Author: Elnathan John
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Synopsis: In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree. During the election, the boys are paid by the Small Party to cause trouble. When their attempt to burn down the opposition’s local headquarters ends in disaster, Dantala must run for his life, leaving his best friend behind. He makes his way to a mosque that provides him with food, shelter, and guidance. With his quick aptitude and modest nature, Dantala becomes a favored apprentice to the mosque’s sheikh. Before long, he is faced with a terrible conflict of loyalties, as one of the sheikh’s closest advisors begins to raise his own radical movement. When bloodshed erupts in the city around him, Dantala must decide what kind of Muslim—and what kind of man—he wants to be. Told in Dantala’s naïve, searching voice, this astonishing debut explores the ways in which young men are seduced by religious fundamentalism and violence.- Goodreads
One word: Brilliant!
I should end this review with that alone. LOL
Born on a tuesday is centered around Dantala, whose name literally means to be Born On A Tuesday and is told on a backdrop of Sokoto; places such as Bayan Layi, Dogon Icce and main Sokoto itself. It sheds a numbing light on Northern Nigeria and the Islamic religion.
The book has five parts, each part pregnant with its own story.
Dantala, later Ahmad, starts out as an Almajiri (Quranic student) but quickly falls with the bad boys in Bayan Layi. After some political uproar, he escapes and ends up in the mosque of a Shiekh who takes care of him.
He tells of the world around him in a voice that makes you not only see what he sees but also, feel what he feels.
We see Dantala go through emotions as he sees and experiences events he doesn’t really understand: murder, sexuality, Religious sects, jihadist exteremism, love, and prison.
We see him as he grows in the ranks and is eventually a malam who calls out prayers (He seemed to enjoy this the most).
Because of the raw voice the story is told in, you realize, a bit too late, that you’re willing to forgive many things that you wouldn’t accept normally.
I noticed that the writer used a lot of Arabic and Hausa words and did not explain the meaning; i had to understand from context. I actually had fun marking down the words and questioning my friend about it later. It seemed the writer wanted to be as real as possible, being that Dantala’s narration (thoughts) are in the languages he knows and understands.
While reading the book, i also noticed that the tone used in the first chapter, Bayan Layi, was actually different from the rest of the chapters. I don’t know if the writer was trying to signify/emphasize Dantala’s growth or if it was, in fact, a construct error. I, for one, loved the first chapter.
The thing i appreciated the most was that, the writer included pages of “Dantala’s words” where he actually wrote down english words he encountered and wrote narratives with them as contextual examples. These pages were written in a different font from the rest of the book and there were cancellations that were meant to indicate that Dantala was indeed an “English Learner”.
As usual, my favorite character was Jibril who barely allowed me feel his pain. I could tell that he, like many other characters, had suffered a lot but he always seemed so jovial and optimistic that i didn’t know whether to pity him or be happy for him.
My worst character is Shuaibu because, in my opinion, he embodied the stereotypic Muslim husband. Many people would expect that it would be Malam Abdul- Nur but i feel that his character is very interesting and strategically placed (because he was a convert).
This is not a happily ever after story, neither is it a love story. I actually found it hard trying to classify it into a genre.
From what i observed, the writer tried to shed light on: young lives in the North, Islamic sects, Mujahedeen (loosely translated as Islamic military), Politics from the standpoint of the oppressed and Religious opinions.
A lot of people run away from books like this – i used to – but it’s not the conventional type, i bet you. This book left me thirsty for knowledge and i was shocked by how little i really know.
Good fiction writing is, to me, how best you can make your readers see your fiction as possible truth.The writer is not a muslim and i think he crushed this point. You can tell the amount of research that went into this.
Note to Elnathan John: I absolutely enjoyed your book and tweeted about it when i was on page six! Bayan Layi literally blew my mind, LOL. I really can’t wait for that Book signing!
I hope you enjoyed my review, be sure to tell me what you think 😉
I love hearing from you guys, so if you have questions or something you think i missed, drop a witty comment!
Note: For those my puff puffs that aren’t ardent readers, you could still read this book because it is not lengthy and honestly, you’d be captivated. If you’re the one-page-every-day type, you might even upgrade to four pages LOL.