Book Review: Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

 

Every Day is for the Thief tells the story of a young Nigerian American who finally visits home (Lagos, Nigeria) after 15 years of living in America to discover things are no longer as they used to be. Corruption and bribery are the norm, which he sadly experienced right from the consulate office in New York when he was asked to give a second undocumented money order to get his passport processed faster than normal.


The narrator is more of an observer than an active participant in the story. And the book is more of a travel journal with photographic evidence than a fiction. The narrator who remained nameless throughout the book could be me or anyone sharing story about their travel experience.

 

The book highlights some of the issues in Nigeria which include the rise of prosperity pastors, the poor state of the education system, the unfortunate jungle justice, lack of electricity, poor leadership, Internet cafes chock full with scammers, and the unequal pay between a white employee and a Nigerian employee. Sadly white workers get paid higher than their Nigerian colleagues. Isn’t that a shame? Colonial mentality is a disease! One of the saddest issues to me was when the narrator visited the national museum in Lagos, after looking forward to finally seeing African art in its own home, but he was grossly disappointed to discover that London, New York and Paris museums have a better collection of African art. Isn’t this true to the biblical saying that a prophet is not honored in his own home?

 

Earlier I stated the narrator was more of an observer than a participant but that changed towards the end of the book when he became personal and talked about his father’s death and his not-so-great relationship with his mother. He acted like he was better than everyone at first, comparing his American experience with the average Nigerian’s experience at home, which I thought was an unfair comparison, but sharing his personal detail made him more relatable and less of an outsider.

 

Narrator seems to have a poor opinion of Nigeria, which I can’t fault him for considering the numerous changes (many of which were not good) he saw during his visit. One thing I loved about the book was the way it told the unadulterated truth about Nigeria. Even though this book was first published in 2007 many of the issues highlighted are still true today. I thought it was a good book that anyone, especially a Nigerian who has lost touch of how things are back home needs to read. I highly recommend it!

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