Author of Yinka, Where is your Huzband?
Meet Yinka: a thirty-something, Oxford-educated, British Nigerian woman with a well-paid job, good friends, and a mother whose constant refrain is “Yinka, where is your huzband?”
Yinka’s Nigerian aunties frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, her work friends think she’s too traditional (she’s saving herself for marriage!), her girlfriends think she needs to get over her ex already, and the men in her life…well, that’s a whole other story. But Yinka herself has always believed that true love will find her when the time is right.
Still, when her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences Operation Find-A-Date for Rachel's Wedding. Aided by a spreadsheet and her best friend, Yinka is determined to succeed. Will Yinka find herself a huzband? And what if the thing she really needs to find is herself?
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? is a fresh, uplifting story of an unconventional heroine who bravely asks the questions we all have about love. Wry, moving, irresistible, this is a love story that makes you smile but also makes you think--and explores what it means to find your way between two cultures, both of which are yours.
By Adedayo Onabade
Q: In your interview with NPR, you shared what inspired Yinka's story. You said you felt the pressure to settle down in your early twenties and decided to write about a British-Nigerian woman going through the same experience. Were there any specific personal or observed experiences that guided you into creating something that many young women can relate with?
A: It’s not uncommon for a woman, after disclosing that she is single, to be met with pitying eyes or comments such as ‘Don’t worry. You’ll find someone soon,’ before her matchmaker friend or aunty informs them that they have just the friend for them. This universal and somewhat frustrating experience is something many women can relate to, which is why I think Yinka’s story was so important to tell.
Q: What did you hope to achieve with this work that no other book has accomplished?
A: The normalisation of a Christian protagonist in mainstream rom-com fiction.
Q: Beautiful. Now, Yinka is every inch a spec! Oxford-educated, holding down a great job, with everything seeming to be well. But the dearth of a relationship makes her the recipient of endless questions and prayers. One would think that living in a developed country would ease this cultural pressure on young women of marriageable age. Who or what factors are responsible for this prevalence of culture despite migration, and do you foresee them changing anytime soon?
A: I think the pressure for young women to get married is prevalent in many societies, but it may look and feel different. In my opinion, parents and relatives play a role in upholding this pressure, and although it may seem otherwise, generally, they are coming from a place of love. They want the reassurance that their daughter/niece is being taken care of and will not spend the rest of her days alone. For them, companionship equals happiness. And let’s be real, they also want grandkids! I think people’s attitudes towards marriage are changing. For example, it’s now normal for people to marry in their thirties rather than in their twenties. I think in the future, when Gen Z become parents, they’ll be more empathetic towards young people – they won’t pressure them about marriage in the same way as their parents did because they know how it feels like to carry the weight. But given social media doesn’t look as though it’s going anytime soon, people can still feel the pressure to marry if they compare their virtual lives to others.
Q: You touched on the fundamental issues of colourism, black hair, texturism, and the representation of black beauty. Why was it important for you to do so?
A: I knew I couldn’t write about a single, dark-skinned woman with 4C kinky hair and not touch on colourism and texturism, as both are a massive deal in the Black community. For a very long time, dark-skinned women have been shunned. For example, they are rarely represented as the love interest in movies and music videos, and those that are given the spotlight tend to have loose curls or straight hair. Therefore, I wanted to show how Yinka internalises these messages and how they have a knock-on effect on her self-esteem and confidence. I don’t know what the solution is to end colourism, but I think it’s important for Black people to affirm one another, regardless of their skin tone. Hence, I included the quote, ‘The midnight sky is just as beautiful as the sunrise.’
Q: You explored searching for love in a digital world in a unique way. Each chapter begins by giving us insight into Yinka’s activities and interactions online; a search history here, a WhatsApp message there. Surprisingly, there are such difficulties in connecting with people in a world with more means of communication. What should the internet be doing to make the search for love or relationships easier? Also, is it easier to find love on the internet than the traditional ways?
The great thing about the internet is that it’s at the tip of our fingertips, which means we do not need to leave our homes to search for love. Online dating also gives us the freedom to choose the type of person we want to date—tall, short, Black,or white—as we can apply various filters. And still, finding love online can be more challenging because when people have too many choices, they can be complacent with their communication. Many of my single friends have complained of men suddenly going cold on them after communicating and building a connection. The good thing about meeting someone face-to-face is that you’re better positioned to tell whether there is a genuine spark, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re compatible.
In conclusion, I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to your question. There are pros and cons to both methods. Sometimes finding love is a matter of luck, and other times, it’s a matter of persistence and tenacity!
Q: You went away from the conventional phrasal titles to a highly relatable question. How did you decide on the title, and what were your other options?
A: Before landing on this genius title, the book was initially called Search for my Auzband. That was until someone looked at the word ‘auzband’ and said, ‘What’s that?’ Then, taking inspiration from the eponymous likes of Bridget Jones, Eleanor Oliphant, and Queenie, I renamed it Yinka Oladeji is desperate for a husband but quickly abandoned it as it was far too long. I also didn’t like the word ‘desperate’ and thought it would be off-putting for some readers. Then one day, I got a brainwave. I know! Yinka, where is your huzband? Just like that, I knew I’d struck gold.
Q: The protagonist is a hot mess yet lovable, and we see her struggles and growth throughout the plot. How did you develop her character, and did you know how her story would end when you started writing the book?
A: It took me 5+ years to write my novel, so Yinka’s voice was with me for a very long time! In my acknowledgements, I credit TV shows like Insecure and Girlfriends because they both debunk the archetype of the ‘strong, Black woman,’ which was, for a long time, the only portrayal we had of Black women. These shows paved the way for Black women to be heterogeneous in both character and appearance, hence why I made Yinka awkward but loveable. I initially had an outline, but after numerous half-attempted drafts, the story evolved and became Yinka’s story. She led the way and told me how to end it.
Q: Your book delivers on two fronts: Christian and mainstream fiction, which many would like to separate. Did you intend to bridge this gap? Why and how? And if not, have you received any feedback from readers about how impacting that combination is?
A: Yes. I believe every person, regardless of their background, should be able to walk into a bookstore and find a book that reflects their experiences. Growing up, I struggled to find a book with a Christian character in it, and this was both baffling and frustrating. Given that there are millions of Christians worldwide, I can only imagine how other similar readers are feeling. I also wanted to humanise Christians. Sadly, we have a bad reputation for being too pious and judgy. This is why I made Yinka so flawed. I wanted to show how similar we are as a people, regardless of our beliefs.
Q: Yinka is a Christian, and for many women like her, the chances of finding the love they want are slimmer because they’re told to ‘wait and be found’ or be passive until love comes their way. What advice would you give to such women?
A: The Bible says faith without action is dead, which means along with praying, you have to give God something to work with – you cannot be “found” if you’re not putting yourself in places where you can be seen (whether that’s in-person or virtually). But also, how you go about finding love is important too. Are you going by faith, or are you acting out of desperation? Finally, taking stock to self-reflect is important because dating can impact your mental well-being, as we’ve seen with Yinka.
Q: In the end, we see Yinka become better, but it is noteworthy that you evade the feel-good ending synonymous with works revolving around romance. Was there a reason for this?
Given that singleness and the pressure to get married is a relatable concept for many people, it was important for me to end Yinka’s story, which felt true to real life. In reality, we all set goals and targets, but we do not necessarily meet them within the time frame we set ourselves. How many women have set themselves the goal to get married by thirty, and it didn’t happen? Therefore, it would have felt a bit too convenient if Yinka somehow happened to be in a relationship by the time her cousin got married. Also, the book’s main message is about loving yourself, so that needed to hug the spotlight in the end.
Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, born and raised in London, is a British-Nigerian writer who has been at the receiving end of the question in the title of her novel many times, and now lives with her husband in Milton Keynes, England.