|Year of Publication:||2021|
|Disclaimer:||This book was sent to me by Jonathan Ball Publishers for review purposes.|
In Buki Papillon’s Debut novel we follow Otolorin, a Nigerian twin born inter-sex and discriminated against by his family due to this. This book, told through the POV of a child jumps seamlessly between their pre-teen years and their late teens. It is a journey of self discovery and human resilience in the face of injustice, abuse and trying to understand how biology can make one a misfit.
Buki weaves in a lot of Nigerian mythology, folklore and dynasties in this story. Among many of the themes explored are religion, sexuality, family, love, and tolerance. Buki’s writing is phenomenal, to be able to bring such sensitive topics to the fore through the lens of a child is no small feat. I felt this book more than I read it. It took me a very long time to go through it, not because of the writing which is mind blowing, but because of how raw it left me, it is not one I’d recommend gulping up. It took me a while to work through all the emotions I felt going through this book. I kept thinking, what if this had happened to me, that this could have easily been my own child. However the burning emotion through it was just how cruel this world can be.
Buki truly gathers and scatters (generously so) the Nigerian art of story telling. Her exploration of ‘pseudo-hermaphroditism’ more properly referred to as inter-sex, is a first for me in fiction. How delicately and intentionally she handles the subject matter is commendable and a pure testament to her talent.
I think my favourite character in the book, aside our main character and their BFF has to be Mr Dickson. I tend to be drawn to affectionate and warm older male characters in stories where children are the main POV. Somehow, they always remind us that no matter how long we’ve lived, and how cynical life may make us, a lot is still left to choice.
For a debut, this was exceptional. I look forward to more stories by this author.