Black Boy Review

A Portrait of two Gay Nigerian Men


August, an ostensibly quirky boy, grows up in a house with exuberant sisters, an apathetic father, and no mother. In that loss, his mother’s loss, a loss he never knew yet knew so well, he asks questions: personal, pensive questions. A loss that forms him and patches guilt on his skin. 

Segun, mildly coddled and expressive, the only child of his fiercely opinionated parents, is born into a middle-class family under the tension of the torrid political atmosphere in Nigeria. 

Though these two men are nuances apart from each other, they are enmeshed in passionate bliss, confronting their frailties: August finds Segun’s comfort in his skin threatening, yet, it is what pulls him to Segun. Segun, on the other hand, is unwilling to open himself fully to be loved by August. 

Even though homophobia (both internalized and general) steers through the circuit of their love story, the Nigerian legal system finds its way to heighten it more. The anti-gay law is passed, and they struggle to prevail in a country with plans to flush them away. 

The author, Ani Kayode Somtochukwu, weaves strong themes and asks unflinching yet moving questions, making us, the readers, cogitate deeply on this story. From the theme of class struggles and political upheaval in Segun’s household, unfamiliar loss and formation in August’s household, a revelry of queerness in their sense of self, homophobia (systemic and individual), the power of books and how they bond us, love and the labyrinthine journey of it, activism and rebellion. 

Ani makes use of gentle language throughout the story. The sentences make the scenes shine. Evocative. Poignant. Brilliant. This novel is a masterpiece and a stunning debut. I must commend Ani for his bravery to tell this story, which is not just a letter to queer Nigerians (and queer people all over the world) assuring them that they are safe, but an act of resistance in this homophobic country. 

This book will make you think, swirl your emotions, pull you apart, and take you by surprise. 

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