Cynthia Jele’s first book, Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was published over 8 years ago to considerable success including winning the Commonwealth Prize and being made into a movie. Odafe Atogun’s first book Taduno’s Song published about a year ago was also well received.
The chat, moderated by Isabella Akinseye, is centred around their second books: The Ones with Purpose and Wake Me When I’m Gone respectively.
Odafe’s book follows a widow whose village has a rule that if a woman loses her husband, she must be married within six months or lose her children. The book focuses on how we choose tradition over empathy.
Cynthia’s book also focuses on how we deal with loss. Her main characters have no time to grieve, because they are preoccupied with burial arrangements.
“We don’t know how to grieve as black families,” she says. She juxtaposes this with an example of her Jewish friend who didn’t go to work for a few days, as Jews are not allowed to do any work while mourning the death of a loved one. The bereaved can grieve, while the community handles everything else.