Ijeoma Umebinyuo : Questions for Ada

A book review by Daisy Mukasa – Nairobi, Kenya


Questions for Ada is a collection of poems by Nigerian author Ijeoma Umebinyuo. The book is mainly about the journey of dealing with pain and healing while exploring different topics such as domestic violence, marriage, sexual abuse, love, immigration, and the societal pressures mostly mounted on women. I first learned about Ijeoma from a friend on Facebook who kept sharing snippets of her work which pushed me to get the book, and I must say, it was the best decision ever. Ijeoma intertwines love in all its beautiful and ugly forms with abuse, healing, and belonging in such a powerful in-depth way that makes the topics so relatable.


Even strong women

who fall in love with men

break apart

on the bathroom floor

at a quarter to three a.m

hugging their knees

and cursing their reflection

~Brave


The poems are directly addressed to ‘Ada,’ who I like to think is a younger version of Ijeoma herself. Still, Ada can be any woman who is trying to find herself or who is merely learning to deal with pain and healing and understanding the complexity that is love. The poems explore love in all its forms, from parental love to sisterhood and lost love, all from a very personal perspective. This allows the reader to feel and experience the words with every meaning and purpose that the author intended.


You call me

“sister”

not because

you are my blood

but because

you understand

the kind of tragedies

we both have endured

to come back into

loving ourselves

again

and

again


The poems draw you in, and I must admit that there was that temptation to read the entire book in one sitting but what would be the fun in that? Since most of the poems are a little bit shorter than I would have liked, I would advise taking your time in reading the book. Allow yourself to feel the words because that is just how powerful they are.


Ada, are you in love?

Yes.

Is being in a relationship hard work?

Yes.

Do you write love poems for your lover?

Every day.

Does your lover believe in you?

Yes, but sometimes I fear my lover does not

comprehend her light.

What do you do on those days?

I bather her, I play her some jazz,

I feed her, I weep for her.

Describe her in a sentence.

Her eyes carry strength,

her words scratch, she speaks love.

Ada, are you in love?

Yes.

Is being in a relationship hard work?

Yes.

Who is your lover?

Myself.


~Questions for Ada



The transition from one poem to another is a map of Ada’s journey through the mess that life can be. The poems are a call for women to learn from the mistakes of their mothers, allow themselves to feel and experience their emotions, embrace their womanhood with full strength, pride, and vulnerability and claim everything good that comes with the journey of being a woman. While reading through the poems, I had the chance to reflect and meditate on issues that I would not have normally thought much about. Still, Ijeoma masterfully writes about these issues, and that is why I would recommend that you get this book if you want to reflect and think critically about your life and society in general. Questions for Ada is a book that I believe everyone should have in their collection.


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