Winner of the 2004 Association of Third World Studies President’s Distinguished Leadership and Scholarship Award, and the West African Oral History Association’s E. J. Alagoa Prize for the Best Book
A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt gathers the stories and reflections of the early years of Toyin Falola, the grand historian of Africa and one of the greatest sons of Ibadan, the notable Yoruba city-state in Nigeria.
Redefining the autobiographical genre altogether, Falola miraculously weaves together personal, historical, and communal stories, along with political and cultural developments in the period immediately preceding and following Nigeria’s independence, to give us a unique and enduring picture of the Yoruba in the mid-twentieth century. This is truly a literary memoir, told in language rich with proverbs, poetry, song, and humour.
This memoir tells the story of the writer, famous historian and scholar Toyin Falola, as a boy growing up in southwestern Nigeria in the period leading up to Nigerian independence from Britain – a time period with so many significant events that it is replete with potential material for a memoir. The writer gives us an account of significant happenings, both local and national, as well as personal and family events, for instance a near-disastrous trip to Ilorin that got him shipped off to a remote and rural neighbourhood of Ibadan; and he tells all these from a young boy’s perspective, giving it that nostalgic and wonderful feeling of childlike innocence. Wole Soyinka’s Ake: The Years of Childhood comes to mind.
Importantly, even as he narrates significant national happenings, Falola does not fail to educate the reader on the local Yoruba culture, drawing from a deep well of proverbs and folklore that would make nigh anybody’s day. A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt is educating, it is entertaining, it is fun. Worth anybody’s time.
“Toyin Falola has given us what is truly rare in modern African writing: a seriously funny, racy, irreverent package of memories, and full of the most wonderful pieces of poetry and ordinary information. It is a matter of some interest, that the only other volume A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt reminds one of is Ake, by Wole Soyinka. What is it about these Yorubas?”
–Ama Ata Aidoo
“A splendid coming-of-age story so full of vivid colour and emotion, the words seem to dance off the page. But this is not only Falola’s memoir; it is an account of a new nation coming into being and the tensions and negotiations that invariably occur between city and country, tradition and modernity, men and women, rich and poor. A truly beautiful book.”
–Robin D. G. Kelley
“More than a personal memoir, this book is a rich mini-history of contemporary Nigeria recorded in delicious detail by a perceptive eyewitness who grew up at the crossroads of many cultures.”
“The reader is irresistibly drawn into Falola’s world. The prose is lucid. There is humour. This work is sweet. Period.”
–Ngugi wa Thiongo’o
“… a rich and often profoundly beautiful book. … There’s little doubt that within the growing body of African autobiographical literature, this book is going to stand high.”
–Sunday Independent (South Africa)
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