Genre Fiction: Coming of age (short stories).
Blurb “’Children will be children‘ does not always hold true. Sometimes, children are warriors, dreamers, fighters, survivors, givers, lovers, victors, victims, or a combination of everything.
In this moving coming of age compilation of short stories with African children protagonists, get ready to experience a rollercoaster of emotions as you follow their journeys of wins and losses, big and small.
Of Children Born To Us presents us with both hilarious and gripping scenarios children find themselves in that sometimes force them to mature, make judgment calls and live with the consequences of their decisions. From characters experiencing poverty, dealing with abuse, modern-day slavery, self-awareness, vitiligo, disability, teenage love, and sibling rivalry, you would find that strength can be found in hopeless places and everything isn’t always as it seems.
Nonso, Matthew, Deolu, Anwuli, Roni, Edosa, and Uche do not seem to have a lot in common on the surface. But deep down, they bear their dreams for a better future like totems until they meet people in their lives who are out to influence them. As the courses of their lives change through changing governments, economics, parental decisions or just good old fate, they must, in spite of their ages, decide what the ultimate courses of their lives would be.
It is a book about children, but it isn’t necessarily a children’s book. If you love a gripping story of children and are not afraid of a few laughs and a few tears, you would love this book.”
Dialogue Mostly well written and believable in English, Nigerian Pidgin and Nigerian languages.
Themes Knowledge vs Ignorance, Prejudice, Family, Injustice, Growing Up, Loss of Innocence, Poverty, Assault, Power of Tradition and Self Preservation.
Editing Mostly well edited; a few errors.
Plot This is a collection of eight short stories with children at the central theme and as narrators.
“A Quest for Rahsidi” tells a nostalgic childhood tale about finding an important piece for Nonso.
“At Home with the Devil” narrates how Uche, Chenemi and Phillip escaped the life that was foisted on them.
In “The Chicken that Refused to Die,” siblings learn how to love when they become attached to a chicken which they initially wanted to eat.
“Uncle Bode’s Demise” puts things in perspective for a 13-year-old who wants to escape the life that was given to her by him and her mother.
“This Girl Will Pass” because she would suffer in the hands of a cultural practice and an old seer, with the help of her complicit mother.
In “Brother’s Keeper,” Deolu couldn’t keep his promise to protect his brother, Femi.
In “Austere Times,” 14-year-old Anwuli will do what she must to survive her circumstances.
In “Ichekani (No one knows tomorrow)” we watched a young friendship blossom into love.
What worked? It’s always nice when a book lives up to the description in its blurb. We discovered this book on Okadabooks bestseller list when it was released last month, read the “taster” on Amazon and added it to our list for July.
This is an enjoyable read, though most of the eight stories which make up the book, deal with really difficult circumstances made more poignant because the protagonists are children. The stories are often told from the children’s perspective but a few were narrated in third person. For the ones written in first person, you get to experience the nuance of the story being told from a child’s perspective.
The storytelling is engaging and the plots are unusual. Ife weaves believable tales with dexterity, revealing details about the characters indirectly so you have to figure a lot of things out. This made the stories more interesting as you try to work out the characters’ ages, sex and other descriptors. It’s the little things in the details that makes it a worthwhile read.
The opening story – “A Quest for Rashidi” is perfect. It evoked nostalgia – memories of growing up in the 80s and 90s in Nigeria with the references to countertops and Limca. The intensity of the emotions felt by Nonso over the loss of Rashidi and how his nameless sister saves the day, is well-written.
Even when the stories become more sober, the narration keeps you going. You feel a range of emotions and wish children would be saved from such suffering. Remembering it’s fiction helps, even though, at the back of your mind, you know these are plausible stories and possibly people’s real life experiences.
The last story, “Ichekani (No one knows tomorrow)” saves the day with a perfect finish, one to lift your spirit!
What didn’t work?
Lady B A few times, I questioned the dialogues and thoughts of the children. It just didn’t seem plausible that children could be so mature.
Mo Two stories aren’t as fluid as the rest. “Austere Times” and “Brother’s Keeper” were difficult to follow.
Number of pages 109.
Damage N2,000 on Okadabooks.