Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

The Kola Reaches Home

When the Kola Reaches Home

Kola nuts are often served with alligator pepper. The nuts are pink, the pepper brown.

Kola nuts are often served with alligator pepper. The nuts are pink, the pepper brown.

We had the final class of the eight weeks on advanced essay and memoir writing this week. I’m sad it’s over.

I read my introduction. The critique from the other class members was extremely helpful, as always. So were the comments from Marcelle, the teacher.

They all agreed. The introduction gave important information, but it was too academic. “Who is your audience?” Bonnie said. “Talk to them.”

Write the Book Proposal

Marcelle suggested I work on the book proposal. She said it would guide me in finalizing the book, even if I don’t plan to send to agents or publishers.

I agree. I wrote an elaborate, carefully-thought-out book proposal for the memoir. And it was extremely helpful.

One reason is that writing the book proposal forces me to think carefully about the audience for the book.  To do that, I have to put together the section on the competition.

Other Books to Review

What other books are similar? How is mine different? I asked two friends who are anthropologists for suggestions of competing or similar works. I got some ideas. I requested two books they suggested through the interlibrary loan. But it may take up to 4 weeks, they say, with budget cuts for library staff.

Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad, is at the Westport Library. Kola proverb is at beginning.

Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad, is at the Westport Library. Kola proverb is at beginning.

Yesterday I went to the Westport Library. I asked the reference librarian’s help in finding similar books. I told her I was looking for works on social customs, traditions, and cultural information about Africa.

“I can only find children’s books,” she said. “I don’t see anything for adults. Can you be more specific about country?”

“Sure. Look for Nigeria,” I said.

She looked at her screen. “I see one book. Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad, by Onyemelukwe.”

As she wrote down the locating number and handed it to me, I said, “That’s my book!”

The book proposal also needs a section about the author. I must explain why I am the most qualified person to write this book. How did I become an authority?

So I’m working on all these pieces now. Even if I publish again with Peace Corps Writers, this sort of analysis is critical. It will be important in whatever I say on the back cover, in social media, and here on my blog.

My publicist will use the information in finding places for me to promote the book. It will guide her in what she will say about me and about the book.

And before that, it will help as I seek people to write the “Aclaims” for me. For my memoir I sometimes suggested the content for these, and this work I’m doing now gives me the language to use.

I do not yet have the title. Have I shared with you one of my favorite proverbs, spoken when a guest is given a kola nut to take home with him? The host or the guest says, “Oji luo uno okwuo ebe osi a bia, When the Kola reaches home, it will tell where it came from.”

I used this at the front on my memoir. What do you think about When the Kola Reaches Home for a title?

I have the chapter summaries sort of written. They are also part of the book proposal. One chapter I still need to finish is about Nigerwives. That has to get written in the next two weeks, because . . .

Nigerwives a Major Transnational Connection

In mid-June I will participate in the African Literature Association Annual Conference at Yale University. I will present my paper on Nigerwives, a Major Transnational Connection. I was one of the founders of the organization. I told you a few months ago about attending the January meeting when I was in Lagos.

In my abstract submission, I said,

“Nigerwives was founded in 1979 by three women. I was one. Nigerwives has become a fixture of life in Nigeria with branches in the major cities. There are also branches In the UK and the US. It continues to serve its mission of helping foreign wives integrate in Nigerian society.

“Nigerwives is a clear source of transnational connections for Nigerians. The wives of Nigerian men come from England and the rest of UK, the US, Jamaica, Iceland, Russia, Japan, Sierra Leone and many other countries.

“Although the custom of marriage being between two families is less dominant in the home countries and societies of most Nigerwives, nevertheless the families of these wives are affected by the marriages of their daughters, sisters, cousins, and aunts.

Betty O is the only white woman in this group of Nigerian designers.

Betty O is the only white woman in this group of Nigerian designers. She died a few years ago.

“Nigerwives have played a role in Nigerian society and continue to do so. Betty Okuboyejo (quoted in a 1988 NYTimes article) changed the fashion scene for Nigerian and expatriate women. Jean Obi created the Braille project that first provided the opportunity for blind students to take the Nigerian standard exams. Today it supports a Braille center where books are translated.

“I will describe the founding and spread of Nigerwives, the influence it has had and continues to have today in Nigeria and its other locations.

I will also be on a panel with Okey Ndibe to discuss his memoir, Never Look at American in the Eye. I’m halfway through. It’s very amusing, yet serious on how perplexing customs can be.

He wrote a piece recently about Nigeria’s obsession with consumption. Sad commentary!

Nigeria and Biafra’s Wasted Memory, By Okey Ndibe

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Just read your post. I like the movement in the title – but I misread it as “Koala” and thought about the “koala bear” which isn’t a bear, but that’s another line for discussion. On the other hand, your title is intriguing because the reader asks, what’s a kola – and maybe they will stop and re-read the title. The next step is reading the book. Good luck! Judy