On What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky and some other things 

No spoilers.

You know I have home training.

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is a collection of short stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah. I got it on iBooks because I was finally trying that packing light for a trip thing and didn’t have space for an analogue (haha) book.

At first I didn’t realize that this was a collection of short stories so the first one took me completely by surprise.

After finishing the first bit, which I assumed was chapter 1, I thought that the author was ending that section on a note of suspense (and oh it was!)… and that the story would continue on the next page. Hai I was wrong. That was the end of the story. So I went quickly through the 5 stages of grief – in 30 seconds or less – and I started the next story. I’m still disappointed. I feel cheated and I want a full novel out of that one.

But what a collection of stories it is! It brings to mind Roxanne Gay’s Difficult Women – in that I had similar feelings of being pleasantly surprised at the effortless blending of fantasy in the writing.

I don’t know if I’ve described this how I mean it… Y’all know I live for fantasy genre, but there are fantasy novels or stories that make you fully aware from the beginning that you’ve entered a fantasy story. Some are really great, but most times they feel heavy and manufactured… and I often feel like I’m starting a chore where I have to remember a bunch of very manufactured names – of places, characters, magical creatures, eras, power sources… you know?
This doesn’t happen with Lesley Arimah’s stories. The fantasy just. is. Easy. Smooth. She has such imaginings! As I read each story, I would often briefly pause and smile about how clever and how imaginative the author was. That was an added dimension of enjoyment and wonder. Being imaginative is not a prerequisite for writing a great book – for indeed a lot of great books don’t have a lot of imaginings in them, and some books with a lot of imaginings are quite wack.

I like the way Igbo writers keep memories of Biafra alive in their writing. Though now after reading this book, I begin to wonder if they feel… like an obligation to do so… is that a bad word to describe what I mean? It’s not like I think they hate doing it, but perhaps there are subtle pressures that mean this has to feature in their art.

I feel these subtle pressures a lot when I’m making art or designing… a subtle pressure to show my Ghanaianess… whatever that means. Not that I want to splash kente or adinkra on everything, but that I want some people to see this and know where I’m from. A pressure to represent because representation is important. I think sometimes that I would like to make something stripped bare of everything. You get me? No, I didn’t think so.

On Difficult Women.

When I finished the first story in Roxanne Gay’s ‘Difficult Women’, I had to take a break and figure out whether I wanted to cry or not. I think I tweeted at some point, that I had just realised that the book would make me feel feelings.

At that point, I thought it would just be the usual mix of sadness, triumph, hopefulness, anger, pain, and that familiar feeling of oh-my-God-Roxanne-Gay-is-an-amazing-writer. I was pleasantly surprised, and then thrilled by her historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers 🙂


Whether with a tweet, an article, or a short story, she is excellent at making me feel feelings, and this book was no exception. What I was not expecting were the historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers. I’ve quipped a couple of times about counting Gay as a fantasy writer because she wrote a Black Panther prequel. I was not entirely serious, but I am now and I’m paying attention. There is a story about a stone thrower who marries a glass woman which sent my mind reeling with all sorts of imaginings… Most of the best stories ever, I believe, leave you imagining more… because they never seem like they really ended, and this story – Requiem for a Glass Heart – is one such story.

It’s an eclectic mix of fantasy, gritty realism and a whole world of heartbreak, wonder and stubborn home in between. I loved everything about Difficult Women, and I am now quite happily a Roxanne Gay stan for life.

To say I enjoyed reading it doesn’t seem like the right way to characterise my experience. It is not light reading, and if you have trauma in your past, this book is likely to bring up memories… Even without past trauma, a reader will find many of these stories dark. The thing about that darkness is that there are usually glimmers of light, but not in the usual neat ways where light overcomes happiness and every thing is cast in maximum saturation. The darkness is complex and contradictory and there is not a lot happily ever afters, but this doesn’t mean there is no happiness at all… it is what it is

I received my copy – an uncorrected bound proof – from Susan de Soissons of Little Brown Book Group, via Ghana’s favourite literary event organiser @BrunchoverBooks. Follow @BrunchoverBooks on twitter for book chats, book swap events and giveaways!