What better way exists, weigh on red-hot and hardly gender issues discussed in a contemporary society, than to write a compelling and intriguing novel?
Bisi Adjapon exploited the power of words to air and breathed life upon these issues. This is no doubt, a product of sheer ingenuity, certifying her as a thoughtful and a relevant contemporary writer. And based on her years of experience as a writer, language instructor, and linguist, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the work which cements her status as an author is brilliant.
Of Women and Frogs is a tale set in Ghana and Nigeria and told from the perspective of a girl who struggles to attain self-realization. It is a story built around the main character, Esi Agyekum. And with Esi, the author creates an intriguing, relatable, and resonating character. One that compelled me to think that the novel likely has some autobiographical touch as some of the events could be the author’s past experiences.
The protagonist, Esi, separated from her mother at a young age and from whose point of view the story was told, is a half-Nigerian, half-Ghanaian girl. An intelligent, innocent, and inquisitive young girl, Esi attempts to make sense of the happenings around her and questions almost everything relating to cultures and traditions which seem to bound her understanding of the world.
Apart from revealing her inner conflict, the start of the novel also uncovers Esi’s role as a secret keeper for her father, who she discovers is having a secret affair with one of the housekeepers at a hotel. She would go on to keep secrets for her half-sisters who maltreat and dislike her. As she grows, she notices the preferential treatment boys - her brother Kwabena inclusive - enjoys, spurning her desire to become a boy. She discovers as time passes that these treatments apply even to issues of sex, sexuality, and relationships with men. As these discoveries unfold, Esi tries to understand who she is, for herself, her family and society, amid the pandemonium of several government coups.
With a writing style characterized by lucidity, brevity, and humour, Bisi beautifully weaves words into sentences and sentences into a gripping, poignant tale of profound significance to our times. She wrote boldly and lightly about serious and thought-provoking themes, such as gender equality, and ubiquitous ones such as love sex, family, etc. Bisi flexed the muscle of her descriptive abilities fully to draw readers into scenes and to evoke lasting experiences in them.
Also, worth commending is how the author maintained the protagonist’s strong and honest voice even as her age and vocabulary altered within the story’s progress. Even more unique is the fact that the author intelligently educated her readers with well-researched and articulated history about Nigeria and Ghana, without losing touch of her great sense of humour. Little wonder the novel was one of Daily Trust’s Top 15 novels of 2018.
Not only is the author’s writing prowess validated by this wonderful piece, but her viewpoints on some of the issues touched in the novel also have such a tremendous convincing power that it can alter one’s preconceived notions on those subjects. Her book certifies that there is a new voice that deserves attention and prominence within the vibrant Nigerian literary sphere. All categories of readers, excluding the very young children because of the explicit content, would truly find the book informative, interesting, and educating.
However, as engrossing as the novel is, the number of pages of the book is capable of discouraging one at some point while reading, as it did with me. I believe Bisi Adjapon would have achieved her aim even if the pages of the novel were fewer. Notably, perhaps deliberately, Bisi touched only lightly and rather unconvincingly on some themes, such as abortion, that surfaced in her novel. Nonetheless, the story told by the author is truly a gripping one.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said, and I quote, “If you want to be remembered after your death either do something worth writing or write something worth reading.” Without a shadow of a doubt, Bisi Adjapon would not only be remembered for writing a tale that is worth the while of anyone who picks it up, but also for weighing in on ever-hot matters in contemporary society. Bisi Adjapon’s debut novel will no doubt reignite the fire of interesting discussions on important subjects, that became themes in her beautiful novel, often left untouched. And if the latter is all she achieves with her novel, it is no less a success than winning the Nobel prize in Literature.