Staying Good vs. Giving In
In the novel Swallow, Tolani and her best friend Rose are two young women in the 1980s who must balance their morals against the fast-paced, rough-and-tumble life in Lagos, Nigeria's largest, most populous city. Secretaries in a bank, they often find themselves struggling, sometimes unsuccessfully, to make an honest living there.
A prolific novelist and playwright, author Sefi Atta brings these pages to vivid life with humor and the rhythms of Lagosian speech while documenting the serious challenges of life in urban West Africa. As that nation's former capital and its largest port, Lagos is portrayed as sprawling, corrupt, chaotic, and sometimes deadly. Despite the nation's oil wealth, its workers are often left scrambling for food, transport and housing, if they play it straight. For women, marriage is seen as a way out, the more attractive of few options.
The title is a reference to the drug trade, another option for making ends meet. And yet, the city continues to be a destination for young people who stream from their villages in search of something bigger and better than the lives they leave behind.
Take a walk through Rose's and Tolani's world:
- Meet Fela Kuti, Nigeria's Prince of Afro Pop, and King Sunny Ade, ruler of juju music.
- Taste delicious Nigerian cuisine
- Read Punch, a popular Nigerian newspaper
- Watch the Nigerian adire women dyers and entrepreneurs
- Learn all there is to know about Nollywood
- Meet the Billionaire Militant
- Discover why literary giant Achebe refused an award
- Learn about The Biafran War, Nigeria's civil war
Young Women's Stories:
Related Reading and Viewing
The books and films listed here tell the stories of young people in the developing world facing tough choices as they struggle towards a better future. Ask at your neighborhood library, or visit our online catalog to see which are available in audio, video, large print or as e-books.
The Girl With The Golden Shoes by Colin Channer
Ancestor Stones by Aminatti Forna
Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire
Mamzelle Dragonfly by Raphael Confiant
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden
Desert Flower, directed by Sherry Hormann
Maria Full of Grace, directed by Joshua Marston
Skin, directed by Anthony Fabian
The Constant Gardener, directed by Fernando Meirelles
Yesterday, directed by Darrell Roodt
Courting Justice, directed by Jane Thandi Lipman
Reading Group Guides