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A Book That Changed My Life | Irenosen Okojie

We all have memories of books that have sparked our imagination, but is there one special book that has changed your life? We asked writer, Irenosen Okojie to share a book that had a huge impact on her. Here’s what she shared…

There have been many books that have changed my life. It’s difficult to single out just one, but Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things is one of those books.
Cover of the book The God of Small Things

Published in 1997, this stunning debut novel follows the lives of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up against a backdrop of political turbulence in Kerala. It’s the story of their colourful, eccentric family and how the heartbreaking occurrences of childhood and adolescence can have a great impact. It went on to win the Booker Prize.

I was utterly transported by this book, completely invested in the fates of such indelible characters. I was gobsmacked by Roy’s empathy, her insight, her mastery, her wit, the vividness yet control. I read it in one sitting.

A book like The God of Small Things shows us the power of literature to transcend beyond the page. It’s a book that made me pick up a pen. It’s a book that made me not only think that I was an absorber of culture, but that I could be a producer of culture too, which was a seismic shift at the time. During that period, I wondered how many young women felt the way I did and had had a similar experience with it, but none of my close friends then were big readers. Instead, I raved about it to my mother, also a lover of books.

The novel took pride of place on my bookshelf, but it’s more than the book alone which is amazing. There is Arundhati herself, a literary heroine of mine.

There are several things to admire about her; her talent, her activism, her ability to do things on her own terms, to fight for the voices of those who are and feel marginalized. Imagine the pressure to produce another novel after winning the Booker. Just imagine.

Instead, she did things her way, wrote non-fiction on a wide range of topics from interrogations on India’s nuclear tests to the U.S. invasions of Iraq. Lived life. This year, twenty years after The God of Small Things arrived, her new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness hits bookstores and as a fan, as a writer and a reader, I’m beyond excited. What she does on the page is virtuosic. She’s an extraordinary writer, an extraordinary woman. I can’t wait to read it.


Irenosen Okojie is a writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel, Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask Award. Her short story collection, Speak Gigantular is longlisted for the Jhalak Prize. @IrenosenOkojie

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