A yorubaddie, a romconnoisseur, and president of the Nick Miller fan club: these are all titles that Bolu Babalola has given herself. However, with the release of her debut novel Love In Colour, she can now add Sunday Times bestselling author to her repertoire. Babalola’s collection of short stories successfully breathes new life to ancient tales, centres female desire, and encourages us to embrace love in all its iterations.
Love In Colour is a retelling of myths and folklore from around the world. Some of the stories remain in their original setting—like ‘Attem’, the tale of a queen and a thief based on a Calabar folktale and “‘The King’s Wife’”—while some of the myths are reworked into a more modern context, such as ‘Thisbe’, whose story is moved from Babylon to a student accommodation hall. The modification of each myth skilfully ensures that the central themes are never lost. Moreover, her ability to divorce these stories from their patriarchal underpinnings affords her female character’s agency. Babalola also treats us to three original stories including one based on her parents’ love story. Titled ‘Alagomeji’, it is a story of amity, new beginnings, and endurance. Her ability to weave distinct stories– in which each character has a voice and each world is intricately developed, which are still bound by love as well as her captivating writing makes this collection worthwhile.
While it is a collection of romantic stories, Love In Colour also tackles universal issues. For example, ’Naleli’ champions the importance of self acceptance and ‘Yaa’ breaks free of parental expectations. The novel is filled with stories of everyday women. Women who have issues outside of whether their love is returned. The exploration of other themes emphasises Babalola’s focus of the book: love is something that should enrich your life. It should never determine your worth as a person.
Black women are at the heart of Love In Colour. Similar to writers like Talia Hibbert, Bolu Babalola depicts Black women as complex beings worthy of romance and joy. Through her diverse characters, Babalola states that love is not limited to grand gestures nor charming declarations; it is a mirror, a way for us to see and embrace our authentic selves. Love is a buttress, it gives us courage in our most difficult times. With exceptional stories like ‘“Orin”’ (an ode to first dates both good and disastrous), Love In Colour is one of the most outstanding debuts of the year. I cannot wait to read more of Babalola’s work. For now, however, I content myself with her Twitter page, where she offers hilarious yet interesting commentary on all things pop culture.