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Akinlabi Peter
Amanda Sington-Williams
A M Gatward
Ayat Ghanem
Bobby Parker
Chuma Nwokolo, Jr.
Dike Okoro
E C Osondu
Katie Metcalfe
Laura Solomon
Mandy Pannett
Michael Larrain
Oge Anyahuru
Terri Ochiagha
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu



Reviewer: DIKE OKORO

Title: Letters to the Grammarians: Some Memories of Growing Up

Author: by Dipo Kalejaiye

Publisher: (Lanham: Hamilton Books 2008)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7618-3830-2

In this collection of nine letters addressed to former high school classmates, Maryland, USA based Nigerian author Dipo Kalejaiye attempts to present to readers the topography of many relationships he shared during his high schools days in postcolonial Nigeria of the mid 1960s.


      Humor, laughter, and nostalgia flood the many letters collected here. In “A Letter to Allan Parker,” the author, speaking in the first person, conjures memories and reminisces over moments, both happy and sad, he treasured with friends. “Yes, I remember now. You liked to sing songs by The Beatles. Well, I am not here to accuse you of anything. Your singing was fine, but when you sang no one could stop you” (1), the author states. For those that belong to the author’s generation, memories such as the one captured here will immediately reconnect them to other childhood moments they shared jokes at liberty and enjoyed the company of friends or roommates in the dormitory. Perhaps readers, especially those from the present generation in Nigeria and elsewhere, may have experienced similar moments, since the dynamics of human behavior are often symptomatic irrespective of ethnicity or race.


      I enjoyed reading this book for many reasons. The author’s diction and his occasional diversion into folktales, jokes, serious incidents and songs tied to Nigerian oral tradition made reading pleasurable for me. I also learned from him the usual cases of using unforgettable incidents to locate the weakness in human actions. This was what I learnt when he recalled the case of the boy named Tormentor, who had denied his own mother the day she came to school to look for him, since he was ashamed that one of his mother’s legs was shorter than the other. As a result of which the author dubbed him Judas and he never spoke to the author again. But even then, somewhere in the same letter, the author finds it useful to pay tribute to the same friend who he stopped talking to, as he remembers that the same friend taught him Sigidi, a Yoruba incantation.

      For all its overflow of memorable moments and times, this book also borders on the rich impact the reading culture on the lives of African high school children in Anglophone African society following the independence years, using Nigeria as an example. The author cites such books as Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet, as some of the books he devoured to augment his interest in literature and improve his vocabulary as he prepared for literature exams.


      Overall, this book will leave a lasting impression on the mind of any reader, for its highlights are the numerous vignettes and anecdotes meant to surprise, enchant, puzzle, and educate. Family, friendships, and coming of age tales are the chief building blocks in the numerous stories Kalejaiye assembled in his letters. And without reservation, I am satisfied with his narratives because they are important chapters from his life that make the narrative form into a range of experimental writing based on recollections. This is why the significance of these letters and their stories lie in the sincerity and memory of their author.  SLQ


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Dike Okoro, PhD, is a professor of world literature/creative writing at Olive-Harvey College, Chicago, USA. Okoro obtained both his MFA in creative writing and MA in African American Literature from Chicago State University. His poetry collection, Dance of the Heart, was published by Malthouse/ABC Books in 2007. He is the editor of three anthologies of poetry and one selection of contemporary short stories from Africa (Trenton: AWP, forthcoming). As a scholar, he has contributed essays/chapters to Dictionary of Literary Biography: African Writers Series (Detroit: Broccoli Clark Layman 2010) and Emerging Voices of Post Colonial African Literature (New York: Cambria Press 2010).






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