This book is an excellent piece of work, written by the versatile and prolific Professor Toyin Falola of the University of Texas at Austin. This work is ordered as an autobiographical memoir of Toyin's growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria, and his various stories representing as sub-texts within the larger scheme of his memorial recall. In fact, for a man who grew up holding his first job as an "Almajiri," a "stick boy" (p.67) this makes his life successes even all the more intriguing. The fascination that took Professor Falola as a boy to Ilorin on a train, only to be stranded also casts his own life journey as an "Emere" (p.72-3), and motivational ascendancy to intellectual and personal fame. His love of independence and adventure has benefited not only himself, but as represented in this book, the African universe, as well as the American landscape where he has continued to journey and make enviable contributions specifically to academic scholarship and fundamentally toward human development.
This piece is much more than autobiographical, it is amply ethnographical, Yoruba, Nigerian and African. It respledently represent and portray the elegance of Professor Falola. His humorous, and intellectual self comes alive in this book. Professor Falola in real life is energetic and lively, and this book actually reflects his person, personality, intellectual, and social identities. Humorous, it is creative, and vitally introduces a new literary genre, that interactively admixes various literary strands to image the representation of the self, revealing an indepth ethnography, and functions socially as a literary critic of tradition and modernity, especially its contents and malcontents.The book is virulently intriguing, eccentric and highly delighting.
It is a delightful and fantastic book to read. When I first began to read it, I did so in earnest. I picked it around 4pm and could hardly drop it, managing to go to bed around 4am.
I simply couldn't let go of the exciting contents as much as I tried. This is the best of any book that I have read for a very very long time. It is a classic- believe me- and the literary genre is unique. Paul Onovoh's comparison to the weaver bird amply describes this though not totally capturing its full soul. The book does a lot to portray different elements that constitute the actual and imaginary fabric of the African universe. It depict themes of cogent relevance. Falola is a man of adventure, and genius. From his days as "Emere" and "Were" Professor Falola is nuanced as a person whose adventurous spirit and genius has done much to serve humanity, and the academic universe excellently.
Professor Falola, a historian liked from early on to tell stories (p.91). In this book he tells many enriching stories. Apart from the stories he tells, he critically offers analysis and insights into his diverse storied themes. The book reveals gender relationships and power, noting the mystical and real power of women. One of those mystical women was Leku, a mysterious and mystical woman whose spiritual and social power defies the myth of feminine lack of authority within the African universe (pp. 170-76, 187-193). Leku reifies the spiritual and social power of African women. The divorced women, Dalemosu as they were called, were influential and enormous powerful in the social conditioning and ordering of the family and marital relationship and institution, controlling these through their counseling and politics of marriage (p. 161).
Prof. Falola also images the serene and ecumenical inter-faith relationships that existed in his native homeland. The Yoruba world, and Falola's environment is one of respect and cogenial interactive relationship and participation between adherents and practicioners of the various religious legacies (p.238-245). Religious events and festivities were celebrated with adherents of the different faith expressions partaking and wishing the celebrating faith adherents well. Such events served social and psychosocial functions of creating cosmic harmony, and spiritually served as anchor through diurnal trubulence. All this today is much of a far-cry from that era in an environment where religious acrimony, rioting and hostilities continues to expand, driving a wedge between adherents of different faith, and creating a gulf between them in their interactions.
Memory, in deed, has ethereal and eternal qualities as it impact mnemonic recalling, making alive the past in the present, and for the future.This book recalls the changing memory and realities of a person, and those of his Yoruba, Nigerian and African roots, and experiences. It echoes the different phases of social and individual transitions and transformations. In this task Professor Falola is at his humorous and excited best. A lot of time and energy was channeled into the production of this wonderful book, I sometimes wonder how in the world such a thorough and unique piece was conceived.
This book will remain one of the best literary and autobiographical form that would emerge from an African perspective that is ethnographically rich, spiritually ensouling, personally ennobling, and succinctly precise, descriptive, at best representational of the joncular, reflective, socializing and intellectual Toyin Falola. Other encapsulating themes comes alive in the concepts of "Emere", the predating and vicious "Osomalo"your ideology and the transformations that has ruptured the traditional fabric of the Yoruba universe are encoded in this piece. Prof. Falola examines much of the themes of his memoir alongside the social, political and economic transformations that began with European adventurism. He focuses on change, and notes the different phases of changes he, himself, had undergone.
Prof. Falola has done a wonderfully splendid job. However, his creative weaving of themes sometimes seems to digress and transverse different vignettes though in fact reconnecting these strands latter might seem laborious to those who are not conversant with similar genre in Yoruba traditional literary scheme. However, this is not a weakness, Falola writes froma genre that is true to self, he writes using his Yoruba cultural self. In fact, Yoruba presents such genre in the praise poems called Oriki. Again, I had wished that Professor Falola had used this book to tell his full story, nonetheless, I look forward to his future autobiographical rendition, detailing his professional, and especially his diasporic journey(s).
I find this book very useful, and elements of it are very illumining, and would surely illuminating aspects of my own intellectual and cultural imaginations. This book is a must read, and I highly recommend it to all readers. I find it excellently written, focused, and rich in its representations. I recommend it for another reason, namely that many times readers get to know the history and subleties that define certain authors. Authors and scholars are shaped by their stories and histories, Prof. Falola influence predominates in American scholarship on African cultural and historical phenomena and experiences. It is worth knowing the man whose name is alive on dried inks on many of his books. Again, this time the dry inks will bring a man alive to us, to our mind, and intellectual consciousness. Professor Falola is a man and a mind worth knowing.