Maryam Awaisu’s Burning Bright: A Review By Abubakar Evuti
Before anything, let us talk about one thing: it is not correct what the narrator suggested in Maryam Awaisu Burning Bright that, except a guy is gay, he is bound to stare at a woman’s behind should he ever find himself walking behind her. I’ll like to use this opportunity to clarify, once and for all, this false assertion. It may be true that guys do often stare when they find themselves walking behind a lady, but it is mostly unwittingly, and largely out of a queer curiosity, but scarcely out of desire or any other thing. 🙂
It is true that the chief aim of the author is to increase awareness of sickle cell anemia, but, as we were promised in the Prologue of the book, it wasn’t a book of statistics and medical jargons. This book was exactly as the author intended, ‘a fun but elightening’ story of sickle cell anemia.
She never tires of rolling her eyes, the chief character of this story. She is called Nadia Habeeb, a witty, charming, and highly sarcastic but stubborn lady. She was unfortunately inflicted with sickle cell anemia because her parents had gotten married despite the fact that the genotype of both was AS. The father had led the mother into believe that his genotype was AA because, as he explained to his wife years later after their daughter was found to be SS, he loved her and did not wish to lose her so he lied about his genotype. That sole decision by Nadia’s father, fueled by the folly called love, was what saw Nadia into a life of physical and emotional pain.
The book opens with our hero in pain, in a hospital. She would have loved to have had her surgery in New York but her mother, who loved her dearly, will have none of it, so our Nadia was compelled to return home to have her surgery in Kaduna; in one not-up-to-world-standard hospital. And, as she had feared, after the surgery, some error on the part of the doctors inflicted pain on our hero and sent her into days in comma.
She managed to wake up alright, but the troubles of the world will not leave her be.
There was the jealousy of a fine but, as the author suggested, insensitive boyfriend whom Nadia saw fit to path with because he showed very little concern about her health, and more concern about some relationship he suspected Nadia might have had when she was abroad.
There was the struggle to comprehend her father who, after he married a second wife, went cold towards his children but now appeared willing to atone.
There was the struggle to water down her mother’s needless worry, and to continue the game of mischief with her siblings.
There was the struggle to find a job, and to aid a sickle cell anemia NGO to generate funds.
Finally there was the struggle to fend off people, especially her handsome co-worker who brought her friendship, and even love.
Of course Burning Bright is not a perfect book, just like every other book —except, maybe, the holy books. One of the imperfections of Burning Bright is that the comments after many a quotation were unnecessary, and made the narration a tad heavy. The reader may suffer a feeling of being spoon-fed with needless information. For instance on page 80, the scene were Nadia’s mother was a impatient with what she saw as the doctors’ incompetence, we were made to suffer this:
“Mommy, please calm down,” ‘Aunty Maryam tried to calm her'”.
The extra comment after the quotation was unnecessary because we could see clearly from her words what Aunty Maryam was trying to do.
Also, the story felt rigged. There was hardly a place we were invited to blame Nadia for anything. The author appeared to strive to explain away, nay justify, Nadia’s behavior. Her recklessness was made to appear as a virtue, so also her open hostility and impatience, and even, as I saw it, ingratitude. The reader may wonder why a person as Nadia whose very survival depended largely on the mercy and kindness of others was so averse to receiving help from others. Her tiny impatience at her mother’s undue concern may be understandable, but why was she so vexed at Fu’ad for attempting to pay for some food she bought?
It is right to not want for her things to be paid for by a man, or anyone else for that matter, but what is the self-righteous anger of drawing swords because a man, out of the goodness of his heart and for love he suffers for her, elects to pay for her food items?
Our Nadia is impossible! And if she were a real human person Nadia, I am sure, will roll her eyes at my opinion of her, and just go her way, burning bright.
(Please Plant a Tree Today)
The Writer is on Twitter @ngugievuti