Sharing our stories about life often enlarges our awareness of one another. But which stories enhance that picture and which cloud it further? Nnamdi Ekenna loads We Must Hear ALL the Stories with his musings and reflections, with mixed results.
The book gathers the author’s thoughts and impressions, quotes from other books, prayers, and so on. Unfortunately, they seem arranged without an overarching organizing principle. An observation about actress Susan Sarandon’s tattoo runs into stories from Ekenna’s childhood and schooling in Nigeria and others about life in Los Angeles. Typical of the narrative, the author picks apart the expression “Even a broken clock is right twice a day” at length, in this stream-of-consciousness style: “I believe, and I postulate, that a Broken Clock is STUCK on, maybe, possibly one right. Too much leeway was ascribed to a Broken Clock in the above statement. One very prominent concession is the disregard of the “a.m.”, “p.m.” function of a clock.” A 41-page passage at book’s end is a feverish rant without paragraph breaks.
We Must Hear ALL the Stories takes its title from a quote by author Chinua Achebe, who believed that finding common ground as well as examining our differences was a vital undertaking. Ekenna seems to have taken this notion to an extreme, even including emails he’s previously shared with family members. The writing is often ungrammatical, and there are misspellings and misused words throughout. He describes a former neighbor as being “of Indian or so origin,” and sentences such as this are common: “My magnetism to the unadorned truism of its principle has, more than anything else, kept it alive in me through the years.” He complains about a bank misusing a quote from poet Maya Angelou, but repeatedly misspells her name (as in “Maya Angelo”).
Ekenna is right about our collective stories insofar as diversity can be illuminating; however, the randomness here makes We Must Hear ALL the Stories difficult to navigate.
Also available as an ebook.