Genre Nonfiction: Autobiography
Blurb “THE CRAZY NIGERIAN is a true life story of a boy on a path of self-discovery. As he shuffles between the United Kingdom and Nigeria, he narrates his amusing childhood experiences and gives his unique perspective on various issues that had a significant impact on his psyche. As he gets older, he comes to grips with the harsh realities of life and finds his own quirky way of dealing with them. Between hearing ghosts and the traumatic experience of going bald, he learns to adapt to his surroundings and make some hard choices, including whether or not he should relocate to Nigeria for good.”
Editing A few errors. Needed more editing for sentence construction.
What worked? This book is a top 10 bestseller on Okadabooks and has sold over 7,000 copies. At N500, it is the most expensive book in the top 48 bestsellers, of the other 47 books, 2 are priced at N200 and 45 of them are free! We would love to know how the author could sell his book so successfully so maybe, other authors can learn from him.
The Crazy Nigerian is an entertaining and quick read, a coming of age book, if you like. Tonwa details the lessons he learnt and we can see the growth in the book. If you are interested in the coming of age books, read our review of Fine Boys, though it is fiction.
The book starts with an introduction: Tonwa with his luggage seated in the airport on his way back to Nigeria from England. He meets an acquaintance who asks for his name. Tonwa’s name has been a source of ridicule for him from childhood. This introduction leads to him taking us on a journey in this book, from his earliest memories as a child to negotiating life as a young adult. The book is written in a witty and light-hearted manner but touches on various social issues one is bound to encounter growing up. There are cartoon illustrations preceding each chapter which enhance the humorous text in the book. A pointer to his vivid imagination and creative mind.
This autobiography works even though it is about a “normal” childhood and adulthood. Nothing too dramatic so it’s easier to relate to it. Having said that, his story about an attempt to kidnap him by two Hausa or Fulani women when he was a child, was unusual and showed how trusting society was that the school released him to these women. This is unlikely to happen now with the current security situation in Nigeria and the growing number of kidnappings. Perhaps, this heightened awareness of security is a good thing.
Tonwa takes us through familiar scenarios, bullying in primary and secondary school, daredevil stunts to impress friends and crushes which result in injury, etc. He also writes about unfamiliar scenarios like racism and trying to adjust to a different culture in England. As a foreign university student, he highlights a stranger’s need for acceptance in a foreign country and youthful exuberance. Tonwa didn’t spare us any embarrassing details, he laid it all bare, using quirky wit to achieve this goal.
No book set in Nigeria will be complete without expressing disappointment in social amenities. Power supply by the then National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA-aptly renamed Never Expect Power Always) or postal services by the Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST) which surprisingly, is now more efficient than it was in the 80’s and 90’s.
The Crazy Nigerian reminds us that autobiographies do not have to be dull and boring and that one can write about one’s life regardless of how mainstream or regular one’s life has been. We get the author’s perspective on life from his own experience and sometimes, that helps us connect dots in our own lives too. This is a light-read but a good one. We particularly like the bonus read at the end, “Ten things you should know about living in Lagos.” The book cover works and is quite fitting for this book.
What didn’t work?
Mo There was too much exposition in the book. The constant need to explain things Nigerian was distracting and a bit off-putting for me; NEPA, NIPOST, LASTMA, even Bounty chocolate which isn’t inherently Nigerian wasn’t spared.
Lady B The downside of the humorous account by Tonwa is that you may read the autobiography in a detached manner and not feel connected to the subject.
Page numbers 137.
Damage N500 on Okadabooks.
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