Love is universal, the one unifier we have in common as humans, a sentiment I have often maintained and talked about, no matter where we are, who we are, where we are from, our religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity… whatever elements of difference that defines us, love is the single thing that unifies us and transcends all boundaries real or imagined. Happily Ever After in any language is rooted in love; that’s a matter of fact.
Love In Colour defines this very essence of what it means to love and be loved. I am Pisces, a romantic, I feel and am from the heart as water signs are, therefore love stories are a North star for me and my stories always end happily ever after because there is enough shit in the world we don’t need one more. Love stories should always end in happily ever after or with room to interpret that the characters go on to live out that cliché because nothing is more fulfilling than a happily ever after story, in my opinion; it makes for an even richer story that is enabled by the human complexities around love, but not engulfed by the added layers of atrocities so typically favoured by Hollywood, especially when it comes to characters of colour. And we could all use a little happy right now.
Love In Colour gives us a lot of Happy.
I fell in love with this book on the first story so much so, I read that first story three times before moving on to the rest of the book. As a child my mother and grandmother told me the stories about the different African Deities; Sango, Osun, Oya, Obatala etc. they are the root of our traditions and therefore to see them take such life in this anthology is both thrilling and some of the happiest moments ever felt in reading a book. I called my sisters and ordered the books for them because it was something I felt we had to experience together. As I moved on to the rest of the book, Love revealed itself in different forms and spaces and cultures and traditions and religions and ages…Love so beguiling and pure and complicated and sweet; love nonetheless, in its purest form and each story revealed something unique about the characters that we can all be familiar with. More important is the fact that the anthology centres around women of colour, in all our glory and delight, being loved and loving. We are soft, hard, complicated, messy and human; all aspects of us shines through in these stories.
The story of Scheherazade made me cry; I read it twice because of the way in which these two powerful people were absolutely besotted with each other without being sloppy about it. When Shahryār says “I thought this was a love story, but if it isn’t tell I’m wrong, if I’m right though I can promise you that it will never end with me leaving you I will want you forever…” I stopped and applauded as if this were unfolding on my screen and not in the lines of a book.
Babalola weaves worlds together, taking us from Nigeria, to Lesotho, to Ghana etc. When she talks about Alagomeji in Yaba, I was transported there because these are my old stomping grounds, but it is not simply that she talks about it, she walks us through it in a way that brings it to life for us. When she talks about Ifę I am reminded of the summers journeying around Nigeria for the holidays, visiting places like Abeokuta, Ibadan, Asaba, Ifę etc. These are more than just stories they are fond childhood memories for me. She uses familiar stories to connect us to the lived human experience; the mean mother-in-law to be as in the story of Yaa, the mean girls as in the story of Naleli, rich girl poor boy as in the story of Attem… in all these tales, the women are not reduced to simpering nonentities in the name of love, these woman are smart and unafraid of being who they are and their beloved see them for who they wholly are without needing to box them up or contain them to boost their ego. And the love blossoms so beautifully. It makes one want to fall in love if only to experience the feelings so beautifully conveyed.
And the writing crackles, sizzles and bloody hell it’s well good.
To say Love In Colour is fantastic is akin to stating the sky is blue sometimes and grey at other times, this is a singular work of beauty that is so utterly up-lifting.
It is a lot of things;
Cool and sexy: the new kid coming on your turf to take your girl right in front of you because he sees her, and hears her and loves her in ways you could not possibly imagine as in the story of Osun.
Long lost and found: the taxi driver taking you to dinner and a possible proposal with your fiancé or soon to be only for you to discover that he was your once upon a sweetheart and the moments you share come back to you and you realise you have never really been seen in the way he sees you.
Protective and loving: it’s finding out you have someone waging wars on your behalf to keep you safe and putting their lives on the line for you.
Lyrical as in the case of Pyramus and Thisbe that used music as a love speak.
It goes beyond the banalities of the surface, it runs deep and warm and soothing and enchanting.
Babalola’s finesse with prose easily weaves us in and out of worlds, merging age old stories and traditional folklore to brings us some of the finest love stories. It makes love more than the language spoken, it is a feeling; uncomplicated, expressive and elegant.
It’s the absolute joy and fullness and hopefulness given to romantics everywhere that to love and be loved by other or oneself is the purest from of joy that there is. The beauty of love in its entirety.