Vagabonds! is a novel about a city, living oppressed, and finding joy, as the streets of Lagos form the location for interwoven stories and scenes. Each section tells different stories, of different characters across the city, the various titular ‘vagabonds’ who are people living unseen or hiding, and finding new ways to exist. A lot of the stories are about queerness in Nigeria, but they also explore power, corruption and hypocrisy, and the ways in which people are interlinked.
One particular stand out element of the book is the way that Lagos is so important in it, a living, breathing character that causes things to happen. The combination of this with the exploration of different queer lives gives a sense of the importance of place in self and identity, whether you like it or not, and also how places can be given different meanings. Though the stories can often be very brief and with so many characters there’s always going to be some moments you connect with more than others, as a whole book it works well, building towards an ending and with enough glimpses of previous characters to feel like it wasn’t just completely separate stories.
Displaying a range of characters as they live and love outside what is deemed the norm, Vagabonds! is for people who like their short stories interconnected or enjoy when a city is brought to life and becomes part of the fabric of a book. Sometimes you might get lost in the crowd, but there’s a lot of memorable moments and emotion in there.