"Simultaneously unique and universal" (NPR), this fiercely original debut novel follows the fate of four siblings over the course of two decades in Nigeria as they search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy.
"I like the idea of a god who knows what it's like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone."
Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth.
Soon Bibike and Ariyike's father wagers the family home on a "sure bet" that evaporates like smoke. As their parents' marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins' paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power.
Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham's Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.
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About the Author
Tola Rotimi Abraham is a writer from Lagos, Nigeria. She lives in Iowa City and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Catapult, The Des Moines Register, The Nigerian Literary Magazine, and other places.
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"Tola Rotimi Abraham's Black Sunday will destroy you. It won't be an explosion or any other ultraviolent thing. Instead, the novel will inflict a thousand tiny cuts on you, and your soul will slowly pour from them . . . The first standout element in Black Sunday is the writing itself. Abraham mixes poetry, Yoruba, pidgin English, and street philosophy into a mesmerizing style. The novel's chapters alternate between the point of view the four siblings, and each one has a distinctive voice that makes whatever they're talking about feel like something that happened to someone you know . . . Besides the writing, there are a few underlying themes that give the novel a sense of cohesion . . . Abraham . . . [gifts] us brilliant moments of love and humor whose impact is amplified by the awfulness that surrounds them . . . While Andrew and Peter provide vivid, wildly entertaining chapters that deal mostly with growing up, masculinity, and going to a terrible boarding school where abuse is normal, the chapters narrated by the twins are the crowning jewels in this novel. They explore how grief shapes us and how just surviving is sometimes the only coping mechanism we have left. Abraham creates believable characters whose stories could easily have come from real life, stories full of mistakes, rejection, and poverty that mirror some of the things we've all lived through. That makes them simultaneously unique and universal, and it makes it easy to understand the way they see the world, even if their lens is ugly . . . Black Sunday is a literary wound that bleeds pain for a while, but you should stay the course, because that's followed by lots of love, beauty, and hope." --Gabino Iglesias, NPR
"[A] piercing, supple debut . . . Abraham stuffs her novel past brimming, but its sophisticated structure and propulsive narration allow her to tuck in a biting critique of corrupt colonial religion and universally exploitative men . . . Twin sisters cut adrift in a perilous, duplicitous world learn that 'only the wise survive.' A formidable debut." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Abraham's fierce debut follows four Nigerian siblings living in Lagos from childhood in 1996 through early adulthood in 2015 . . . The novel's strength lies in its lush, unflinching scenes, as when a seemingly simple infection leads gradually but inexorably to a life-threatening condition, revealing the dynamics of the family and community along the way. Abraham mightily captures a sense of the stresses of daily life in a family, city, and culture that always seems on the edge of self-destruction." --Publishers Weekly
"Set in Lagos over a period of decades, this absorbing debut follows twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike from the inseparable bonds of relative comfort to the challenges and independence of poverty." --Karla Strand, Ms., One of the Monthly Reads for the Rest of Us
"Tola Rotimi Abraham's first novel is a story of tragedy. It is not supposed to be hopeful. But there is hope in the telling . . . Blunt and intimate . . . Abraham's gift as a writer is her ability to simultaneously see peoples' lives as both stories and as something more than narrative . . . Overall, the work is committed to making stories personal, and paradoxically, the tales within her novel provide the reader with something that seems like more than merely a story . . . Indeed, many Nigerians' histories are lost, but the story of Black Sunday won't be . . . Although Abraham's novel can be described as an exercise in confronting pain, her narrative is also an exercise in emboldening the 'female spirit.'" --Keith Contorno, Chicago Review of Books
"Abraham's debut novel tackles weighty topics like rape, self-discovery, and the mischief of prominent religious figures with a refreshing elegance. Bibike and Ariyike are nuanced characters who often make decisions with a jarred moral compass. Abraham gently ushers readers into both sisters' perspectives, inviting us into their journey to autonomous peace." --Booklist
"Arresting . . . Abraham writes with a fluid yet deliberate moral compass . . . gripping . . . Exploring themes that delve into the power of storytelling, the fragility of identity, the nature of regret, and the power of redemption, Abraham writes with a grace and sophistication that belie this novel's debut status. Hers is a voice and a vision to be recognized and watched." --Carol Haggas, Another Chicago Magazine
"This novel explores kinship, exploitation and making ends meet, love and loss, and what it means to be all alone even with siblings by your side." --Arriel Vinson, Electric Literature
"Following Nigerian twin sisters over a 20-year span, Tola Rotimi Abraham's novel explores family connection and estrangement in compelling ways." --Frannie Jackson, Paste, One of the Best New Books of the Month
"A poignant debut." --Bustle, 1 of the 22 Most Anticipated Books of the Month
"Abraham writes knowledgeably about life in Lagos, having grown up there . . . She portrays the scarring effects of religion and divorce." --Kathleen Stone, Ploughshares
"This may be her first book, but Tola Abraham's storytelling power is immediately apparent--lush, sharp, and shot through with hope!" --Well-Read Black Girl
"There are some novels that stay with you, imparting a lasting message and leaving an intangible impact. Black Sunday, a debut novel from author Tola Rotimi Abraham, is one of them . . . A profound narrative." --Zora
"I adore stories that are set in places I've never been, and Abraham's evocative writing made it feel like I was in Lagos with the siblings." --Alma, One of Our Favorite Books of the Season
"If you like sweeping family sagas, this one's for you . . . Don't miss Tola Rotimi Abraham's astonishingly intimate debut." --HelloGiggles, 1 of the 11 Best New Books to Read This Month That Will Cure Your Winter Blues
"Tola Rotimi Abraham's sharp, captivating debut thrums with the energy of life itself. The story of a family and a city reeling from wounds both private and political, Black Sunday delivers unforgettable characters as they adapt to often cruel circumstances and fight to author their own futures. Abraham writes with such irresistible confidence and startling precision, I can't wait to see what she does next." --Mia Alvar, author of In the Country
"With stunning beauty and painful wisdom, Tola Rotimi Abraham's Black Sunday lays bare her characters' deepest aches and desires in a voice that is as haunting as it is addictive." --Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of The Revisioners and A Kind of Freedom
"In a fresh and fierce debut, Tola Rotimi Abraham proves that it's an act of indelible resistance every time a young woman tells her story. Through the eyes of a family at its brink, Abraham reveals the truth about violence, tenderness, and the disquiet in between. Black Sunday is a surprising switchblade of a novel." --Amy Jo Burns, author of Cinderland and Shiner
"An assured and worthy debut, Black Sunday finds lyricism in the swell of everyday betrayal. In Abraham's hands, the coming-of-age novel mourns the easy perversion of sex, love, ambition, and faith, glimpsing, nevertheless, twin moments of grace and intimacy, daring and strength." --Tracy O'Neill, author of The Hopeful and Quotients