WKND Reading: Why Oyinkan Braithwaite's darkly comic debut novel
Nigerian-British novelist Braithwaite, who recently attended the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, on exploring complicated sibling relationship.
Oyinkan Braithwaite, 32, hit pay dirt with her debut novel, My Sister, The Serial Killer. Born in Lagos and brought up in the UK, the plot of her debut novel revolves around a pair of siblings, one trying to cover up other’s crime. Witty and incisive, the novel earned Braithwaite critical praise. In an interview with WKND, following her participation at the ongoing Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Braithwaite talks about the ideas that inform her writing.
Recount the plot structure of your darkly comic debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer.
My Sister, the Serial Killer is about two sisters, the elder one Korede is meticulous, hardworking, austere, while Ayoola, the younger sibling, is beautiful, fickle, and happens to be a serial killer. The novel begins with a phone call from Ayoola confessing that she has committed yet another murder, forcing Korede to show up and clean up all traces of the crime. But it gets a tad more complicated when Ayoola attracts the eye of Korede’s crush.What was the immediate trigger for the plot structure? I was introduced to the black widow spider in 2007. The female spider is slightly larger than the male and if after mating, she is hungry, she will eat him. I thought this was hilarious, and it got me thinking about a woman who recklessly took the lives of men. I wrote two poems about the black widow — the first about the creature and the second about a beautiful woman who married men and went on to poison them in order to inherit their money. I found my way back to the idea 10 years later when I wrote My Sister, the Serial Killer. These poems also influenced the way the story was written.
Do Korede and Ayoola, a dysfunctional pair of Nigerian siblings, exist in flesh and blood?
Korede and Ayoola are entirely figment of my imagination. For most part, I will avoid basing characters on people I know, so that I have the freedom to do whatever I want to with these characters without guilt or worry that the individual in question will figure it out. But since I am the eldest of four, I was able to draw on some of my frustrations from Korede’s point of view.
Would you agree My Sister, the Serial Killer is a momentary escape from the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic reality?
I think what provides escapism for an individual is subjective. However, in 2020, I did find it difficult to read verbose or long works. I read a lot of short stories and novellas, and even then, I didn’t want anything that would make me unduly sad. My Sister, the Serial Killer certainly satisfies the conditions of what I could digest at the time.
Is there a universal African experience or for that matter, a literary work that’s representative of Nigeria?
I’m not well travelled enough to be able to answer that question. There are many states in Nigeria I haven’t visited, many cultures I am unfamiliar with and languages I have never even heard of. Every day, I learn something about Nigeria that I didn’t know. It would be difficult to represent the whole of Nigeria, let alone the whole of Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org