I am that girl, the one that reads. From an early age, reading has been a companion. I read everything from the Ladybird books, to Mills and Boon, magazines to books on the literature syllabus in school.
What we read evolves as we grow. I moved away from Mills and Boon and other rom coms to John C. Maxwell, Francine Rivers, books on Finance and Autobiographies. In 2018, I got a yearning to read African literature. A good friend bought me “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for my birthday. I remember that year, I only asked for books as presents.
From 2018 to-date, I have been very intentional about reading books by African authors on the continent and in the diaspora. It is so rewarding! When 2020 started, I desired to keep stock of my reading by blogging about it but I have clearly not done that 😂. Better late than never.
Here are my August book tales:
Daughters who walk this Path by Yejide Kilanko (2012)
Daughters Who Walk This Path is a coming of age novel by Yejide Kilanko. It explores the life of Morayo who is forced to harbour a shameful secret when she is sexually abused by a relative. The novel elegantly dissects three decades of her life after this traumatic experience, revealing the multi layered transformation she undergoes. Morayo`s baby sister Eniayo is born an albino and the blame is placed at the feet of Bisoye . The author shows the role of superstitions in African society. The myths people believe that encourage abuse and pain. In the case of Morayo`s mummy-Bisoye, she is told that because of her disobedience to her mother in law, bad luck visited her child.
“`During the pregnancy’’-she paused and turned to Mummy, catching her breath-“did you walk outside when the sun was up in the sky?’’
“Yes, Ma,’’ Mummy said quietly.
“Bisoye, did I not warn you that mischievous evil spirits walk about at noontime, looking for a body to occupy? Now, see what you have caused!’’ “Your disobedience has brought bad luck to this poor child and to our entire family.’’
Morayo struggles with guilt, pain, silence and emotional distress when she is repeatedly raped by the `relative’. She is scared to tell her mother who in the past has behaved riotously to simple queries about sex like most African mothers do. But she eventually informs her mummy and daddy who treat her like many African parents have done when their children report such cases. “Mummy was kneeling beside Daddy`s feet, tugging at his trousers, silently pleading for her nephew. In that moment, my anger towards Mummy reignited. She should have been worried about me! She should have been worried coming after me!
Aunty Morenike is the one person who understands what she is going through, having experienced the same fate herself. She admonishes her to come out of the shadows and live life again. Aunty Morenike is the guiding light to Morayo`s dark road. She holds her hand as she navigates the pain and shame of rape.
“Aunty Morenike, Bros T… He raped me.’’ He did not just “touch me.’’ He did not just lift up my skirts. I said it again: “He raped me.’’ Aunty nobody understands how much it hurts.’’
She whispered the words in my hair. “Morayo, I do.’’
The novel explores Aunty Morenike`s experience with rape by a close family friend and how her grandmother was her source of strength. She had thought her life was over because of that experience but the grandmother told her otherwise. “You, my dear child are no coward. What you`ve survived in this past year requires great courage.’’
She finds a sisterhood in the older and younger women of Omu. Kilanko proves that having a balanced circle of older and younger women is gainful for any woman. The wisdom they both bring to the table is second to none. The book also reinforces the fact that African traditions and family serve to uplift and guide.
Aunty Morenike armed with this wisdom, is the perfect ally for her niece. She becomes her safe haven, her light, confidant, constant friend. Morayo finds safety and healing and vows to break the oppressive web of silence for her children.
When Morayo has a baby of her own she promises her this, “I promise that for you, there will be fewer secrets. I promise to talk about whatever causes you pain. I promise to listen even when I do not understand. I promise because you are worth it.’’
Yejide Kilanko through this beautiful book demonstrates the need and power for a safe space filled with women you can be vulnerable with as you go through life, women who have been where you are going and can walk with you through your process.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)
The first book of a planned trilogy, the author weaves a tale of a world where people are suppressed for being different. Zélie, a heroine, attempts to restore magic to the kingdom of Orïsha, currently ruled by Kosidán. Kosidán brutally suppresses the magic practitioners that Zélie belongs to, the Maji.
The fear is real but so is courage for taking back what was stolen from the Maji. The book was an instant sensation in the US and now I understand why. The book harbours themes that have taken centre stage today; colourism, discrimination in all its forms, etc.
I enjoyed book one and I had to get book two immediately, Children of Virtue and Vengeance.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (2019)
Children of Virtue and Vengeance is book two of the Tomi Adeyemi trilogy. It was overwhelming. Zélie and Amari succeed in restoring magic to the land of Orïsha, but something goes wrong with the spell! The enemy is now as powerful, and yet Zélie struggles to unite the Maji. Her problems are bigger than that; there is a looming civil war. Zélie finds herself in a dilemma. The tension is everywhere but the Maji must unite to win the civil war. Betrayal and love bloom in both camps. Will love conquer all things?
The ending of the book is one of the best cliff hangers I have experienced. The tension didn`t let up until I was on the last page. One of my favourite characters, Inan reminded me of Professor Snape from Harry Potter, right from book one (Harry Potter fans will understand this). The ending of the book had me in a moment of silence. I look forward to book three.
In my view, both books (Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance) revealed the state of affairs majorly in the US and the world. People have to fight for their freedom and when they almost have it, it’s taken away again. The war for freedom never ends.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
Homegoing is a story about the lives of two sisters who are separated, one remains at the gold coast, the other is shipped off to America as a slave. Subsequent chapters track their lives and those of their descendants while revealing the sordid details of slave trade, the involvement of the African people and the White people.
This book brought to life my history class on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and its effects on the people of Ghana. Back then, I never felt the weight of the trade on the natives. This book brought it to my doorstep. I was sad and angry at what the trade did to the people who stayed on the continent, those who were taken away and the children born out of the intermarriages between the White people and the Africans. They didn’t fully belong because they were neither white nor black-meaning they didn`t fully belong to either race.
The book is an evocative read packed with rich story and history but it was a difficult read too, packed with many characters. But if you have read Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, then you will enjoy Homegoing. It is the Kintu of Ghana literally.
Have you read any of the books mentioned? What were your thoughts?