John who, over the years, has built a huge reader base— thanks to his satirical writing [read here]—said on Twitter that the novel took him a few years to write and that he was excited to share the work with his fans.
With Born on a Tuesday, John breaks away from his signature satirical mode. The novel takes a searing look at a cultural phenomenon, the misuse of which has been linked to the political unrest in the Northern parts of Nigeria—the Almajiri, male children “sent out of the family to go into the world to get a religious (Islamic) education.” Born on a Tuesday (which has been lovingly nicknamed #ElnathansBoat on social media) tells the coming of age story of an almajiri boy named Dantala who finds himself caught up in an increasingly radicalized Islamic community. Set in the northern parts of Nigeria, the novel offers a rare glimpse into an underrepresented side of contemporary life in Nigeria.
A chorus of high-profile novelists have had very nice things to say about the novel.
The novel comes highly recommended by Taiye Selasi who calls it a must-read: “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 lauds the book as an ambitious attempt to “tackle modern Nigeria’s extremely complex religious landscape with great insight, passion and humor by taking us deep into the mental and emotional space of the country’s most neglected.”
Petinah Gappah praises John’s “prodigious talent” and remarks that the novel is “beautifully written,” “moving,” and “deeply felt.”
John’s publisher sees the novel as a much needed intervention within the broader context of Nigerian literary history. Born on a Tuesday, alongside Ibrahim Abubakar’s Crimson Blossoms (also from Cassava Republic), is a welcome disruption of a history of the anglophone Nigerian novel that has been dominated by stories about the southern and largely Christian parts of the country. As Bibi Bakare sees it, Born on a Tuesday “opens up writing from the North to other Nigerians and to the world.”
For John himself, Dantala’s story is one that needed to be told. “My hope in writing this novel,” he says “has always been that it that it will add color 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.”
The novel is set for global distribution, with UK, US, and French editions already in the works.
Congrats to John for the publication of his debut novel! We can’t wait to read it.
You can buy Born on a Tuesday here.
A series of well-attended events have been organized to promote the book. The next one takes place on December 9th in Abuja. It’s a chance for John’s fans to hear him do readings and talk about the novel and his writing. See details here. Follow John on Twitter —@elnathan— for updates on upcoming events.