Book Review: Chinedu Achebe’s Blunted Reality
Before doing this review, I have to put up this mantra, (basically, I do not want anyone coming after my tiny African head - well I think it is tiny sha). Here goes: I promise to tell the truth in this review and nothing but the truth so help me God. I also promise to highlight the positives while pointing out some of the problematic areas of the book, if they exist - so help me God.
Blunted on Reality follows the life of Obi Ifeanyi, a Nigerian born American who is coming of age after the historic election of Barack Obama. As Obi confronts challenges that impact his family, career, and romantic interests, he is forced to examine his past and present choices to define his future.
Often times when authors decide to write an African story, they choose to focus on Africans based in Africa, forgetting that there are millions of Africans in the diaspora making stories and creating realities. These are realities that should be showcased, celebrated and at least discussed.
Chinedu Achebe in his first book, Blunted On Reality, uses his book to paint a vivid picture of the professional Nigerian based in Houston Texas. In this book, he puts several stories together with the win of President Obama in the United States as the centerpiece story.
We know how excited minority communities were to have President Obama win the election but this is the first book in which various view points of his win was discussed.
This book is obviously fiction but the genre is quite unclear. Blunted On Reality fuses every day lives of Nigerian Americans, different perspectives, romance and of course politics all in one place. So, there is something for everyone.
This book is like a breath of fresh air in that it offers differing views of Nigerians in the diasporas and shows that Nigerians are not of the same ilk. We don't all think alike or behave in the same way.
We have older Nigerians who are still very invested in Nigeria, who still think about Nigeria in ways that are often not realistic. These group views the United States as a transitionary place and not really as home. Then, we have Nigerians who are very invested in the American dream.
This is home to them and they really do not know anywhere else. Then we have the third group of which Obi, the main protagonist belongs. Obi, walks the thin line between being completely Old School Nigerian and completely Nigerian American.
He and some of his friends show case this dichotomy between the old and the new when they discuss political ideas and agendas around the presidential election and of course President Obama's win. Some of his friends are Ugo, Tamika, Lamar and Nkechi (his friend turned lover) and each of these friends paint a vivid picture of the immigrant experience in terms of love, life, relationships and politics.
As was mentioned earlier this book has different facets. I really enjoyed the love portion of the book in which he shows different kinds of relationships. He shows a sex only relationship with Tamika as well as a friend turned to lover relationship with Nkechi.
What I really enjoyed about his telling these stories was that he made these two women, 'human'. They were women with strengths as well as frailties who intentionally made certain decisions.
You have to read the book to find out what I am on about. Beyond all this, in his telling of the love story between Obi and Tamika, we get to see another parts of the Nigerian Diasporan story because we see that our story isn't a stand alone story, we mix daily with different cultures and experiences and we have to often choose where we stand when we do mix.
His book also fleshes out some of the stereotypes and barriers that immigrant groups have about each other and about those who are non immigrants. We see this when old attitudes from Obi's parent's generation are juxtaposed against new attitudes from Obi's generation. Some of these stereotypes are explicitly stated while there are others that you have to read between the lines to see what is being said.
There is just so much you can get from the book beyond a deeper understanding of American politics. In simpler form, this is a diaspora fictional story with elements that make the story almost real. Elements like pain, heart break, love, sex, happiness, decisions and more. I hope you get the book and fall in love with the story.