Today I Choose Joy is life-affirming poetry and a short-story anthology from thirty-seven contributors of diverse backgrounds and ages; from experienced poet and literary promoters like Jide Badmus to fresh, hopeful voices like Praise Ebirim and Victoria Otti.
The writers, each in unique style, share what it means to thrive in spite of adverse situations. In the editor’s note, Badmus describes the work as ‘a catalogue of battles and hard-won victories,’ one he decided to collate upon the unfortunate, successive untimely demises of some writers by suicide. The entire work is the light beam in the dark, a nod of recognition, a hug of ‘you’re not alone,’ a morale booster to the struggling friend or stranger on the verge of giving up and applause to survivors for bravely holding on.
The anthology offers a sincere look into the untalked-of fights and wins of many – the school leaver who is presumed not to have a care, the preacher who is thought invincible, and the ever-cheerful guy that seemingly has it all together. It levels with the reader and lends a much-needed voice to the fight against stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
Arguably, not all pieces in the collection are fully developed, but it can be agreed that each writer portrays an admirable will to survive; some in the form of self-realizing proclamations:
‘I will listen to things said and unsaid. For joy lies in them all’ (P.18)
‘I choose joy not because I don't have troubles’ (P.19)
‘To be human is to understand that life is going to meet you with circumstances that will bury you deep within yourself, things that will hurt too much to acknowledge, people who will fumble so deep with the way you feel.’ (P.20)
When you read as many as thirty-seven pieces, each written with eloquent openness and intimacy, it is hard, if not unfair, to decide on a best; but as with any other work of art, some pieces in this anthology are undeniably, more compelling. The use of imagery in the short story, I Can Fly (P.21) keeps the reader completely engrossed, rooting for Onome’s victory. The poem, Joy: How I Tame Fire into Light (P.34) speaks of the writer’s thoughts of wars and violence, the failed state of the nation, everyday survival and his choice to be joyful, but it begs the real-life questions: Is choosing joy really as easy as writing it? What happens when one tries but fails at being happy?
Today, I Choose Joy is not without flaws, like errors in punctuation, presumptions, and lack of depth in a few pieces. Still, its pronounced job in health advocacy and a more subtle one in tackling ageism with its choice of contributors is to be commended. The collection does more than engage; it educates and opens the reader’s eyes to the truth, and may even guide the reader into introspection for a happier, healthier life.