Young and queer in London and Port Harcourt: Olumide Popoola’s debut novel When We Speak of Nothing
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From Cassava Republic Press and Pan Macmillan South Africa:
Some of the women walked so slow they were, like, floating. For real. Heads perfectly straight. Hips swaying, left, slow, right, slow, step, slow. If you didn’t concentrate you would think they weren’t moving at all, their bodies just hanging in space …
Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near King’s Cross. It’s 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different.
When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known.
Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma.
Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.
The narratorial spirit of this multi-layered novel is Esu, the Yoruba trickster figure, who haunts the crossroads of communication and misunderstanding.
When We Speak of Nothing launches a powerful new voice onto the literary stage. The fluid prose, peppered with contemporary slang, captures what it means to be young and queer in London and Port Harcourt. If grime music were a novel, it would be this.
Olumide Popoola is a London-based Nigerian German author, poet, performer and speaker.