Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Fiction Review: Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions

Wow, I have read some really outstanding novels for Black History Month this year: Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe on audio, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi in print, and now Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi. It is a novel told in interlocking stories, featuring four Nigerian women who meet as young girls in boarding school, following them throughout their lives.

At an all-girls boarding school in 1986, Nonso, Remi, Aisha, and Solape, all eleven years old, are assigned to the same house. The four girls become inseparable friends, until a tragedy ends their happy experiences at school. Other stories in the interwoven collection both go back in time and forward in time, filling in each of the girls' pasts and childhoods, as well as following each of them through their adult lives, as they remain friends, bonded by what they experienced together. As a child, Nonso traveled extensively around Africa with her mother, experiencing the vastly different worlds of Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Johannesburg, as well as the stunning historical truths revealed at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana (which I'd just read about in Homegoing). After moving to the United States, Aisha attends college and then law school, and we see her in 2003, attending a friend's wedding in Poland. In 2004, Remi is living in New York, with a high-powered job at a bank. All of the women travel or move back to Nigeria at various times in their lives, always struggling to weave together family, traditions, and their modern lives. Other stories focus on or are narrated by secondary characters, like the opening story of Adaoma (1897-1931) in Nigeria  or a young man named Segun in 1991 New York, who's being hassled by the police. The focus, though, is on the friends, and the final story, set in 2050 with dystopian tones, brings them back together again.

I was entranced by this captivating set of characters and stories that was excellent on audio, narrated by Liz Femi and Korey Jackson. I ended up also borrowing the print book from the library because partway through, I realized that in struggling a bit with the unfamiliar Nigerian names, I was missing some of the connections. Being able to see the names in print helped to clarify things for me, and I began to see just how cleverly the whole story fits together. I didn't always know how a side character fit into the story until later, but this truly is a cohesive novel, though at the beginning I was listening to it more as short stories. The characters are fully-developed, and the writing is engaging. While having the print book helped, I'm glad that I listened to the audio because the narration, in the rich tones and cadence of Nigerian voices, made it even more immersive. These women face plenty of challenges throughout their lives, with sorrows and joys, but they are strong, independent women who have their families and each other to support them. This thoughtful, moving novel and its voices have really stuck with me. I think this is the author's first novel, and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

233 pages, Amistad


This book fits in the following 2024 Reading Challenges:


Alphabet Soup Challenge - J

Diversity Challenge

Travel the World in Books Challenge - Nigeria

Literary Escapes Challenge - Mass.

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. The sample is from the first chapter, about Adaoma.


Or get this audiobook from and support local bookstores (audio sample here, too). This sample features an excerpt from Segun's chapter.


Print and e-book from Amazon.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



  1. This sounds like my kind of book. I have a couple credits on Audible so I think I'll get a copy there. Thank you!

    1. Hope you enjoy it! Just pay attention to the names so that you hear all the intended connections - I'm sure you'll do better than I did!