By Ezioma Kalu

In nine exhilarating stories of queer love in contemporary Nigeria, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things announces the arrival of a daring new voice in fiction.

A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A young musician rises to fame at the price of pieces of himself, and the man who loves him. Arinze Ifeakandu explores with tenderness and grace the fundamental question of the heart: can deep love and hope be sustained in spite of the dominant expectations of society, and great adversity.

I totally enjoyed reading this masterpiece. In just nine stories, Ifeakandu takes us on a severe emotional journey: from Nsukka to Kano, to Lagos and back to Nsukka. In these stories, we feel the pain and brokenness the characters have to endure and suffer, just for being true to themselves, just for existing in their skins, just for being a little bit different from what the society terms ‘normal.’

I love the fact that Ifeakandu created characters so relatable that you’d think they’re real and telling their stories to you in the real world. In ‘The dreamer’s litany,’ an ordinary shop owner would be entangled with a chief who comes to his shop daily, and who has an ulterior motive. And before he knows it, he’s waking up in the chief’s bed, and risking his wife suspicion. Binyelum and Somadina would have to explore their bodies at a young age, in ‘Happy is a doing word.’

‘Where the heart sleeps’ is a story about a girl who loses her father and comes back home after a long stay outside of home. She’d meet her father’s lover, Tochukwu and will bare herself to him. And then come to understand him, and her father more. ‘What the singers say about love’ is my favorite story in this collection. I was immersed in the story and tried so much not to break down after reading through the fears and struggles of these characters.

In the story, we meet Kayode and Somto, two men who fate would bring together. These guys are two flawed humans whose only crime is to love themselves and to be themselves in a world that works overtime in judging people and dictating what’s right and wrong. I love the fact that their love is beautiful and they try to make it as special as possible. Even though they’re students, and in the worst place to freely express their kind of love, they shut out all background voices, and flex their love with reckless abandon. Kayode, who is the most popular one of the duo, would make it huge in the music industry, but what would become of their love? Will it survive the pressure that comes with popularity, the endless scorns, the judgment, the hate, the persecution?

I also enjoyed ‘God’s children are little broken things,’ because it was very easy to feel the characters’ pains. They’re also students, Kamsi and Lotanna. Lotanna, whose home is a fiery pit, with parents who spend more time fighting and cursing than they spend loving their children, and Kamsi, with his traumatic experience with other men. They’re both broken people who find solace in each other’s warmth, each other’s arms. But would their arms be enough for each other? Would their warmth be all they need to survive the cold world?

This book explores humans in their vulnerable and broken nature. It tells the stories of different gay men, each with his own experience of how hard it is to love, how vile the world treats people who choose to be themselves and love who they want. In this world, there is no space for vulnerability, no room for people who choose to be their true selves against all odds. And when they try to make rooms for themselves, the world forms a bulldozer to bulldoze and destroy their homes, their happiness, their lives.

The world is constantly telling people who they are, and how they should appear. It’s a taboo to be effeminate, even if that’s how God created you. But then people forget we are all humans and God’s children, irrespective of our individual sexual orientations. In our quest to achieve uniformity, we forget that we trample on and invalidate the feelings of others, leaving them hurt and forever broken. This book is an introduction to queer love, for people who wonder what it’s like to love someone of same gender. They, too, go through heartbreaks and betrayals, and rape and trauma.

I love how this book is thoroughly beautiful. The descriptions are topnotch, and Ifeakandu makes it easy for you to really know and feel a character’s pain. There’s something to relate to, whether it’s a dysfunctional family, unrequited love, neglect, betrayal, or outright heartbreak. His story telling technique is flawless. And this book is excellent. It’s a book I’ll be glad to recommend to anyone who cares for a sublime short story collection.

I’ll rate it as 4.5/5.


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