Feminists and books go together. Whether feminists are writing books or reading them or both, the literary world has long been a place for women to tell their stories, in both fiction and nonfiction. It’s been a place for women to do so on their own terms, not through male intermediaries. And in today’s literary landscape, that is truer than ever.
In a 2009 New York Times Magazine essay, excerpted from their book, Kristof and WuDunn declared “the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape” as the paramount moral challenge of the 21st century (after totalitarianism in the 20th and slavery in the 19th).
“Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. ‘Women hold up half the sky,’ in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: In a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. This sad reality is what Nina Iphhechukwude Anyianuka brought to an amazing light in the book ‘Disowned’. It took me 2 days to finish this deeply moving book after the book unveiling and it’s not hard to see why.
Synopsis: “An extremely interesting but often dark and haunting read, Disowned is a collection of stories of sadistic abuse, violence and an almost institutional sexual cruelty towards young girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa where the society is built on the power of men and timidity of women; women often raised to believe it is their fault when they are abused and molested.”
So, here are 5 life lessons I learnt from this amazing book (warning! Spoiler alert!):
Lesson 1: Not everything you lose is a loss
In the first story ‘Nnena’s Loss,’ she battles with her emotions as she mourns the love of her life. She can’t understand how to move on after such a heavy loss and this makes her make certain decisions. In the end, she finds out the bitter truth about the man she held so tightly to her heart and it made me understand that not everything you lose is a loss, sometimes you grow, learn and move on from the situation.
Lesson 2: Listen to your children, child abuse is happening
From the story ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ I understood that three-quarters of children who are sexually abused do not tell anyone about it and many keep their secret all their lives. Sexual abusers are more likely to be people we know, and could well be people we care about; more than 8 out of 10 children who are sexually abused know their abuser. They are family members or friends, neighbours or babysitters – many hold responsible positions in society. The closer the relationship between the abuser and the victim, the less likely they are to talk about it.
Children often show us rather than tell us that something is worrying or upsetting them so being aware of the warnings signs is vital. However, children may give vague hints that something is happening. Their information may not be clear and they may not have the words to explain what is happening to them. The way adults respond to this is vital to ensuring the child’s safety.
Lesson 3: Find your inner strength and use it
Disowned was my favourite story of strength and overcoming your inner demons. You have a strength within you as well. You may not see yourself as strong or powerful. You may feel fragile, insignificant, and alone. Sadly, many people suffer silently because they worry they will be a burden to others. They’re hesitant to look for help because reaching out not only takes precious energy, it sometimes seems futile. You have to empower yourself and remind yourself of what lies within. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here; we simply need to find it and repair it. You have an inner strength that has never left. It may be buried, it may be silent, and it may be invisible, but it is there. I promise.
Lesson 4: Sometimes you are too late
In ‘Blackie’s Mission’ there were so many sad life lessons to take out of it. As you grow up, you learn that life lessons are full of wisdom because they often have to be learned the hard way. However, the hardest part about that process is realizing that sometimes not every opportunity lasts forever. You finally “get it” long after the fact. If possible, it’s best to learn these things sooner rather than later.
Lesson 5: A secret may be the only thing holding a family together
Secrets can be small and insignificant, those types of secrets — and their keepers — cause no harm. On the other hand, traumatic, painful, or life-changing secrets potentially can damage an entire family’s mental health and well-being for some time. So should you keep your family’s secrets?
‘Disowned’ is published by BookCraft Africa and can be bought from Terra Kulture, VI, Jazz Hole, Ikoyi, Lanterna VI, Quintessence, Parkview Ikoyi.