Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bev is Blogging the Caine, America by Chinelo Okparanta

(PHOTO FROM INTERNET) As part of the Caine Blogathon, Aarn Bady, who blogs at The New Inquiry and several other writers have been blogging the Caine prize shortlisted stories of 2013. Amercia is the last one on the list as we await to hear the winner. America is an extremely well-told story. It is layered with hope, Foreign policy, destiny, and two worlds. It is a compact story, complete, circular and entertaining with a few Geography and Environment lessons there and there. While the desire to live and study in America may not be intriguing since we read it in Foreign Aid and Miracle and also because that novelty has worn off, it is the character’s journey to attaining her visa which is the essence of the story. Her family’s involvement, bus-rides to the visa office and blossoming friendship with Gloria and her life as a school teacher. There is so much going on but each scene is interesting. Nnenna, whose name we hear of once, is a captivating person to follow. She is a proud teacher of Federal Government Girls’ College in Abuloma, a proud teacher with a wealth of knowledge. The meeting with Gloria Oke, a Curriculum Development visiting expert to the school, is an intrusion to Nnenna’s otherwise routine but noble existence. Gloria and Nnenna become fast friends and before long, their friendship escalates to sleepovers and eventually a lesbian affair. It is a gradual development, from licking icing from cake and feeling under each others’ blouses. Nnenna’s mother, though not religious admonishes her only child warning against this relationship that is criminal in Nigeria. Her father is calmer about it. As a reader, I feel there is authorial intrusion where the development of the reaction of parents has been summarized too quickly without us feeling the enormity of this affair. Secondly, while Nnenna appears to come from an enlightened family, her description of the snow reflects a more na├»ve person. And I think of Gloria playing in the snow-like I imagine Americans do, lying in it-forming now angels on the ground. I think of Papa suggesting that perhaps America would be the best place for me and my kind of love. (Page 18) Gloria represents a desired future. She is the love of Nnenna’s life, educated on the crude oil economics of Nigeria and America and she lives in America. She is the sole reason Nnenna’s acquires a visa and also ignites her desire to leave. Her mother begs her to return and not get lost in America but Nnenna almost hopes that she actually does get lost and separate herself from the hardship of Nigeria. The introduction of the bus ride out of Port Harcourt is a little bit touristy. An excerpt is below. We drive through bushes. We pass the villages that rim our side of the Bonny River. There are hardly any trees in the area, and the shrubs are little more than stumps, thin and dusty, not verdant as they used to be. This, Mama has told me: that the vegetation around the Bonny River once thrived. That the trees grew tall, and from them sprang green leaves. And their flowers gave rise to fruit. Of course, this memory is hers, from a former reality, one too old to be my own. The roads are sandy and brown, with open gutters, and with wrappers and cans and bottles strewn about (Page 1). It is almost as if it is the protagonist’s first trip to Nigeria. I understand the need to distance herself from the filth, just like when he left the Embassy after attaining her visa, but there I nothing unique about the place because trees are expected to have leaves and flower expected to bear fruit, just as shrubs can often look like stumps. Possibly the knowledge of Bonny River would have helped, but it does not. The knowledge of Shell’s involvement in the oil spill and the different reactions in America and Nigeria is not uncommon but an interesting tale to tell in this story. It does make it appear like too much is going on in the story though from lesbian relationships, parent to daughter relationships and this obvious important oil spill issue. I am a bit uncomfortable too with the fact that America does seem to answer everyone’s problems and has been placed on an unnecessary pedestal. The proverbial story tries to alleviate that, along with the Mother’s plea for her daughter to return. When Nnena’s father though, tells her that America is the place that will manage her kind of love, I feel that it is not the love he is talking about, but her lifestyle, it will meet her dream and hopes as compared to a more hopeless Nigeria. That again, appears to be the author’s intrusion because the parents’ characters were not developed enough for us as readers to agree with their sentiments. The readers should have been left to decide whether or not they agreed with the lesbian affair without it being prescribed to us. The mother is by far, the most memorable character. Her reaction to the relationship is real and characteristic of a mother who cares. On Page 111, the excerpt below shows a lot. A woman and a woman cannot bear children, Mama says to me. That’s not the way it works. As he stomp out of the room, he says again, The wind has blown and the bottom of the fowl has been exposed. Further along, she complains about how he will never have a grandchild. It is easy to be moved to pity for the mother and shake some sense into Nnena for breaking her mother’s heart. This bond is quite pivotal in the story and is an interesting dynamic. The love of lovers against the love of parents. I would be interested to read other stories by Okparanta because she is obviously gifted.Thi story was first published in Granta Magazine. Review by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva Ugandan writer

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Short Story Day Africa 2013; The Interview

Short Story Day Africa 2013; The Interview The team at Short Story Day Africa has compiled twenty one questions their followers want to know about writers in Africa as part of the Short Story Day Africa 2013 celebrations. Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product? The situation varies. I think I mostly enjoy thinking about writing and imagining the finished product. I enjoy the beginning and end of my writings always but not the in-between because then I am too far from the start to change and too far from the end to stop. What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it? (No cheating and saying something that makes you sound like the intelligentsia). I am reading the abridged version of David Copperfied. Charles Dickens was moved my love and romance and I’m a hopeless romantic, it never gets old for me. I’m also reading one of the 2010 issues of Oprah’s O magazines and looking at clothing for women. I like to imagine what my dream body image would look like in those clothes. Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it? Yes, I have. I killed off a boy in a school dormitory and my regret was the he died from AIDS related causes without a proper understanding of its dynamics. I also regret the melodrama that ensued. If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why? There is a character called Tom, who is a Caucasian Ugandan and has an enthralling relationship with his neighbour. They have a very alluring sexual interaction and he takes decaffeinated coffee which means he looks after his health. I just detest his relationship with his cat. Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why? I would never invite a certain mechanic who robbed a lady of Nine hundred thousand shillings because he could rob me too. Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against? For, a million times for. It is in our deepest angst and uncontrollable states that words tear from our hearts to the page. My writing needs it. If against, are you for any other mind altering drug? I am not for any mind-altering drugs, except mind-altering past-times like reading, praying, talking etc… Our adult competition theme if Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story? In my most recent story, leftover Turkey was served to a cat to make it go away. What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview? So who is Beverley Nambozo? (huh?) If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be? Maeve Binchy, (when she was alive.) She died last year on my birthday. If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why? I would erase an erotic poem I read before youth in Mbarara town in Uganda, where the Mayor was present. What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told? Can’t zero on any, there are several. If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them? I wouldn’t kill them, just make them suffer. What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy? Naught. What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa? Coping with many standards, the standards in Uganda, the standards set internationally, standards from peers, standards of the continent and trying to embrace and find my own place. Have you ever written naked? Do you mean there are people who haven’t? Does writing sex scenes make you blush? If I’m reading it before many people but not if I’m on my own. Who would play you in the film of your life? Gabrielle Union or Sharon Leal. If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money? For me, the better question would be, what would I do with 10,000 GBP. High unlikely I would even be shortlisted for Caine. I would take my family on holiday to South America and invest in my literary project that promotes poetry and verse. What do you consider your best piece of work to date? I am reluctant to say because the readers usually think otherwise. What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa? I wasn’t planning on any celebration but now that you ask, I may visit a place I have never visited before and start a story with that very setting. Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva END

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

HELLEN NYANA, ON WRITING HER TRUTH(interview by African Writers' Trust)

(SOURCE: AFRICAN WRITERS' TRUST) It has taken me a while to introduce myself as a writer. Sure, I may tell my family and friends that I write but I rarely introduce myself as a writer. So when I was invited to participate in the Uganda international Writers’ Conference that was organised by the African Writers Trust in March 2013, all I was looking forward to was quietly admiring real international writers. Most of us who live on the continent look at our friends in the Diaspora with envy. And we definitely look at writers in the Diaspora as some privileged lot. Not only do they have faster Internet and quaint little coffee shops from where they create their amazing works of genius; they are also exposed to renowned publishing houses. We quietly covet them and force smiles through our teeth as we get autographs for their bestselling novels. When they tell us that winter was hard to get used to, we brush that off as one of their many not-so-serious problems. Malawian writer Dr Jack Mapanje, who has been living in exile in Britain for a while now, told us about his experiences in the Diaspora and they were anything but rosy. Weather aside, their audiences back home, the few that read their books anyway, question the plausibility of their writing having not been home in a long time. The murram roads they write about have been tarmacked and that remote village in their childhood memory now has cell phone reception. Which Africa then are they writing about? But then again their audiences in the countries where they stay question the Africa they write about that has no kwashiorkor-ridden children. Most times, rather than concentrate on the skill of their craft, their African-ness is questioned. This and the debate on Afropolitanism helped put my writing into a bigger context. That I am no longer writing for just me but for an audience that would perceive my work however they want. That wherever I am writing from, whichever country I am in be it in Africa or in the Diaspora, Afropolitanism should demand that I am more concerned about the quality of what I am writing than slapping in contrived idioms to make the work appear “more African”. It is then that I understood what writers mean when they say, “Write your truth.” Marketing my writing was another aspect that made me think of writing being just beyond me. When most writers think about getting their writing out there, their options are only limited to publishing houses. We never think of the options that blogs, individual websites and websites like Amazon give us to self-publish. We spend more time whining about Africa’s poor reading culture instead of building our Wikipedia profiles that could guide our audiences on what they could read. And now, surprisingly, we have E.L James of the Fifty Shades of Grey fame to look up to as an example of the power of self-publishing. But there was no moment when the far-sightedness of Africa Writers Trust shone through than during the session with Barclays Bank and DOEN Foundation. The topic for this session was “Supporting the Arts: Donor Funding and the Case for Corporate Financing Integration”, which explored new forms of collaboration between the artists and their supporters and discussed new funding patterns by donors, and the possibility of integrating corporate financing in the arts. Thinking of the monetary side of my writing emphasised the need for quality and impactive material. But to listen to people say they are willing to support my craft, was more than the push I needed. This conference gave me an opportunity to learn from some of Africa’s best writers, to hang out with upcoming story tellers and to think of my writing beyond my limited view and into a bigger picture. Interview by African Writers' Trust

Bayan Layi's Kuka Tree, Review of Bayan Layi

(INTERNET PHOTO) Review of Bayan Layi, short story written by Elnathan John, published in Per Contra. We all look forward to a simply told story which we can enjoy from the start to the end. Bayan Layi is exactly that. Because of its simplicity and Elnathan’s powerful gift of story-telling, it is also easy to sway with the motions of the words and miss the different nuances. Let’s begin with the Kuka Tree, which is the place of shelter for the gang of boys who play the bigger part of the story. It is their place of freedom from adults and authority, who antagonize their dreams, and a place where they can boast about their past while planning for their future. The boys are seated under the Kuka and Daltan, our narrator introduces his own internal conflict at the beginning. While the other boys can boast about men they have killed, he can’t. This immediately makes one think of someone weak or physically and mentally incapacitated in one way or another. The Kuka Tree, their place governed by its own rules unites these boys who have been estranged from families and idealized structures for various reasons. Their life is one of unpredictability, high-risk and excitement. As they sit and talk under the tree, Godedanisa one of the gang members is boasting about a kill which our narrator knows is false. The narrator, Daltan is furious at the tale but he is aware that it is not in his place to reveal the truth. There are many things that come to light here, is Daltan fearful because he is small? Why does he belong in the gang if he has never killed anyone? Is he searching for something bigger than just belonging in a gang? Many of those are answered as we read the story which I have summarized below. Significantly, even though he is the most feeble, he also bears the most strength because he carries the entire narrative in his voice. This gang does not belong to any formal home setting or attend formal schooling, their world views have been shaped by finding cunning ways of surviving on the streets looking for food and shelter. Daltan in particular is driven by a quest for life’s truths through Allah or otherwise, and because he has never seen his father or brothers in a very long time, his new family is made up of the boys under the tree and Banda who is his father-figure. Banda is the most revered because of his connections in the town, his physical strength and his ability to supply the popular drug, wee-wee amongst the boys. Sadly it is this strength that lets him down when he breaks into a fit of coughing during the raid of the office of a Big Political party which leads to his subsequent death. The struggles of the boys to maintain their honour, sense of loyalty to Allah, to the small political party and to one another is what carries this beautiful story through. Being a very strong Muslim community, it is no wonder we hear the strong voices of males without the narrative of a female. Had it been different, it may have caused a shift in the story and possibly not have served its purpose. What we can appreciate is that even the toughest of them, Banda will not take any insult to his mother lying down. When Gobedanisa insults him with the words, Gindin Mama ka! Your mother’s cunt, it is enough to start a brawl. Honor is a strong theme in this story because while Daltan, the smallest and most incapable of fighting is called a cikin shege, a bastard by Alfa, it is this dishonourable word that brings more tears to his eyes than the death of his father. Banda, Daltan’s surrogate father is able to ward off Alfa in a fight after which he also introduces Daltan to his first taste of the drug wee-wee. The feeling of the drug makes him light-headed and gives him a weird physical strength. It is Allah, apparently who decides who lives, who suffers and who dies in Bayan Layi. From the boy who stole groundnut oil from Maman Ladidi’s house, another female character, to the scores who have died in riots. Maman Ladidi is an interesting icon of a woman’s power. After the boy thief is able to escape a beating from this gang, his body is later found in a gutter. One can believe that Allah desires justice for women here. The dichotomy between the two political rivals, The Small Party and The Big Party presents a great finale to the story. During the pinning of campaign posters and during political rallies, Banda is sought after to collect boys to support the process. It is after an election fraud meted by the opposition Big Party that the boys are paid to cause havoc on the property of this opposition. They burn the main office buildings; kill an old and familiar security guard, loot and burn lots of property within their sight. Daltan tastes the real bitter-sweet pleasure of hacking and burning a man to death. At this point, Banda’s physical strength fails him and because of his serious cough, is unable to outrun the policemen that fire at him. He dies from gunshot wounds. It is no wonder that Daltan flees, even after the sound of gunshots ceases. He flees past the Kuka Tree, far from Bayan Layi because now that Banda is dead, there is nothing really left for him. It is also a manifestation of a young scared boy who cannot manage well without an older person to guide and protect him. This is a great story for telling and re-telling. Reviewed by Beverley Nambozo

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bev is Blogging The Caine, Sometimes all it takes is a Whisper.

(source: FACEBOOK PHOTO AND NEWBOOKS NIGERIA) “The Whispering Trees” is a story that carries so much weight in words that you don’t even have to know who the author is. That story where at the end, it doesn’t feel like a story but like a passage in your own time. You go back to that quotable quote and you return to that character that dared manifest itself as your mirror image. “The Whispering Trees” is a summary of all our lives. It does not coerce you to believe in a particular faith but allows you to step by step be part of the human experiences, not just the shell of the characters but a part of their existence, their purpose. The opening paragraph is so vivid and will make you sit up to follow what happens. “It’s strange how things are on the other side of death. I fear I am incapable of describing the experience to you because I do not know what word to use. One simply has to die to understand the enigma of death.” This paragraph above is the perfect ingredient for powerful story-telling. It appears effortless with the use of simple words to explain such profundity. “The Whispering Trees” is like a parable. It uses death to symbolize eternal life, it uses mortals who become immortal in order to serve humanity better and it uses the different types of love, Platonic love, Agape love and Eros to unite all the things that should matter in life. In summary, Salim finds himself in a realm between Heaven and Hell after a car crash which killed his mother Ummi. In that state, he is able to reconnect with Faulata, his love. Blinded from the crash, Faulata’s love and strength bring him back to phyical recovery. Salim is infuriated by his new station in life and reciprocates by being physically and mentally abusive to the patient and endearing Faulata. He is also impossible to live with and his siblings and neighbours bear the brunt of that. When he finally accepts his physical state, Faulata quits her martyrdom and runs to the hands of another man. Once again, Salim retreats into the darkness until he finds a place of reconciliation with The Whispering Trees, the woods that speak deep into his soul and into the souls of past dead friends. The trees offer the pivotal point of the story and enable the readers to also reconcile with their own past before they can move ahead to a better future. In the story, the metaphysical state is part of our own consciousness and the dialogues reflect our thought processes as readers and expose our deepest needs. The author blends the mortal and immortal experiences so well. From the start, the smell of the awful antiseptic jolts him from his surreal presence back to earth. He hears the melodic voice of Faulata before he is brought back to the car with Ummi his mother and the stark truth of the law enforcement officers who frisked his body after the accident leaving him for dead. This blend of the two worlds through such simple incidents is one of the many reasons that make the story an authority on life. The dialogue below between the Corporal and officers who rob Salim focus on the central theme of hypocrisy and corruption which the story expertly depicts. “…Oga see. This one too don die.” It was as if removing my money from my body had settled the little matter of my being alive.”… “…How much you find for ‘im body?” The first man said, “Four thousand naira, Sir.” “…Oya, put ‘im body with the others but hide the body with the others but hide the money before people come.” A third one said, “God O! This accident is bad, eh! See how everybody just die. Chei!” The oga replied angrily, “Shut up Corporal. If them no die you got fit get this kind of money wey you dey get just like that? Na this kind thing we dey pray for, no be say na we kill them.” After this episode of the tragic car accident that claims Ummi’s life, we feel the full impact of the accident on Salim. He has two fractures and three broken ribs but real damage is to his eyes leading to blindness. This is when Faulata’s friendship and love are put to the test. Faulata represents our own earthly pleasures and needs. She is patient throughout his predicament, nursing him, bathing him, encouraging him to attend the school for the blind and live his life fully. She even readily attempts to burn the house of the unscrupulous Saratu, the beguiling friend to Salim’s younger sister Jamila after her endless taunts at Salim’s accidents due to his blindness. ‘Saint’ Faulata is an avid protector of Salim’s dignity. It is here that we realize again how foolish our emotions are compared to the bigger picture. It is Salim’s anger that makes him march towards Saratu, leading to the subsequent stumbling over buckets. He is enraged at the taunts from a young girl. This is the real blindness that the story wants us to relate with, the blindness in our nature that makes us unforgiving and constantly irate. Faulata, a representation of our earthly pleasures, lashes so strongly at Saratu’s relatives when the real person she is upset with is Salim, the initial cause of this predicament. Her saintliness is also called to question and there is a deep silence that engulfs after the incident. Faulata, a representation of our earthly needs, lashes so strongly at Saratu’s relatives when the real person she is upset with is Salim, the initial cause of this predicament. He begins to question every possible cause for his blindness from the Government, the driver, his sister, all but The Almighty. It is not until Faulata introduces the idea of applying to the school of the blind that he lashes out at God and their argument reaches an all time high and she makes her first exit. Just as our earthly needs do not satisfy us, Faulata could not fulfill the real spiritual need that Salim sought. After her departure, The Whispering Trees, the voices that speak to the souls of the characters, enter the story through a flashback of Salim’s childhood. The trees are part of the woods where he and his friends played and created their lifelong memories. It is also the place where Hamza, one of his friends, died in a pond that was really too shallow for anyone to drown in. The incident resulting in rumors of a spirit, which in effect led people to stay away from the woods. Hamza could easily symbolize Jesus who in certain faiths is believed to have died for mankind. After Hamza’s death, people stayed away from the woods and the woodland creatures and animals were able to live in harmony and the flora and fauna in peaceful co-existence. They thrived without the tampering of human nature. Jesus likewise had to die for the removal of mankind’s sins. After Salim agrees to go to the school of the blind, Faulata has to go to prepare for her University studies. Despite this he is able to gain strength in the new revelation from the memories of the woods and his ‘second chance’ at life. He becomes more accustomed to his blindness and is very pleasant to his classmates and professors, enjoying the outdoors and relishing in the gift of a new beginning. His newfound happiness and strength are really a depiction of his spiritual life. At this point, Faulata appears less and less before announcing her upcoming marriage to another man. Once again, Salim falls into despair and we are able to see how frail we are as humans, and how limiting our saintliness is in the face of a much bigger picture. He implores death to take him and his relatives bring a healer to anoint him with oil and cast out evil spirits. After three days when he comes round, Salim is able to see into the spirits of humans and understand their plight and life’s greater purpose. The three days before his reappearance is also like Jesus who rose after three days in the grave. With his new spiritual lenses, Salim is also able to notice the trees screaming in agony when they are felled, he notices hues around peoples’ hearts, each representing an actual human condition. After a nightmare where the whispering trees caution him about seeing with his spiritual eyes, Salim enters into the real purpose of his life. On meeting Hamza who died in those very woods twelve years ago, he is able to reconcile with Hamza’s mother and bridge the gap between her loneliness and the comfort that her son is in a better place, which could have been Heaven. Hamza is the sacrificial lamb in this instance. The one who is able to forgive Tanimu, the young boy whose actions led to Hamza’s physical death. Forgiveness is one of the ultimate lessons in this story. “The Whispering Trees” can be explored through the eyes of an artist, an anthropologist, a philosopher and a realist. One review is certainly not enough and I look forward to hearing more from other readers like Harriet Anena below, Ugandan writer and social critic. The words in Whispering Trees guide you to a seat and ask you to listen – to a message not so new but so deep and real you wouldn’t want to object. The writer raises critical cross-societal issues that I have read about and, some experienced, – corruption [of police officers who rob corpses], stigmatisation [of blind Salim when he goes blind], and the survival of genuine relationships [of Salim’s sister and friend Hamza] amidst intruding hypocrisy. The only difference is that Ibrahim has a fearless grasp of words and almost mercilessly uses them to his advantage. The aggressive use of imagery, especially in the robbery scene, and the use of the First Person narrative, makes the characters visible and issues raised, believable. For instance, in his blind state, the main character - Salim appears more alive visually, than the people around him. Harriet Anena As a reviewer, my only misgiving is the very last quote in the story; Happiness lies not in getting what you want but in wanting what you have. This is unbefitting for such an important story that stands on its own merit without the use of such quotes. Reviewed by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva The Whispering Trees was written by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and shortlisted for the 2013 Caine prize.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bev is Blogging the Caine-Foreign Aid by Pede Hollist

Interestingly, the only non-Nigerian on the 2013 shortlist has written a story called Foreign Aid. When I read it, I felt, what a quirky character this Balogun is, the protagonist who spreads his two-decade sojourn from Sierra Leone to America and back to Sierra Leone, or Salone for the latter part of the story. His physical appearance on his first arrival to America undergoes a fundamental change. He was a feeble looking twenty something with one pathetic suitcase but on his trip back to Salone, now in his forties, he is a much sharper dresser, with two brimming Samsonite suitcases and a chubbier belly. While in America, Balogun’s pivotal moment is when he pushes his fortune too far after being kindly hosted by a cousin and he is discovered in bed with his cousin’s wife’s teenage sister. Kicking him to the curb, literally, he finds his African wit tested in inner-city America. Gaining a few credit hours, he works his way to a well-paying job as an on-call operator in the midst of two failed marriages and three child support payments. His promises over long distance calls to bring his sister Ayo to America become far from the reality in the face of the turmoil of his existence, thankfully later as a documented citizen. The story is riddled with similes which can be a distraction because the images are jarring. For example, when he is thrown out of his cousin’s home, “With the eagerness of an only child on his first day of boarding school, Balogun disappeared into the gray, half-boarded apartment complex…” Page 1. The image may have served better with more specifications since this was a specific moment in Balogun’s life. As he hoards enough money and regains his lost ego, he is able to find the obedient and unflappable Yamide, also from Sierra Leone, who he marries. Their relationship is just enough to seal his troublesome manhood before returning to his home. Overflowing with good intentions, his enthusiastic father meets him at the airport. Regrettably, the readers miss this critical interaction between father and son because of the unnecessary similes. One of them is, “Logan returned the hug with the affection of a child instructed to greet an overweight uncle with bad breath.” Page 3. Further down, “Are those your bags?” Father rippled with the excitement of a refugee at the sight of a Red Cross vehicle.” Ibid. However, on further analysis, this image of Red Cross and refugee does reflect the title, Foreign Aid because the father is one of the main recipients of Balogun’s foreign currency and benevolence. Driving home in two cabs, the cab with his more valued luggage is lost during an incident of a convoy led by The Minister of Mines who cuts through the traffic to make it in time for the ferry, regardless of the drivers in the cars who have been unduly inconvenienced. The interaction with his father is the first major one, the second is this, the latter being of a more impudent nature with no consideration of his American status. On arrival at home, his mother shows a more realistic homecoming, hugging him warmly and appraising him. As a reader, I am personally doubtful if a traditional woman from Salone would welcome her son wearing a cotton nightdress but then again, the characters are rather eccentric. Her gauntness and rusty cavities expose a difficult life-style and sets the stage perfectly for Balogun’s foreign aiding. When the father introduces Tunde, the boy they have been looking after since his parents were killed in the war, once again it is a perfect set up for aid and Balogun (Logan) dishes out his first wad of 20 Dollar bills for a round of beer. Given the way Logan demanded his luggage back at the ferry incident, he seems to be unaware of the realities in Salone and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had asked, which war? To him, that did not seem to matter, it was an opportunity to show off his status. And then he bestows more hundred dollar bills to his parents for medical checkups. Another instance where the title Foreign Aid comes into play is when he determines to confront the Minister of Mines over the incident at the ferry. Waiting outside the office long enough to realize that he is being cheated once again by others cutting the line; he approaches the receptionist for an explanation. In a humorous response, a Ministry official gives him some money as is the usual custom for people who wait outside that particular office. Logan is disinterested in this type of aid and is extremely disappointed yet again. As is expected in many African communities when there is a returnee from the West, visitors and relatives come in large numbers with open hands to hug and receive their share of the foreign aid. It is Ayo, who is ironically one of the main foci of his visit, because he means to return with her to America. She is not engrossed by the prospect of America anymore and prefers to remain in Salone to care for her unborn baby whose father is a Lebanese man whose children she tutors. Foreign Aid revisits with a nuance when Logan meets head-on with the man who it appears has been paying for the livelihood of his parents as well including the car. Despondent at the emptiness of his pockets, the after effects of unchecked kindness and at the face of his parents’ lies, his own Yamide is adamant when he asks her to send him more money. With literally one final surge of manhood left, he makes an appointment to spend his final night with Tima, a timid girl whose character is similar to Yamide’s when they first met. Tima’s failure to make the appointment is the perfect closure to a string of one disillusionment after another. The occurrences also echo a man who is far removed from the realities of his home and also how a lot of Foreign Aid coming to Africa does not reflect the real needs of the people. Coincidentally, Dambisa Moyo, the Zambian economist and author, has been in the public eye this week (27 May to 31 May), defending her stand in her well researched and relevant book for our times, Dead Aid. The youth cab driver in whose vehicle Logan lost his Samsonite suitcases appears at the very end of the story with one of the suitcases, and promises to return them to Logan’s father. This ambiguity offers the reader more insight into Logan’s defeated attitude where before he would have publicised his Americanness and told the youth off. The youth by the way was more interested in pursuing a career in Nigeria than America much to Logan’s disbelief, showing that aid in whichever form does not always come from across the oceans. Of all the shortlisted writers, I have not been in touch with Hollist but from his brief bio, his short stories, Going to America and Back Home Abroad reveal a man who is deeply moved by the journeys to and fro the two homes of Sierra Leone and America. Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva