Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Daughters Who Walk this Path by Yejide Kilanko

In Daughters Who Walk this Path, Yejide Kilanko follows the life of Morayo from her childhood into womanhood in contemporary Nigeria. Many of Morayo's female relatives also have significant roles in this story, especially her Aunty Morenike and her younger sister Eniayo, an albino. Their lives are not very different from those of girls and women living in North America, negotiating family relationships, friendships, romance, education, work and motherhood.

The tone of Kilanko's novel is sometimes dark, addressing difficult issues like sexual violence and injustice based on gender, but this is counterbalanced with a lighter tone in other parts, more reminiscent of chick lit. It ends on a hopeful, uplifting note.

Traditional proverbs are at the head of each chapter, and Yoruba words for food and clothing -- egusi soup, a woman's iro (wrapper), a man's agbada (robe) -- add to the sense of place. I was interested to note a reference to carrying things in a Ghana Must Go bag, because I only just learned about this particular type of tote bag this year, when I read Taiye Selasi's book of the same name. (The expression originated in xenophobia, but I don't know it's context in Nigeria today.)

I listened to a Blackstone audiobook [10 h 19 m] narrated by Claudia Alick, whose perfomance is a bit too theatrical for my taste. Alick puts extra emphasis on words that don't need it and her voice often conveys something close to farce which I found at odds with the unadorned style of Kilanko's prose. I got used to it, however, and found myself caught up in Morayo's life.

Kilanko grew up in Nigeria and now lives in Ontario.

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