Book Review: On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe
It’s been such a long time since I did a ‘Kawi Snippets Book Review‘ that I have forgotten how to do it. But let’s assume that it’s like riding a bike or swimming and the muscle memory will check in once I get into it in 3, 2, 1. Okay, that certainly didn’t exactly work as I expected.
I already confessed that I took two whole years to read this book, which is painfully embarrassing from someone who once enjoyed reading a book every so often. It was never about the choice of text, but more about me and my mental state. I could not focus long enough and follow the story, save for the distraction from other avenues like social media and TV. The annoying thing about this is that I thought about reading a book every day. I still do, and that’s why I am picking up this hobby once again.
Now, I kept going back to this book because after skimming through the first few pages, I knew this was a good story. It’s about four different women from different places in Africa, all living under different circumstances, but they find themselves in a similar predicament. The author takes us through the separate journeys that eventually bring them together, not because it’s a place that they had desired to come to but because as destiny would have it, that’s what life has accorded them.
They moved to Europe (specifically Belgium, Brussels) with the anticipation that life will look up for them, but as it turns out, it wasn’t even close to it. At least not in the promising way the guy who connected them with this gig made it look anyway. The way this guy is described gave me the “A Pimp Named Slickback’ vibes, but now an African setting.
Each burdened with the tumultuous task of working within the red-light district and a hefty debt to clear off; every day felt like they were in a hostage situation. And that’s how when one of them tries to break away, things go awry. It’s that tragedy that unites them and enables them to see each other as more than just strangers. More human, with a footprint and story worth being told and heard!
This book made me think about fate and how we are always looking for ways to better ourselves in life. We go through great lengths to break what we sometimes could believe has been passed from generation to generation like poverty, domestic violence, abuse, heartbreak, loss and displacement. These are some of the issues these four girls were running away from, because of how it made them feel; inferior, lifeless, worthless, and powerless. Not that the life they chose to seek would bring them more fulfilment, it didn’t; it’s the hope that it will grant them a ticket to be what they dream of being that kept them going. That’s what the Black Sister’s street must have meant to them.
Their stories are told in a way that makes you empathise with their situations, some so gruelling and gut-wrenching. I particularly liked how lucidly structured the book is, how she focuses on one woman at a time so that you’re able to connect with the present character. They feel so real that you even pick up their personalities and nuances, and suddenly their pain and struggles become yours too as they figure their way out of the Black Sisters’ Street. They all yearned for their freedom.
You see, that’s why I kept picking it up. It was definitely worth the read. It’s the street names in Belgium that amused me too. Like Zwartezusterstraat, Pelikanstraat. Haha, how do you pronounce that? Anyway, if you’re looking for a good read, this one is a good pick!
My next read is Travelling While Black by Nanjala Nyabola and sure enough it looks like it’ll be a fun ride. I am trying to be more consistent by reading at least one book per month, so wish me luck 🙂
What are you currently reading?