear to all who read it.