Review: Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko
Title: Daughters Who Walk This Path
Author: Kilanko, Yejide
Length: 344 pages
Publisher / Year: Penguin Canada / 2012
Source: From the author.
Why I Read It: I talked to the author online, went to hear reading, and talked books and reading with her. It also fits into my goal of reading more Nigerian lit.
Date Read: 08/07/12
For a young woman growing up in the world, no matter where you live, the danger or rape and sexual assault is ever-present, if rarely openly discussed. Living in a world where statistics show that one in four women will be assaulted in their lives, this is a local issue as well as a global issue. Kilanko, in her debut novel, is openly tackling the issue of rape in her home country of Nigeria (she calls Canada home now – perhaps next she will consider a book tackling the issue here! A girl can dream, right?).
The book follows Morayo, a young girl in Ibadan, beginning at the age of 5 when her little sister is born. As Morayo and Eniayo age, we follow them through school and family troubles, and on through to their mid-life. Another main presence in the book is Morenike, the girls’ aunt. In every way this is an ordinary coming of age tale, in that it deals with those issues which we all face – family and rules, responsibilities, school, friends, rumours, the beginnings of romance, and more. While ordinary, the book is also well-written, keeping the reader engaged, alternating between laughter and tears as the story progresses.
What this book has that others often don’t, is the very real and valid occurrence of rape. Along with the other issues, the family in this story deals with the culture around sexual assault in which it is often kept quiet, and the victim is made to feel shame. Through Morayo and her family we see the real consequences not only of rape but of abiding by the cultural ideas of silence and shame, and of either not taking survivors seriously, or of keeping it hidden and quiet.
Through Morenike and Morayo we see options and ways to move on and live. Although at certain points I disagreed with actions or words of the characters, or decisions that were made, it is important to get stories like this that show the multiplicity of options for moving forward. One person may find the right decision is to do as the women did in this case, with the life-changing decisions that they undertook. Others may find that completely other options are their best solution. The more books we have exploring these topics, and the wider the variety of options we see presented in books, the better off we will be.
The quote that will make me cry every single time, because of its truth and its importance in countering the shame that many feel, comes on page 99:
“You know how you cry when cutting onions?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“It’s because the vapours from the onions make you cry, even though you’re not sad. Those feelings in your body were just like that: mere physical reactions. It does not mean that you wanted him to do what he did.”
An emotional and rewarding read that I couldn’t put down, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a book exploring life, growing up, and the social issues we all deal with, in one way or another.
Note: While already published in Canada, the book hasn’t been released yet in the UK or USA. The book is available for pre-order from both places, however, and officially releases January 29, 2013 in the USA.