Thursday, November 11, 2010

We Have All That We Need

I have been thinking of this quotation by Erich Fromm from his book, The Art of Loving, “The truly religious person if he follows the essence of the monotheistic idea does not pray for anything, does not expect anything from God; he does not love God as a child loves his father or mother.

He has acquired the humility of sensing his limitations to the degree of knowing that he knows nothing about God.

God becomes to him a symbol in which man, at an earlier stage of his evolution, has expressed the totality of that which man is striving for, the realm of the spiritual world of love, truth and justice.

He has faith in the “principles” which God represents; he thinks truth, lives love and justice, and considers all of his life only valuable in as much as it gives him the chance to arrive at an ever fuller unfolding of human powers—as the only reality that matters, as the only object of ‘ultimate concern’ and, eventually, he does not speak about God—nor ever mention his name.

To love God, if he were going to use this word, would mean, then, to long for the attainment of the full capacity to love, for the realization of that which ‘God’ stands for in oneself.”

But as people we pray for this or that, concrete and material things, whereas what we should be praying for is the ability to be fully all of whom we were meant to be because we have all that we need. And in the faces of challenges, we should be praying for the strength to bear the challenges. We shouldn’t be praying for things to change to suit our purposes. This is hard, I know, but I think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Of Nests

I have been thinking a lot about nests in the past few months, and I know it’s because my youngest son Mobolaji is about to leave the nest and fly off to begin his life as an adult. I have been preparing for the day he would leave for the past 3 years when my older daughter, Segilola left for college, giving me a taste of what it would be like. But how prepared am I?

I have provided a nest for him and his sister, and I remember expecting him 18 years ago and actually nesting. We had just moved to the US and I was shopping for a crib and making blankets, and drapes for the windows and I had enjoyed every moment of it as I had enjoyed it when I was going to have his sister. In the years since, the three of us have made a home together, but now he is on his way out to begin a life in which eventually he will be making his own home too.

This makes me think of making homes for our young.

Our first summer in our current home, a good sized snake that had made its home in the shrubs by the garage would come out with the sun to warm up. Whenever it heard us, it would slither back into a hole by the side of the house. I freaked out, my neighbor assured me that it probably was not poisonous and it had come to lay eggs there, but in Nigeria I had seen a man die from snakebite.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What’s in a Name?

In my teens I spent hours fantasizing on the names that I would give to the countless number of children I was going to give birth to, and though I didn’t exactly do that, i.e. give birth to countless number of children, I still have a lot of names in my name bank. I take pride in the Yoruba culture of naming children, how in its original form we wait seven days before we give the child a name and it’s the oldest member of the extended family who has this honor. He or she has to meditate on the name, going into the family history that is hopefully in the vault of his psyche, and consulting with the ancestors.

The ceremony is a whole day event that begins at the crack of dawn with everyone arriving at 5.00am and sitting in a circle around a table laden with all the ingredients for the ceremony.

These are Water—the indispensable source of life. Salt – It is sweet in moderation but bitter in excess; that the baby’s life would not be full of bitterness, the kind that we bring upon ourselves by looking back on what could have been instead of moving forward. Honey—that a life of hard work like that of the busy bees yields honey. The hope is that the baby will grow to be a hard worker and a productive member of the community. Atare—these are little seeds, lots of them in a pod. And the prayer is that the child will grow up and be fertile, giving birth to millions of children. There are money, the currency of exchange, pen, symbolizing education that has the power to transport the child of a pauper to the president of a country, and kola-nut—for wisdom, and many other ingredients used for their symbolic meanings.

And as the patriarch or matriarch holding the baby in her arms take these items one by one and touching the baby’s lips or hand with them, she would say these prayers and then they are passed on to the people gathered around for them to add to the prayers as they too taste or touch these items. The names of the baby are then announced and they could be from six to ten.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New York Times article on Genital Mutilation

Here's the link to an interesting New York Times article on Genital Mutilation.

If you've yet to read Kehinde Ayeni's Feasts of Phantoms, now's the time! 

Feasts of Phantoms
Feasts of Phantoms a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni -- ISBN 978-0981393926 Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from the Publisher Genoa House.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Avenue to Love

Tons of stories, poems and songs have been written about it, and yet it still plagues us. What is love? How do we Love? Why don’t we Love? Who should we love? Who shouldn’t we love? What do women want? How do you make a man love you?

And there have been as many answers as there are questions. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Men can’t love. Women only want you to serve them. Beauty will guarantee you love; fame will win it for you, it is money, no, the answer is just stay young, don’t grow up or old. Don’t be too smart, men don’t like smart women; be very controlling, women like men who are that way. Don’t show him or her that you care, he or she will take you for a sucker. The person who cares less is the one who has the upper hand in a love relationship.

Some have said that we are afraid of love. We do not fear love, we all want it, crave it, and are searching for it every minute of the day. I once read something where a man walks into a place of business and the receptionist asks, “Are you looking for someone sir? And the man responds “We are all always looking for someone.”

It is not love that we fear; it is intimacy that scares us like hell. What is intimacy? It is the ability to be open with another person, to let down our guards, to let ourselves be vulnerable. It is the ability to be able to look the other in the eye and hold his gaze with happiness.

Fear of intimacy is what makes us decide to take that call on our cell phone when we are having coffee or dinner with our friend, or just walking down the street with her. We are not with the person on the phone and we are not with the person right by us, we are not with anyone. It is fear of intimacy that makes us turn on the radio in the car rather than talk to our children, and it is what is actually behind that fight we started when the person that we care about was going away.

It is that same fear that makes us curb our enthusiasm and stops us from giving our neighbor all of our 32 watt smile when we see him, or from showing our co-worker that extra kindness, or hugging our daughter as if we would squeeze the life out of her, or telling our son ‘I love you’ at least twenty times in a day.

Most of my friends have dogs and their excitement when a guest arrives or leaves their house is simply priceless, dogs are built to love and they are not afraid of intimacy. They are the best teachers on the subject of love.

The Yorubas (Western Nigeria) have a proverb which translates to “It is pointless to hide your naked body from the person who will bury you when you die.” We are with the people that we love and who we want to love us, and yet we are afraid to let them see us as we really are. And this is the one big obstacle to loving. We want love but we are afraid to be vulnerable.

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from the Publisher Genoa House.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Feasts of Phantoms According to Dr. Tony Marinho

A review by Dr. Tony Marinho, Educare Trust Fund, Ibadan Nigeria

Since I put the book down, I have been struggling with my emotions on what to tell you. Certainly, it is a well woven, monumental commentary on almost all things female, suffering and strength, solitude and solidarity, troubles and triumphs, survival and ceilings.

As a professional gynecologist who has dealt with these situations in the flesh, I was happy and sad, mixed emotions, to see the reality of the various complications of female genital mutilation and related conditions coming out in such a powerful manner.

You are a master of the art of weaving themes into characters and characters into disease entities. Apart from the obvious repitition--in dreams, soliloques, musings etc presumably for emphasis and from a psychiatrist's viewpoint, the book was a heart rending and heart warming account of female and male survival in a harsh local and international environment where no one is safe all the time.

Happily the light was at the end of the tunnel but what a long dark tunnel to have to struggle through for Ranti in particular. She really deserved to win in the end. A must read and a prize winner, I am sure.
Good luck.

Feasts of Phantoms by Kehinde Ayeni,
Also available directly from the publisher Genoa House and other booksellers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Retelling Tragic Tales of Womanhood

A Review of Kehinde Ayeni’s Feasts of Phantoms
By Folorunsho Moshood
Publisher: Genoa House
Number of pages: 342

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been identified as the greatest act of brutality against womanhood everywhere. It kills the woman as a result of the excruciating pain, physical torture, psychological trauma and complications arising from it. One of the reasons put forward to justify FGM is that it is a device used in curbing promiscuity in women. FGM is the cutting of the external tip of the clitoris, which may create a hole in the vagina, leading to Vesico Vagina Fistula (VVF) or Vesico-rectal fistula (VRF) - the leakage of urine and feces through the vagina.

In some parts of Nigeria, this practice is done to celebrate the arrival of the girl-child into womanhood with funfair in a carnival-like atmosphere. In some instances, the woman dies right from the formative stage of the girl-child.

Kehinde Ayeni’s Feasts of Phantoms, written mostly in third person narrative educates the reader on FGM and its devastating effects on women. It also deals with rape, abortion, prostitution, polygamy, homosexuality and teenage pregnancy. These themes are woven around the tales of love, hatred, pleasure, pain, friendship, enmity, loyalty, betrayal, kindness, wickedness, life and death, thereby conceiving many antitheses simultaneously to create unthinkable events with strong elements of conflict, irony, tragic tension, suspenseful emotion and unexpectedness.

It is not an act of serendipity that the novel begins with the news of the death of two girls and ends with the birth of twins.The novel, which comprises forty-eight chapters, is divided into two parts – the past and the present. The past events are type-written by Ranti, the protagonist on her laptop as a strategy to get out of writer’s block, a stumbling block against packaging a proposal for funding on the effects of FGM. The present events comprise what Ranti and her friends are currently passing through. Though full of antitheses that bring to the fore contradictory creativity, the past and the present are not used as opposites; they are connected like ends of a circle that meet and become seamless.

The birth of Esho begins the gory tales of the past. Her mother, Wura, dies giving birth to her. At tender age, she flees Alebido Ekiti after killing her father, her first rapist. She arrives at a Convent in Ilesa and there, in the bush, she kills her second rapist, a mad man who impregnates her. The fear of losing her baby to the orphanage makes her flee Ilesa. She finds herself at the Oshun shrine in Oshogbo where she delivers her baby, Oshun named after the goddess. She flees the shrine with Oshun because her fertile body is needed in the service of the goddess- infertile men need to sleep with her to become fertile. From the shrine in Oshogbo to Iwo, the tale is similar. She works in a restaurant in Iwo where an old Imam approaches her for marriage. Due to the pressure from her Boss who wants her to marry the Imam, she flees Iwo strapping Oshun to her back. She arrives at Bere in Ibadan where she nurtures Oshun into a beautiful girl.

Since the ‘gods’ fail to protect her in all her trips, she becomes an existentialist who carries a knife about. In Bere, Oshun grows to become a nymphomaniac who starts dating men, especially Akanbi, as revenge against Esho for killing her father. Oshun’s waywardness produces two children – Lana, a boy and Iranti, a girl. But Akanbi, the father of the children rejects them setting the stage for a mortal conflict between him and Esho. The third pregnancy also Akanbi’s claims the life of Oshun who dies in her sleep at the age of twenty-one.

Throughout her childhood and school days, Ranti completely takes to heart the bad and good lessons drummed into her by Esho. Some of these lessons live with her as a medical doctor. Esho, driven by fear of what has become of women in her lineage, carries out FGM on her obedient granddaughter thereby killing the woman in her. All the women in her lineage have one thing in common; they are beautiful and so they are ‘playthings in the hands of men’. Ranti gets into many instances where she believes that ‘Esho treatment’ is the best for rapists.

Esho nearly changes her philosophy seeing the opposites in Ranti’s friends and their families, but she’s deeply rooted in existentialism and shuffles off the mortal coil in that spirit after killing Akanbi, the last tormentor of Ranti. The lessons from Esho, the brief brotherly care and educational encouragement from Lana, who dies of tetanus infection, and the kindness, loyalty and love from her friends- Moradeke, Gboye, Depo, Boris, Grant and Abe- equip Ranti for the battles of life wage by Akanbi, Sahara, Gen. Jamba, Jide, Tolu and Brian. Everywhere she goes, she wins. Her final victory against anxiety, depression and hallucination, which makes her a real woman, is crowned with the birth of twins named Wura and Esho by Depo, their father and her gay companion.

Feasts of Phantoms

a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House

Monday, March 8, 2010

Review of Feasts of Phantoms

by Jean Panyard, Michigan Artists Review.

I have been granted a wonderful opportunity to review Feasts of Phantoms by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni, MD. 

While I did not provide a review for her first Novel, Our Mothers' Sore Expectations, I did have the fortune to read it. 

Feasts of Phatoms brings together Ayeni's passion, the study of the human spirit and the desire to out politcal and social injustices. While her first work Our Mothers' Sore Expectations focused on Nigerian political corruption and its effect on the cultural web that is Nigeria, Feasts of Phantoms examines the psycho-social aspect of genital mutilation through the character Iranti. 

Iranti, which means Memory heightens the readers awareness to the layering psychological and physical damage experienced by its victims. Ayeni christens the main character with the strength and fortitude she will require to surmout traumas. Iranti plays the survivor, champion and nurturer as duly expected (and required) to create the vehicle for the author's examination of the horrors that are the outgrowth of genital mutilation. 

It is a nod to Ayeni's medical expertise that her ability to relate the mutilation in clinical terms that keeps the reader from being overcome by the experiences. Because of the topic, and the physical complications and limitations placed on the heroine, Eros and other love relationships are given an opportunity to shine. The sister and familial love relationships are developed and examined, but most touching is Iranti's evolved love relationship with Depo, a beloved gay companion.

Ayeni delivers this quote mid-way through her most recent work, Feasts of Phantoms. "Even if a feeling has been made secret, even if it has vanished from memory, can it have disappeared altogether?" (Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones).

The quote which, in context, allows the central character, Iranti, to draw the corollaries between her personal experiences as a genital mutilation victim and as physician and savior while on the path to resolve her personal demons.

A review of this book cannot help but be complete without acknowledging Esho, Iranti's de facto mother. While a closing quote is used in the closing lines, it could easily have been used as a simile for Esho's life.

Feasts of Phantoms, her second work relating social and political issues in her native Nigeria, is welcomed and demonstrates her growth and mastery as a literary writer.

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Taught Me

I’m not a biographer of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (1938-1997) or a music critic, but Fela was a constant feature in the landscape of my youth; I don’t remember a time that Fela and his music, or that the names Ransome-Kuti or Anikulapo-Kuti were not parts of my life.

He started his musical career with Koola Lobitas (1964-1968) and then ‘Fela and the Nigerian 70,’ followed by ‘Fela and the African 70’ and later as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the Egypt 80.

My uncle was crazy about Fela’s music in the late 60s and ‘Alujoin join ku jon’ came to be my favorite, and even today, my psychoanalyst’s mind continues to try to make sense of the metaphor of that short story about animals.

Is it about our instincts, or is it about the undying loyalty of dogs? Is it about refusal to give up home and mother and emancipate oneself? In the song, there was a terrible famine in the land and every animal decided that they would kill and eat their mothers to stave off starvation, and in the meeting where this was decided, the dog agreed to the consensus, only for him to go and hide his mother in heaven, while the other animals killed and ate their mothers. And periodically, the dog would go visit his mother where he hid her in heaven.

That my mind would not rest on one interpretation to the song is because it is Proper Art— As Joseph Campbell said, “Proper art is of an esthetic object that renders wholeness, harmony and radiance. But art that excites desire for the object as a tangible object is pornography, because the relationship is not purely esthetic.” But, unfortunately those who didn’t want their children hanging around the Shrine, with all the activities of drug use culture saw Fela’s art and life as pornographic.

Fela was my hero as he was for a lot of people of my generation, and he was a celebrity that was accessible to everyone. He said it as it is. He stood up against oppressive authority as his mother, who dethroned an unjust king did before him.

Fela’s neologisms were quickly absorbed into the Yoruba language as well as the lingua franca of Nigeria, Pidgin English. Examples abound like ‘Zombie,’ ‘Suegbe,’ ‘Pako,’ ‘He miss road,’ ‘Monkey dey Work, Baboon dey Chop,’ ‘Jeun Koku,’ ‘Yellow Fever,’ ‘Shuferring and Smiling,’ ‘Opa fuka,’ amongst many others.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thoughts that Still Haunt Me

I think of them often: great things, small things, kind things and unkind things. I regret some of them, I am grateful for some of them, and with one of them I was lucky to be given a second chance. 

On the list is the kindness of my twin brother’s friends when we were teenagers. They nicknamed me Daisy. They are still my good friends.

I remember my ex-husband’s “thank you for your love” to me at a time that I had provoked anger in him, and he meant it—he wasn’t being sarcastic.

I remember being on a bus in Lagos and going by Tejuoso Market. A woman was giving birth at the bus stop, and people had gathered around to watch, though they gave her a wide berth. I was already a doctor, and I felt that I should stop to assist, so I asked the driver to stop. He ignored me; he didn’t want to stop in the middle of the chaos. I didn’t insist. I let him make the decision for me.

I remember the kindness of a newly formed acquaintance. I was pregnant with my daughter and he told me that I was very beautiful. I don’t remember his name anymore.

I remember at another time during my short sojourn in Lagos in my mid 20s. I was late for work and on another bus, we rode by Obalende and a young man was throwing up by the side of the road. He was very sick and emaciated. I didn’t do a thing.

I remember being given a second chance to help someone. I had gone to Igbo-Ora (Nigeria) for my rotation in public health in medical school with my classmates for six weeks.

I think it was my second week in Igbo-Ora and for some reasons that for the life of me, I cannot remember now, I was walking on the main road in the village at about 7.30 in the morning, it was a time that the children were walking to school.

There was a boy who had been crippled by polio on both legs and he had a pair of crutches to help him walk. He was about 9 years old but he had the frame of a six year old. He had become an expert on the crutches and was able to keep up with most of his peers. But he had outgrown the crutches by about three years. So he crouched almost to the ground as he waddled along.

I wondered why his parents haven’t been changing the crutches as he had been growing. I didn’t think it would cost them much. All they needed was to ask a local carpenter, and he could easily have carved a pair for them. I walked slowly behind him, and thought of going to talk to his parents, to educate them about his needs. I wanted to ask him for his name and where he lived. I was sure that I could afford to pay for a pair of crutches for him out of my allowance. I thought of all these but did nothing, and it tormented me for many years.

Five years later, I returned to Igbo-Ora for eight weeks as a resident doctor in public health, and though the young crippled boy had come to be part of my memory of the city, I didn’t look for him. But one day, I went to the market to give health education to the women, I saw him! And unbelievably, he was still on those same crutches. His crippled legs were the same size but his trunk was growing normally and so he crouched more, and the years of crouching was giving him a bent back, not exactly a hunch back but close to it.

I went to speak with him. He had dropped out of elementary school and was panhandling. I offered him a new pair of crutches as I explained to him that he outgrew the ones he had 8 years ago. He shrugged dismissively. I wanted to take him to the carpenters we both could see across from us in the market, so they could measure him and get him the proper crutches, but he’d rather I give him the money and he would take care of it himself. I refused to give him the money and so I bribed him; I would pay for the crutches and give him money for food.

The day the crutches were ready and the carpenter gave them to him, he stood up as straight as he could, though the years of crouching had left their mark. I was very happy, and I thanked him for accepting my gift as I handed him the money for food.
The carpenter felt that he was the one that should be grateful to me, but he didn’t know the years of torment that I had endured and that my gratitude was for a second chance.

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Afraponafra Bside said of Feasts of Phantoms

"I'm reading Feasts of Phantoms and it has quickly become one of my favorite books!
Such good storytelling and the author really helps you learn about life, Nigeria, and what it takes to persevere in the face of huge challenges. Thank you so much for this wonderful book."

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our Mothers Engorged Breasts

For Nigeria.

Our mothers engorged breasts, painful and full of milk?
Who will nurse at our mother’s engorged breasts to relieve her of the chills of fever from children Murdered?
What drains there of, of our mother’s bosom?
Poison it is, pain it is, sorrow it is, milk it is not.
Our mother stood regal and for the world her breasts displayed,
Coverlet of dignity? Shame her cloak.
She killed her babies from the sourness of her arrogance filled wells. Of diamond and of Petroleum, of cocoa and of palm oil, palm kernel, ivory and ebony,
And her children enslaved at home and abroad. The treasures of her chest run to ruin.
The primal of womanhood, for country and for honor?
Iya is gold! Iya is anguish!

She swings her ripe taunting and the poison thereof,
Sprayed her children from the Delta rich in poverty to the Deserts very poor in hope.
We will milk our mother’s full harvest the children wailed
We will milk them and feed on them and they will be beauty.
And our mothers name? We will relieve her chilled, engorged and painful breasts and she must not char us.

I am from the Ibibio group and I will hold your hand my brother from the Kembi group and we will cross over to nurse together to help our mothers fevered peaks of glory, and she has to give joy.

My brother Birun, my brother Hiji, and you my brother Kentu, we hold the world up with the pride between our thighs, forget not.
My sister is Ibo and she bleeds red blood from her warm springs of fertility. I too bleed red blood from my warm spring of fertility.
Laughter of children comes through her passage and my passage.
I will hold my sister’s hand, that my sister Hausa, and my sister Gwari and my sister Yako, with my sister Bolewa, and together we will cross over to our mother’s fury from the pain of her sorely taut expectations.

We will feed at her promises only,
Poison we will refuse. Milk we will suckle.
Giggle of Kanuri, of Egede, and of Yoruba princesses,
Prowess of the Edo, of the Arago, and of the Kare-Kare princes,
We will demand milk from our mother’s store of solace.

Mother there is a heart behind the left breast we will entreat her,
A heart full of blood and the forces of life.
The right breast is for nurture; it is not decay or desecration.

I will call to my brothers and sisters. Do you know my sisters and brothers? I will tell you my sisters and brothers names. Do you know my sister and brothers Adarawa? Manga? Kanuri? Bede? Fulani? Dakakari? Dukawa? Jaba? Seyawa? Margi? Kamuku? Bakakari? Gbari? Kadara? Koro? Fali? Angas? Busa? Kaje? Mada? Nupe? Bubu? Dimmuk? Arago? Basa? Shuwa Arab? Batta? Mumuye? Junkun? Chamba? Mambilla? Tiv? Igala? Idoma? Iyala? Yako? Ekoi? Boki? Ijaw? Itsekiri? Urhobo? Edo? Igbira?

Do you know us? Does our mother know our names? The delirium from her engorged painful annihilation erased the memories of our names. We will go to her and mine milk form her springs.

They are beautiful, our mothers breasts. The pride of a nation.
Evil within sealed our mothers delight, fear within her aching breasts.
In the pretenses of her children is the envy, in the guise of those my brothers and sisters
With names earned from the depth of wrenching history,
The brothers and sisters whose names I know.
Mother gave birth to us in writhing terror, and we
Her children refused to nurse at her wealth.
Malice to go, it must, so milk can flow from mothers’ fountain of anticipations.
Despair in the ominous looks of lying helpers,
Hopelessness in masks of dancing deceit, identities in blaming music.

Mother finally spoke through her feverish parched lips.
Children must account, children mine you must make restitutions.
The milk will not flow until you expiate, only poison and pain and anguish and misery will erupt.

Children you engorge where you should share.
Children you bite when you should suckle.
Children you rape where you should cherish.
Children, with guns and swords and machete you come at me,
Not to cleanse, but to vanquish.
In toil, and humility, in labor with sickles, in sacrifices
With sweat, tears and blood, you must atone.
And she falls from her conceited stance. Accountability.
(Excerpt from ‘Our Mothers Sore Expectations’ by Kehinde Ayeni. Jay Street Publishers 2006)

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What People Are Saying About Feasts of Phantoms

Mary Ellen Clifford (Ann Arbor) on 1/5/10.

"I have just finished reading your novel, which I found very moving, thought provoking and hopeful about what the human can bear and recover from. Phantoms in the mind are surely alive in all of us.... I have passed it on to my sister. I have two sisters and I am sure they will both want to read it. I hope you continue your writing and that this novel gets a wide circulation! Thank you so much."

Linda Barrow Ikponmwosa on 1/21/10

"Feasts of Phantoms by Kehinde Ayeni is a brilliant book and a must read for everyone. The book caught my attention from the first page and was really hard putting it down. I enjoyed the lessons of life as told by the author and it truly was an eye opening experience for me reading about the lives of generations of women . . . makes me want to do better things and achieve more. Thumbs up."

"Kehinde Ayeni, I had such a wonderful experience reading your book Feasts of Phantoms. I especially enjoyed the Yoruba proverbs and how Iranti would relate them to her experiences. It's filled with such rich cultural inferences. You really did a great job.

"I am curious though, is this story about real experiences cause I was just blown away by the fact that Esho was raped by her own father... these stories are stuff we only hear about here in the US, I know about the female circumcision and the tons of young girls living in the north who have to live with these afflictions through no faults of theirs.

"However, I know that in our culture, folks do not speak up against such atrocities so they could well be happening but no one wants to talk or do anything about it. I went through different emotions reading the book, sometimes I would be close to tears and at other times smiling and grinning from ear to ear."

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni
-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For the Very First Time

The other day I was trying to describe what it was like for me when my daughter left for college to some acquaintances and one of them cut me off with, “Its empty nest syndrome. It happens to everyone.”

I felt robbed, and we all kept quiet because we had to find something else to talk about. I know that from the dawn of humanity, people have been sending their children off to college or its equivalents, so my experience wasn’t unique but at the same time it was special to me because it was my experience, and it was my first time.

Why are we so eager to box things up, label them and dismiss them? I know that in some ways it allays our anxieties, and we hope it decreases the amount of the unknown that we have to contend with, in a world that constantly throws the unexpected at us.

But what is wrong with new experiences or re-experiencing the old as if it was new, seeing the same things through fresh eyes? Why couldn’t my acquaintance let me talk about what it was like for me to send my daughter off to college, why did she have to short circuit it and dismiss me?

It made me think of the times that I had seen things as if for the very first time, or see the same old things through fresh eyes.

When I turned 45 and tried to renew my driver’s license, I failed the reading part of the test because I had become short sighted. I spent my birthday morning at the optometrist and was fitted with my first pair of eyeglasses, driving home on that sunny summer day, everything looked bright and clear, especially the edges of the tiny leaves on the trees. Everything was so sharp!

Another time, I was leaving Sam’s Club and was behind a Chinese family with a four-year-old boy, his grandparents, his parents and a baby sister. The four year old saw himself in the security television and became very excited. He pointed to himself, jumped up and down with glee and made faces for the camera. His family joined in his joy, a part of it, which made the experience richer for him. I couldn’t help joining in and imagining what it must feel like to see yourself on a TV screen for the very first time.

Some twenty years ago, my 23 years old maid came from a remote village in Nigeria to work for me in Lagos. A week after she arrived we crossed the bridge to Lagos Island, and for the first time in her life she saw the lagoon. She howled, ‘Ewoooooooooooooooooooo.’ She was both stunned and amazed at the same time. And I too, though I had seen the lagoon and the ocean a zillion times, I was able to see it anew and for the first time through her eyes.

It was the feeling that I had when driving on Ohio turnpike, my first fall in a temperate climate in 1993 and the Appalachian mountain abloom with the changing colors of leaves looked like a giant bouquet of flowers to me. I had quoted aloud, “To wonder is to worship.”

This is the feeling I get each year at the first snow, and each spring at the budding leaves, blooming flowers and the colorful birds. It makes me want to take my camera with me when I go on my walks. It is also the feeling of the hot sun on my skin when summer returns.

I want to remove ‘seen that, been there, done that,’ from my language, because have we really? And I want to be able to welcome everything that comes my way with joy as if I am seeing it for the very first time.

Feasts of Phantoms
a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni

-- ISBN 978-0981393926
Available your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.