Review: Yetunde + Author Interview

yetunde

Remember that I wanted to try to read some works of self-published writers and make sure these writers knew they would get the same chance at reviews here as traditionally published authors? Well, here we are! 🙂 Also, make sure to scroll down to the author’s interview after the review!

Yetunde by Segilola Salami is a story about caring and family, that will make you want to hug your mother (figure) and/or your daughters. Unconventionally, Yetunde is told through the eyes of a 9 month old baby, the titular Yetunde. The narrative voice is more complex than that of course, but it presents readers with an interesting new angle from which to explore mother-daughter relationships and Yoruba folktales. Yetunde is also a lovely character, she is fierce, curious and loves freely. With just under 30 pages, this is a short story that also functions as a piece of Yoruba praise poetry, in which Yetunde’s mother tells an ode for her mother who died recently.

We learn a bit about the Yoruba language and the first part of the story translates terms into English so readers should have no trouble following the story. And during the folktale part, sentences are presented in both English and Yoruba. I found this quite accommodating but I think this approach should manage to draw in readers willing to actually learn from context or look up words and those that expect to be catered to. But this is not a story for people who cannot deal with bilingualism, but it will provide those of you who grew up bilingual with points of recognition. Identity, here Yetunde’s Yoruba Nigerian-British identity, is intrinsically linked with language. If you’re interested in Yoruba language, check out the author’s book about learning to count, it’s for children but might help you get started or connect if you’re Yoruba and have children.

The story’s main part consists of Yoruba folktales and through the focus of motherhood, these tales explore the role and importance of women in Yoruba culture. From water benders to Orishas, I especially loved these sheroes who summon deities and save their daughters. These folktales are a tad darker than the charming first section focusing on Yetunde, but they provide depth.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the centrality of women’s close relationships and positive representation of women of color, especially Black women, as loving mothers. Yetunde is about three generations of women: Yetunde, her mother and her grandmother. It’s also about working through your grief and teaching the next generation, about passing on your history and culture.

I found this a lovely story even if I am not a mother, however I am close with mine. You’ll probably enjoy this story if you value close relationships between women and are interested in learning about Yoruba culture. I love that between this story and Nnedi Okorafor’s fiction I am learning more about the different people and culture of Nigeria.

The story shines when it presents Yoruba folktales and depicts the loving relationship between Yetunde and her mother. I found the final section a bit confusing, but overall recommend this story. I’m glad to hear there will be more Yetunde stories and will be following Yetunde’s as well as the author’s development.

Make sure to enter the goodreads giveaway to win a paper copy of Yetunde! The giveaway ends August 31st!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the author, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

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Author Interview Segilola

Segilola Salami is a “Mom first, author, host of The Segilola Salami Show and Self Publishing strategist (helping aspiring authors navigate the minefield that is self publishing).”

Bina: What made you start writing and who do you write for?

Segilola: I think of myself as an accidental writer. Writing just sort of fell into my laps. I write the types of books I would like my little girl to read.

Bina: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Segilola: My little girl . . . being a mom changes or should I say helps you refocus.

Bina: What is your process with regard to feedback and editing as a self-published author?

Segilola: I ask as many people that I see online that show an interest in reviewing books. I take every critical and complimentary comment on board. It helps me know what I need to do more of and what I need to improve on. After every feedback I receive for my unpublished manuscript, I go back to the drawing board and see how the feedback best fits in with the story. I don’t always use all feedback, especially if they don’t fit in well with the story.

Bina: Yoruba culture is a central aspect of Yetunde. Can you tell us a bit about your own background and your stance on representation in (children’s) literature?

Segilola: I am a Yoruba woman, Nigerian-Brit. I spent my early years in Nigeria, so was exposed to the diverse cultures in Nigeria. As a mom bringing up a little girl in London, I want my daughter to identify with her roots. There’s this saying “you don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you are coming from.”

Also importantly for me, there are hidden snippets of wisdom in my books (well I think so). I hope when my daughter is old enough to read them herself, she can learn something. Rather than me just telling her everything.

Bina: Do you feel that self-publishing gives you more leeway with regard to diversity?

Segilola: Absolutely . . . I write the way I feel is best . . . I think I would not have a single book published now if I was waiting for a trade publisher.

Bina: Lastly, are you currently working on a new project and will there be more Yetunde stories?

Segilola: Oh my gosh yes . . . so I have taken a short break from writing children’s books. I wanted to do something for myself. So I wrote an adult book (that no one under 18 should read). It’s called Abiku: A Battle Of Gods, you can read about it here http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/abiku-a-battle-of-gods/

Once this book is released, I hope to start writing the next Yetunde book. So watch out next year.

Bina: Thanks for answering my questions!

-> You can connect with Segilola Salami on twitter @iyayetunde1 or visit her website.

 

5 On a Theme: Queer Horror

queer horror

Representation of queer characters in horror fiction and film was often fraught with problems in the best case scenarios, or outrightly hostile at worst. But in the last decades especially LGBTIQ+ writers have taken on the genre and created complex engagements with horror and queer identity away from the doom and gloom of earlier phobic depictions in the mainstream. Adressing intersecting notions of the queer and horror, the normative and the Other, these works ask us to rethink where we draw lines and how we make rigid transformative and fluid identities.

let the right one in

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This Swedish vampire story has been adapted to the big screen and been a popular read. 12 year old Oskar’s new friend Eli is a strange one and she only comes out at night. Let The Right One In notably deals with issues of Othering, pederasty and adolescent sexuality as well as the performance of binary gender identity.

affinity

2. Affinity by Sarah Waters

One of my favorite authors, Sarah Waters continuously writes engaging, addictive page-turners with lesbian characters. Affinity, once again set in Victorian London, depicts a complex relationship between Selina a jailed occultist and charity worker Margaret who visits the prisoners of the women’s ward.

gilda

3. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

In the 1850s a young Black girl escapes from slavery and finds community in Gilda’s sisterhood of vampires. The Gilda Stories challenges notions of binary gender identity, sexuality and what it means to be a “monster.”

sea, swallow me

4. Sea, Swallow Me by Craig Laurance Gidney

This collection of short stories centers mostly around Black gay characters and combines horror with mythology from Africa to Japan. Reaching from the Antebellum South to the contemporary US, Gidney demonstrates how we are shaped by the intersections of faith,  race and sexuality. Just noticed that with the elements of mythology, fairy tales and the speculative, this could definitely be a good one for the Once Upon a Time challenge.

the drowning girl

5. The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

This one is about India Morgan Phelps, called Imps by her friends, and her attempts to make sense of her encounters with mythical creates and her family’s history of mental illness. Framed as a Imps’ recordings of these encounters, the book is a meta-heavy work of intertextuality hinted at by the book’s subtitle: a memoir. The Drowning Girl also examines issues of gender performance and transformation in Imps’ friend Abalyn who is a transwoman.

Looking for more themed reading? Take a look at my previous 5 On a Theme post: Afro-German Literature.

Do you enjoy horror stories? What are your favorite scary books beyond the norm?

 

Once Upon a Time X

once upon a time x

It’s that time of the year again: Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting his Once Upon a Time challenge for the 10th time! It’s probably fair to say at this point, that the event has become an institution. Kudos! Here’s what the challenge involves in Carl’s own words:

“Monday, March 21st (my wife Mary’s birthday) marks the official start date of the tenth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing and gaming event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing/gaming whims.”

I’ve decided to go for more books but less restriction on categories and thus the Quest the First category: “Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

quest the first

Making a list for a reading challenge is all kinds of fun in itself, so here’s a number of books I’m very excited about and which are probably heavy on the fantasy, but combine other elements as well:

kynship chronicles

The Way of Thorn and Thunder (Kynship Chronicles) by Daniel Heath Justice

This is a trilogy of epic indigenous fantasy set in the Old World during the 18th century, about the Kyn of the Everland and their detructive encounter with humanity. Drawing on traditions of high fantasy and indigenous mythology, Cherokee author Daniel Heath Justice creates a founding tale of non-European fantasy that bends gender, genre and sexuality. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

olondria

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

This one’s been on my list for ages and it fits the challenge perfectly. Merchant son Jevick has been raised on stories of Olondria, a land where books are common. When he gets the chance to make a trip to Olondria, his dreams seem to come true. But once there he is haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl. And there’s now a second story about Olondria, Samatar’s The Winged Histories.

who fears death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

I picked this up recently, read a few pages and only then noticed it wasn’t The Book of Phoenix, which I thought I was reading. But, this is quite convenient as I will just read this one for the challenge now. Who Fears Death is the story of a child born of rape in post-apocalyptic Africa, who discovers her magical abilities and seeks to end the genocide of her people.

princeless

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley

I absolutely adored the first issue of this one and with Scribd changing its policy, I wanted to get some more comics in. This is for the fairy tale category and it brilliantly subverts gender and racial stereotypes. The author is white but has thought of these stories for his Black daughter, so that she can see herself represented in non-oppressive stories.

midnight robber

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I loved Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring and just cannot resist this one either. This one is fantasy/sf with lots of Caribbean folklore. Set on the Caribbean-colonized planet Toussaint and Tan-Tan must become the Robber Queen to save herself from folklore creatures.

Race and Popular Fantasy Literature

 Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness by Helen Young

And as a sort of non-fiction compendium, I want to take a look at this one. I’m lacking the sort of context and background that comes with reading a lot of fantasy for years, so I want to catch up but also do this through an critical race studies lens.

Are you joining us in the Once Upon a Time challenge? Or maybe you have some folklore and fairy tale suggestions? Let me know in the comments!