Around January last year, I picked up this book (the first Nnedi Okorafor piece I read) after having heard good things about her book, Lagoon. I was not used to this style of writing so digesting the book was such a herculean task, I abandoned the book twelve stories in (covers face in shame). However, I set out to read it again armed with the responsibility of writing a review and the urge to satisfy my curiosity.
Kabu-Kabu is a collection of 21 short stories with varying themes. One theme that appeared a lot and which I love is the portrayal of strong-willed women. As common to short story collections, there are some of the stories which I adore. Some questioned my perspectives while exposing me to new outlooks. Others, I found loosely unrelatable.
However, my favourite character in the book was Yaya in The Palm Tree Bandit. I liked how she listened to and absorbed the condescending comments her village chief made towards women. Despite her outspoken nature, she was able to stay calm in this infuriating situation. The average 21st-century feminist might have lashed out. She was able to shut the chief up with her discreet actions thus overthrowing the norm of her society. Whoever said action speaks louder than voice wasn’t joking. Yaya became a legend, during her lifetime and generations afterwards.
On my first exposure to this book, most characters felt like passing clouds; difficult to feel. My second encounter was easier since I was familiar with Nnedi‘s style of writing in Akata Witch. I could imagine and relate to the characters. Asunder, a story I relished, has the single love theme. Written in a way that I sensed the love between the protagonists. As if their story was unfolding somewhere and Nnedi gave me free passage to witness love in its purest form. To those looking to truly fall in love without losing your essence, this is the story for you.
No spoilers but there are some stories I disliked. Take Icon for instance, I couldn’t come to terms with the aim of the story neither did I enjoy its conclusion. Arro-yo, a character that appeared in two different stories, may create a whirlwind around me, but I couldn’t bring myself to like and care about her. This felt wrong because I took an instant liking to other wind seekers ( I enjoyed the idea of wind seekers!). However, I appreciated her for her strength and humanity.
I would suggest this book to readers in search of stories about magical realms written with links to reality and African roots. Nnedi is a writer whose imagination I have grown admire so I will rate this book 4/5.
“Funny how all things people don’t understand seem to be cursed”
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher: Prime Books
Date of Publication: November 2013
Kabu Kabu – Nigerian taxis – generally get you where you need to go. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu takes the reader to exciting, dangerous, and imaginative locations. This debut short story collection by award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor includes notable previously-published short work, a new novella co-written with New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster, and a brief forward by Whoopi Goldberg.