“The problem with those that don’t know real power is that they do not know real power.”– Volcano
What a powerful collection! In “What Happens When a Man Falls from the Sky,” Leslie Nneka Arimah offers us stories that feel more like parables–a collection which weaves the mundane with the fantastical so fluidly that it feels like we’re witnessing the birth of myth.
That is to say, this is a collection of short stories that are completely human. A father witnessing the way the world dims his daughter (“Light”), a daughter coping with the lengths her mother will go for money (“Windfall”), a mud woman who so desperately wants a child, that she weaves one out of hair (“Who Will Greet You at Home”)–these tales speak to the way we conform to the world around us, the way we relate to one another, and the ways culture can rob us of deeper bonds.
I stumbled on this book by accident–the cover was in a compilation image of books by black authors, and it immediately grabbed my attention. Then the force of the opening story (“The Future Looks Good”)–the way Arimah weaponized metaphor, perspective, and prose to tell three generations worth of trauma and war stories– knocked me off my feet.
Arimah centers her tales around Nigeria–those living in, emigrated from, or potentially, if Glory decides to trick the gods, returning to (“Glory”). With little background on the country or culture myself, Arimah’s stories still completely come to life as though breathed into by a mother (“Who Will Greet You at Home”). I was enthralled by the way each vignette highlights the central experience of womanhood and how vast and unique those experiences can be.
For me, this book was magic–evocative and completely without genre, as complex as the characters themselves.