Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Post Reading: Season of Crimson Blossoms - Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Season of Crimson Blossoms

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Season of Crimson Blossoms
Author: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Published: May 20th 2016 by Cassava Republic Press
Source: Publisher
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An affair between 55-year-old widow Binta Zubairu and 25-year-old weed dealer Reza was bound to provoke condemnation in conservative Northern Nigeria. 

Brought together in unusual circumstances, Binta and Reza faced a need they could only satisfy in each other. Binta - previously reconciled with God - now yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage, the pain of losing her first son and the privations of widowhood. Meanwhile, Reza's heart lies empty and waiting to be filled due to the absence of a mother. The situation comes to a head when Binta's wealthy son confronts Reza, with disastrous consequences. 

This story of love and longing - set against undercurrents of political violence - unfurls gently, revealing layers of emotion that defy age, class and religion.

THE REVIEW

Set in post-colonial, conservative Nigeria, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's Season of Crimson Blossoms is a story that transcends cultural, social, religious and geographical boundaries. 

Through Binta Zubairu, a 55 year old widow and Hassan Reza, the 25 year old Lord of San Siro, Ibrahim explores the social, cultural and religious constructs in a censorious Muslim Hausa society. Cross-generational relationships in literary fiction tend to be about older men and much younger women so it was refreshing to see this trope being subverted in Season of Crimson Blossoms. The two unlikely lovers discover their own selves, their buried guilt and their underlying grief in their relationship. Reza reminds Binta of the son she lost, Yaro while Binta reminds Reza of a mother he never had. Their highly complex and at times, dysfunctional relationship is sure to challenge most readers but as the story progresses you are able to set aside your own reservations about the relationship and simply, watch.

Female sexuality in the general Muslim community is often riddled with misogyny and double standards. I loved the fact that Ibrahim tackles issue this head on in his portrayal of Binta and the censorious responses to her choices. Through Binta we are given an idea of what daily life is like in a Muslim Hausa family - From the local madrasa and Hadiza wearing the niqab to Binta's copy of Az Zahabi's The Major Sins co-exiting with her copy of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Danielle Steele. Between Fa’iza's struggles, her love for soyayya novellas, Reza and his role in the corrupt political institutions, Binta's rejection of her suitor (because fuck the patriarchy) and her struggle with her faith and sexuality - There's a lot to unpack. And for this reason, Season of Crimson Blossoms is a book that's not meant to be rushed through but one to be savored.

Peppered with Hausa phrases and little idioms that I presume are native to the Nigerian vernacular, Season of Crimson Blossoms is raw and authentic. Since this book was initially written for a Nigerian audience, Ibrahim's narratives aren't watered down to pander to a Western audience. It is this unapologetic, authentic tone which remains unchanged throughout the book that resonated with me the most. It's hard not to fall in love with Nigeria, flaws and all.

Ibrahim's portrayal of his country is almost reverent despite his frustrations with its people and the rampant senseless violence that plagues the land. This is something that I can relate to very much as a Sri Lankan - As a country that's slowly finding its footing after a 25 year civil war, the underlying(now, outright) racism, the existing ethnic-religious conflicts and corrupt political atmosphere is a source of never ending frustration. And yet, you can't help but admire the strength and resilience of our people, the beauty of a land that's triumphed in the face of colonialism and brutality.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is an incredible storyteller. It's apparent in his unorthodox, powerful writing, in his heart rendering prose and in the details that he seamlessly weaves together. Season of Crimson Blossoms is resolute in its subversion of the ethnocentric image of the grinding poverty of Nigeria and instead chooses to portray Nigeria and its people in a fair light.

On winning the 2016 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature for Season of Crimson Blossoms, Ibrahim made a rousing speech, one that is sure to resonate wholly with marginalised communities -

“I wanted to immortalize us, that despite the wars, the violence, the immeasurable harm we perpetrated, our resilience and strength and our humanity still shone through the dark mist.”

There's no denying that Season of Crimson Blossoms succeeds on all accounts.

THE RATING

5 Stars

QUOTE-WORTHY

“Hajiya Binta Zubairu was finally born at fifty-five when a dark-lipped rogue with short, spiky hair, like a field of miniscule anthills scaled her fence and landed, boots and all, in the puddle that was her heart.”

FINAL VERDICT:

Season of Crimson Blossoms is an eloquent and compelling adding to the Nigerian literary scene. This inherently political, multi-layered novel will remain a favorite of mine - Give this debut a chance and you can rave about it later.

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OVER TO YOU:

Have you read Abubakr Adam Ibrahim's Season of Crimson Blossoms? What are some of your favorite books from the Nigerian literary scene?

2 comments :

  1. Great review, Nuzaifa. It sounds like a thought-provoking book about a part of the world I know little about (sadly).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. What a beautiful review of a book that sounds stunning and raw. I can't wait to make more shelf space for stories about Muslim women with this book.

    ReplyDelete

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