Xolo Score 4.5/5
Content warning: mention of homophobia
And Then He Sang a Lullaby tells the tragic love story of August and Segun, two young men growing up in Nigeria. August is the only son of a mother who died after bearing him and leaving August in the care of his emotionally distant father and three religious sisters. He’s a track star and popular with his schoolmates, but his mother’s death haunts him. Segun is a quiet and sensitive soul constantly bullied in school because of his effeminate nature. The two young men meet and fall for each other at the University of Nigeria. Still, there’s a significant complication: August is bisexual and closeted, while Segun refuses to deny that he’s Queer.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
And Then He Sang a Lullaby explores its two main characters deeply. The novel independently develops August and Segun’s characters before the two become romantically entangled. It gives the reader important personal and cultural context for why August and Segun struggle to build their love for each other. Because of past relationships, Segun refuses August’s advances, telling him he cannot commit to a relationship with a closeted man. But as the only son in his family, accepting his Queerness was something he could easily switch on.
And Then He Sang a Lullaby is a deep character study of two Queer boys and their different experiences growing up in Nigeria. Both Segun and August experience homophobia that is subtle and existential. But how much they can endure and handle this hate depends on the social factors surrounding each other’s lives. When Segun’s first love was outed and attacked, it disrupted the semblance of normalcy. It taught him that the world had more evil, violence, and cruelty than he previously thought possible. It’s why he presents as his authentic self and doesn’t dismiss subtle homophobia like August. August has been able to keep his Queerness hidden to an extent and, therefore, is more willing to overlook the rampant hate. But once Segun and August’s relationship comes to a head, they try to find a way to accept each other’s love in strenuous circumstances.
Segun and August bond over being members of a Marxist student organization where Segun is very vocal about deconstructing the power of governing elites in Nigeria. By taking place solely in Nigeria and with African geopolitics, the novel does not exist in the shadow of Queerness in the U.S. or mainstream context. Queer Nigerian culture is revolutionary, and when an anti-gay bill is up for a vote, Segun and August’s unlikely relationship leads to a tender, painful story of survival. Unfortunately, it falls into a rather obvious category of tragic Queer narratives where the queer characters meet tragic ends due to homophobia to move the plot forward.
A tragic debut coming-of-age Queer love story that is raw and devastating.
To what extent are there BIPOC leading characters or perspectives?
How well does the author avoid writing BIPOC experiences through the white gaze?
To what extent does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?
How well does the book explore nuances between intersectional identities?