“Hajiya Binta Zabairu was finally born at fifty-five when a dark-lipped rogue with short, spiky hair, like a field miniscule anthills, scaled her fence and landed, boots and all, in the puddle that was her heart”.
Set in northern Nigeria, this story is suppose to be about Hajiya Binta and her forbidden affair with ‘Reza’, a twenty something year old drug dealer and political thug’. But to me, it was much more than that. It was about a woman, a mother, a widow, who was married off at a young age, endured a loveless marriage and a culture that did not allow her be a mother to her first son, to protect him when she knew he had gone astray or even call him by his given name. It was about a woman who suffered trauma from the loss of her husband who was brutally killed in a religious war but was still able to have room in her heart to care for her niece Fa’iza who had also suffered trauma by watching her father and her brother killed and her grandchild Ummi. It was about “Reza”, a boy abandoned by his mother and plagued with anger and bitterness for her which led him in a dangerous path that shaped his life and the end of it. It is a story that tells many stories. Nigerian politics and how dirty it can get, the corruption in the Nigeria Police Force, and the way religion and culture dictates how we are to live and breathe. This book can also be categorized as a sort of historical fiction because it gave numerous accounts of Nigerian history of the ‘time’ and it was refreshing to read about things I learnt growing up and some events I actually remember when they took place.
I wasn’t sure if what transpired between Hajiya Binta and Reza was just love or even lust. What I know is that Hajiya Binta discovered herself in this relationship on many levels. It seemed to me that apart from finally experiencing ‘Love making” as it should be after being treated like a piece of meat by her late husband and I quote from the book,”Two nights later, when he was tossing and turning on the bed next to her, she knew he would nudge her with his knee and she would have to throw her legs open. He would lift her wrapper, spit into her crotch and mount her. His calloused fingers would dig into the mounds on her chest and he would bite his lower lip to prevent any moan escaping. She would count slowly under her breath, her eyes closed of course. And somewhere between sixty and seventy – always between sixty and seventy – he would grunt, empty himself and roll off her until he was ready to go again. Zubairu was a practical man and fancied their intimacy as an exercise in conjugal frugality. It was something to be dispensed with promptly, without silly ceremonies “, she also saw her son, Yaro, in Reza and hoped to do for him the things she was never allowed to do for her son, to save him from himself. The emotions I think she had for Reza couldn’t just be described as just ‘romantic’ love but a mixture of several feelings beyond their secret rendezvous together.
I didn’t like how the story ended. I had hoped for more. I had hoped that Hajiya Binta and Reza would finally be free, free to be who they really wanted to be without being judged, stigmatized or abused. I had hoped that Reza would have gone back to school and made something better of his life. I had hoped that Hajiya Binta didn’t have to bury another child and suffer yet more loss. In the end, society won, culture won, religion won! This book was so well written and I enjoyed reading it very much even when the author didn’t give me the ending I would have liked. ‘Season of Crimson Blossoms’ is a book you would want to read. I recommend it but I give it 4 stars because I didn’t get my happily ever after…..
Published: January, 2016 by Parresia Publishers limited
Genre: Fiction/African Literature
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The Author: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (born 1979) is a Nigerian creative writer and journalist. His debut short-story collection The Whispering Trees was long-listed for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Ibrahim has won the BBC African Performance Prize and the ANA Plateau/Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. He is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013), a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). In 2014 he was selected for the Africa39 list of writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature, and was included in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara (ed. Ellah Allfrey). He was a mentor on the 2013 Writivism programme and judged the Writivism Short Story Prize in 2014. He was chair of judges for the 2016 Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize. His first novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, was published in 2015 by Parrésia Publishers in Nigeria and by Cassava Republic Press in the UK (2016). Season of Crimson Blossoms was shortlisted in September 2016 for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s largest literary prize. It was announced on 12 October 2016 that Ibrahim was the winner of the $100,000 prize. Ibrahim was the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award.