Seeing love through the eyes of a child.
As I look back on this novel, the intensity of first love and its innocence is what comes through the most.
At the tender age of 11, Ijeoma’s childhood is cut short. Soon abandonment becomes all but a too familiar constant in her life. Abandonment from Nigeria, her homeland currently at war. Abandonment from a father whose grief for his country in conflict was so great that he forfeited his own life to find peace. And finally, abandonment from a mother who could not cope with raising her child and who only resurfaced in Ijeoma’s teen years more concerned for the shame that her family name would suffer than for the love she has for her own flesh and blood.
So when Ijeoma found love for the first time she simply grabbed it and hugged it tightly with heart and soul.
Did it matter that it was with a girl?
Forget about the: “A woman without a man is hardly a woman at all” mantra drilled into so many young women from childhood, bringing them shame if not fulfilled. Ijeoma’s “abomination” needs some serious repentance to save her soul.
If only God was the only problem she had to worry about.
Between her mother’s Bible study “classes” and the little free time she enjoys, Ijeoma quickly becomes part of a very clandestine community where she learns that she is not alone. There, women are free to enjoy their love for other women if for a limited time only, but it comes at the heavy price of one’s life if ever discovered or caught.
Having come so close to being exposed, will Ijeoma settle for a lie and live her life as a man and woman should, together in a marriage, or will she choose to remain true to herself and navigate through the dangerous waters that comes with her choice?
So many still today are faced with this unfair choice, between living a lie but being safe, or living their love and being condemned for it. Same sex relationships are an offence punishable by imprisonment and in some circumstances death still today in Nigeria and it is unfortunately not the only country that uphold this law.
More writings like Chinelo Okparanta are needed until at least this law becomes a thing of the past and all can be free to love whomever they choose.