If you have been following THE NEWS, you may have come across the story of two men who took turns in raping a young lady after spiking her drink with a depressant. They also went ahead to film the act. What a world! I had just finished reading Daughters Who Walked This Path when the news of the rape began to spread. I had not yet recovered from the abuse I read about in Daughters Who Walked This Path and so hearing about the gang rape tore my heart into tiny shreds.
Spirited, intelligent Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and a busy family in modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, her traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about Morayo’s charming but troubled cousin, Bros T, moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.
Thrust into a web of oppressive silence woven by the adults around her, Morayo must learn to fiercely protect herself and her sister; a legacy of silence many women in Morayo’s family share. Only Aunty Morenike—once protected by her own mother—provides Morayo with a safe home, and a sense of female community which sustains Morayo as she grows into a young woman in bustling, politically charged, often violent Nigeria.
While I think this is an amazing book, it is also a book that would get you really angry about a lot of societal ills. My anger was particularly directed at the culture of silence when it comes to issues of sexual violence carried out against women. These women are supposed to just “get over it” and also “forgive” the rapist. And while justice may be brought against the stranger who committed the terrible act of rape, what do you do to that relative, cousin, uncle, father who forced himself on you?
Daughters Who Walk This Path is not just a discourse into the disturbed mind of abused women. Yejide Kilanko also focuses on the survival of these women. Yes, Morayo grew into a confused young woman who navigated love without care, experimented with sex and lived recklessly; Yet, all of these did not change my perception of her – a young girl who did not have a say in what was done to her. It is however, her redemption at the end that of it all that made my heart swell.
In a Brittle Paper Review, the reviewer writes; Kilanko’s novel shows us why it is not enough to keep telling stories about how women become hurt and then turn against themselves. She shows us why the political capital in these kinds of stories and their real narrative beauty lie in the possibility that these women can find recovery through their own courage, through the support of other women, through friendships, community, and love.
There a lots of lessons to take away from this book;
i) It is very important to be really there for your children. Not just there. To be PRESENT. Morayo’s mother’s attitude towards her daughter’s rape was really disturbing. Now, compare her reaction to that of Aunty Morenike’s mother.
ii) The victim does not owe the rapist or her abuser forgiveness. Why is the society always focused on the victim in terms of what to do with how she feels?
iii) When you tell your girl child to keep herself. Teach your boy child modesty too. Teach your boy child consent.
iv) Try to be an Aunty Morenike to someone. Listen to the young girls around you. Observe. Ask questions with genuine interest and love.
My favourite part of this book – Page 102. A genuine and intense conversation between Morayo and Aunty Morenike;
“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”.
Aunty 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’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.”
I love how these two women – Morayo and Morenike – turned their trauma into love, self recovery and the pursuit of happiness.
Finally on rape and sexual abuse and molestation; quoting Dave Vescio; “It’s not a lack of female modesty but a sense of male entitlement that leads to sexual violence. And the idea that women can change men’s behaviour by changing their clothes is not only disconcerting, it has been debunked.”
Morayo was 15. Morenike was 13.
Daughters Who Walked This Path is an account of how true love remains beautiful even when it blooms from within the sands of hurt and loss.
I recommend that this book be gifted to every woman. If you’re reading this, get a copy for your niece, your aunt, your mum, your friend.
A great work of art.
Visit KAWE BOOKS to purchase a copy.
Pub. Date (Nigerian Edition): October 2, 2013. Farafina. 264 pp.
Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria. She is a writer of poetry, fiction and a therapist in children’s mental health. Yejide currently lives with her young family in Ontario, Canada. Her debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, was published by Penguin Canada April 2012.