Review of Antoinette Tijani Alou’s “On m’appelle Nina”


On m’appelle Nina, by Antoinette Tijani Alou, was published in March 2017 by Présence africaine. This novel centers on the story of Vilhelminma, a woman who leaves her home island—Jamaica—to settle down in Niger for love. In his review of the novel, Jean-Marie Teno refers to it as a work of autofiction. Here are translated excerpts of his review in Africultures.  He writes:

This powerful text with a circular structure—the last sentence is the dedication of the novel, the starting point, as in many African heritage stories—left me feeling dumbfounded and dazed, but also light, with a desire to start the journey over again, to relish in the pleasure of language, which the author makes musical, even when she describes moments that are extremely difficult to bear. I want to reread it over and over so as not to let the shocking nature of the subject take away from the beauty of the text and the depth of some of its reflections.

With Antoinette and Nina, we cross oceans, we revisit the journey of their lives. In some instances, we are passionate witnesses; in others, we are presented with the critical distance that inserts their narrative in a philosophical quest, in which one may draw material for personal and spiritual enrichment.

After a dormancy that drags us into the storyline, where we sometimes wonder which parts are true and which are fiction, the plot gradually positions us in a larger questioning, in which the intimate, the personal, and questions of identity come together to offer us a reflection on humanity, Africanness, femininity, and the difficulty to survive our loved ones, especially children.

Constructed as a play or a script in three acts, “Dormance” and “Une saison de si” frame “L’enfant bleu,” the heart of the matter—a slice of life that they bring into perspective. [. . .]

For full review (in French), see

Also see

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