A novel intricately woven through ten wonderful tales, Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions is boldly told with a hint of magic and heritage that explores dual identity, loss, trauma, and friendship. Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi’s debut sets the scene, as we hold, taste, and smell so much of the U.S. and Nigeria in one reading. It’s a book that hammers home the quest for justice and earnestness.
Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions seems at first a collection of ten separate stories, but these tales are interconnected. They span decades of the lives of Aisha, Nonso and Remi, as they come to terms with what happened that horrific day when their asthmatic friend Solape was mistaken by the Nigerian police for rioting, charged and refused access to her much-needed inhaler. An epic saga squeezed into 256 pages, it’s not long before I can envisage Omolola’s stories on the screen as we read about the friends as they navigate life’s changes.
Immersive and vivid, the prose encapsulates life in both the States and Nigeria (though the descriptions of Lagos and the fragrant orange eaten whilst stuck in traffic are what do it for me). Ogunyemi’s writing expresses a maturity that suggests this is no debut. She compares each location by highlighting the cultures of food and flavour, considering moin-moin, jollof rice, and pounded yam over the not-so-delectable burger. It’s not difficult to read between the lines where Ogunyemi favours richness in flavour and culture. Though it is these descriptions that make her writing doused in opulence.
Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi is out now, published by Trapeze.