JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
by N.S. Ugezene
3 out of 5 Stars
I have to admit that when I started reading Real Thoughts by N.S. Ugezene, I was frustrated. Although the main character stayed true to the title by expressing his thoughts and feelings on various topics, I couldn’t Â figure out why I should care about his “plight” as a reader. (And I never figured out why people called him Pascal and other times KP.)
Pascal was a twenty-something man surviving in Pamona, CA, the best way he knows how. His mother stayed on his case, his dad made him out to be the ultimate momma’s boy, his step-father didn’t like him and the female friends that he accumulated came and went. He wasn’t too much different than most people at that age in that respect. What piqued my interest was his use of words because I understood the gist but wasn’t used to the way Real Thoughts read.
With a stack of “dirty magazines” to ease the tension created by his string of girlfriends and other females, Pascal stumbles through the typical growing pains of a young man staying at home with his parents while pursuing a college degree and trying to make his money stretch from paltry check to paltry check. His musings on things like people being materialistic, generational gaps in attitudes and proper diet are not ground-breaking, but they show the depths of Pascal’s critical thinking skills.
As I traveled through the pages, the one thing I could gather from Pascal was the fact that he had tons of opinions. What made this journey difficult as a reader was the painstaking detail in which Ugezene plotted Pascal’s day-to-day activities. If Pascal’s thoughts were the meat of the story, his daily routine made Real Thoughts overweight with irrelevant fluff.
His girl problems, money Â problems, mall visits and time with his boys annoyed me like Â fingernails being scraped across a chalk board. That annoyance slowly Â gave way to intrigue. I wanted to know more about his background. I wanted to figure out why I couldn’t easily wrap my mind around Pascal’s experience.
Half way though the book, it hit me. Ugezene, and by extension Pascal, is Nigerian-American, born to Nigerian parents and raised in the United States. From this standpoint, I became intrigued with getting an inside look into a sub-culture of Black America that I hadn’t really put much thought into.
It started to make sense why he “fragranced” himself after showering rather than “putting on cologne”. Pascal’s journey into manhood was framed in a duality. He was an insider and an outsider at the same time: he is a part of the African-American culture, yet he was looked at as being different by his older Nigerian family. Although I was curious to read more about Real Thoughts‘ Nigerian-American angle, I was not enchanted.
As a reviewer, I found myself at the crossroads with Real Thoughts. There was one thing that I simultaneously liked and disliked about this book. Ugezene’s use of Pascal to express thoughts about world events didn’t translate well when framed within Pascal’s mediocre life. Reading about his thoughts and his minute-by-minute twenty-something life was not enjoyable. On the other hand, Pascal’s use of the English language as a Nigerian-American was fascinating in and of itself.
Since Pascal’s life was repetitive, Real Thoughts seemed to end abruptly. It was like I was driving down long road only to fall off a cliff that came out of no where. Real Thoughts never got into a progressive flow, so the chapters could have been placed in any order to achieve the same effect.
I think Real Thoughts would have done better as a book of essays by Ugezene, since it became easy to figure that Pascal’s life closely resembled the author’s. But I also think there is a niche in the making with Ugezene helming a genre for a new generation of Nigerian-American readers that grow up with Hip-Hop and the Internet.
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