Class Micro-agressions and The Spider King’s daughter

So Chibundu Onuzo’s The Spider King’s Daughter done. My feelings are in many places. My eyes refuse to look beyond class in these things. Seriously. How can one not know the name of the person they are dating? Mbu hawker. Really? Class dehumanises. And when Runner G, doesn’t kill Mr. Johnson, when he does not marry Abby, that thing they call failure just comes and blinds my eyes from seeing anything good in the struggle against classism. Is love across the class divide possible? Ok. Not love love but a genuine human relationship.

This book, I started reading last night, only put it down to sleep, woke up to it, no meal breaks no nothing, only water – did I even notice the rain, and finally made progress in restraining myself from writing in the book and underlining huge parts of the book. Just slight marks. Its an unputdownable book. I still want to be an honest person. I still want to live modestly.

As for relationships with people whose perspective is blinded by class, than humanity or anything else, I do not know, I really tried to like Abike. To look beyond the class micro and macro aggressions against her hawker, her driver and other people. But then… This is a great book. One Day I Will Write A Real Essay About It. Highly recommended, however biased I am.

Thanks to Samira Sawlani for everything bookish I get myself to do. Excerpts from ‪‎The Spider King’s Daughter follow.


I said I chose you because you ran, and because you were handsome and you didn’t speak like a hawker. – page 260

The dialogue

‘How much for half an hour?’,
The girl behind the counter looked up from her novel.
‘We charge per hour.’
‘I only need thirty minutes.’
‘I’m sorry. We charge o’er hour.’
‘A fine girl like you is not meant to be wicked. Please help me.’
‘Oya, bring the money but don’t tell anybody.’ – page 205

Ever tried to date higher than your class?

It wouldn’t have worked between us. Even without everything I’d heard, the real world would have intruded. When she went to university and returned with a fancy degree would she still want a hawker for a boyfriend? When she got her first high-flying job and I was just a trader in Tejuosho would she want to be seen with me? – page 155

The dialogue again

‘How come your driver doesn’t come to pick you?’
‘Pardon?’ I’d forgotten Cynthia was in the car.
‘Why doesn’t your driver pick you?’
So Abike had really not told them anything about me.
‘Taking public transport means I’m independent.’ It was close to the truth.
‘Your parents could get you a car.’
‘I want to buy one with my own money.’
‘Oh yes. You said. You work in your father’s business.’
What would she do if she found out I was a hawker? I didn’t care. – pages 119-120 

The fear of rejection is universal, isn’t it?

I was relieved when the maid interrupted us today. If she hadn’t, I would have asked Abike to be my girlfriend and I might be sitting at home now, nursing a rejection. It is pleasanter to live in this precarious hope than to know for certain she doesn’t want me. – page 111

Hawkers can’t kiss, right?

I wondered if he would kiss me. I knew as I lifted my face to his that I wanted him to. Abike Johnson kissing a hawker in front of Mama Put. I didn’t care who saw.
‘I had a really nice time,’ I said, looking directly into his eyes. Maybe he didn’t like me in that way. I lowered my head, feeling foolish.

When he finally kissed me, it was a surprise. His lips rubbed mine, rough skin rubbing off my lip gloss and before I could respond, he had straightened up again.
It was a strange kiss. Not wet enough to be romantic not light enough for friends. I’m sure he will get better. – page 100

Gender etc but class, too these mob attacks

She turned up in a mini skirt. Everyone knows you only wear that type of outfit in the privacy of your air-conditioned car, with the windows rolled up and preferably tinted. Everyone except Abike Johnson. Flashing her legs and then wondering why a mob is chasing us. – page 91

The nonsense indeed

‘Joke, in five years’ time when you go on your first date, where do you want to go?’
‘Let me just inform you, my first date is going to be next year and the boy has to take me to a very expensive restaurant.’
‘Because that’s how a guy shows that he really likes a girl. The more expensive the restaurant the more serious the love. Don’t you know?’
‘I wonder who is teaching you this nonsense,’ I said, heaving a twenty-litre jerry can on to my shoulder. – page 79

The humiliation

Her tone was curt. Did she think I wasn’t good enough to go on a date with her?
‘Their names are Cynthia and Oritse. They are old friends.’
It dawned on me. She’d brought me here to amuse her friends. – page 72


Oritse and I, well from my point of view there was never an Oritse and I. I keep him around because his voice is special. Cynthia has been a member of my set for the longest, I think. She has no real gifts but she is very beautiful in that plump way. More importantly, she is obedient. – pg 69

‘Feel degraded’

We had come to Yaba market, the home of cheap wooden stalls bowed under the weight of the average Nigerian’s need to look Western for as Eastern a price as possible. The stalls were jammed together, clothes flung together, people squashed together, sifting, lifting, arranging without thought to compatibility. If only I had grown up not knowing better then I wouldn’t feel degraded coming here. – Pg 64

The humour, right?

Even garbage wants to escape from my neighborhood. At the end of each day, people pile their rubbish on to the side of the road and the next morning, you see the sweet wrappers and banana skins a few metres from where you left them, slowly being carried to their freedom by people’s unsuspecting feet. Oh, to be trash. – pages 53 – 54


The shock, right?

If I thought it odd that she only bought ice cream from me, though up to six of us might flock to her window, I didn’t let it bother me. If I thought she smiled too much when we spoke and looked in my eyes too little, I put it down to shyness. As I watched her climb on to the car it struck me. All this time she had been flirting. Despite my shabby clothes and sweaty body, for some reason this increasingly attractive girl was flirting with me! – page 33

A hobby, even

Hassan looked at me through the rear-view mirror. ‘I no believe I dey do this to your father’s car because of a hawker.’ He wasn’t just a hawker. He was a hawker I was considering adding to my collection of friends. I was tired of people who go to Forest House or schools just like it. – page 25

Hawkers can be honest?

I looked at her face while she was bringing out her wallet. Her skin was so smooth I wanted to slide my finger along it. She passed me a two-hundred naira note with a smile that showed her perfect, white teeth. It would have been so easy to sprint off with her money. I gave her the change before placing the ice cream in her palm. Someone else would have to show her that the world was not filled with honest hawkers and unicorns. – page 10

By the way, the beginnings

Every morning I wake up and know exactly what I have to do.

1. Bathe.
2. Make sure Joke does the same.
3. Eat breakfast.
4. Make sure Joke does the same.
5. Ditto my mother.
6. Take Joke to school.
7. Leave school for work.
8. Make sure Joke never does the same. – page 2

I read Chibundu Onuzo’s The Spider King’s Daughter in one night. Did you know that she was writing the book at 17, got an agent at 18, a publisher at 19 and it was published when she was 21? Did you? It is probable that you knew before I did. That fact made a huge impression on me. And so the night I entered Abike’s world and that of her lover, the hawker, I littered my Facebook timeline with excerpts as I read. It is a good read. I cringed more times than I can count because of the class microagressions but then. Read the book and we share.


Q&A: Law is a form of literature – Busingye Kabumba

The second interview/conversation in a series exploring Ugandan Perspectives on Law and Literature has been published today at Africa In Words. The first interview was with Sophie Alal and published a few weeks ago. Today’s is with Dr. Busingye Kabumba. More will follow over the coming months.

Busingye Kabumba Busingye Kabumba

AiW Author: Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

Dr. Busingye Kabumba teaches Human Rights and International Law at Makerere and other universities. Educated at the University of Pretoria, Harvard, Oxford and Makerere, Busingye is also a partner at Development Law Associates, a legal consulting firm in Kampala. He is famous for, among other reasons, having published a poetry collection at nineteen years of age. He is reputed as the only Ugandan teenager to win a book prize for a full poetry collection! The National Book Trust (NABOTU) Poetry Award of 2002 went to Busingye for his Whispers of My Soul. He has also become a sought-after commentator for the media, television, newspapers etc. He has been quoted in newspapers, local and foreign talking about constitutional, human rights and literary matters.

On one morning, as 2015 rolled into our lives, I meet Busingye for this conversation, I find him in his…

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