A Review of Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

Born on a Tuesday

About Born on a Tuesday

In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree. During the election, the boys are paid by the Small Party to cause trouble. When their attempt to burn down the opposition’s local headquarters ends in disaster, Dantala must run for his life, leaving his best friend behind. He makes his way to a mosque that provides him with food, shelter, and guidance. With his quick aptitude and modest nature, Dantala becomes a favored apprentice to the mosque’s sheikh. Before long, he is faced with a terrible conflict of loyalties, as one of the sheikh’s closest advisors begins to raise his own radical movement. When bloodshed erupts in the city around him, Dantala must decide what kind of Muslim—and what kind of man—he wants to be. Told in Dantala’s naïve, searching voice, this astonishing debut explores the ways in which young men are seduced by religious fundamentalism and violence.


This is one of my first books to read that is set in Northern Nigeria. It got me curious to read on the history and the people of this part of Nigeria. The Hausa are in fact the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. This was a history journey all over again but this time it was emotionally intertwined because of the story of the protagonist- Dantala.

Dantala is the protagonist in the book and his name means Born on a Tuesday.  His story begins with his parents taking him to a school to learn Arabic. When he completes his studies, he does not go back home but instead joins a street gang. It is during a political period where violence ensures and he ends up being taken up by Muslim leader at a mosque. The book ends in suspense something that I love about well written books. Strong themes come out in this book including death, religion of Islam, love, family, poverty, and same sex relationships.

The writer captures vividly the way of life in Northern Nigeria which for me is one of the strengths of this book. Dantala’s narration gives insight to the challenges he faced by finding himself in a complicated political and religious situation. His experience at the school where he went to learn Arabic was not good in comparison to what he learnt when he was taken in by Sheikh Jamal. Dantala displays a character of a mature and sharp person who despite the challenges he faces in acquiring an education still turns out to be a bright person. He describes himself as someone who memorizes numbers and faces. This makes me imagine if he had the opportunity to have formal education how far he would have gotten.

I read Born on a Tuesday in one day. This tells you that the book is a page turner. It had so much suspense; which left me with a lot of speculation.

Favorite quotes:

‘Poverty does not make a man decent. Poverty is not piety in the same vein money does not make a man evil. A man’s character is defined by what money he has or does not have but what decisions he makes in spite of having or not having.’ – Sheikh Jamal

‘Everyone loves something new. Eventually people get tired and some other new thing takes over.’

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