Bolu Babalola: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

“With Bolu Babalola’s ‘Love In Colour’, reading about love as a black woman, has never been so easy.” Sharing her experiences with the novel and her excitement for the forthcoming follow up, ‘Honey & Spice’ and further exploits to come from the author, book-lover Fikeyinmi Odulaja delves into the cultural significance of ‘Love In Colour’, and the influence of its author. 


Bolu Babalola’s Twitter bio reads “Pop Culture Scholar. Yorubaddie™ Romcomisseur™ Author of Sunday Times Bestseller LOVE IN COLOUR, but I would describe her as the gift that keeps on giving. The Romcomisseur and Yorubaddie titles indicate a self-assured British-Nigerian woman, who is proud of her heritage and who she is and can be. Babalola is definitely what you would call a Twitter influencer, with 78.6K followers and the blue verification tick to solidify her status; she always has the right pop culture references for any situation. Babalola is also known for her expertise on love – one to rival Oloni’s – as she stays giving us the playbook on how to identify the perfect heart-throb. For example, when she tweeted “a heart-throb requires a specific and delicate balance of vulnerability and bad boy energy,” any keen follower would know her definition of the perfect heart-throb is Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You  because in a previous tweet she revealed just as much, saying, “will there ever be as powerful a white heart-throb as Heath Ledger? Doubt it. Nobody comes close. Looks, charisma, soul, humour, the sweet x sexy x bad boy trifecta. Ugh.” 

From her tweets to her debut written article, ‘Netflix and Chill’ – which earned her a shortlist by the 4th Estate BAME Prize in 2016 – and most recently and especially Love in Colour, Bolu Babalola is unapologetic about her affiliation with romance. In all these forms, her writing is perfection. She entertains in her tweets, and captivates in her novels – Bolu Babalola is a writer, through and through – the writer – and her panache in that field is only augmented by her experience elsewhere; she also worked as an assistant producer on BBC Comedy and is a scriptwriter- a multifaceted woman living like most millennials today, doing more than one thing.

Bolu Babalola’s debut novel Love In Colour, was released on the 20th August 2020 and has experienced outstanding success since then, including becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller. The book is indeed about love in its plethora of colours, as she boldly retold African, Greek & Asian myths, tales & folklore. She took stories that originally made women damsels in distress, disobedient daughters, haughty gods and targets of violence, and turned them to modern-day magic. In the retelling of these tales, Babalola focused on the true essence of love which she equates to being respected, heard, supported. Careful not to appropriate the stories of others, emphasising the importance of telling your own narratives, Babalola’s Love in Colour is a creation that affirms the reality that black women deserve a true love, not one of servitude and silence. In her interview with Refinery 29, she stated, “I felt these stories were so violent and romance was something we needed. It was all about a man’s desire and I wasn’t about that.True to her word,  Bolu Babalola gave us women who lived life on their own terms, saved themselves, chose themselves and most importantly she gave us happy endings. I would argue, that this book redefined black love as it is typically portrayed in mainstream media, but in her interview with Refinery 29 where she was asked if she hopes Love In Colour changes the narrative of the focus of black couples and suffering, Babalola humbly responded, “I have no idea if Love In Colour changes the narrative. I don’t want to act like I’m doing a grand thing.” 

When Black people write about love, there is almost always some hardship woven into the story, so as a hopeless romantic I had to get my romance fix from the likes of Sophie Kinsella (who I adore) but these stories were not always relatable. Everything about Love In Colour is relatable to me, from the description of the outfits, the hairstyles, the jewellery, or just the names that mean something to me. I also appreciate the fact that all the names were written out as is, with no italics to signify some sense of ‘other’ or ‘foreign’ – again making the entire experience of reading utterly relatable. This book was written for girls like me, hopeless or hopeful romantics, the black and brown girls who had to imagine love in a field with people eating strawberries. But for girls like me, there are no fields, and if you’re somewhere like Lagos, then you’re definitely not eating strawberries – do you know how expensive those are here? 

So unlike the novels of my childhood, Love In Colour opens with the retelling of one of the more prominent Yoruba myths starring, Osun, Sango and Erinle – but the way Bolu flipped the script here is brilliant (no spoilers I promise, I need everyone to read this book themselves).  My main takeaway from this story as told by Babalola was that to be loved means to be fully seen, not just looked at, and that is precisely how Love in Colour made me feel in its entirety. I felt like I was reading love stories written just for me, by someone who truly saw me.

 

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A post shared by Bolu Babalola. (@boluberry)

Bolu Babalola has only just begun. There is still so much in store starting with the forthcoming Honey & Spice and a second novel, both acquired by Headline Review, and preempted by Katie Pecker in the UK and William Morrow in the US and Canada as announced by The Bookseller. The author tweeted, “This has been technically four years coming, but really it has been my whole life. Four years, three versions, a masters degree and another book in between. I am so excited to share my debut novel HONEY & SPICE! ( Plus one more!) Glory be to God. 

What we know so far about Honey & Spice is that it is centred around the very 21st Century dating phenomenon that is ‘situationships’. A relationship that a lot of us struggle to define, I look forward to seeing how Babalola tackles the subject. To the possibility of Love In Colour being made into a TV show anthology – which the rumour mills are churching – this might not be wishful thinking. In an interview with i-D Vice where she was asked if she has a “dream cast in mind for a Love In Colour TV adaptation,” Bolu Babalola responded, “No. Because the thing about this country is that there aren’t a lot of opportunities for young Black actors and actresses. So I really feel like whatever show that I create, it will definitely be full of people that we don’t know yet. This response suggests Babalola has given it much thought, so it isn’t too presumptuous to expect Love In Colour brought to our TV Screens. I am certainly keeping an eye out for it and everything this author has in store for us. The world is certainly not ready for the gift that keeps on giving. 

Featured Image Credits: Instagram/Bolu Babalola


Fikeyinmi Odulaja is a blogger, lawyer and product manager, with a fondness for a good book. Tweet her your favourite romance novel @arismusings

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