Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo Review + #AkeFest17 Highlights!

I promised myself to write at least one review before the end of the year, and I thought, what better book than the one I won’t stop talking about? Also, I attended Ake Books & Art Festival a month, where I met the author and had such a great time, more on that is below. Since this is my first review, it’s good to preface that you will find almost no spoilers here, I write a little about the book but more why I think you should read it based on how I felt and how you may feel (because I read minds) when you read it as well. Do enjoy!

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Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo 
It's the truth—stretched, but still true. Besides, what will be left of love without truth stretched beyond its limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed I frequently rave about this book and how talented Ayobami Adebayo is. I was actually gifted Stay With Me for my birthday, and I had seen a couple of reviews about it before then. I was not prepared for the emotional gut-wrenching ride I was about to embark on. 

I am such a picky reader. I don’t read just anything; I never finish a book I don’t love from the beginning. The books I’ve read this year, I kind of had to force myself to get through the first two or so chapters to get hooked. But not Stay With Me (pun intended?). I was gripped from the first few pages. From then it was such a captivating and journey. 

Adebayo’s talent (calling her by her surname out of respect, but I am so tempted to call her Ayobami because she’s my big sister in my head) is unparalleled. She does not write with much description— "the trees were swaying ever so softly in the cool summer day and so were the frills of my dress” kind of description—the book is filled with straightforward drama and dialogue, and quite frankly I think that it is why I admire this work. I cannot compare the feeling to any other book. I think the last time I felt so moved by a story was when I read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie. 

Stay With Me is set in Ilesha and starts of with us right at the center of all the drama that unfolds in the latter half of the book. From the beginning I was curious to see how the story would pan out. We’re first introduced to Yejide, who is a strong yet naive woman battling with the societal pressure of having a child among the political turmoil in 1980’s Nigeria. Then we are introduced to Akin, her husband whom loves her deeply but holds a dark secret of his own. The book switches between both of their voices, providing alternative perspectives into the story. Yejide and Akin have what many people would call a modern marriage, both are educated and both work, although Yejide does not use her degree to find a job, she is quite obviously hardworking. Alongside them, are Dotun, Akin’s slightly wayward brother; Moomi, Akin’s mother who represents how women carry Nigerian patriarchy; Iya Bolu, the hilarious neighboring hairdresser; Funmi, the new wife Moomi imposes on Akin; among many others who added humor to the book (e.g. the men on the Mountain of Jaw Dropping Miracle; which provides a harrowing peek into the desperation to bear children among women in Nigeria). 

Weeks after reading this book I am still thinking about Yejide and Akin. Wishing I could call them. Wanting to know how Yejide is doing. Adebayo artfully compels the reader to care so deeply about Yejide and Akin, you are pulled into their lives, and in the end you will probably shed some serious happy and sad tears. 

For the non-Nigerian reader, you will get a peek into Nigerian culture and history. You’ll learn a lot about the heavy burden barren women in Nigeria face. Despite the very Nigerian setting, a number of experiences in the book would relate to women worldwide, I believe. For the Nigerian reader, you will simply beg Nollywood writers to take notes o how to write drama in a Nigerian setting and hopefully make a film out of this book. 

This book was a solid 5 stars for me, and I do hope you read it or let me know your thoughts if you have. 

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Ake Book & Arts Festival

From the 16-18th of November I attended the Ake Festival in Abeokuta. The theme, this f-word, was apt and made the experience an unforgettable one.


Highlights: 

  • The book chats, were amazing and Adebayo’s was one of my favorites. I also attend two other book chats featuring Zinzi Clemmons, Hadiza El-Rufai, Alexis Okeowo, and Dayo Olopade. I also bought three books: What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Leslie Arimah; The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; and So The Path does Not Die by Pede Holist 
  • The sessions were very thought provoking and left me reinvigorated for the work I do in mental health & sexual and reproductive health and rights. My favorite was the Futures for African Women; it was a quick session filled with brainstorming the issues African women face. 
  • Meeting Mona Elthaway for the third time on the third continent! She spoke while I was a student at Drew University, I also saw her in England at the TedXEuston event. 
  • Being in the presence of the glorious, Ama Ata Aidoo. As a pan-African studies student, with a Ghanaian professor, a number of our courses included a book by Aidoo. I did my senior capstone for the major featuring Changes. I couldn’t stay for the whole session but she provided me with a quote I’ll never forget: 
 A girl’s voice does not break; it only gets firmer.
It was my first time attending and, I'm seriously looking forward to #AkeFest18.

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