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Dele Weds Destiny

Best Seller
Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro
Hardcover $27.00
Jun 28, 2022 | ISBN 9780593320297

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  • Jun 28, 2022 | ISBN 9780593320297

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Praise

“Loving and lively . . . the writing takes on a political power . . . indelible . . . bravura.” The New York Times Book Review

“Fast-paced, glamorous, and bursting with emotion, Dele Weds Destiny is a thrilling debut. The bonds between women—as friends, and across the generations—are the jewels that make this story shine.” —Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

“This enchanting debut is an affectionate portrait of three women at middle age, cannily exploring the ways the self is forged in youth. With an admirably light touch, Tomi Obaro documents how class, race, faith, and power define the lives of women in Nigeria and America, past and present.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

“Tomi Obaro has a true gift for honoring the details that illuminate our most human tensions … Dele Weds Destiny is a black diamond of a debut.” Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives

“Tomi Obaro has given us a wonderful novel full of richly-drawn, complicated, nuanced characters all trying to love and connect with each other. An ode to the bonds of friendship across decades, Dele Weds Destiny is a marvelous debut.” —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

Dele Weds Destiny is, among a great many other things, such a generous and patient consideration of life, and of lives. Tomi Obaro is such a skilled writer, with an eye towards the vivid and vivacious moments that others might dismiss as stillness. I am so thankful for the world of this book, and so excited for everyone who gets to sit in it.” —Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

“Obaro writes beautifully about the complicated labor of friendship and parentage. Dele Weds Destiny explores caregiving as a kind of deferment, but also as discovery, of desire, of fury, of home.” —Raven Leilani, author of Luster

“An engrossing read with strong characters and a clear portrait of Nigeria then and now . . . Obaro’s debut is a portrait of female friendship that will feel familiar to women everywhere, but it is also infused with Nigerian cultural specificity: food, clothing, religion, music, and ambient threat.”Kirkus Reviews

“The intricacies of female friendships and the complex nature of mother/daughter relationships are at the heart of this absorbing novel from BuzzFeed culture editor Obaro, a sharp new voice on the literary scene.” Library Journal

Author Q&A

You said you started writing DELE WEDS DESTINY during the summer of 2019. Could you paint a picture of that summer for you? How did your world at that time draw you into the lives of Funmi, Enitan, and Zainab? 
Toni Morrison had just died and, like a lot of other people, I was feeling sad and so I started rereading a lot of her interviews. I was struck by what she said in a 2014 interview with the National Endowment of the Arts. Asked to comment about the failures of contemporary American writing, she replied: “When I taught creative writing at Princeton, [my students] had been told all of their lives to write what they knew. I always began the course by saying, ‘Don’t pay any attention to that.’” 
 
At that moment, I had recently finished a draft of a novel about a young Nigerian American woman who was not me but was kind of me and I knew it wasn’t very good.
 
I already had a story idea about three Nigerian women in their 50s and how their friendship evolves when one of them elopes with a foreigner back when they met in college. But I had been reluctant to begin it, very much aware of the fact that I was not a woman in my 50s and had not grown up in Nigeria. But that was also part of the excitement to me; the idea of inhabiting characters and points of view that weren’t necessarily my own; of claiming authority I felt I hadn’t earned and making it all compelling to a reader.   

You’ve mentioned that the novel is loosely based on the relationship your mother had with her two college friends. Could you tell us a bit more about that? Was there a particular story from her that helped give life to the women–the mothers and daughters– you are writing about here?

Yes, my mother’s two best friends are women she met in college and they have kept in touch ever since, though none of them live in Nigeria now. I must stress that my mother and her friends are quite different from the characters in the book; the only big parallel is that one of my aunts did elope! But that’s her story to tell. 
 
The book is split into two timelines–one set in 2015 Lagos and the other throughout the 1980s while the three women are in college in Northern Nigeria. Why was it important for you to show what Funmi, Enitan, and Zainab were like growing up?
I wanted to give a fuller sense of the characters’ history with one another and I knew I didn’t want to limit myself to staying in modern day Lagos. I grew up spending time in Kaduna as a child during summer vacations so I was also interested in writing about that part of the country.

Two other central characters in the novel are Funmi’s daughter, Destiny, and Enitan’s daughter, Remi, who often seem at odds with their mothers. How would you describe the relationship between Funmi and Destiny? Enitan and Remi?
I think the relationships between Funmi and Destiny and Enitan and Remi are fraught in different ways. The mothers love their daughters but don’t always understand them. But I’m more curious to hear what readers think about those relationship dynamics! 

Who was your favorite character to write? Why?
Funmi was the character who came to me first. There’s something about her bluntness that I found tremendously fun to write. 

Most (if not all) of your writing currently on the internet is nonfiction– did you always want to write a novel? What do you think fiction can do that nonfiction can’t?
I grew up reading and writing fiction but didn’t think becoming a novelist was remotely practical, so for a long time the desire to write fiction was one I didn’t admit to myself. I think reading fiction and nonfiction can be equally compelling but writing fiction is so much more rewarding than writing nonfiction. It’s just so freeing. You get to live in your imagination and you have complete autonomy; you’re not beholden to facts or quotes or someone’s else story the way you are when you’re reporting. I also don’t plan or outline when I write fiction and that freedom is blissful (though quite stressful when editing!) 

Were there any authors or books that inspired you while working on DELE WEDS DESTINY?
I deliberately sought out domestic fiction by African women. I read Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter and Flora Nwapa’s Women are Different. They were all mostly self-taught writers who wrote after having children and there’s something about their determination to tell the truth about their experiences and the experiences of women they knew in a very jarring, deliberately unromantic way that I found inspiring.

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