In Nigeria, Igbo women are seen as strong-willed and successful. This isn’t always the case, Igbo women face child marriages, abuse and so many morbid experiences.
Ukamaka tells the story of Ogadinma, a young girl living with her divorced dad.
Set in the 1980s during the era of the military coups, a 17-year-old Ogadinma embarks on a journey to resilience, confidence and strength from a state of naiveté and subservience imposed by patriarchal beliefs and expectations.
In a bid to gain admission to a higher institution, she falls into the trap of a powerful lawyer who is to help her achieve this feat, gets pregnant, aborts, is penalized by her dad and sent away to her aunts home as retribution.
She falls in love with her aunt’s brother, Tobe, 15 years her elder. Tobe portrays the life of a 21st century learned man, who doesn’t share patriarchal beliefs like his sister, we think he is different but with time the red flags begin to glare in our faces.
Series of bad events occur and Tobe gradually exhibits what Ogadinma fears, from verbal and physical assaults to a near-death and miscarriage experience.
Ogadinma finally throws away her naiveté and embraces the knowledge that she is a human being, a woman and finds her path to freedom.
This was a thrilling read, annoyed me a lot too but these make the best books. Ukamaka wrote an unapologetically Igbo book, I love having more female Igbo authors.
I loved how she illuminated that patriarchy isn’t only enforced by men, women such as Aunty Ngozi and Ifeoma her daughter are major culprits.
The family dynamics too; from a doting dad to a dad exhibiting hateful traits, she finally understands the reasons why her mum left her dad. Her cousin, Ifeoma whom she strived to build a good relationship with but who saw her as a lesser being never came to her rescue, when she finally takes charge of her life, is in front to insult and judge her for her choices.
Ukamaka expressed how Ogadinma was blamed for everything even from the so-called spiritual realm. This book amplifies feminism and everything this movement exists for. Tobe, a mature man, never could make the right decisions despite advice from his supposed spouse who is 15 years his junior, blamed her for everything and his sister kept being a strong force behind him. As a woman who doesn’t give birth to a male child you haven’t fulfilled your widely duties or as a wealthy woman you are never successful until you are married.
Themes amplified were rape, abortion, parenting, friendship, patriarchy, feminism, tribalism, religious fanaticism, marriage as a tool for patriarchy and finally postpartum depression.
So many things to unpack from this book, it would make a great book club read.
As an active presence on Nigerian Twitter, so many times feminists are seen as bitter and angry people, some persons may have demonstrated in the wrong way, but it still doesn’t remove what the movement is for, removing the patriarchal system.
Slow and steady women still in such systems will be liberated and “Everything will be alright”, Ogadinma!
A beautiful book, you should grab a copy. My next physical copy read is The son of the house by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe which came highly recommended.
I also started a chill podcast titled Bants with Naza, go listen, subscribe and share.
Till next time!