In Every Day is for the Thief, Teju Cole explores the past decade of rapid change in his native Nigeria. After 15 years in the United States, the book’s nameless narrator returns to visit family in Lagos. He is shocked by his country’s rampant corruption, embodied by everyone he meets, beginning with the bureaucrats renewing his passport (for a bribe) in New York’s Nigerian consulate. In Lagos, the narrator navigates a home that feels alien after living in the United States. Living in America has changed him – he now has “some of the assumptions of life in a Western democracy.” Wandering the city, he is disappointed in the poor quality of the National Museum, thrilled when he spies a woman on a bus reading a Michael Ondaatje book, and generally uncomfortable with what the city has become.
Beautifully illustrated with the author’s own photos, Every Day is for the Thief is a meditation on belonging and estrangement. The photographs are a haunting representation of a Lagos that is at once global and uniquely Nigerian.
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby