Background: Yellowish wood
Title Font: Italicized cursive
Cover image: A smooth illustration of a woman’s face, with folds of hair, treated eyebrows, a straight nose and small lips in side view. The long neck depicts Alaere in the novel, but this might not work as placed in the book.
The first chapter on page 4; paragraph 2 points:
I accepted my ugliness the way I accepted my name, Alaere. My parents did not indulge me and whenever I brought up the topic of my appearance, my mother would wave me away dismissively and my father would say what he always said, that we don’t get what we want in life and it is better to roll with the punches.
The above also appears honest; the sort of honesty that is not usually associated with book characters like Alaere. Eriye Onagoruwa has showed reality and truthfulness in this manner of truth-telling in fiction that it seems like an autobiography.
Dear Alaere, 18 chapters, each starting with ‘Dear Diary’, follows the life of this young, tech, modern woman, Alaere, whose background glitters from the first chapter to the last. Most times, stories about women do not surface, but when stories like Alaere’s come, they come with both a new and an old style jammed into one. The author’s particular care on writing about Alaere shows not just depth, but beauty. Alaere is synonymous to most young women coming into Lagos to find their ways. At first, Alaere’s new Lagos life was not something I wanted to read through. I am mostly not interested in Lagos stories, but this came differently- in a way that I felt Alaere was my friend or my sister or my aunt. I think that is what literature does, and Eriye has given us that power and freedom to allow words threaded into pages to affect us or change our directions towards choice.
Nevertheless, the author’s own power to describe Lagos is also magical.
Chapter 3; page 31; paragraph 2:
As always, the drive to Lagos Island is riveting. A vivid illustration of the raw energy behind the city. The yellow bus drivers act as if they have a daily pact with suicide. It always feels like I am inside an arcade game and not a highway, where every move you make puts you at the risk of death. There is also the ingenious graffiti on the walls which always captivates my attention.
This goes on and on and to the extent you realize that Eriye’s writing is full of descriptions that glueyou. The paragraph above sees Lagos and what its mobility problems look like even without knowing Lagos.
There is a form of description that follows almost all pages.
There is also the part of love and marriage. And while we do not always want to see it appear as cliché in African literature, Eriye does not capitalize on them, and in a way that it does not try to define the entire story line. There is a general focus on all thematic structures that is contained in the agenda of the entire story.
Eriye’s story of Alaere is a collection of a woman’s Lagos life. There is this exploration of city life, love, family, career, work life, that we all are in the middle of but might not have met in a book. The strongest parts of the entire story are found in the events that surround Alaere’s womanhood.
Dear Alaere– is published by Paperworth Books and is out in August 1st.
About Eriye Onagoruwa:
Born in Canada and raised in Nigeria, she is a lawyer who works as an energy executive with an oil and gas experience. She writes for the Guardian Nigeria and This Day Newspapers.
She lives in Lagos, Nigeria