BOOK REVIEW: “George’s Pieces of Me” by Tomi Adesina
TITLE: George’s Pieces of Me
AUTHOR: Tomi Adesina
GENRE: Poetry and short stories
NUMBER OF PAGES: 75
PUBLISHER: Woworx Limited
DATE OF PUBLICATION: August 8, 2017
REVIEWER: Shoola Oyindamola
Ever since I encountered Tolu Akinyemi’s books, especially You Father Works Like a Crab and Seun Lari William’s Garri for Breakfast, I have been intrigued by the use of poetry to tell stories. When people think of poetry, it is easy to only think of it as art that proposes an idea or a concept rather than tell stories.
Relatively, I have many memories of my grandmother singing folk songs to my sister and I, when we sat at the staircase to the house entrance in the evenings. She would give us Egunje (meaning candy) and even when she told folk tales, or when my mother read from a Yoruba folklore textbook to us, in between, they voiced songs that said part of the stories.
The poetry in Tomi Adesina’s George’s Pieces of Me took me home. Unlike in many anthologies with disconnected poems, using 19 pages of Book 1 in George’s Pieces of Me, Tomi tells the story of a lover right from birth, through loss and to death.
This is not the kind of book that hits you until your mouth open’s agape to its most extensive length; it is one that you just enjoy yet, desire more of and won’t forget.
Despite telling stories, Tomi Adesina’s poems did not lack the poeticness they needed. With subtle but vivid imagery, she also lures the reader to jump into their conclusions before leading them home to her plot. What strikes me the most is the cross-interpretation that her poems entertain.
For example, in a poem titled Akobi, she writes:
It was the first time I’d hear Jemimah
Scream so loudly
I held on to her hand
Tighter than ever before
I was not letting go.
Fear. Excitement. Pain.
I was confused and afraid
I felt like a monster
The day we had waited for all our lives
Was slowly turning into a nightmare.
Except if you interpret the title Akobi as Firstborn, you would be thinking and imagining the same thing as I did, when I first read this part of the poem. Through the storyline of these poems, one vital lesson about love that I took away is that love is empathy and it is way beyond sympathy when there is a real and emotional dedication to our significant others. Love isn’t only “I feel for you,” but it is: “I feel you, and I feel what you feel.”
In Book 2 inside George’s Pieces of Me, Tomi Adesina switches to short stories. In addition to the art of her work for interested readers, I believe that she has used great writing techniques that many developing writers can learn from. This book is as important to writers all over as it is to readers.
The first technique is building the characters in her stories. Tomi Adesina distinguishes herself by detailing her characters to paint certain imageries in the readers’ heads before proceeding to tell the events around them. Sometimes, she does this at the beginning of the story, other times, she does it in the middle.
Second, the code mix in Tomi Adesina’s stories was well employed. From the stories especially, one would realize that code-mixing isn’t limited to the use of sentences or phrases but even names. Using names in one’s traditional language plays a significant role in cultural representation.
Third, Tomi Adesina used a lot of in medias res in her short stories. Unlike the formal structure of storytelling that we have been taught; Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution, Tomi begins a lot with the Climax of her stories then with references, brings us back to the Exposition of her story towards the Resolution.
For example, in a letter titled Dear Nonso on page 55 of George’s Pieces of Me, Tomi begins with,
“I got a new oven. You didn’t fix the old one before you left. You swore to me that you would. Well, I had to get a new one, just so I could bake your cake…”
Fourth, Tomi Adesina’s use of diverse perspectives in storytelling is well done. She doesn’t limit herself to the lenses of the main character in evaluating or interpreting the circumstances of stories but allows other minor character’s perspective to be known, and in some cases, matter enough to bring a resolution in the plot.
For example, in a story titled Saving Tejiri on page 79, she writes of a corper named Folakemi who was determined to help a reluctant man, Tejiri, imprisoned unjustly, to get out of jail. After much thought and a short period of frustration, Folakemi, the main character realizes that her perspective was not what mattered to get Tejiri out of jail but that of the witness who fled at the apparent crime scene.
As writers and thinkers, it is essential that we continuously ask ourselves: what’s the perspective that everyone else is missing but is important?
This question reminds me of a folktale my mother once read to me. It is about a king who, when about to die, stated that all his properties belonged to his beloved slave while his only son should only be given a chance to take one thing of the properties. After several days of thinking, on the day of the coronation, when the slave was going to be crowned, the king’s son came forward sure of his one request. The king’s son said he wanted to own his father’s beloved slave. This perspective was hidden to unwise eyes. With wisdom, the king’s son realized that if he owned the slave, he owned all that the slave had, including the crown, the kingdom and all his father’s inheritance.
In addition to the tactics that many writers can learn from Tomi Adesina’s books is the use of sentimental values that has been adopted to many parts of George’s Pieces of Me. When you read enough of a writer’s work with keen eyes, you will find what is important to them in their daily experiences. Two recurring themes and concepts in most of Tomi Adesina’s works are Home and Love. Many of her stories talked about leaving or coming home, physically and metaphorically; sometimes by death. The essence of home, however, was revealed continuously through the eyes of those who deeply loved and cared for their significant others in their sojourn to and fro this world. I am very curious to know what home means to Tomi Adesina.
What, who, when or where means home to you, Tomi Adesina?