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Book Review :: Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

In Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi’s Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions, interlocking stories form a novel that follows four Nigerian girls as they become women trying to determine who they should be and what role their lives should play in the history of their country. In fact, the first story begins in 1897, well before any of the girls are born, and ends with a story set in 2050 with the remaining women meeting to help one of them solve a significant problem. On the one hand, this collection examines the positives and negatives of Nigeria’s history and culture, as it shows the effects of the Biafran war, the rise of Evangelical churches and anti-LGBTQ laws, the rich culinary connections, and the deep family relationships. In the final story, Ogunyemi even uses her background in medicine to critique the American healthcare system, especially around medical debt. More than anything, though, Ogunyemi’s work reveals richly developed characters who try to negotiate what it means to be a Nigerian woman, always relying on their friends to help them through triumph and tragedy. These characters care deeply for one another and, mostly, for their families, so they are willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary so that the others’ lives can be better, no matter what political and cultural shifts occur.

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi. Amistad, September 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.