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Tola Rotimi Abraham is a writer from Lagos, Nigeria. She lives in Iowa City and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Catapult, the Des Moines Register, the Nigerian Literary Magazine and other places. @thatTola
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday is a rich and accomplished coming-of-age debut that lays bare the hardships, heartaches and hopes of four siblings from 1996-2015. Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyke (“we were never stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”) live a pretty contented life until their mother loses her job at the Ministry of Petroleum. With her sacking underpinned by broader political dealings, there’s nothing she can do to keep the family afloat but take-up a teaching post, which she hates. Later, when she leaves the family and the twins’ father loses their family home, they and their brothers are cared for by their Yoruba grandmother. With the narratives split between the four siblings, each of them must deal with abandonment and abuse as Lagos changes, and their lives take separate paths. The siblings’ intimate, affecting stories are wrapped-up in wider issues, such as church corruption and male exploitation of women. As Bibike notes, “Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired… But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone.” Meanwhile, Ariyke turns to religion. Universal emotions are also deftly handled, such as when their brother Peter comments “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about big things.” Fortunately for readers, Black Sunday is a brilliant book that has the courage to talk about the big things with honesty, humanity and beauty. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.