From the winner of the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa comes the fictional collection of short stories, News from Home. The collection was published in 2010 by Interlink books, an imprint of Interlink Publishing Group Ltd.
There are eleven stories in this book, mostly set in Nigeria and spanning across oceans to London and America. The opening story ‘The Miracle Worker’ introduces us to Makinde, a poor mechanic in Lagos whose life somersaults the day his wife claims to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary on a windshield of an old car on his car-lot. The numbers that crowd his workplace the next day are overwhelming and he decides to turn a profit- the money he collects exposes him to more disaster and he eventually goes to the place he ridiculed- the church. In ‘Spoils’, a young Muslim girl, widowed at a young age laments about an NGO that helps young girls escape early marriages by giving them scholarships to further their education. “What further education does a woman need? She asks. Can education push a baby out? When Binta is crying out from labour pains, how perfect will her English be?”
In ‘Twilight Trek’, we meet an African young man hoping to cross into Spain illegally. The ‘Last Trip’ is about a woman heroin trafficker who uses her retarded son on what she vows will be her last trip. ‘A Temporary Position’ is about an educated young woman working illegally in London as she awaits her placement in an accountancy firm. The woman’s narration is humorous and her comparisons between Nigeria and London are noticeable. One can’t help but empathize with the woman portrayed in ‘Madness in the family’ whose adulterous husband abandons her once their oldest child shows signs of mental instability. The joys of having the green card in America and internet fraud are issues covered in ‘Green’ and ‘Yahoo Yahoo.’
The title story ‘News from Home’ is about a young woman, who having trained as a nurse in Nigeria ends up working as a nanny for a wealthy Nigerian family in America. She hopes to further her nursing career in America but news from home about the women protesting against the oil companies worries her, especially now that the women, her mother included are involved.
News from Home is a collection of interesting stories (although some seem to end abruptly)- all covering different issues but interconnected by the characters’ level of displacement; they are all in situations they are forced into by circumstances they would rather avoid if their lives were better. The start of each story is poetic is- one is glued to the story from the opening sentence. For example, in Hailstones on Zamfara (a woman accused of adultery is sentenced to death under the Shariah law) the opening line goes like this “On the day I die, I will rise up, arms outstretched, magnificent as the mother of the Holy prophet, then my executioner’s will be forced to admit, ‘we were wrong, we should have revered you more’”. The author’s tone of writing cannot be ignored, she writes like one who has lived with each and every character revealed in the stories. The characters are conflicting and incompatible but each has a decision in their own fate, even when they decide to do nothing about their challenges.
Sefi Atta was born in Nigeria and is a novelist and a playwright. She is the winner of PEN International’s 2004/2005 David TK Wong Prize. In 2006, her debut novel Everything Good Will Come was awarded the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. This short story collection is published in the US under the title ‘Lawless’ and received the 2009 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.