How many times have you wished you could live a life with a different identity, become somebody else for a day or two and then switch back like Superman does when he turns to Clark Kent, or Bruce Wayne does when he turns to Batman? This ability, according to television, is reserved for superheroes alone. In A, Igoni Barett’s, Blackass, that is not the case.
Igoni begins the narrative with one of the most powerful opening lines I have ever encountered in a novel. Furo Wariboko awoke this morning to find that dreams can lose their way and turn up on the wrong side of sleep. That first line was so strong; it felt like an assault and humour blended together in one punch. I was dazed and it felt like I was seeing stars circling around my head. Not many writers can successfully hook you with their first line.
Blackass started strongly and maintained that rhythm for the duration of the story. The story centres on the life of Furo Wariboko, who is born and bred in Lagos and begins in the morning of a long anticipated job interview. He woke up that morning and finds out to his horror that he had turned white for no reason at all, and thus the journey begins. One of the things I found a little curious about the narrative is that Barrett does not give an explanation as to the change, instead, the story goes on, leaving the reader to keep wanting for something that he or she may not eventually find out.
The narrative wasn’t big on limiting itself and scope to a single theme and danced around a variety of themes. It moved from the topic of racial identity and its effects on the psyche of people and how they respond to these changes to themes of psychological and physical transformations. In a world that is struggling with the problems of racial profiling, xenophobia, homophobia and trans-phobia, Blackass deals subtly with these issues as though the writer intends to provoke a discussion.
What I like most about the book is the ease at which each transition is made, touching on sensitive issues without bordering on sentiments.