Spirited and intelligent, Morayo grows up surrounded 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.
This book takes us through the coming of age of Morayo. We meet her at the age of five, when her sister is born; then we are taken on a journey through what should have been an idyllic childhood for a young girl in Nigeria. But like my dear friend “Dead Pool” says “Life is an endless series of train wrecks with only brief commercial like breaks of happiness”.
Morayo’s “train wreck” comes in the form of her cousin “Bros T”, a juvenile delinquent who is brought to live with her family because he needs a “stern hand”, in the form of Morayo’s father, since his mum lets him get away with murder. Somehow, it never occurs to Morayo’s parents that he could have a negative influence on their children; which is something that is very common in our society. Loyalty to your extended family is supposed to trump everything, even your immediate family sometimes.
It doesn’t take long for Bros T to set his perverted eyes on little Morayo and begins to act very abnormally for a cousin. Of course, nobody notices this behavior because they are “only seeing and not observing” like Sherlock Holmes says. (I am on a roll with these quotes…) Anyways he soon gets his opportunity and begins a series of continuous sexual abuse on Morayo; who he has effectively bullied into silence. I still cannot believe that NOBODY noticed.
Yejide Kilanko is a professional in this kind of thing, so she knows what she’s talking about. The descriptions of Morayo’s mental state during and after this period are so vivid, and are incredibly disturbing, as it should be.
This book explores two extremes of reactions by parents when confronted with a situation like this. First, there’s Morayo’s case where her parents can’t seem to bring themselves to talk about her abuse, mostly out of guilt, and try to pretend it never happened. On the other hand, we have Morayo’s aunt, Morenike, whose mother makes a public spectacle and also neglects to have an actual conversation with her daughter.
Of course, we are all un-equipped to effectively help victims of sexual violence. I, for one, will do almost anything to avoid having a conversation like that; this is why we need the professionals, like Yejide Kilanko. Of course, neither of these women gets the treatment they need and we have to watch them try to make the best with what they have and it isn’t pretty.
This book has so many layers and it covers all aspects of growing up in Nigeria. We literally follow Morayo through her life, we get to go to NYSC Camp here too, briefly, and I was surprised that the epilogue didn’t end with her as a great-grandmother on her death-bed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think Yejide Kilanko and Naijasinglegirl have a similar sense of humor. Sometimes it felt like I was reading a part of 29, Single and Nigerian. I also enjoyed the various Yoruba folktales and proverbs inserted within the book. The folk stories help give us a full picture of Morayo’s thinking process. I was particularly happy to come across the story of “Alao o n’iwo” (Alao with/has a horn), I think that’s the title anyways; I read that story as a little girl. The story flows effortlessly and I finished reading this book in less than 6 hours.
Of course, I have some issues. Well, they are more like pet peeves really. One, I feel we could have done without most of “Part 4”. It felt a bit like a cliché. I mean, I’m not an expert but do all female victims of sexual violence have to grow up into promiscuous women in film and literature? And it would have been nice if Morayo didn’t “finally” marry the man of her dreams. It’s so predictable and that is why I’m not giving this book 5 stars.
“No one told us that sometimes evil is found much closer to home, and that those who want to harm us can have the most soothing and familiar voice”
Title: Daughters Who Walk This Path
Author: Yejide Kilanko
Published by: Kachifo Limited – Farafina
Year of Publication: 2014