Title: Memories of Grandma
Author: Funke Treasure Durodola
Publishers: INDN Books
Year of publication: 2015
Reviewer: Kole Odutola
My memo from “Memories of Grandma” –
(A collection of stories from childhood by Funke Treasure Durodola)
This is not a review in the traditional sense of book reviews. This is a private memo to myself made public. I make this memo public for many reasons; one of which is my strongly held opinion that the content of every book deserves to be shared and discussed by those who come in contact with the text. A book is unlike moving images that can be collectively experienced in real time. I have read the collection of stories and allowed time for personal reflections. I have borrowed Funke’s creative wings to re-enter into my dim and fast fading past. I followed her as she narrated stories told to her by her grandparents. Stories that most children born into the Yoruba culture will pray to be told under moonlight skies when grandparents had the time to carry out such duties. I doubt if that case still holds true. If for any reason you missed out on such rites of passage, this book has rescued a part of that generational duty for you. Should you have any difficulty singing any of the songs, the writer has a solution for that too. It is a secret only buyers of the book will get to know about.
In retelling these many stories the writer spares us political milestones that could date the real essence of the (re)collections. The stories are the main plot in this book. They come at night and during the day, the stories were told to her as compensation to appease this young and bright city-girl. The contrast and curiosity of a child navigating the forest of raw traditional terrain with modern tools and lenses cannot be missed. Her innocence sips throughout the one hundred odd pages. Since this is a memo and not a review, it will be in order to whet your appetite to want to pick a copy and read. What do you think a child brought up in the city like our dear narrator will think a cocoa pod is? To correctly respond to that teaser you have to pick up a copy and read for yourself.
Now, I am sure you will like to know my favorite story in the book. You will allow me disappoint you this once because I liked all the stories equally but as a man reading stories told to a curious girl like Funke, I will cast my lot with the stories about hunting and hunters. It is in these narratives that mother tongue is enveloped in an ‘other’ tongue. The food served in the stories are Yoruba but for global accessibility, they are served in English bowls. It is in here that the creative tension and intuitive mediation comes to the fore. English struggled to foreground its self but Funke in her handling of the complexities of which comes with the terrain of translation wrestled English to submission. Her handling of the hunting stories allowed us go with the men into the deep forest of trees and animals and partake of what only bold and courageous men could do. In one of the hunter’s stories you the reader will come to appreciate that nightly raids in the thick bushes for bush-meat and other delicacies is not only do games but sometimes the hunter could bring home a dame not of this world. What happened to the dame and the hunter is worth spending your hard-earned money for.
Memories of Grandma is more than just mere recall of stories, the narratives are spiced with folklores and actual events that happened to a city girl on her various visits to her grandparents. Her mother’s voice is minimal in the recollections for obvious reasons but the few times she intervened, you were not left in doubt about her strictness and motherly love. The collection of stories in different forms and formats also rakes up issues of narration, translation, transitions, and reduction of orality into text. As you know, each of these issues deserves a separate memo and theoretical armories that can place each into proper context as we consume the text placed before us.
If there is any minor character I will like to meet in real life, it must be Aunty Dupe for her creative way of explaining ‘evaporative cooling.’ Surely, we need more Aunties like this who can dig into white peoples’ complex ways of naming simple things and return with explanations a child can understand. Now you understand why this is a private memo I have shared publicly. Please go find a copy of this book and enrich your mind with ideas and ideals of a people who lived in harmony with the land.