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The opening of the novel places the reader not in Falola's shoes as a child, but rather as an adult scholar attempting to procure information from his own family. This proves easier said than done as Falola takes us through the process of obtaining specific dates in a society that deems them irrelevant. By examining the difficulty that Falola has in this seemingly simple task, the reader begins to understand the way in which time and space are intertwined and weighed in Africa. This concept of "connections between words, space, and rituals" encompasses the way that Africans perceive the world around them - as a series of interrelated events rather than specific instances in time (Falola 224). This approach also stems from the concept that the family unit, the village, and the elders come before the individual in all instances, making a detail such as a birthday unimportant when it comes to the welfare of the whole. Introducing the reader to the complexities of African conventions, Falola expands their minds and challenges them to view the forthcoming narrative with untainted eyes.
The structure of the memoir immerses the reader in African culture by incorporating anecdotes, poems, proverbs, and songs. These elements combine to emphasize the importance of oral institutions and to convey the significance of understanding them, "One must learn proverbs a proverb is regarded as the horse' that carries words to a different level, investing them with meanings, enrobing the user with the garment of wisdom" (Falola 53). "As in this case and others that I witnessed, the leader must be gifted with language, making extensive use of proverbs, idioms, and cross-references" (Falola 133). While the verses add depth to the story, they often become cumbersome and superfluous. For example, when discussing the need to keep quiet in order to conceal the location of their musical group, the addition of the proverb, "You cannot light a fire when in hiding," is unnecessary seeing as the reader already has a clear understanding of the meaning of the text (Falola 243).
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Falola's memoir places the reader in the midst of historical and cultural events by viewing them through the eyes of a young boy. This personal context allows the reader to better understand the atypical way that Africans view both time and space and their relationship to one another. While the structure of the story is occasional befuddled by arduous proverbs, the main points shine through in an unforgettable way. Much as Leku gave Falola the charm to remember, he passes on that gift through the eternal words of his memoir.
Falola, Toyin. A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2004.