The Infertile Father: A Reading of Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me.

I kept hearing a lot about this book Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo so much so that I just had to get the book. The book did not disappoint my expectations because it is beautifully written. It focuses on two characters, Akin and Yejide who got married and are full of love until it became difficult to have children. The story is written in first person narrative style to capture the characters thoughts and perspectives most especially intense feelings that arise between them as they face societal pressures and family pressures to have children.

Yejide is an accomplished hairstylist and Akin has a very good job but all of that seem inconsequential because there are no children in the house. Family pressure pushes Akin to marry another wife, Funmi. However, Yejide stays in the house and puts up with Funmi’s sarcastic tones and attitude. As the story progresses, Yejide gets pregnant but the bummer is the fact that the father of the child (and subsequently children) is Akin’s younger brother, Dotun. Shocking?

The twist is so good that Akin narrates that he actually asked Dotun to sleep with his wife because he could not father children. Talk about secrets! Well, I am not going to spill all there is in this book because I think you should get your copy.  The book will leave you gasping and like I did, shout at some point. So much drama, intrigues and tears too. Each page you turn has something beautiful written especially as the language navigates between English and Yoruba and captures the cultures well.

Ayobami Adebayo skillfully tells the story of most African women who suffer in the hands of society because they are unable to bear children. Sadly, no one ever thinks that the man has the problem. The woman is even conditioned not to think that the man might just be the problem. Yejide runs from prayer houses to Babalawos just so she can conceive. Since Akin was the only man she ever knew intimately, she never sensed that he was impotent. 

The author switches the narrative from the infertility ascribed to women to men. Yejide is a productive woman and fertile if we must add in her career as a hairstylist (she had a growing saloon business) but just a snag in one part of her life tags her as an incomplete woman. She goes through depression, pain and hurt because one area of her life didn’t work. Ayobami Adebayo tows the path of Lola Shoneyin (though in her own unique way) who writes a similar narrative in her book The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Shoneyin also brings this ‘infertile man’ concept in her book.

Ayobami Adebayo

In the end, Yejide’s marriage is broken. The pressure sinks the boat of her marriage even though all her children die except one (Rotimi) because of Sickle Cell disease; the damage to their hearts seem irreparable. Even though Akin is remorseful, it would seem it is too late. Akin raises the children as though they were his but he is ‘infertile’, he is unable to biologically father a child but does a beautiful job in raising Rotimi. Maybe, just maybe… fatherhood is not only determined by one’s biological ability to produce sperm. Thank you Ayobami Adebayo for a beautiful book!

Dear Teacher…

I write to tell you how valued you are and how important you are. The children you teach may not say it enough, your employers may never say it and even the society may not applaud your efforts enough. I write to tell you what you do not often hear. YOU ARE VALUED AND IMPORTANT. The world celebrates you on the 5th of October every year but once a year is not enough to let you know that your place in the society is key to its development. However, we must remind ourselves of some certain things.

Our job is not one to be taken lightly. We are like mini gods to our students because they see us as ‘know-it-all’. Hence, we are favoured by God to have the role of mentoring these kids and putting them in the right paths. Our job is so peculiar that one error may mar a child’s life or one good act may change the child’s life for the better. We can’t afford to be nonchalant. Our job does not neglect minute details. It is a job that is characterized by firmness, discipline and honesty.

We are the ones that help the children see who they really are and what they can be. We are their cheerleaders urging them to push boundaries and overcome the obstacles. We are firm in ensuring that the wrong remains wrong and the right is always right. We do not have time for frivolities because our job caters to lives. We are purposeful, driven and committed. Our job is reported in every home every evening. Hence, our profession is most monitored and supervised. Sometimes, our patience is tested, yet we must be calm and endure it because the prize is far glorious than the pain.

A child who is able to contribute to society positively, think independently and show moral uprightness is our prize and that far outweighs monetary rewards.

Hence, we strive. We work those lesson plans diligently. We take into consideration every student’s needs and plan for every single one of them. We stay up late at night planning classroom activities and extra-curricula activities but we don’t mind.

We are teachers and teaching is not just what we do, it is our life, our commitment, our mandate.

Sincerely yours,

A Committed Teacher.

Book Shopping!

Our Book Summer event has been a fantastic experience. The participants have been taught on how to build the reading culture, sustain the habit and be good writers. They have heard a lot especially from seasoned authors who gave their time to open their eyes to the world of books. Now that they have heard and learnt, it was time for them to show commitment by buying their own books. It was time for them to show that they indeed want to be readers. For these teenagers, most of them were novices. Some maybe walked past book shops without taking a second glance. But things have changed. They saved up and bought great books. 

This is what this event has been all about. It is the goal of Treasured Thoughts Academy to foster the love of reading among children and young people. It is important that the young generation picks up this habit which is necessary for self development and translates to national and intellectual growth. Rather than spend money on frivolities, it is important to invest in books. The knowledge you have is yours. Like we say in academic parlance, your knowledge is your intellectual property.

If you want something, commit your money to it too. It is amazing how some people want to read but won’t spend a penny buying at least a book. Books are expensive but there is always something you can afford which is what I taught the teens. In fact they bought books for as low as two hundred naira. Reading is an investment that pays off. The cost of ignorance is deadly. 

We want to use this medium to appreciate Bible Wonderland and Book City Ventures for accepting us. They made the experience worthwhile by familiarizing us with books, giving discounts for every purchase made and even gave refreshments. We are grateful that you see this vision and have supported it wholeheartedly.

We have more programmes lined up and coming up soon. If you want to be first to know of these events, please sign up here to receive necessary information.

 

All About Book Summer 2017!

It rained and poured on the first day we were to start the book summer programme yet it was as though the rain was sent to colour the event. It was indeed a great way to start. The programme started with a welcome address from the founder of Treasured Thoughts Academy and Miss Glory Maduagwu, Founder of Royalty Initiative (an organisation that promotes literacy also) began the main event by getting the teens into the ‘book mood’ though with a lot of fun.

It was quite exciting to hear them tell the the books they had read and also the books that they should have read and they had not read. Miss Glory accurately pointed them to the truth that they really weren’t doing well enough in terms of reading and most of them were resolute to be better. Also, very evident during this interaction were the notions and wrong perceptions many had about reading. By the end of the day, they saw the light.

Miss Arinola Okusi (a content writer and fashion designer) coloured the event more by going down into her childhood to present to the participants how her own journey in reading began. She had discovered a new word scallywag in the book Chike and the River written by Chinua Achebe. One day, she had an encounter with a bully (Miss Arinola doesn’t like bullies) and the bully began to rain insults on the other students. With fury, Miss Arinola called her a scallywag. A word that was strange among them then caused the bully to shrink and leave them in peace. However, Miss Arinola was soon sent to run an errand which would take her to the bully’s house. Your guess is as good as mine. She was frightened and began to prepare herself for the worse.

Well, when she got there, the bully told her father that Miss Arinola was the one who called her a scallywag. The father was amazed that a young girl could use that kind of word and asked where she had learnt to use the word. Miss Arinola then said she picked it up from a book. The man was amazed and turned to his own daughter and told her that rather than her reading like Arinola, she was busy with inconsequential things. Miss Arinola left the place telling herself she would devote her time to reading more often. Of course, she told us not to use books as a weapon for insults but rather the lesson was to see how reading makes us rise above our contemporaries.

This was just one of many of the stories and life experiences she shared with the teens. There were videos shown but one particularly was about a 14 year old girl who learnt how to read and cultivate the habit. She offered practical steps that can be taken to rise above our struggles in reading. There was also a slide presentation on how reading can help achieve one’s dream. We also had Mr Oluwaseun Abimbola (a writer extraordinaire) shed light on some other issues. In all, it was interesting, eye opening and informative. #day1wasawesome

 

 

 

Book Summer! A Summer with a Difference.

It’s Happening Soon!

Well, I am very pleased to announce our first book summer programme coming up in July. The Programme is geared towards fostering the love for reading in the hearts of young people though we are restricting this to those within the ages of 13-16 for the sake of uniformity and focus. The event will span through four saturdays in July (8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) by 9am-11am. It promises to be an exciting time because each day is loaded with fun activities and sessions that will be handled by people with passion for reading and varying levels of expertise. The Programme will include: 

  • “Books Unleashed”. This would be a very expository session that will open their eyes to the world of books. It will let them know the immense beauty of books and why it is important to read. They get to know how to develop good reading habits, how to choose books and even review them. Also, we would have a facilitator who will share her journey in the world of books and how it has helped her reach her goals.
  • Character building. This session will teach on how books can develop our character. It would be interactive as we will be using the book we will be reading for the summer to learn various characters and behaviours we can imbibe to be better in our daily interactions. Also, group discussions, presentations and games will be part of the programme.
  • Create and Write: A facilitator who is an author will handle a session tagged “The Budding Writer” (You will know who our facilitators are shortly as we will run profiles of them on our facebook page https://web.facebook.com/TreasuredThots/). This will be a session they are exposed to the necessary skills for writing. After this session, we will put a notice out for them to write a short story. The best writer will have his story published on our website. Furthermore, they will learn how writing can also fetch them income.
  • Book Shopping:  It will be a visit to a bookstore where they will buy books for themselves. Please, parents should not give less than a thousand naira for this outing so they can buy something tangible. Let me stop here and let them find out the rest when they enroll. It won’t be a dull experience.

Participants will also be awarded with certificate of participation. However, we have slots for only thirty people (30). Please fill the form to reserve a space. However, space will be lost if payment is not made in 24 hours.

Please note that the venue will be at the conference room, Upper Room Baptist Church, 2a, Davies street, off Demurin street, Alapere, Ketu, Lagos. Payment of two thousand five hundred Naira (N2,500) should be made to ACCESS BANK, ONWAH ONOME, 0008153971. Please fill the form here if interested: https://goo.gl/forms/y5NsxkWbSUnrFJi22 

See you there!

A Little Push on the Inside.

People are motivated by a lot of things. Some are motivated by people around them or situations and some are motivated from the inside. Theirs is more intrinsic than it is extrinsic. I have counselled some people on how reading can change their lives and what I see is an immediate response to be better at reading but such changes are not long term which is really my goal. I desire to make people lifetime readers. So, what happened to all my motivational talks on the benefits of reading? Why did this person just bask in the euphoria for two weeks and is back to his old self?

I have come to understand that to be a lifetime reader, motivation must be intrinsic. Why? Lets first understand what I mean by intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is based on internal factors and the reward of accomplishing such tasks is in the fact that is actually done. It is based on internal factors such as curiosity, self-determination and effort. Intrinsic motivation results in persistence which is the hallmark of a good reader.  A college student who derives more satisfaction knowing that he worked hard at studying to get an A would always keep getting A’s irrespective of different circumstances especially when you compare him with a student who strives for an A when there is an external reward attached to it. He will only be interested in that A when he knows that there just might be an extra allowance for the month. My point? Until you get to the point where you pick up a book just out of curiosity, need, desire and determination, you are a bit far from becoming an avid reader. Sometimes, I just read because I have grown to see it as necessary. My motivation is knowing that the knowledge I gain, I gain for myself and probably for the benefit of others. It is on my inside. 

Reading has numerous benefits and many people know this but what they lack is the intrinsic motivation to actually keep at it. People have to motivate themselves on the inside. I think that the rewards of reading which most times may not be as tangible as people want it is one reason why internal motivation is a problem. The reward of reading is a continuous build of knowledge that always come in handy in our walk in life. They are intangible but translates itself to tangible benefits which a lot of people do not have the patience to achieve. A sentence can change your whole perspective of life. Reading is never an exercise in futility. Click To Tweet

However, until you work up some little motivation on the inside of you, you will never hit the mark in your journey of reading. You just get tired along the way. While I am not ruling out extrinsic motivation which basically includes incentives that await the completion of a task, I am advocating for a deeper and more meaningful desire that will spring up from the inside and will push you to read even when there are no tangible incentives. But believe me, a little push on the inside will take you farther.

Getting Your Child to Love Reading.

There is no parent who doesn’t want the best for his/her child. The world is so competitive that there is a constant desire that our children are able to meet intellectual demands of school and the society generally. I am writing this because in the past months a lot of parents have been asking me one question. “How do I get my child to read? He doesn’t just like to read”. When they say this, there is a lot of concern and worry on their faces. I want to help you overcome that challenge if you are in the category of these parents. I want to say also that reading may not be the hobby of the child as a result of personality traits and temperaments but you can at least help foster the desire in the child to want to read and love it. Follow these tips and let’s see how it goes.

  • Read by Example! This is my first principle. Children are imitators. Check it anywhere. Parents who love to read would easily influence a child to read than a parent who doesn’t read at all. It is just the way children are wired. You as parents are the first role models for your children. They will do what you do.
  • Read with them. I know some families have time they spend together. Rather than watch TV all the time, have a reading time together. Show genuine interest in their books and ask them to read to you. Discuss the book
    with them. Laugh at the funny scenarios, relate the story to things that happens in your home and you will be amazed at how soon your kids will look forward to the next book.
  • Understand your child’s personality. Children are very unique beings and their personalities are just taking shape. Know the child well enough to give books that will catch the child’s attention. When I started my readers’ club, I had to take into consideration the personalities in the club and then pick books that would catch their interests. If the child is very outgoing, restless and has a short attention span, a book that is very long and has no action that moves fast will bore the child.
  • Book Shopping. Let them pick out the books they want. They will feel a sense of responsibility to read it. Let them be a part of the process. For us booklovers, the thrill of going to the bookshop is just the same thrill as when we sit to read. Let them learn to pick books and it is amazing what you discover about your children when you see the kinds of books that interest them.
  • NEVER use reading as punishment! I want to plead with you never to tell your child to read as a result of bad behaviour. We do this but what we don’t know is that the child equates reading to punishment. This is not a healthy mentality.
  • Reward their actions. When Kids know that there is a beautiful chocolate cake waiting for them when they get to the last page, you will be shocked at how quickly they devour the book.

Of course, this is not exhaustive. As a parent, you would understand your child better than I would and so you can employ other creative means to get the child to read. Please feel free to drop your questions and I will gladly give answers to the best of my knowledge. When you have tried these methods, please share your testimonies. All the best!

Killing You Softly…

Yolo! BTW! LOL! LWKMD! LMAO! ASAP! IDK! SMH! These are the new additions to the English Language and is increasingly becoming popularly used especially among young people. We cannot completely rule them out as not important in language use. Slangs are used especially within social circles and add spice and colour to social communications. There is however a source of concern with the use of slangs especially as the world of social media expands and everyone goes with the flow and finds it as a simpler and cheaper means of communication. Slangs according to some people is a creative use of language and has a tint of universality. However, what many do not know is that slangs kills your English softly without you realising it.

A professor raised this at a gathering when he said that examination answers are now saddled with slangs. Slangs when not used in appropriate circles or functions can have devastating effects on your English. It lessens your vocabulary and literally shrinks them. It affects your writing skills more than you can ever imagine because when you get too used to them, you find it difficult not to use them in writing. You constantly misspell words and that can have a devastating effect on official reports and examination scores.

While we should appreciate the evolving nature of language because some words go extinct and new ones are formed, we must be careful not to get lost in it that the traditional fundamentals are lost. Especially for the young adolescents who are still trying to set their path in academics, it is important to let them know that constant use of slangs can damage their vocabulary which is key to intellectual development. Reading constantly is a remedy to losing one’s vocabulary that is why it should be encouraged. Reading is key to vocabulary building.

Furthermore, slangs have a way of showing lack of seriousness when the user can’t say less than four words or a sentence without using a slang. It has a way of telling your reader or listener that you are not serious with what you are saying and shows shallowness. While we appreciate slangs whether in written or spoken forms, we must be careful not to overuse them and be careful that it does not shrink our vocabulary and if you realise that you are deeply into its use, it might be important you stop totally till you get yourself back together. It is killing you softly…

Freedom in Chains: A Review of Emecheta’s “The Slave Girl”.

This Post is a Tribute to Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta (21 July 1944 – 25 January 2017).

If this story were told to me under the full gaze of the moon, it would be a beautiful experience. The novel written in 1977, is intricately woven around the Igbo tradition in Nigeria and saddled with rich Igbo imagery and language. Though Emecheta is conscious of her non-Igbo readers and tries to cater for them by explaining some concepts and words. More hilarious are the pronunciations she tries to capture e.g. ‘Felenza’ which in English is Influenza.  More of these kind of Igbo-English words are seen in the book which would definitely put a smile on your face as you read.

The book centers on Ojebeta, a young girl who comes as an answer to the prayers of her parents who desired to have a girl child especially since every girl child that was born to them died shortly after birth. Ojebeta is called Ogbanje Ojebeta because she is believed to belong to the spirit world and would die shortly after birth. Her parents take Ojebeta to a seer and she has to wear charms made from cowries and metal which makes noise when she walks. The noise according to the Seer, will scare away Ojebeta’s friends from the spirit world who would want to call her back.

Ojebeta is the only girl after her two brothers and they lose their parents to the epidermic that ravaged their town. Okolie, Ojebeta’s brother decides to sell Ojebeta to slavery. This is where the real story begins. A young girl who has always known the love and affection of devoted parents is suddenly sent to Onitisha to become a slave to Ma Palagada. It is as though Ojebeta starts to have a better life as a slave because she is fed and can wear good clothes unlike if she had remained in her home town in Ibuza.

Emecheta makes us examine how slavery is not just a racial problem but a human problem. Though Nigeria was under colonial rule but it did not stop Nigerians from oppressing one another through slave trade. Emecheta also draws our attention to the fact that Ojebeta being a woman is faced with more tragic problems. She can only be free through marriage. At this point, the reader gets excited when a man like Clifford, the son of Ma Palagada (Slave Owner) shows interest in Ojebeta. So, maybe freedom was on its way. Sadly, it was the an opportunity for Ma Palagada to enjoy the benefits of her purchase and send Ojebeta for trainings so that she can be the perfect wife for her son. One cannot but notice that all through the novel, Ojebeta has the status of a property. She never really was free.

Though she runs out of Ma Palagada’s house after her death because of Victoria’s (Ma Palagada’s daughter) maltreatment, she returns to Ibuza under the watchful eye of her uncle and aunt who even argue on who should marry Ojebeta. Ojebeta thinks that she is free and can assert that freedom by running away with Jacob. For her, it showed her as brave because chose her husband.  She becomes a slave to her husband again. Her story doesn’t improve much. Emecheta puts it this way,

“There was certainly a kind of bond between husband and wife, a bond produced by centuries of traditions, taboos, and latterly, Christian dogma. Slave, obey your master. Wife, honour your husband who is your father, your head, your heart, your soul. So there is little room for Ojebeta to exercise her individuality, her own feelings, for these were entwined in Jacob’s… In her own way, Ojebeta was content and did not want more of life; she was happy with her husband, happy to be submissive, even to accept occasional beating because that is what she had been brought up to believe a wife should expect.” (178)

The African woman has been raised to believe she has no voice whatsoever. She really is not free according to Emecheta. As long as the woman believes that her value is in a man, she is a slave. Ojebeta said after her husband refunds the money collected from Okolie when Ojebeta was sold to slavery,“… I feel free belonging to my new master from my very home town… Thank you my new owner, I am now free in your house. I could not wish for a better master…” This is just an illusion of freedom.

Emecheta ends the novel with statements that call for deep reflection. “So as Britain was emerging from war once more victorious, and claiming to have stopped slavery which she had helped to spread in all her black colonies, Ojebeta, now a woman of thirty five, was changing masters.” (184)

In this day, women still face numerous challenges. They work as hard as their men counterparts but are not fully appreciated as they should in terms of wages and they face troubles at the home front as every religion and societal dogma still places the woman under. Is she truly free? Emecheta calls for a mental shift and a cultural revolution which must start from the woman herself.

Interestingly, Emecheta had also had her fair share of marginalisation and domestic violence until she decided to take the bull by the horn and own her life. Her stories capture realities and she carefully asks her readers to consider these matters critically. A woman should not be marginalised based on her sex or socially ascribed roles. A woman must be recognised as an individual deserving of respect. These were the issues Emecheta brought to the fore in her writings. Now, she has left the earth, her stories still vibrate with life and intensity.

We would like to know which of Emecheta’s stories have touched you. Feel free to write a review and send to academy@onomeonwah.org. We will publish it.

The Pages of the Book you don’t Read!

Let me start by saying welcome to the year 2017. I am so glad you made it. Last year is over and done with. It is not time to brood over past mistakes but to learn from them and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes again. I sincerely believe that this year will be better. Don’t throw away hope. I also want to encourage you to make this year a better one by improving your reading. Dare to buy more books this year and learn more.

However, I would just want to tell you that there are some pages in books that people tend to ignore, gloss over or just skim through without necessarily seeing the need to pay attention to them. What makes it funny is that these pages are the pages you see when you open the book. They constitute the first five or more pages. So let me ask? When last did you read the preface, foreword or introduction of a book? These are written in almost every book and I will tell you their importance.

The Foreword is usually written by someone else not the author. The person writes this to give credibility to the book and most times the foreword is to tell you why it is important for people to read the book. The person who writes the foreword is usually someone who knows well about the subject matter of the book or  knows the author well enough to recommend that the book be read. I read forewords of books to ascertain credibility. In fact, I can buy a book because I respect or know the person who wrote the foreword. Many times, we skip this page but it is important in also determining if you seriously need the content in the book. Oh, the foreword is also always signed.

The  Preface is written by the author this time. A preface can tell me why I should read the book or not. You know why? The preface is for me to understand why the author wrote the book in the first place. I need to know that the author is truly passionate about the subject he has chosen to discuss. The preface if not well written can show an ill-equipped author or if well written can tell me I would have a good time reading the rest of the book.

The Introduction for me is like an appetizer. It shows in a larger scope what the book has been able to accomplish and what should be expected. This can be written by the author or someone else. By the time the reader is done reading the introduction, he/she should practically be jumping to the chapter one of the book because a thirst for more must be created.

Though for fictions, we have the prologue which is to get the reader ready for the action in the rest of the book and also keeps you in suspense. This is key for me because, If I don’t get that thrill and excitement after reading the prologue, I just might not buy the novel. Writers take note! Be sure to ensure your preliminary pages are beautifully written and scripted.

It is however sad, that writers do not know the value of these pages and then they wonder why no one buys their books. However, some readers just look at the cover of the book and buy and are very disappointed with their purchase. If you would take some time to read through these seemingly ‘unimportant’ pages, you would buy better books. When next you go to the bookstore, be sure to look out for these things. If you are an aspiring author be sure to take note that your first five pages can make or mar your book. Happy new year once again!