A MUST READ | 'Life as It Is' by Odera O'Gonuwe

I have always been a fan of poetry. We have heard about new age authors like Rupi Kuar, who gained her popularity on instagram and went on to write two New York Times bestsellers and sold out international book tours. When I discovered Odera O'Gonuwe, a phenomenal up and coming author released her collection poems under the book title, Life as It Is, I was excited because I also see her gaining great success like Rupi Kuar. I am not new to Odera’s work. A few years ago, I read and wrote about her work and I am a huge fan of her writing style (read here). I got a chance to ask her a few questions and get some insight into her writing process and love for literature. 

Odera and her team decided to release the ebook for free during these tough times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, her book can be a good escape from the pandemic happening around the world. 

1. Your work evokes a lot of emotion. Each poem causing the reader to self-reflect or question societal norms. Do you think good literary work forces the reader to be a little uncomfortable?
First, I would have to define what good literary work means to me. It is seamless. The words flow on their own accord, and the author’s machinations are unseen. The reader has complete trust that the story is as told, turning each page with conviction in where the book will go. Does that mean that the literary work must be uncomfortable to read? In my opinion, no. Literature is only uncomfortable when you are an outsider peeking into a worldview unfamiliar to you. As a Black woman, when I read works meant to be engaged by Black women, I feel more affirmed than uncomfortable. Likewise, when I engage works centering people unlike me and see the inequalities they face, there is a discomfort in realizing the power that I do wield and how I must dismantle my biases if I truly wish to build an equitable world.

2. What was the first book that made you cry or feel overwhelming emotion (good or bad)?
I have read a lot of books in my lifetime, but the first one that I remember making me feel overwhelming emotion would have to be Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Rick Riordan was my Favorite author as a child. I re-read his books numerous times. I felt as though Percy Jackson was real. I was immediately drawn into the riveting tale with the first sentence in the first chapter. I remember laughing along to the dialogue and fearing for Percy, Annabeth, and Grover as the plot thickened. I eclipsed the act of simply reading and lived within the pages until the story’s end. I discovered the magic of good storytelling with this novel. I write each book with the hope of evoking this emotion with my readers.

3. How important is it to bring a touch of humor into serious topics? In the poem, “People are Dying, Susan” I noticed that was the case and it allowed me to resonate with the overall message.
Humor allows us to ease tension. Sometimes my intention is to dial up the heat rather than extinguishing the fire. I attacked each poem with a unique perspective. I was blunt, nostalgic, whimsical, and humorous. However, I think it is best not to force humor as one is writing. Follow the natural voice that comes from within because there is nothing worse than a joke that falls flat.