Book 1: Yewande Omotoso, Bom Boy

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I was privileged to attend the AWW14 African Women’s Creative Non-Fiction Writing Workshop hosted by the AWDF and FEMRITE in July 2014. The workshop lasted 10 days and was facilitated by Yewande Omotoso and Mamle Kabu. My fellow participants were amazing (read more about them here) and the facilitation was excellent.

I had known about Bom Boy for a number of years because it was published by the same publisher that I worked with in publishing the My First Time Collection of Women’s Stories of Sex and Sexuality – Modjaji Books. I also had met Yewande before and found her to be a great person but I had simply never gotten around to reading her book (excuses excuses!) When I heard she’d be facilitating the workshop I was excited because I knew that she had been nominated for numerous prizes (the Sunday Times Literary Awards 2012 for the Fiction Prize, the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2013) and won others (SALA prize for English First-Time Published Author 2012) so I was ready to receive all the wisdom and tips she was going to give out.

On the first day of the workshop Yewande told us about her experience completing the Masters in Creative Writing at UCT. Having just completed the programme myself, I was really interested to get her take on it, and she did describe it in ways that I agreed with. It was a useful opportunity to meet other writers, and it was a very expensive way to force yourself to write a book. She also said that when she was finished her book, she didn’t even wait until graduation to send it out to a publisher (thank god she did!). She was brave and bold. She inspired me from her very first facilitation session, she shared some of her amazing writing, and she was totally practical about the writing process. If you get a chance to hear Yewande speak, you should take that chance straight away.

I bought Bom Boy at the workshop, got the famous signature, and it seemed natural that Yewande’s book would be the first one I’d read for my project. Bom Boy tells the story of Leke (pronounced Lay-kay) who is a young man living in Cape Town with a few strange habits and phobias. He is an instantly interesting character because he seems both deeply in connection with, and deeply surprised by the world around him. His story is complex – a South African mother who he doesn’t know and a Nigerian father who writes him letters to tell him about a family curse. In a sort of dream-like fashion you are swept along with Leke as he tries to find a grip on life, and perhaps even find himself. The characters are compelling – you want to try and understand why they do the things they do.

Bom Boy made me think a lot about destiny and the (in)escapability of history. It got me thinking about writing craft and how to tell a narrative from different perspectives, and tools that you could use to do this. It allowed the reader to travel through different time zones without the story line becoming overly complicated – I suppose this was probably because each character was so clear in my mind that I didn’t ever get confused about who was talking. Yewande certainly knows how to write dialogue.

As the cover blurb describes it “Bom Boy is a well-crafted and complex narrative written with a sensitive understanding of both the smallness and magnitude of a single life.” I was so chuffed at my first book for this project because it really made me excited to keep reading, and to keep writing.

You can follow Yewande Omotoso on twitter @yomotoso and like her Facebook page here.

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