Six Months Post Publication!

Six months have passed since Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions was published in the US! I can’t believe it. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m grateful to have a publisher (Amistad) and editor (Patrik Henry Bass) that took a chance on a collection of linked stories from a Nigerian author whose writing credentials are mostly articles for biomedical informatics journals. 

I’ve now done readings, book clubs, and other events and it has been amazing to meet people who really connect with the characters that were tucked away in my head for the better part of 15 years!  Some of the highlights of the past six months include getting a five star Goodreads review from Roxane Gay (I was screaming so loud my husband checked in to see whether a murderer had somehow broken into our home) and being selected for her Audacious Book Club; the book launch at Skylight Books in Los Angeles; appearing on Karen Hunter’s Sirius radio show; and a Library Foundation of Los Angeles and Zocalo event on how LA inspires first time novelists.

I teach a graduate biomedical informatics course in Los Angeles every fall, so my publisher knew I wouldn’t be able to do many events outside California because I was already teaching in person at launch time. I was stunned by how many online book clubs, podcasts, and other virtual opportunities I ended up being able to do.

Some of the most common questions I received from different events were about the inspiration for some of my stories, two in particular: the one set in 1897 and the one set in 2050, which people either seem to love or hate. The 2050 story (messengerRNA) was darker than most of the others because I wrote it in 2018 when I was worried about my future in the US. The 1897 story (Fodo’s Better Half) was inspired by the story of my grandmother’s older sister. She married a rich older woman who was unable to have a child, at a time when this was considered a perfectly normal part of Western Igbo culture. Colonization and Christianity changed attitudes and I wanted to explore what it must have meant to watch as your culture and society changed and having to deal with a new kind of dystopian reality. I’ve been asked whether I have a favorite character from the book and I do: Adaoma was my favorite character to write because it was wonderful to do the research and then to imagine what it was like for an Igbo woman to be at the top of her game in the early 1900s.  As a side note, it also allowed me to explore the phenomenon of Africans at the time naming their children Christian names that most people in a village or town could not pronounce – so a name like Veronica morphed into Fodonika or Fodo. In fact, one of my grandmothers was named Eunice, which everyone pronounced You-Nicey.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my linked short story collection and to write reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, StoryGraph, and beyond. I really appreciate you all!

Giveaway for US Readers

The UK publication day for Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is January 19, 2023. I have nine copies of the UK hardback from Trapeze Books, which has a different cover from the Amistad edition.

I’ll sign and give away the nine copies to US readers who might be interested in having the UK hardcover version of the book. It will be a Goodreads giveaway running from January 19 until February 2. See below for more details on how to enter the giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions

by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Giveaway ends February 02, 2023.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Operation Don’t Get Eaten

I was one of those nosy children always trying to listen in on grown up conversations that didn’t concern me. For many years, my family lived in faculty and staff housing on the campus of the University of Ibadan. Our home was Number 1 Sankore Avenue, a sprawling three-bedroom bungalow with a huge back and front yard plus mango, coconut, and other fruit trees. It was there, stuffing overripe mangoes into my face, sticky, sweet juice running down my bony arms, that I began my life-long mango addiction and gained respect for the soldier ants that protected the massive tropical almond fruit tree in our front yard. Our next-door neighbor was a British zoologist who helped build the UI zoo and who kept a large pair of boa constrictors in his garage.

Eavesdropping on a conversation one day, I learned something that would change my young life. One of my mother’s visitors brought up our neighbor’s snakes and casually dropped the fact that he fed the boa constrictors kid goats. My six-year-old mind received this information and came to a swift and perfectly logical conclusion. If the snakes could eat kid goats, they could probably eat kids of other species. This meant human kids, i.e., me or my brother. This is how “operation don’t get eaten” was born.

Every afternoon, my mother encouraged us to go out and play. We really didn’t need any persuading. Further down the road on Sankore, there was always adventure at our “cousins,” the Lawsons: a pickup game of futbol, prank telephone calls, board games, and delicious food that we instantly devoured, food that would have produced an epic tantrum if our mother had cooked it at home. A street over, on Saunders Road, there was the possibility of a game of hopscotch or ten-ten for me, more futbol for my brother, or a black-and-white Charlie Chaplin movie at the flat of a young friend whose father owned a film projector and a seemingly endless supply of side-splitting comedy. Then there was the pleasure of simply roaming about with other kids from street to street and home to home until it started to grow dark, and it was time to head back home.

My main problem now was how to get past the boa constrictors safely. I knew not to bring this dilemma up with my mom because she would know that I was being a nosy parker and I would surely get in trouble. I quickly came up with a solution. It was to have us sprint barefoot and silent at top speed past our neighbor’s garage until we were four houses down, then look over our shoulders for any pursuing snakes. In this way, we outwitted the boa constrictors until my family left Ibadan for the University of Calabar, when I turned eight. The strategy obviously worked because I’m still here.

In Calabar, we moved into a block of flats, and I made my first American friend ever at school. I discovered that she lived one building over from us and brought her home to play. This went on until one day, I went to visit her, and eyes gleaming, she showed me her newest pet. It was a snake. A small constrictor. I regret to say that our friendship did not survive that slithering reptile.