TBBNQ Reads: Easy Motion Tourist By Leye Adenle


Image:  Zaynab

Image: Zaynab

The 48 hours after reading Easy Motion Tourist are somewhat similar to that of the entirety of the book - that is, a perpetual rush of emotions for both the characters and (now) the reader. In what starts off as an official trip and perhaps a hopeless bid for self-validation and/or actualisation, Guy Collins - a British wannabe journalist - voluntarily arrives Lagos to cover an election story. Like a kid who waves a hand through a fire to see if it burns, Collins sets out to discover the night life in Victoria Island, Lagos — or crudely, to find black loving.

Collins quickly learns that Lagos not only burns with a devouring intensity, with greed and poverty as oxidant and fuel, but also fiercely consumes. By virtue of his failure to adhere to his manual on residing in Nigeria - in other words, by being present and simultaneously videoing - Collins is caught in the middle of a crime scene: a mutilated naked female body found in a gutter, and thus assumes the position of a lead in the investigation that shapes the main plot of the novel.

In interchanging narratives - which I loved - told by an unknown narrator and Collins, the author, Leye Adenle, eases the latter and the reader into the underground economy in Nigeria; one “where sex and perversion [are] mixed freely with violence and death.” Amaka - a fierce, sexy and intelligent lady with a phenomenal awareness of self - commands the attention of the reader as she unveils this pervasiveness, and the sophistication of the Nigerian sex work industry from the second chapter. 


The Chase

The author’s solid characterisation and the rawness in imagery allows for another central theme -  the trade of humans-for-money - to be explicitly explored. Chief Amadi - a prominent and affluent Lagos ‘big boy’ - introduces this line of business to Catch Fire, who in turn, reels in Knock Out and Go Slow by the hook of desperation. This tag team of headhunters - widely reminiscent of the network involved in the famous Otokoto hotel, which the author also references - are driven by their quest to make quick bucks.

Unlike Amadi, these other characters are careless enough to leave the trails that open up the same investigation Collins is webbed into by Inspector Ibrahim. What unfolds is a crime story woven into the fabric of Lagos; in the same way in which the paths of Amaka and Collins align. The moments of intense suspense are, however, balanced with the right amount of humour: from HotTemper’s irrationality and Collin’s naïvety. Not for once did it feel like there was anything missing - I mean, just Amaka’s sass was enough to keep a reader on alert!


Dark Cracks and Plaques Of Righteousness

Doubling as a prostitute on ‘assignment’ and a guardian angel to sex workers, Amaka offers a different perspective to prostitution in Nigeria. The author does a good job in creating a voice for the females involved in this shadow economy, by telling their own stories. The reader is also exposed to the hierarchy of risks involved in prostitution: from being arrested, to being physically abused (Florentine), to the extreme of being the subject of ritual killings.

Adenle, in writing these stories, gives a fictional push for the legalisation of sex work. Considering the violence against these women, this subtly becomes an idea that lingers in the mind of the reader. Amaka’s role of maintaining a database of all ‘customers’ and her network of female workers seemingly becomes valid; forcing one to adopt a new lens to these women - humans, first, then vulnerable (but not illegal) labourers. 

Though I found this interesting, I did tire of the references to choice, in pertinence to prostitution. I found that the feminisation of poverty and the lack of agency and voice stringed with the narratives on sex work was conflicting. I grappled with the idea that all sex workers are victims of the socio-economic conditions and secondly, that choice and poverty are mutually inclusive. To some extent, the former massively contributes to the motives for engaging in sex work, but does this really erode choice?


Hover around the charts below for statistics.

Educational Attainment

Motives Of Engagement

Data (In %) Based On Study By Fawole and Dagunduro, Conducted In Abuja.

Source: Olufunmilayo Fawole and Abosede Dagunduro, 2014. Research paper here.


In a survey on 305 female sex workers (results illustrated above) in Abuja, Fawole and Dagunduro found a link between socioeconomic factors and motives for engaging in the Nigerian sex industry. What is actually more gripping is the fact that 74.7 percent had at least started secondary education. In this study and another conducted in Lagos in 1990, unemployment and financial limitations, and broken homes (50 percent) and poverty (18.67 percent), were respectively noted. Exogenous factors as a precept for sex work? This, I understand.

Notwithstanding, I do question (amicably, too) the proposition that “for them [Adenle referring to sex workers in Easy Motion Tourist], prostitution was not a choice, […] [but] a lack of choice.” That is, “they had all been forced into that life when the ran out of choices.” Florentine, who had previously been taken care of by her aunt, however deliberately substitutes this for independence. This, in line with Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street’s Sisi, alludes to an element of choice, however marginal, in prostitution.

Another assumption tied to ‘choice’ is the argument that women previously assaulted are subservient and more susceptible to selling their bodies. Not only does this study negate this argument by showing that only 20 percent of sex workers had previously been raped, Amaka - who was sexually assaulted at young age - is depicted to have made a decision in selecting her line of business. One could however argue that Amaka - unlike the other ladies and Aunty Baby - was ‘shielded’ by wealth and education, and thus, cannot be compared. 


Poetic Injustice

This, in no way, subtracts from the sheer brilliance of Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist. The truth is: walking a quarter a mile in their shoes could drastically change one’s perspective. I appreciate the author’s argument and even more, the fact that he makes each character so real. He shows that Knock OutChief Amadi, ‘Rose’ and Chief Ojo are among us, and the reality of Nigeria’s underground economy, which we ignore. We, however, probably seldom hear about them in-house, unless they sip through the crack, and into the arms of international media.

In this sense, the reader is exposed to the tug of war between power and justice. One in which virtue is punished and viciousness is rewarded; integrity is awarded with early retirement, whereas those who are to protect are the backbones to those who devour the country. This poetic injustice is subtly noted amid the author’s kind portrayal of a highly effective Nigerian Police Force, intelligence unit and responsive intensive care unit — the three of which Nigerians long for. 

Oh, if only Adenle’s words were horses, pigs would fly!


Dear Leye

My letter to the author.

The end of Easy Motion Tourist left me very uneasy. Simply: I could not believe Adenle’s guts. He took my emotions by full force, and had my heart racing through the last pages, only to toss all, with reckless abandon, into further suspense. I no longer had a reason to bombard my read buddy with excitement at 2am, nor a good enough reason to jump out of sleep at 4am to read. What I was left with was an emptiness and a need for closure on the love affair we shared over 327 pages of crime fiction. 

Though I have largely focused on the discourse on choice and the lack of it in prostitution, this does not change the fact that Easy Motion Tourist is easily one of my favourite reads, so far, this year! The palpitation that followed the twists were unbearable — especially from chapter 50! This book, I tell you, is guaranteed to leave one heart broken, with heart-in-mouth, or both. I, however, take joy in knowing that my healing is coming in its sequel - When Trouble Sleeps - in 2018. This makes the book an exception to “the rule” - that is, an ‘ex’ worthy of reconciliation. 

Dear Leye Adenle,

You were made for this - do not stop. 

Have you read Easy Motion Tourist? What were your thoughts?

Purchase a copy, here, or if in Lagos, send us an email at


TBBNQ Reads: On Black Sisters' Street By Chika Unigwe

By Niki

Image: Amazon

Image: Amazon

On Black Sisters’ Street has been on my hit list for over three years now. It is one of those books that caught my eye immediately but kept getting bumped for academic or work related reading. There is something near hypnotic about the naked black back on the cover. The smoothness and sheen of the skin is picture-perfect, tempting you to explore the depths of the book. If this cover image is a metaphor for the theme of prostitution in the narrative, then it works superbly. On a surface level, an ode is being paid to the beauty of Nigerian skin; a beauty that makes our women high prized commodity in the international sex trafficking game – a blessing and a curse. It can also be seen as homage to the age old adage: “all the glitters is not gold” - because the protagonists of this narrative seek ‘abroad’ as a way to fix life’s inadequacies, only to find that their dream comes with dire strings.

Chika Unigwe’s approach of enlisting four protagonists – Sisi, Joyce, Ama and Efe - enabled her to break the construct of the single sex-worker narrative. On Black Sisters’ Street portrays the decision to go into sex work as stemming from more than naiveté and trickery. Nigeria as an economy failing its graduates, women and families creates conditions that allow for a man like Dele to flourish selling the bodies of women not protected by a wealthy home or progressive career prospects. The respect Dele garners simply for being a “big man” is well captured in this narrative. Unigwe also touches on the flexibility of religious beliefs and morality in Nigerian society. This is done through the highlighting of people’s acceptance of amorality providing it has a successful outcome – of which, in this case, success is measured in monetary gain.

What Is In A Name?

One thing the four-protagonist approach allows Unigwe achieve is a discussion around the import of names. For two – Sisi and Joyce - of the four protagonists, the name given at birth is not the name that is used upon entering their profession. Even then, both women adopt new names for vastly differing reasons. Sisi’s (a nickname meaning sister) choice of name proves ironic as the women come to realise how little they know about her. She falls into the cliché psyche of using a new name to key into a false reality. Her hope is misguidedly that by shedding her traditional name, she can better assimilate to her new job - one far from the prospects she had upon completing her Undergraduate degree.

Joyce on the other hand leaves her traditional name behind in the flat where her family is brutally murdered. This interjection in the narrative, exploring war crimes and refugees whilst unexpected, elevates On Black Sisters’ Street from a Nigerian narrative about sex work to an exploration of the brutality of womanhood in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. As the protagonists are all of African descent, name change as a way to aid assimilation with their new European home would not be shocking: it is in fact expected. Unigwe however, keys us into the realisation that for a European market the exoticism of an African name pays sex workers. It is interesting to see names we take for granted being idolised even if it is by sleazy men keying into sexual fantasies.

‘It Is Not The Blood That Binds Us In The End’

A great deal of the narrative takes place in a room on the wrong side of Brussels as three women bound by their profession are forced to confront the fact that they are strangers living under one roof. They are in unknown territory here, having always had a relationship which skimmed the surface like milk. This meeting is brought about by tragedy; the death of one of their own forces them to pull back the curtains between their past and present and redefine the relationships they have with one another. The one thing all their stories have in common is that they are all survivors of rape; Belief that sexual assault victims are prime candidates for sex work is reaffirmed in this narrative. Ironically, the only one who entered the trade without a history of sexual assault is Sisi, and perhaps it is her lack of disillusionment with sex that informs the choices she makes prior to her demise. For the three surviving women, sex becomes a power tool and love plays no part in what happens between the sheets.

By toggling between the past and present, the women are stripped bare in a manner more personal than physical nakedness and ultimately create what we are to believe is a life-long bond. Efe’s story which looks at the power of religion to serve as a cover for abuse, is a raw and honest depiction of the dangers of “Nigerian Christianity”. With the number of churches now averaging about two per street just in Lagos State – an estimation being made solely on the basis of personal observation - Nigeria’s 'religiousness' is becoming a money making endeavour. Religious leaders and officials gain respect based off their title, and this respect is so warped that it impinges upon the freedom to critique them should they be in the wrong. This means that, potentially, under positions still predominantly held by men in Nigeria, atrocities are going on unchecked.

The World Is My Oysta

The promise of autonomy that informs the women’s decision to go into sex work is so string attached it boggles the mind. Apart from being illegally in the country, the women have no hold of their passports and are 30,000 Euros in debt to Dele who arranges their trip into Brussels. No repayment is not an option - a fact Dele knows given the lack of opportunities for the women back in Nigeria. The need to survive their origin stories coupled with the bleak reality of financial prospects in Nigeria forces these women into near servitude for a man who lives lavishly off their labour.

For many sex workers, the money owed to their benefactor limits their ability to save and keeps them in the trade far longer than desired. This increases the risk of arrest and death. The high odds of never getting out of the trade is perhaps why, Unigwe’s tidy ending did not sit well with me. We are given glimpses into the surviving protagonists futures: futures which see them escaping the profession that binds them. Whilst this should be a cause for celebration, it seems - given the odds of this profession, unrealistic to see a three-quarter survival rate where none of the women become victims of drugs or deportation.

Apart from the overly optimistic references to the futures of the women, Chika Unigwe provides a compelling angle one being a Nigerian woman – specifically as pertains to poverty and the desperation for a “better” future. Her exploration of tribalism, culture, family, love and loss provides a wonderful array of positions to explore how the sex trade is able to thrive. These women have their stories told in a manner that elevates them from the blasé umbrella of victims. It is not so much that we can relate to their stories, it is simply that we can see them.

You can purchase On Black Sisters' Street online, here, or send us an email for vendors in Nigeria.