Binta remained by the petunias feeling the weight of her heart pulling her body towards the damp earth, like the slender green stalk of a flower overwhelmed by its blossom. She wanted Reza, of that there was no doubt. She craved what they had. It mattered to her that at the twilight of her sexual life, her desires had finally been unleashed.
Title: Season of Crimson Blossoms
Author: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
I had met Abubakar Adam prior to reading his book when he visited Nairobi for the Literary Crossroads organized by Goethe Institut and the Story Moja festival which is a literary event held every year. (See my detailed post of the events here). Little did I know that TBC Book Club will pick this particular book as the book of the month for October.
While attending the Literary Crossroad event, I kept marveling at how Abdul Adan went on about how Abubakar didn’t shy away from writing an explicit masterpiece regardless of his religion and the customs of his culture. Immediately, my interest to delve into the book was kindled and I kept looking forward to when I’d read the book.
Set against the backdrop of a military coup and presidential assassination which captures scenes of Nigeria’s state in the 1980’s, ‘Season of Crimson Blossoms’ tells of an illicit love affair between a 55-year-old widowed lady, Hajiya Binta Zubairu and a 25-year-old man, Hassan Babale commonly known and referred to by his street name, ‘Reza.’ This relationship kicked off in a very unlikely circumstance and not once did I see love brewing between the two considering how they first met. What also struck the two about each other, is how they reminded one another of a relative so close to them, yet out of sight. Reza reminded Hajiya of her firstborn son, Yaro who had been shot by police during a raid. Hajiya on the other hand reminded Reza of his mother who had abandoned him when he was still young and his father after a second wife was taken in. Reza lived with utmost rage towards his mother and never looked forward to the day that they’ll mend bridges regardless of the attempts that his mother made in asking for forgiveness.
As it is expected in a typical African setting, a relationship similar to Binta and Reza’s is never received well leave alone been referred to as a taboo. The two will try to keep their relationship a secret but this didn’t work out so well and rumors about the affair will start spreading in the neighborhood and once it gets to Hajiya’s son, Munkaila, readers are ushered into an eventful gloomy state which will leave you with questions as to what next for Hajiya Binta?
Reading this book I was reminded of a similar scenario that took place in Kenya seventeen years ago. A good number of the population in the country disparaged the marriage between a 64-year-old woman, Wambui Otieno (who by the way was a freedom fighter) and her lover/ husband, Peter Mbugua who was 39 years younger. The news wasn’t obviously received well by immediate family members of the couple which instead sparked wrangles and outrage. Why is it that the same society which condemns such a relationship will be quick to marry off young girls to older men? Shouldn’t the same energy used to criticize and castigate love affairs between older women and young men be expedited on older men who rob young girls of their future?
I love how Abubakar didn’t shy away from addressing this issue and how he vividly described the romance between Hajiya and Reza which, if I’m being honest, made me uncomfortable just imagining the couple cuddled up and losing themselves in the moment. At one time I had to close the book, fan myself, take a deep breath, because damn! The scenes were unapologetic erotically described. While reading through these scenes, I was drawn back to Chinelo Okparanta’s ‘Under the Udala Trees.’ Forbidden love chronicles.
One thing that kept ringing at the back of my mind was, what if Abubakar is using literature to get society to shun the prejudices we subject to women who are older but still want to be taken care of and loved the same way young women are?
‘Season of Crimson Blossoms’ tackles quite a number of themes; Politics, sexuality, domestic violence, religion, depression which have been well crafted and characters well-developed to bring out an astounding read that will leave you seating at the edge of your seat while flipping pages.
This is a must read! If you haven’t already, why not slot it in for December or early 2018?