The thing about reading a book that sucks you into its plot so thoroughly, that you can’t let go even after turning the last page, is that you already know, even before you attempt reviewing it that you are not going to be able to do justice it in a review. This is why I’m not even going to attempt to tag this blog post a review. Instead, I’m just going to tell Y’all about a book called Daughters Who Walk This Path.
Book Title: Daughters Who Walk This Path
Author’s Name: Yejide Kilanko
Year of Publication: Published in 2014 by Kachifo Limited under its Farafina Imprint.
Number of Pages: 315
Spirited and Intelligent, Morayo grows up surronded by school friends and family in Ibadan. There is Eniayo, her adoring little sister- for whose sake their middle-class parents fight stigmatizing superstition- and a large extended family of cousins and aunts who sometimes make Morayo’s home their own. A shameful secret forced upon her by Bros T, her cousin, thrusts Morayo into a web of oppressive silence woven by the adults around her. Morayo must learn to fiercely protect herself and her sister as young women growing up in a complex and politically charged country.
Daughters Who Walk This Path follows the story of Morayo, a young Yoruba girl living in Ibadan with her somewhat middle class parents, from childhood to adulthood, starting from when she is 5 and her little albino sister is born.
Having overheard her paternal grandmother stigmatize Eniayo due to the superstitions about albinism, Morayo learns to be fiercely protective of her baby sister who faces riducule from the society, at that tender age.
As is customary in most Nigerian homes, Morayo’s house is home to most of their extended relatives: aunts, uncles, cousins etc. Among these is Bros T, her morally delinquent cousin who is brought to live with her family because he needs a ‘father figure’ in the form of Morayo’s father, since his mother spoils him silly.
At first, Morayo’s father is reluctant to have Bros T, but he gives in after his wife embarks on different campaign strategies to get him to change his mind. What I find amazing, is that during the the whole campaign and agreement exercise between Morayo’s father and mother, they didn’t stop to think about the negative influence Bros T might have on their own children.
Thankfully, Bros T falls in line after being taken in hand by Morayo’s father, and manages to pass his WAEC examination.
All seems well until Bros T sets his roving eyes on Morayo, and soon begins to rape and sexually abuse her, right under the nose of their parents. He effectively bullies Morayo into silence by threatening to rape her little sister, Eniayo too.
Yejide Kilanko is a professional in this kind of field. Her biography says she is a therapist in children’s mental health. This is brought to play in the way she describes Morayo’s mental state during and after this period.
When Morayo finally summons the courage to speak up and tell her parents, one would expect that all hell will break loose.
Nigerian parents and communication with their children do not really go hand in hand. Our parents tell us what to do, and we do it. No arguments or dialogue. They rarely bother to explain the reasons why we are told to do or not to do stuff, and so when issues like these come up, our parents are ill equipped to handle it.
As regards to the subject of rape and child sexual abuse, Yejide didn’t try to sugarcoat how these issues are dealt with in Daughters Who Walk This Path. As a Nigerian girl who has experienced a similar situation, I can tell you about the forced silences, and the victim blaming that usually trails revelations of rape and sexual abuse. I can tell you that more often than not, the victim is asked questions like; “Why did you not tell anyone sooner?” or “You must have led him on”. Yejide tells the sad reality of the situation.
Her mother is guilt stricken because she brought Bros T into the house, while her father is mad, but no one would speak of the matter with Morayo. Instead, they pretend it never happened. The silence in the house becomes even more oppressive when Eniayo was sent to boarding school. It almost feels like they are trying to punish her for something that is not her fault.
But she is not alone. There is Aunt Morenike, who better understands her. Herself a victim of rape at age fifteen, that results in the birth of a son, Aunt Morenike is better equipped to talk to Morayo about her experience, and is able to provide a safe harbour.
Yejide Kilanko is a professional in this kind of field. Her biography says she is a therapist in children’s mental health. This is brought in the way she describes Morayo’s mental state during and after this period.
Morayo heals; albeit slowly. It takes time and meanwhile Morayo goes on with the business of living: schooling, graduating, NYSC, getting a job, and adulting. It takes time, but she heals.
Daughters Who Walk This Path is perfectly paced. I finished reading it in a little over 5 hours and I immediately started reading it again.
I love how Yejide made it clear that sometimes victims of sexual abuse might come to enjoy the sexual act during the assault. This doesn’t make it any less a crime.
That a male victim had an erection or a female rape victim got wet during the incident doesn’t make the event any less than rape. Our bodies sometimes betray us, and this is in no way the fault of the victim.
“But even though I didn’t want him to come to my room, what he did felt good.” My chest tightened and I whispered the words tainted by shame. “And I liked it.”
Aunt Morenike sighed “It still was not your fault”.
“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 are not sad. Those feelings in your body were just like that: mere physical reactions. It doesn’t mean that you wanted him to do what he did.” Pg 102.
I love how Yejide found a way to infuse our outlook at politics here in Nigeria into the novel, using Mr. Tiamiyu’s contest for the Local Government Chairmanship.
“It was obvious that in all the years Chief Omoniyi has been Local Government Chairman, our lives have not changed for the better. Yet, the majority of people were not ready to try something new.
When I told him this, Mr. Tiamiyu nodded. “You are right. We have become so used to accepting the pitiful crumbs thrown our way. The other thing our people know is that Chief Omoniyi is ready to do anything under the sun to stay in power.
When our people see danger coming, we run away, saying to ourselves, Ta ni fe ku?Who wants to die? But are we not dying slowly anyway? The truth is Ta ni o ni ku? Who is not going to die?” Pg 175
Another thing I absolutely love about Daughters Who Walk This Path is how all 22 chapters and the epilogue open with thought provoking proverbs. You know, a subtle fore shadowing that hints at what is to come. The proverbs are not spoilers though, infact the meaning behind each proverb only makes sense, after one is done reading the chapter.
We gaze at each other and I make my daughter promises that I intend to keep. “I promise that for you, there will be fewer secrets. I promise to talk about whatever causes you pain. To talk about shame. I promise to listen even when I do not understand. I promise to listen even when I do not understand.” Pg 312.
Daughters Who Walk This Path is a deeply intense book. It touches on issues women go through globally such as rape, the forced silence, the children born out of such harrowing experiences, intertribal marriages, and the pressures placed on women by the society to get married and bear children by a certain age and bear children.
I am something of a hopeless romantic, so you can imagine how excited how ti find that in the midst of all the serious subjects that form the plot of Daughters Who Walk This Path, Yejide managed to slot in a love story.
I do have a few pet peeves though. One, I didn’t like that Morayo slept with everything that had a third leg in beyween their legs at one point of the story. I mean must all female victims of sexual abuse turn out to be promiscuous?