REVIEW OF YEJIDE KILANKO’S DAUGHTERS WHO WALK THIS PATH
BOOK TITLE: Daughters Who Walk This Path
AUTHOR: Yejide Kilanko
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2012
PUBLISHER: Penguin Canada
NUMBER OF PAGES: 323 pages
REVIEWER: Oghenekaro Geraldine Ishiekwene (07038388901)
Yejide Kilanko’s Daughters Who Walk This Path is an exciting but haunting novel which discusses the trials of women in the African society. It is set mainly in Ibadan, the hometown of the author, Kilanko, and the main character, Morayo. The novel is also set in Lagos and Anambra which have impacted on Morayo.
Story and the Content
The novel portrays the 20th-century Nigeria which is characterized by superstitions and stereotypes. The writer shows us, the readers, the series of torture and mental traumas ‘daughters’ are made to go through. It shows the ways in which the girl child is abused and maltreated just because she is a girl. We are made to understand the adverse effects those abuses have on the mentality and social life of the abused. They usually have a way of shaping the life of the affected person as we can see in the case of Morayo. This is the ‘path’ some ‘daughters’ walk and have walked.
Thematically, the writer is mainly preoccupied with issues of child abuse, irresponsible parenting, filial love and injustice. Morayo and Morenike are both victims of child abuse. They are both raped at a young age by their relatives who eventually get off scot-free, leaving grave effects and torture on the psychology of these girls. The cases of Aunty Tope and Bisoye (Morayo’s and Eniayo’s mother) are good examples of irresponsible parenting. Aunty Tope, Bisoye’s sister, spoils her son, Tayo (Bros T.), and does not give him the proper training a parent should. This therefore causes problems for the family in the end. Bros. T turns nuisance and ends up raping Morayo. He does whatever he pleases because he never gets reprimanded or punished. On her own share of irresponsibility, Bisoye pays little attention to her child (Morayo). She does not notice the changes in the life of Morayo, making it possible for Bros. T to take advantage of Morayo.
The theme of filial love is derived from the relationship between Morayo and Eniayo, as well as Morayo and Aunty Morenike. The bond between these sisters is so strong. They make sure they protect each other the best way they can, and are seen as each other’s support system. Aunty Morenike, though Morayo’s cousin, becomes a mother figure for Morayo. She helps Morayo get through the troubles she faces, and constantly reminds her that she is strong enough to go on with life.
The book opens with a prologue in which the writer introduces the family of the main character, Morayo, and the type of society she and her sister are made to grow up in. It reveals the stereotyped superstition surrounding the albinos in Africa: that they are all evil spirits. The birth of Eniayo, Morayo’s sister, explains this. Eniayo is born an ‘afin’ (an albino). The superstition causes Morayo to reject her sister. The rejection goes on until her mentality is changed. Their mother, Bisoye, is however blamed for the albinism. This again portrays a path daughters walk in society: they are mostly blamed for whatever goes wrong within the family.
There are 22 chapters in the novel divided into five different parts. Each part is entitled with the name or names of those it seeks to describe and within a time frame. Each chapter contains a foreshadowing proverb that gives insight to the story in it. Part one is entitled “Morayo and Eniayo” set within the periods of 1983 and 1988. This part shows us the early life of Morayo, and also the people that play major roles in her life. We are introduced to three major characters, Bros. T, Aunty Morenike, and Kachi, who play significant roles in Morayo’s life. Bros. T, as said earlier, instead of protecting her cousin, Morayo, rapes and molests her. This is the point where Morayo begins to lose her self-esteem. She is forced to walk the path of abuse, which so many Nigerian daughters do.
Part two, entitled “Morenike” and periodized in 1988, narrates a major part in Morenike’s life. She experiences similar sexual abuse from her father’s friend, someone she could call father. Because of this, she is expelled from school and loses the respect of people around her including her father who finds it hard to believe that his close friend would rape her. Her whole life is put to a standstill. This part gives us a glimpse into ‘womanism’ as Mama Ibeji (Morenike’s mother) is seen as a strong womanist who does not take the situation likely, and voices her opinions unequivocally. With the help of her grandmother (Mama Omu), Morenike is able to recover (although not completely) from the trauma.
Part three is entitled “Morayo and Morenike” spanning 1989-1991. This part shows Morenike’s womanist side. She engages herself and Morayo in politics. This shows that she believes women can be active parts in their choices. The author is equally able to depict a typical Nigerian society where bad governance, greed, and ignorance are the orders of the day. The novel introduces us to Mr. Tiamiyu who is a political aspirant. He is clearly the best person for the position but because of the ‘power’ and ‘influence’ his fellow aspirant has in society, he is rejected. Morenike, here, is put in a terrible situation by the so-called ‘military personnel’ who are meant to be protecting members of society. They go around picking up ‘daughters’ and subjecting them to physical and mental torture and abuse. Sadly, women around her are unable to help. These are paths women in the Nigerian society are made to walk.
Part four entitled “Morayo” has a time frame of 1995-2005 and centres mainly on the social and emotional struggles Morayo is faced with and how she overcomes them. She is regarded as a prostitute, ‘night rider’, and ‘ashawo’. This is because of the lifestyle she imbibes. She begins to question her self-worth and believes that the only way a man could truly accept her is if he experiences and likes “all” of her (including her body). She strives to be in control of men using their weaknesses against them. Her relationships with men fluctuate as she feasts on every man that comes her way. Her desire to have control over men grows as she becomes vengeful, wanting to hurt men as had been done to her. She meets an old acquaintance whom she has a close relationship with at an early age by name, Kachi. He falls in love with her and determines to marry her. He is able to make her break out of her shell of distrust and feeling of worthlessness. He finally marries her and makes her forget about her past.
Morayo’s story draws to a close in part five entitled “Morayo and Kachi” dated 2005-2007. Morayo’s old wounds are reopened as she unexpectedly meets the cause of her nightmares, Bros. T, again after a long time. Her memory of all the torture he put her through is rekindled. During this period, she loses a very important part of her life, Aunty Morenike, to cancer. She is greatly disturbed by the presence of Bros. T who continuously tries to gain her forgiveness. Here, the theme of injustice is seen as Bros. T, the cause of Morayo’s troubles, returns wealthy and unaffected by the bad deeds he commits. The victim, Morayo, suffers a lot while the victimizer gets off scot-free and unpunished. Bros. T’s different methods of seeking forgiveness only traumatizes Morayo more.
The book has a linear plot structure starting from the beginning to the end of the main character’s child development, making the novel a Bildungsroman. The language is simple to understand. The author employs the first-person point of view, and equally uses proverbs, metaphors, dialogues, paradoxes, flashbacks, and plenty of imagery. A major element in the novel is symbolism. In the title, ‘Daughters’ and ‘Path’ symbolize women in society, and their struggles, trials and triumphs respectively. On the cover page, the strength in brown as well as the passion in red illuminates the footprints; the sea-green symbolizes immunity; the blue-black illuminating ‘Daughters’ and ‘Path’ symbolizes wounds; and the black in ‘This’ and ‘Who’ symbolizes aggression. In fact, the cover of the novel is colourful and has the ability to arouse the readers.
The novel is very enlightening. I am happy that Morayo finally dismisses the past and accepts happiness again. Therefore, I highly recommend that parents, guardians and children of both genders read the text. Parents are in charge of grooming the child, and are often times held responsible for the way the child turns out.