REVIEW: ALL SHADES OF IBERIBE BY KASIMMA

By Ezioma Kalu 

There is this sense of fulfillment that has engulfed me, now that I’ve finally read this book after one whole year of longing and hoping. This book is everything I hoped it would be and more. Shout out to Kasimma, my wonderful sister. You really outdid yourself in the compilation of this masterpiece. In fact, this is a book everyone should read, and I’m not even mincing words. I have not read a book with my mother for years, but since she set her eyes on it, she has not let it be. We even had to read it at the same time, because no one would leave it for the other.

I really love this book. From its humorous title, to its beautiful cover art. As Kasimma’s big fan, I’d read some of the stories in this collection way before I had the opportunity to read the whole book. And in these fourteen sublime stories, Kasimma unapologetically takes us through different shades of senselessness, of things that are blatantly insane, but somehow find ways to make sense to us.

In ‘My late grandfather,’ an old man who is dead and has been buried, will find a way to resurface, and sit on his grave. One thing about Kasimma’s stories, which I greatly adore and adopt in my own stories, is the use of humor. I love the fact that she tells serious stories in very unserious terms. Like it is not possible for you not to be gripped by her stories, except you’re a sadist of course. There is a type of honesty and cheerfulness in her stories which makes you laugh and think and wonder. She makes a lot of things make sense in simple, hilarious sentences.

Jesus’ Yard is the story you should read when you’re having a bad time. I’d read it before and it was still as hilarious as ever, when I reread it in this book. It’s about a rich girl who visits her not-so-rich aunt in faraway Jos, and who will mingle with a lot of other not-so-rich people and learn so much about their lives. The story teaches about finding laughter and happiness in little things, in ordinary things. And though there is a subtle touch of domestic violence and its effect, the sensitive topic is embraced in a very simple and light manner.

One thing about Kasimma is that she will definitely lace her stories with Igbo Language. How else will you know she’s from the great Igboland if she doesn’t show it off in her stories? I love the fact that she’s proud of where she’s from, and she tells her stories with the stark originality that emanates from Igbo cultures and myths and legends.

Shit faces is one of those stories. It’s about Nnemeka, an osu girl, who is being isolated for being a child of the spirits. Osu caste system is a very prominent topic in Igboland which has stood the test of time. It’s one culture that has refused vehemently to be erased from the surface of the land, even after years and years of it being tried to be eradicated. It is also one culture that religion has not wiped off. Even after the chants of ‘old things have passed away, behold all things are now new,’ yet this practice has remained unchanged.

This Man’ is a story that will forever stay with me. I remember reading it last year December and screaming in horror when I read the part a soldier excretes in someone’s mouth. It’s a story about dead people who are not qualified to move to the great beyond, and also not suitable for the land of the living. But somehow find themselves stuck in an in-between-ness they cannot wriggle from. This is a story about the Biafran war, and also a sneak peak into life after death.

The Coffee Addict is a story about reincarnation. If there’s any belief I’m fascinated about in Igbo mythology, then it will be reincarnation. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been here before, what I was like, and if I came as a male or female. Sometimes I get deja vu and wonder what context I experienced that particular occurrence in my previous life. I also wonder about my future life, if I’ll like to come back in the same clime and continent, if I’ll like to come back at all. And I love how Kasimma holds us by the hand and shows us what reincarnation is, and feels like. I love how Kasimma sits us down and lectures us on topics we might have known, but do not have enough knowledge of. And even introduce us to new knowledge.

All shades of senselessness is the last story in this book, and one of the stories that intrigues me the most. It’s about how fast life comes at you. One minute you’re a vivacious, rich girl, making a transfer of one million naira to your friend. And the next, you’re on the brink of death, depressed and contemplating suicide. This book tackles lots of issues; ranging from the fickleness of life and the absurdity of death, and everything in between. About culture, gender, feminism and justice. I remember my mum asking me why Kasimma writes so much Igbo in her stories, and how non Igbos will cope. I just smiled and told her they’ll cope. Of course, they will cope just fine.

I love what Kasimma does with Igbo Language, how she paints her sentences with very thick Igbo words, phrases and proverbs. How she tells the Igbo stories as if to say to all her readers, ‘hear me out everybody. You must learn a thing or two about Igbo, by the end of my stories.’

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For a book about Iberibe, it’s full of wits and wisdom. It’s rich in culture and language. And I’m not forgetting about its best element, humor. I’ll rate this goodness of a book as a solid 5/5, because it deserves that spot.

Review courtesy: Ezioma Kalu’s Blog

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