I haven’t yet met MY book of 2015. I really liked Roxane Gay’s ‘An Untamed State’, but it’s not a favourite. I recommend it though. Reading it made me think of Afoma’s writing, which you should totally check out on her blog here.
Today friends, I am reviewing the book ’60 Percent of a True Story’ by Tafa Osisiye.
Last year, sometime during the controversy about Lena Dunham’s autobiography ‘Not That Kind of Girl’– beyond the talk about the upsetting parts (if you missed the drama, see it summed up here), I just really wondered why many people would be so keen to read a living young person’s autobiography.
I mean. If you aren’t forty yet, I’m not really interested in reading your memoirs. That was what I said. Maybe this sounds a little hypocritical considering that many people write personal blogs, and I read them. How different is that from writing a memoir? So anyway, when I heard about 60 Percent for the first time last Christmas, I ignored it. Until that weekend when I really wanted to hang with Naija Girl Next Door, and she suggested we go to a reading of the book with the author at Terrakulture- and so we did.
Book readings are nice. It’s always good to interact with the author, or at least watch them read, and talk about their work. We got the book & Tafa seemed interesting enough to read about. A few weeks later, I got to it, and it’s not bad at all.
60% is supposed to be an embellished version of the story of his life- a few years of it. We don’t know what exactly is true and what isn’t so of course, this made it fun to read.
The stories for the most part are funny. He tells us about his time as a UNILAG student, the struggles and perils. Stories are told from his perspective, and from his friends’. Uncomfortable conditions, having to adapt to each lecturer’s quirks to get your grades. I was actually supposed to be a UNILAG student (University of Lagos) but I was accepted at my uni months before it was time for the Unilag post-jamb (the uni’s entrance exam) and I moved, quick. Reading this made me reflect on my own uni days and the fact that all I had to worry about really, were my books. A little part of me wished I could famz with this experience and the pockets of “sweet suffering” but at the same time, I was happy it was not my struggle.
The book is divided into 3 parts. The third part is about yahoo yahoo- or the author’s time as an internet scammer, aka 419 aka a ‘Nigerian Prince’ in training. Maybe this is the 40% that’s untrue- not judging you, Tafa! But it was my least favourite part. The yahoo yahoo letters were tedious and no, it’s not because I’ve seen so many formats in my spam folders. I felt it was unnecessary- after 2, 3 letters, I already got the point.
The second part is a little confusing. I’m still not sure how the story about the gay married man on the downlow flows into Korede’s story. Korede is a character in the book, a former roommate of the author who struggles with his sexuality, eventually coming to accept that he is gay. I think the author relayed this conflict very well. I liked Korede, and if his story is part of the 60%, I really hope that the real Korede has made peace with himself. At the reading, I remember someone saying he didn’t like that part at all- so I was shocked to see nothing scandalous. It’s important to listen to other people’s stories, I think. We all go through things. Even if you cannot relate to, or understand the way other people are wired, I think we are all capable of a little more empathy when we see what the next person is going through.
There are some editing gaffes- typos, misspellings and a few references that should not be there. Like when Korede finds solace in Passenger’s ‘Let Her Go.’ IN 2007. Harhar. Or the Yahoo boy anthem ‘Maga don Pay’ by Kelly Handsome being quoted as ‘Maga No Need Pay’ in a footnote. Ironically, the latter song is part of an initiative against the ministry of Internet scamming.
I found the use of tweets a little… interesting – quoted in footnotes and paraphrased in the main text- but hey, this is 2015, right? All in all, 60 Percent is an easy book to read. The language is simple, it is funny, and he pokes at so many points. It’s about a guy, a young man, in the process of finding himself and questioning some parts of the person he felt he was, finding his truth as most people begin to do- when they go to university.
60 Percent is a good book, not “really good”, but it’s only Tafa’s first. I’m definitely interested in reading whatever he writes next. I leave you now, with a few quotes from it.
“People wonder why the average Yahoo Boy is lavish. It is because he is trying to convince himself of the realness of his money.”
“Nigeria might be lawless but only a few are above the law.”
“Despite the negative energy, one thing that made us feel good was music. Probably because of the shared similarities between the music and internet scamming industry- long hours, years of relative obscurity, and finally a big break- the musicians always treated us well.”
“That’s what society does when you are poor, because society believes the poor are poor because they are lazy. They believe the poor have bad attitudes that ensure and sustain their poverty. They believe the poor created themselves. And well, they like you being poor; it’s necessary for society to function.”
“My Twitter career is really the greatest part of me. Twitter is home. These people are real. It’s not just Twitter.” LOL
“I close my eyes, but I’m not really asleep. I am still aware of what is going on around me. It is a skill we Lagosians have: we are asleep and probably even dreaming- lost on some peaceful island where there’s no traffic- but we can hear and feel everything going on around us. Don’t try to touch my wallet, mate! Don’t take me past my bus stop, conductor! This is a state of meditation, not sleep.”
“I don’t like that word, ‘accomplish’; it takes the joy out of excellence.”
“I wonder about the ways religion has been used like a coat, worn when needed, and taken off when not needed.”
“Maybe, this is true religion. Quietude. Acts of kindness to my fellow man. Nothing transcendental. No promises of bread or resurrection. Just peace, inner peace, and soothing sounds you do not understand.”