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‘My children shaped my book’s central character’

Ogechi Ezeji

Ogechi Ezeji is the author of a children’s literature published this year, titled ‘Dalu’s Diary.’ She released ‘Eclipse of Justice,’ her debut poetry collection in 2017. Here, the writer who is also a lawyer talks about her latest work, writing for children and more. Excerpts:

 

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Bookshelf: What inspired ‘Dalu’s Diary’?

Ogechi Ezeji: I believe that every writer should be at liberty to write in whatever genre in which the muse calls. I am a mother of five young children, so writing ‘Dalu’s Diary,’ amongst other things, is an enactment of the bond and warmth I share with my children as I nurture them into adulthood.

Bookshelf: Your first book was a collection of poems. What was it like writing children’s literature?

Ezeji: Like every writer will tell you, writing in whatever genre is not bird watching. Like every other worthwhile venture, it requires discipline and a good dose of ‘stick-to-it-ness.’

Bookshelf: What did it take for you to develop the central character, Dalu?

Ezeji: The central character Dalu is a construct. In creating him, I fused a bit of my first and second sons and a bit of the child whom I think I was. In doing this, I bore in mind, my duty as a writer to achieve verisimilitude even in characterisation. I am glad that when my sons read the book, they see a bit of themselves in Dalu.

Bookshelf: There was a particular scene where Felix, a boy in Dalu’s class, was caught in a lie and later admitted it. Unfortunately, his mother handled the situation badly with the school because her husband was a Nigerian senator. Was this scene inspired by an actual event?

Ezeji: In the course of my growing up and being in school, I have seen and witnessed similar scenes. Even as late as my final year in the university, I witnessed a very similar situation between my lecturer and the parent of one of my classmates. I find it mind boggling the way some Nigerians carry around the weight of whom they think they are. One could therefore say that the scene in question was a fictionalisation of fact.

Bookshelf: How do you view the development of children’s literature in Nigeria?

Ezeji: I think it is beginning to look up. Although at a time, it appeared to be the weakest link in the chain of the Nigerian literary genres.  I, however, believe that with time things can only get better for children’s literature in Nigeria.

Bookshelf: In this age, children seem to find a variety of reasons not to read books. Why do you think this happens and what is the solution?

Ezeji: The world is more visual and screen-orientated than it was 30 years ago. In this regard, the television is the worst culprit. I remember when I was in primary school less than thirty years ago. Television viewing started by 4PM. The implication of this was that if one was on holidays as a child and needed some entertainment before 4pm, reading a book was one’s surest bet. But these days, television airs programmes round the clock, too many channels with a million and one cartoons and animated shows competing for a child’s attention. A child could therefore wake up by 6am, put on the television, recline on the couch and watch the day away. There is also the internet and numerous video games. Phones, tablets and other devices lying around the house, make shallow entertainment, just one click away from most children.

I believe it is the duty of parents to see to it that the trend changes. Amongst other things, parents can make this happen by buying quality books for their children and wards. Limit screen time and insist the children read the books. They could go further by creating a reward system that encourages the children to read.

Bookshelf: What are you working on at the moment?

Ezeji: No writing at the moment, just doing my day job, promoting my books, reading, relaxing and waiting for the next muse.

 

NOMINATE AFRICAN OF THE YEAR 2019

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