I’ll See You In Ijebu by Bunmi Emenanjo & Diana Ejaita

After reading this wonderful, tender memoir of childhood — so close to my own yet so vastly different — I finally understood how it feels to suffer from anemoia, a longing for a past I never actually knew. Is there a separate thing for when you wish this was your past, that this could have been your past if only circumstances were different, if the world were a better place? I’m not one to indulge in pointless nostalgia but this book made me truly wistful for a childhood not my own.

I’ll See You In Ijebu is author Bunmi Emenanjo’s recollection of her own childhood in Nigeria. While she lived with her Catholic family in Lagos, they often went to Ijebu, several hours’ drive away, to visit her mother’s Muslim family, especially for celebrations like Eid. This book describes the time when she was finally eight, old enough to start helping to prepare food for the Eid al-Adha feast, something young Olubunmi had been looking forward to for years. From the hustle of traffic leaving the capital, to the food both at home and in Ijebu, to Olubunmi’s thoughts on spending time with her extended family, this is a tale told with copious amounts of both care and love.

It’s a simple enough story, but the richness of detail really grounds the narrative, contributing to that (my) feeling of anemoia. The narrative prose is interspersed with paragraphs of blank verse that often incorporate Yoruba (and sometimes Hausa?) words to more faithfully portray the rhythms of Nigerian life. Diana Ejaita’s exquisite block-print-inspired art is the perfect complement to the words, capturing the bustle and color of the tale. Honestly, this is one of the best combinations of prose and art I’ve seen in a while: I was so impressed by how beautifully everything worked together!

Which is likely what kicked off my own weird form of nostalgia. Reading the book reminded me so much of my own childhood in Malaysia, but also reminded me that religion is so much more relaxed in other parts of the world’s day-to-day. Sure there are backwaters where it’s stricter and more awful, but this was a nice reminder that families can co-exist with love and acceptance regardless of faith. And a large part of me feels sorrow for my own childhood, where I felt forced to hold myself aloof from grandparents whom I wanted to adore because I didn’t feel like I was religious enough for them. This book assures me that it wasn’t my fault, that better systems exist, and that I can be part of doing better going forward.

Even if you don’t share my conflicted feelings about religion and upbringing, I highly recommend this gorgeous volume as a brilliant illustration of how family and faith work in what to many is a foreign country. It highlights the universality of emotion while being uniquely Nigerian, and is a valuable addition to the library of anyone who cares about other people. Bonus points for all the rich backmatter included, with a puff puff recipe I wish I had time to try for myself!

I’ll See You In Ijebu by Bunmi Emenanjo & Diana Ejaita was published March 12 2024 by Barefoot Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2024/03/14/ill-see-you-in-ijebu-by-bunmi-emenanjo-diana-ejaita/


  1. This sounds lovely!

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