Skip to main content
Title
Daughters Who Walk This Path
Author
Yejide Kilanko
Genre
Fiction
Publisher
Penguin
Pages
329
Price
$24

Near the beginning of Daughters Who Walk This Path, narrator Morayo is picking wild mangoes with her fellow schoolgirls as they coyly watch the boys on the nearby soccer field. She is 12, soon to feel love and confused about "how to put [her] new emotions into words."

This period of innocence is fleeting in Yejide Kilanko's debut novel. The Nigerian-born writer, who now resides in Ontario, uses this coming-of-age story to explore the code of silence that often exists around sex crimes and violence toward women.

Morayo lives in Ibadan, Nigeria. When we meet her, in the early 1980s, she is a young girl shadowed by her adoring younger sister, an albino named Eniayo. Her family is well off and she is mostly protected from realities of life in modern-day Nigeria, though Kilanko weaves telling details throughout.

Story continues below advertisement

There are constant threats to woman, often from officials in charge. A teenage Morayo and her aunt try to flee a bus stop at the sight of a military truck. "Like everyone else in the city, I had heard the stories of missing girls and women … task force officers who went about under the pretext of ridding the streets of prostitutes abducted young girls in broad daylight. There were whispers of gang rapes at the barracks and mutilated bodies found in nearby bushes like unwanted trash."

But it is not this danger that shatters Morayo's innocence. "No one told us that evil is found much closer to home, and that those who want to harm us can have the most soothing and familiar of voices."

When Morayo is 12, her cousin Brother Tayo (Bros T) comes to live at her house because his widowed mother feels he needs the influence of a man like Morayo's father. Morayo starts to feel uneasy with her cousin's hugs and physical attention. "It was starting to feel like a game whose rules I did not know."

One night, Morayo wakes to find Bros T on top of her, and a period of abuse begins. A cunning predator, Bros T knows to hold the threat of similar treatment against Eniayo over Morayo's head if she tells anyone. Though his crimes are discovered and Bros T is sent back home, Morayo is haunted by her experiences and feels abandoned by her parents' refusal to acknowledge what happened.

As Morayo descends into a suicidal depression, she bonds with her cousin, Aunty Morenike, who because of her own scarring "experience with men" is able to talk about these "shameful secrets." Morenike becomes a lifeline as Morayo carries her emotional trauma through her adolescence, university years, marriage and eventual encounter with Bros T.

Daughters Who Walk This Path is a compelling read that deftly captures the complexities of its sensitive subject matter. If the author can be faulted, it is perhaps in being overly ambitious in the scope, which at times feels rushed in its need to accommodate details, such as banter in class at college or the marriage rituals of a minor character.

Ultimately, Daughters Who Walk This Path is an unflinching representation of the attitudes that existed – and in some places still do exist – toward victims of sexual assault. Kilanko's true accomplishment is to give readers access to the women's pain and, sometimes, their redemption.

Story continues below advertisement

Athena McKenzie is an editor at Zoomer Magazine.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter