I think this novel must be intended for younger readers, since the graphic bits like FGM (female genital mutilation) and molestation are glossed over. Nonetheless, it was a good read.
Growing up in the Gambia isn’t easy for girls. The heroine of this novel finds out later that her father was a progressive man. Had he lived to protect her, she probably wouldn’t have suffered an early arranged marriage, FGM, and virtual slavery to a distasteful older man who doesn’t love her. (His teeth are stained with betel juice…) Unfortunately, Nyima’s father died when she was young. Her mother knows that these things are not what her husband wanted for their daughter, yet she is powerless to prevent them from happening.
Nyima’s cousin, however is not powerless. She’s a strong figure in a world sadly lacking in female role models. This cousin rescues Nyima and enrolls her back in school, in a city. Unfortunately even the cousin can’t protect the girl from all the men looking to use her.
To clarify, I’m not criticizing when I say the topic of FGM is glossed over–it’s mentioned in broad vague outlines, and the humiliation and the pain are given, but the details aren’t gone into. It’s not gory. I appreciated that. And it is suitable for younger audiences too. Some distinctions are made. Nyima has a friend, Ameena, whose tribe is even more harsh with the FGM practice–poor Ameena is “completely sealed”. Ugh.
Realistic but hopeful.
Was it Good for Me?
Nyima has a love for learning and enjoys living in Paris. She makes friends, and they don’t discriminate against her because she’s different. Although permanently scarred, (physically and mentally) she is able to make a life for herself.
And she is determined that the next generation of women will not have to endure what she has.
So I enjoyed this book a lot.
Rating: Four dishes of akara! Perhaps wrapped in a banana leaf.