Excitement and anticipation for Elnathan John’s debut novel, Born on a Tuesday, is building ahead of its formal release by Cassava Republic Press on November 12. The title has been trending on social media, following an informal pre-launch reading in Abuja organised by the author, using the hashtag #elnathansBOAT, with members of the Nigerian twitterati such as Omojuwa and Chioma Chuka in attendance.
Born on a Tuesday has already been gathering advance praise, with Taiye Selasi, the celebrated author of best-seller Ghana Must Go noting that “Anyone seeking to peer beyond the media’s portrayals of Boko Haram must read this book, not because it offers a hopeful account but because it offers a human one.”
Uzodinma Iweala, whose book, Beasts of No Nation, has just been released as a major Hollywood movie, commented: “Elnathan John’s first novel is an ambitious book that tackles modern Nigeria’s extremely complex religious landscape with great insight, passion and humour by taking us deep into the mental and emotional space of the country’s most neglected.”
Publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf explains:
“Born on a Tuesday is the beguiling story of a young almajari boy, Dantala, who runs away from home and takes up residence in a mosque. Dantala slowly embraces the Salafism preached by his new benefactor, and become increasingly involved in the extremist politics of the northwest. It is a stunning read, told from the deceptively simple perspective of the young boy. We’re incredibly excited to be publishing this unique and refreshing tale, which provides a fascinating perspective on life in the northwest of Nigeria, giving voice to an often disregarded aspect of Nigerian society. I hope this will open up writing from the North to other Nigerians and to the world.”
Abuja-based author Elnathan John stated that:
“My hope in writing this novel has always been that it that it will add colour to the monochrome that northern Nigeria seems to be in the media, to start a conversation and open a door to spaces, some dark, some uncomfortable. And it means a lot to me that this book will first be available in Nigeria.”
Elnathan will be discussing his book on two public panels at the Lagos Book and Art Festival on November 14: “What’s Eating the North: politics, culture and relationships in writing from Northern Nigeria” at 1 p.m. at the Goethe-Institut, moderated by Kadaria Ahmed; and “Writing a New Nigeria: Representations of Nigeria in contemporary fiction and poetry at 4pm at Freedom Park.” There will also be a launch party hosted at the Bogobiri Lounge in Ikoyi on Friday, November 13. To obtain tickets for the launch party, see Eventbrite. To pre-order copies of the book, visit Cassava Republic.
Born on a Tuesday (N2000) will be available from www.cassavarepublic.biz and at retail stores throughout Nigeria from November 12. International editions will follow in 2016, from Cassava Republic (UK) in April; Grove Atlantic Press (USA) in May, and a French translation from Galaade Éditions (Paris) in August 2016.
Publication date: November 12, 2015; ISBN: 978-978-950-664-4; Price: N2000
Genre: Literary fiction Pages: 263
About the author
Elnathan John is a Nigerian writer, and one of Nigeria’s most well-known satirists. He has twice been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing (2013 & 2015). His writing has been published in Per Contra, Evergreen Review and Chimurenga’s The Chronic. He is a 2015 Civitella Ranieri Fellow and lives in Abuja, Nigeria.
Dantala’s story begins in the fictional backwater called Bayan Layi, away from the capital of Nigeria’s only legally recognised caliphate, Sokoto. He is introduced as a naive but fast-learning Quranic student in a Sufi Quranic school, far away from his parents. Very quickly after the end of his schooling, by happenstance, he is introduced to the leader of a small urban street gang, Banda, a nominal Muslim who lives on the fringes. Banda’s gang was often used as an example of how not to be a Muslim by Dantala’s now erstwhile teacher, Malam Junaidu. For the first time, Dantala is thrust into a world with fluid rules, away from the strict control of family or religion. The exigencies of the 2003 presidential elections push him to violence as an associate of Banda. In an armed response the police chase down the members of the gang and Banda slumps after getting shot. Running away to a different town, still reeling from the trauma of the events in Bayan Layi, he stumbles into a mosque situated at the motor park where he intends to find a vehicle to head home to his mother.
Although the proprietors of this mosque are Salafi, he is overwhelmed by their warmth and hospitality and decides to join them after meeting his mother and discovering she is suffering from a debilitating ailment. Slowly and through the hurdles of adolescence, he embraces Salafism as preached by his new benefactor, Sheikh Jamal. Sheikh has a deputy, Abdul Nur, a brilliant but stern convert from Ilorin, whose interpretations of Salafist principles become increasingly literal and conservative. Abdul Nur’s Christian brother, Jibril, arrives from Ilorin to be taken care of by his brother, grudgingly converts to Islam and becomes Dantala’s closest friend. Together, they navigate the murky waters where religion, politics and power converge, bonding over language classes – Dantala teaches Jibril Arabic while Jibril teaches him English – as well as vices and dark secrets.
Dantala falls in love with Sheikh’s daughter, Aisha, and tries to court her within the acceptable limits of a conservative Muslim setting. All the while, Sheikh struggles to deal with growing jihadist extremism within his own ranks. In the midst of the complexities of culture, religion and politics, Dantala adopts a simple, but practical non-philosophical approach to life and his relationships. Through tragedy and brotherhood, Dantala comes of age in arguably the most turbulent period of contemporary Northern Nigerian history.
“Elnathan John’s beautifully written novel is a moving and deeply felt debut from a writer of prodigious talent.” — Petina Gappah, author of The Book of Memory.
“[…] Elnathan John has penned a coming of age novel worthy of Twain. At times tragic, at times humorous, Born on a Tuesday is the story of those who find the courage to transcend violence even when born to its confines.”— Elliot Ackerman, author of Green on Blue.
“Elnathan John delves into the minutiae, the small beginnings of larger realities confronting our world today. This is the Northern Nigerian narrative we have been waiting for. It will stand as a testimony to these times.” — Molara Wood, literary critic and author of Indigo.