The Bookaholic Club

The rain went pitter-patter against the windshield, and gloomy clouds hung overhead. It was the perfect weather for reading—thematic, given that I was en route to the Maiden Edition of The Bookaholic Meetup. Book clubs are a delight, discussing literature in a relaxed setting, gushing over and cussing out fictional characters in equal measure, what’s not to love? A rather millennial pastime, their meetings present an opportunity to connect with other book lovers and deep-dive into selected reading. Hosted at Café One, Palms Mall on the 30th of June, 2024, this gathering brought together a community of writers, professionals, creatives, corps members, and students to delve into one of the most critically acclaimed Nigerian novels in recent years: 2022’s ‘Tomorrow I Become a Woman’ by Aiwanose Odafen.

Spanning three decades against the backdrop of post-Civil War Nigeria, the book in many ways is a poignant catalogue of womanhood, a tragedy like few others. Building on highly memorable characters, it weaves a story of human fragility, devastating loss, and hollow triumph. And yet it is a celebration of all that makes us strong—love, growth, and self-discovery. A deeply profound story drawing on rich Igbo culture and the weight of societal expectations, it’s bound to leave readers spellbound. Inspired by stories of women around her, Odafen’s literary debut leaves little to chance, tackling subjects many experienced authors wouldn’t poke with a stick.

Following warm introductions, the discussion predictably shifted to an emotionally charged tone. And after all, how could they do that to Uju? Mama, Gozie… everyone. There were various opinions, invariably tending towards the gender-based violence on display in the book, and indeed the deep-rooted patriarchy laid bare in print. Odafen held up a mirror to our society, and we grimaced at the reflection. During the gathering, attendees passionately discussed the role of feminism in our society. They openly shared personal encounters with gender inequality, reflecting on the harm perpetuated by harmful traditions, and empathising with the struggles of the beloved protagonist, Obianuju. The religious themes in the novel were also debated, with some questioning the role of religious institutions in enabling domestic abuse. This topic also proved an iceberg, with issues raised on the intersection of Sunnah and caution against innovation, as advocated by some circles. The conversation concluded with participants proferring solutions to domestic violence, and indeed acknowledging the difficulty in leaving abusive relationships, the insidious conditioning that could lead one to believe they deserved less, and the role of therapy in breaking through the inhibitions and trauma that came with years of abuse.

The hotlines of the Oyo State Rapid Response Team on Gender-Based Violence, a division of the State’s Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Inclusion are 08038949885 and 08061644188.

During the event, Omotola Falola, the manager of Café One, Ibadan addressed the Bookaholic Club on the collaboration between the club and Café One, and indeed, the role of Sterling Bank as a financier. She went on about the quality of the coffee and snacks (which this writer can cosign), and the ambience of the café, potentiating its utility as a working space. Excitingly, she hinted at plans for speed dating events at Café One.  Perhaps you just might discover your nerdy soulmate amidst the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the heady rustle of pages!

In conversation, Olubusayo Makinde was effervescent. An environmentalist and content creator, she loves to read—especially African literature. The Bookaholic Club arose from a market gap so to speak. Moving from Lagos where she’d been a member of two book clubs to Ibadan four years ago, she’d been surprised at the notable absence of a book club, seeking to remedy that by starting the Bookaholic Club in January 2024, with Kokari Café as her first venue. Now, Café One is a partner of theirs, and she finds fulfilment in building a community of book lovers in Ibadan. The book club has seen a lot of growth in recent times, with over 80 people registering for the most recent meet. She however hopes for more expansion in the next year, looking to imbibe the culture of reading in those who do not currently do so, and making a difference in that way. Ms Makinde found this year’s book of the month exhilarating, and given the current political climate, she felt it was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the themes of the novel with fellow book lovers. Her favourite author is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and one book that really resonates with her is ‘Stay With Me’ by Ayobami Adebayo, given its exposition on Sickle Cell Disease. Her parting message to UIMSAites is simple, “Read a book today.”

Next month’s reading? Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola.

Okojie Osakwe Simeon

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