In Dear Alaere, Eriye Onagoruwa interrogates sexual harassment
The publishers, Paperworth, made this known to journalists, recently. The novel captures the reality of many professionals, especially women, who live and work in Nigeria’s sleepless city of paradoxes, Lagos. Onagoruwa captures scenarios that are common in Nigeria, Lagos, workplaces generally and various homes but are rarely discussed in fiction. True to life, Dear Alaere can safely be said to be a story for every person who intends to work, currently works or has worked in Corporate Nigeria. It is also a story about African marriages and the much touted Lagos living.
Dear Alaere follows the story of Alaere, its eponymous character, who is confronted by a never-ending theatre of murder, sexual harassment and mysticism, when she got a job at Criole. After her initial excitement of working for a multinational company, it does not take long for her to see that Criole is dysfunctional and bears an eerie similarity to Nigeria. At home, the protagonist, Alaere is happily married to ‘Laja’ but they begin to have problems when they experience difficulties having children and their situation is compounded by extended family interference. For no fault of her, she is tagged, “barren.” With the situation spiralling out of control, she re-assess how she feels about the chaos around her and takes charge of her life with her often humorous, frank diary entries, which let the reader into her astonishing worldview.
Commenting on the book, Michael Afenfia, author of critically acclaimed novels including, Don’t Die on Wednesday and The Mechanics of Yenagoa, noted:“Eriye has written a captivating story about love, rivalry, betrayal, career, womanhood, and the sometimes unexpected challenges of life in one of Nigeria’s most loved cities, Lagos. Through Alaere’s dairy, she navigates a world most of us can only dream of with a familiarity that introduces her as a voice that needs to be heard.”
Within the short space of time, the novel is already receiving wide-ranging reviews and comments as the work has been described as “impressive” by notable writers, especially for a first-time fiction author. Femi Morgan, a poet and author said: “The storytelling is fluid. It bears no markers of intelligent posturing. The storyteller finds a nexus between diary writing and the journey of self-awareness in a hugely chaotic yet impressive city. Morgan further said, “She puts down few reflections in her diary and makes up for time with trying to live a full life of layered suspense. She tries to navigate the realities of being a professional woman in a dynamic workplace filled with subtle warfare, politics and sexual harassment. She also juggles a multi-ethnic Nigerian family, filled with its own negotiations.”
While answering questions, the author, Eriye Onagoruwa, a lawyer and creative writer said: “I wanted to write about an experience that is relatable to anyone but which had really not been captured in fiction before. I found two major issues – Lagos living and workplace politics. I weaved the fabric of the novel around Alaere to deepen the context in the reality of many professionals in Nigeria and especially in the ever-bustling city of Lagos.”
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