Tola Rotimi Abraham’s heartbreaking and incendiary debut BLACK SUNDAY follows the subsequent splintering apart of an entire family over the course of twenty years in Nigeria, narrating separately — subtly against the backdrop of the recent history of the city itself — each sibling’s fraught search for agency, love, and meaning in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life
by Tola Rotimi Abraham
Twin sisters and eldest siblings Bibike and Ariyike, along with their two younger brothers, are enjoying a comfortable, relatively privileged life in 1996 Lagos. Until their mother loses her job thanks to political strife and their family, in its desperation, gets swept up into the New Church —a Pentecostal church focused on money, blind faith, and winning. When their family’s patriarch wages their house on a ‘sure bet’ that evaporates like smoke, the twins’ mother abandons them and their brothers, and then their father follows suit. Bibike, Ariyike, Andrew and Peter are suddenly thrust into poverty as they’re reluctantly raised by their traditional Yoruban grandmother.
At the core of BLACK SUNDAY is really the story of the twins desperately trying to uncover the shape of truth in world hellbent on lies. Inseparable while they still have their parents and creature comforts, the twins’ paths diverge once their nuclear family shatters and each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. As Abraham brings Lagos to life, in a voice rife with wry, timeless poeticism, BLACK SUNDAY reveals a tale of grace and connection amidst daily oppression, of two young women slowly finding their own distinct methods of resistance, paths to independence, and brands of faith in the face of a constant battering —sexual, spiritual, and otherwise— from an entrenched and unremitting patriarchy. A society which compromises just as it fetes its men, too, as seen from their brothers’ eventually waning perspectives. But more than survival in the face of adversity or faith in the face of injustice, more even than the pull to remain in a country unforgivingly and yet irrefutably home, BLACK SUNDAY is a book concerned with examining, as you’ll see, the very nature of storytelling itself.
Tola Rotimi Abraham is a fiction and nonfiction writer from Lagos, Nigeria. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa and the International Writing Program. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Catapult, The Des Moines Register, The Nigerian Literary Magazine and other places. She is 33 years old and a Nigerian citizen in the US on a student visa.