Summary and book reviews of A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

A Bit of Difference

By Sefi Atta

A Bit of Difference
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  • Paperback: Dec 2012,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

A new novel from the winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

At thirty-nine, Deola Bello, a Nigerian expatriate in London, is dissatisfied with being single and working overseas. Deola works as a financial reviewer for an international charity, and when her job takes her back to Nigeria in time for her father's five-year memorial service, she finds herself turning her scrutiny inward. In Nigeria, Deola encounters changes in her family and in the urban landscape of her home, and new acquaintances who offer unexpected possibilities. Deola's journey is as much about evading others' expectations to get to the heart of her frustration as it is about exposing the differences between foreign images of Africa and the realities of contemporary Nigerian life. Deola's urgent, incisive voice captivates and guides us through the intricate layers and vivid scenes of a life lived across continents. With Sefi Atta's characteristic boldness and vision, A Bit of Difference limns the complexities of our contemporary world. This is a novel not to be missed.

Chapter One
Reorientation

The great ones capture you. This one is illuminated and magnified. It is a photograph of an African woman with desert terrain behind her. She might be Sudanese or Ethiopian. It is hard to tell. Her hair is covered with a yellow scarf and underneath her image is a caption: "I Am Powerful."

An arriving passenger at the Atlanta airport momentarily obscures the photograph. She has an Afro, silver hoops the size of bangles in her ears and wears a black pin-striped trouser suit. She misses the name of the charity the photograph advertises and considers going back to get another look, but her legs are resistant after her flight from London and her shoulder is numb from the weight of her handbag and laptop.

She was on the plane for nine hours and someone behind her suffered from flatulence. The Ghanaian she sat next to fell silent once she mentioned she was Nigerian. At Immigration, they photographed her face and took prints of her left and right index ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

A Bit of Difference is, for me, just as its title articulates – a study of the subtle but vital differences between people, cultures, circumstances and even moments in time. One small shift changes everything. And while the details may be dissimilar, the consequences of these kinds of change are universally the same.   (Reviewed by Tamara Smith).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street
Atta's splendid writing sizzles with wit and compassion. This is an immensely absorbing book.

Author Blurb Nii Parkes, author of Tail of the Blue Bird
An up-close portrait of middle-class Nigeria exploring the boundaries of morals and public decorum. Pitched between humor and despair, with stripped-down, evocative prose, A Bit of Difference bristles with penknife-sharp dialogue, but its truths are more subtle, hiding in the unspoken. Ultimately, A Bit of Difference explores - with a hint of mischief - the problem of how to look like you have no problems when you have abundant problems-the universal problem of the socially-motivated classes.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Wholly believable, especially in its nuanced approach to racial identity, the story feels extremely modern while excelling at the novelist's traditional task: finding the common reality between strangers and rendering alien circumstances familiar.

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Lagos Inspires Nigerian Writers

Nigeria is a country fertile with writers, full of wonderful literary figures like Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and Ben Okri. But then there was a quieter spell, a time of especially intense corruption and dictatorship, when Sani Abacha was in power, and the literary scene seemed to fade. But stories never fully disappear, and the need to tell them only grows stronger during repressive times. New writers have slowly emerged and now - both in Nigeria and overseas - Nigerian literature is vibrant, brilliant and on the rise.

These new authors - quite a few of them expatriates - are focusing more on personal politics and the quest for self-identity. The expats were born in Nigeria, and live and work abroad, but have an intense...

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