Blackass: More Questions than Answers

I'm on week four of seven without my son while he spends time with is dad. After a full year of homeschooling, I approached this time much more optimistically. This would be my time to explore the city as a young (temporarily childless) adult, which for me means late nights and all the arts related programing my heart can stand. Also spending drastically less on food, or so I thought.

I kicked off my seven weeks frantically searching for a copy of Blackass for the Chicago Reading Africa book-club, which as luck would have it, would be meeting nine days later. I had to find this book, so naturally I headed to the Barnes&Noble on State Street. A young man approached me with a camera as I barreled down the street. Apparently he had taken a photo of me, all I saw were little naps that had escaped the safety of my head-wrap. "Do you like it?", I didn't want to say no, I shouldn't be so critical of myself, the picture was pretty good. So we talked down the street and around the corner, then into Barnes&Noble where alas I found the book. With the young man still by my side I paid too much for the book had headed out the store and into the strangely deserted street. With my mission completed I turned to the next task, find the blue line. I was headed to my friends birthday party in Wicker Park and I was in no mood for a random date. On other day I would have invited him along, why not? 

He was 21, a DC transplant, back in the city to explore photography and handsome with a big smile.

"I am way too old for you."

"I shouldn't have told you my age"

"Your right, but you live and you learn."

And with that I was off, bounding down the street completely unaware of where the nearest blue line was, dateless but ready to read my book. I was only lost for like 10-15 minutes before stumbling upon my chariot. This party was going to be the end of a magical day in the city. I had been out since 9 am wearing a head-wrap, green shift dress, my favorite Ivanka Trump (I know, I know but I got them like three years ago) shoes; now with my new book I walked carefully into the subway. There is something about heading down into the subway wearing heels that makes the little suburban girl in me dizzy with bliss. 

I read Blackass all the way to the Damen stop, it saved me from getting a donut at Stan's. I didn't want to get my new expensive book sticky. I loved the idea of getting to know my birthplace thought literature. I could'nt wait for Lagos to unfold in front of me. To find pieces of myself and my experiences in his writing. I wanted to be transported.

At the bookclub meeting.

At the bookclub meeting.

I liked the idea of the book much more than I liked the actual book. I read most of it before the book club meeting but after a while I had more questions than answers. I kept reading after the meeting but I am still at a loss and the pages seem endless. Where is this book going? What does it mean? It leaves more questions than answers but I suspect it is saying something brilliant; the code is just too hard to crack. Or maybe I have high hopes for a fellow Nigerian. It certainly does not rise to the level of any of Chimamanda's books but then again the dominance and strength of African women is a recurring theme in the novel. It seems tho that the dominance is out of necessity, although they try African men can't seem to keep it together. White skin can't change that, the main character can't help but show his ass. I have a feeling this work is deeply personal because the author literally inserts himself into the novel and even uses a quote for a real life interview. There is also a section containing tweets that could actually be found on Twitter at one point: they seem to have been recently deleted. The novel bleeds in reality.

I keep thinking about the author mentioning that the white man is a symbol of progress in Things Fall Apart. With that mention and the premise of the book, I can't help but feel like this book is about the nature of progress, racial and gender, Did I mention that the author wakes up a woman in his own novel? Yea, there is a lot going on. I suspect that the book is meant to make a statement about the freedom and power of gender liberation and the illusion of racial transcendence.

Two positives of the book are the varied portray of Nigerian women and the sex positive prose. From a #BlackSexMatters perspective this book offers an interesting examination of how women embrace their bodies to navigate life on their terms without becoming tragic figures, I suspect that it is their embrace of sexuality that keeps them from becoming tragic. I am still waiting for a sex positive, brilliant fictional African hero (Recommendations anyone?).

At the end of the day,  I say buy drinks and borrow the book from the library. It certainly gets you thinking but it's not a particularly good read.  I would love to know what you think of the book, leave a comment or message on Twitter @FirstKedu.

Actual Reviews of Blackass:

NPR: An Audacious Transformation Bogs Down In 'Blackass'

The Guardian: Blackass by A Igoni Barrett review – a cocktail of Kafka and comedy

I look a little drunk.  No images of Hip Hop Karaoke they are in the Snapchat graveyard.

I look a little drunk.  No images of Hip Hop Karaoke they are in the Snapchat graveyard.

Shortly before my noble quest to find Blackass. In-between listening to Numa Perrier, more on that in a future blog.

Shortly before my noble quest to find Blackass. In-between listening to Numa Perrier, more on that in a future blog.