Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 9, 2021

Non Fiction November – Book Pairings

It’s Nonfiction November, this week hosted by Doing Dewey. This week we’re supposed to pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title — something I’m usually hopeless at.

But this year, it’s a snap, and it’s all because of one of my political heroes, Wole Soyinka.

Wole Soyinka is a Nobel Prize winning author from Nigeria, and when he publishes a novel after many, many years, it is an Event.  His first novel The Interpreters came out in 1965, followed in 1972 by Season of Anomy. His new novel — only his third, though he’s a prolific writer, (see his Wikipedia page) is Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth. The publisher kindly sent me a copy, and I am reading it now.

But as it happens, I also have Ake, The Years Of Childhood, his memoir from 1981.

Why have I got this memoir?

Well, back in the 1990s, when the military regime in Nigeria executed Ken Saro-Wiwa for protesting against the operations of Shell when it was destroying the environment without any benefits flowing to ordinary people, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka called for a worldwide boycott of all Shell products. That is how I came to know Wole Soyinka’s name, and how I snapped up his memoir when I saw it in a bookshop some years ago.

I have never willingly bought Shell products since.  Once, in outback Queensland when there was no other petrol station, and once when The Spouse borrowed my car and returned it with just enough petrol to get it to the nearest petrol station, which is of course a Shell station. (I bought just enough petrol to get me to the next petrol station).  Does Shell taken any notice of one person’s enduring boycott?  No.  But sometimes, when a great wrong has been done, it’s important to do the only thing you can do, to support countless other people around the world who are working to right that wrong.  And now years of activism against Shell’s human rights abuses in Nigeria are finally coming to fruition.

It’s not likely ever to happen but if I ever get to meet Wole Soyinka, I can look him in the eye and say that I did what he asked us to do.

(I’ve also written a good few letters to Nigerian authorities for PEN’s campaigns for writers who are Prisoners of Conscience.)


  1. Hello Lisa and book enthusiasts,

    Nonfiction Week is an interesting literary initiative. Lisa, your pairing of Soyinka’s books are poignant and relevant. I have a few international book pairings that I would like to share:

    My Place by Sally Morgan (memoir) & Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
    Talking to My Country by Stan Grant (memoir) & Home by Larissa Behrendt
    Truganini: Journey Through The Apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus & Beloved by Toni Morrison (novel)
    Too Afraid to Cry by Ali Cobby Eckermann (memoir) & Sugar: A Novel
    by Bernice L. McFadden
    A Map to the Door of No Return by Dionne Brand (creative nonfiction) & Small Island by Andrea Levy
    The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke (memoir) & Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison (YA novel)
    Black Chicks Talking edited by Leah Purcell (life stories) & The Black Woman: An Anthology edited by Toni Cade Bambara
    Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Anita Heiss (life stories) & Living Beyond Borders: Growing up Mexican in America edited by Margarita Longoria
    Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara (life story) & Dawn Raid by Vaeluaga Smith (middle grade novel)

    Happy reading,


    • Thanks, Maxine, that’s a great contribution!


  2. A good choice of pairing and an even better reason for doing so, well done on your sustained boycott.


  3. I have a copy of “Chronicles”;awaiting my attention. How much prior knowledge of Nigerian politics do you think is needed to fully appreciate the book?


    • Not much probably… they’ve had one corrupt leader after another, and the people are still poor.


  4. I agree. Even if a single person’s protest isn’t going to make a dent, it needs to be done. I avoid certain companies if I can – if we all did, it *would* start making a difference…


    • What I find interesting now, is not so much the longevity of my boycott, is how I came to know about it in the first place. Then as now, the Australian media is not renowned for paying much attention to international issues other than the US and UK. Maybe it was through Amnesty International…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Could not comment on Brona’s from my device (we are away and I didn’t bring my laptop) so let’s see how I go here. The form here looks different!

    I love the pairing challenge.., but this year it was so easy I had to challenge myself a little.

    Enjoyed yours. BTW wasn’t Wole Soyinka Tara June Winch’s mentor on the book that became The yield?


    • Yes, I think he was her mentor. I think it was he who taught her to look beyond her own world, and it showed in her short story collection.


      • He also told her to focus on a small area – 500 acres , I think she said – and that she could tell her story through that.


        • I can’t be sure yet, because I’ve only just started it, but I’ll see if he does that himself in his new novel!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I look forward to hearing… Though maybe that was his advice for her conundrum rather than generic advice?


            • Don’t know. His novel is set in a non-specific ‘African country’ but it’s got a lot in common with Nigeria!

              Liked by 1 person

  6. Lisa, Pairing Non-Fiction with Fiction…Love this idea! From my 2021 Reading List: 1) Monarchs of the Sea by Danna Staaf & 20,000 Leagues under the Sea/Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. 2)The Trying out of Moby-Dick by Vincent with Melville’s Moby Dick; 3) Goethe’s Study of World Literature & Sorrows of Young Werther; 4) History in English Words by Owen Barfield & Longfellow’s Arcadia; 5) Paris au XXe Siecle & Jean-Paul Sartre’s What is Literature. I hope I am understanding the concept here…this was fun. There are many more to pair, this is a great exercise which I have been doing unconsciously. Your posts always challenge me, Robyn.


    • Thanks, Robyn, I like your pairings! I have Sartre’s What is Literature on the TBR, and I remember reading your posts about Paris in the 20th century…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I started Chronicle, too, and was quite enjoying it, but someone else was waiting for it at the library and I couldn’t move quickly enough (the style is very satisfying but very dense).


    • It certainly is, even though it’s interesting, I find it tiring to read. I’m still only about a third of the way through…


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