Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My kid's a novelist

Uzodinma Iweala (pictured) has won the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for Beasts of No Nation, and has also been shortlisted for a James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Saturday by Ian McEwan is also in the shortlist. I finished reading it a few weeks ago, hoping to find out what the fuss was about this McEwan fella. What McEwan does is make extraordinary events appear like an everyday happenings. Plane crashes, anti-war protests, car accidents, hostage taking, are all made to seem as normal as popping out for a pint of milk. Where other authors would have sensationalised these rather sensational events, the main character, Henry Perowne's laissez-faire-ness is expressed through these abnormal events. Highly recommended.

Why's the post called my kid's a novelist? I must admit that when I first heard about Uzodinma Iweala's book, a sneer broke across my face. He is of course the son of Nigeria's finance minister, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala (good Guardian interview). I reckoned, probably wrongly, that he had gotten his deal by dint of his mother's status. She's the finance minister of a corrupt African country, how much of of a box office draw is she? Hardly, if at all. So it's probably just a case of my inner green-eyed monster forcing himself into visibility. The man's 23 and he already has a critical hit on his hands, and I (at the grand old age of...) have, erm, a critical post about his critical hit.

It reminded me of Cecelia Ahern, the daughter of the Irish Taoiseach (pronounced "tee-sha") who aged 22 got $1 million for her first book. Her father's status had nothing to do with it? Incidentally, her sister Georgina Ahern is married to a former Westlifer.

My beef isn't that they're young, successful, and by default, sexy, but that they're products of dynasties. People who end up in the public eye and already have parents in the public eye, have to work doubly hard to prove their worth. It's unfortunate, but with cynics like me out here, they'll have to keep proving themselves. It could be argued that their parents are prominent in different fields, but there's no doubt that there are connections to be utilised in daddy and mummy's contacts book. The parents might not be the direct links to success, but definitely give the children an unfair leg-up. How can we create a level playing-field for all aspiring authors? So long as some are more famous that others, we can't. Such is life.

I do have it on good authority though, that Uzodinma Iweala is a stand-up guy, and that Beasts is a brilliant book (will read it soon). So I should probably poison my inner green Mr Hyde and pat the fella on the back. I will. Soon.


Anonymous said...

Beasts of No Nation?

Is that not the title of one of Fela's albums?

TMinx said...

I'll look for the book. The collection of African and even Nigerian books at the Media store is APPALING!

Nkem said...

Akin, you're right. The book is named after Fela's album. I believe it is titled after Fela's album, something Western reviewers would have missed.

Taureanminx, the best thing to do is get friends coming in from abroad to get it for you. Or, since you're in Lagos, Terra Kulture in VI is a good place to go.

Anonymous said...

"So I should probably poison my inner green Mr Hyde and pat the fella on the back. I will. Soon."
- Nice way to end a well written piece

culturalmiscellany said...

Don't worry I have envy issues too, join the club. It doesn't get us very far so I'd give it up before it eats you!

I'll check out the book though, just out of interest.

? said...

I have neither read this book nor in a position to address any issues on the subject of merit or credibility, but going by the review I would say congratulations are in order. Its time for the kind of fresh palm wine, pounded yam and hot egusi mentioned in chinue achebes things fall apart. Lets forget the fact, that he is son of Nigeria's current finance minister, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala. Brilliant post!

PS: However, I would like to think of BONN as music against those enemies of ours i.e. whose ancestry can be traced to the displaced of the earth; who for centuries have roamed the deserts of Africa, and brought misery to west africa. They spread Islam to west Africa and founded the Sokoto caliphate in northern Nigeria.

I wonder why we failed to ask them to leave as well, at the time we asked Britian to leave.

BGCTY said...

My first reaction on seeing the nigerian name was pride. But upon hearng that his mother is a finance minister, I rolled my eyes. However, researching and seeing that she in not like the others in govt, I think i might pick up the book.

tori said...

I tried to read the book and gave up after aboyt two thirsds of it. I thought it was awful. I am very curious to hear what Nigerians thought about it.

Naijadude said...

Well Tori thats not the case with me. I read about the book's review in People's Magazine, had 5 stars out of 5. Went for it, infact I read more than thrice now, not a bad book to read.

I dont think anything about the boy's intelligence should be related to his mother's position or something. Homeboy even won some award from Harvard that he attended, lets credit him for being Uzo Iweala not Okonjo-iweala's son!