A Good Name* is a harrowing work highlighting the burden of cultural expectations, how these expectations shape the lived experiences and the relationships of immigrants.
After migrating to America, twelve years later Eziafa Okereke has nothing to show for it. With mounting pressure from his family, Eziafa returns home to Nigeria in a desperate bid to change his story. His goal is to find a wife he can mould to his taste and is suspicious of immigrant women who sway too far from traditional marital expectations. Eighteen-year-old Zina has big dreams and a future outlined. With an appropriately aged boyfriend and sights set on furthering her education, marriage to a man twenty years older is not part of the plan. Trapped by family expectations and duty, Zina agrees to an arranged marriage to the much older Eziafa. She then moves to Houston and trains as a nurse, a profession forced on her. Zina endures a turbulent marriage to a controlling Eziafa until she decides to change the narrative and expectations of her.
The writing and storytelling are engaging and fast-paced, becoming a page-turner I didn’t expect. This is the kind of story that you will want to discuss with others and would therefore be an excellent choice for a book club or buddy read. The complexity and moral greyness of the characters will make for great discussions and lessons. You will find yourself grappling with interpreting the choices made by the characters.
The portrayal of an immigrant life’s frustrations, unfortunate choices made, emotional burden as well as the failure to let go of cultural expectations around relationships and marriage were expertly done. This will be very foreign to those with little understanding of how the immigrant experience shapes daily life. However, it will provide a different lens through which to look at and understand these experiences.
“When drummers change their beats, we the dancers, must change our steps. The marriage drums of these times are speaking a different language. If we want our marriages to survive, we must learn the new dance steps”.
I found the ending to be haunting and personally devastating. An emotional rollercoaster, this book is relevant to today’s important conversations around domestic violence, its prevalence and normalization in certain communities. I encourage you to go into this one with eyes wide open and consider the trigger warnings around domestic violence.
This is my first experience with Yejide’s work, and I am looking forward to exploring more from her.
*Thanks to Guernica Editions for an Advance Reading Copy of this book. A Good Name is available in September 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria. A writer of fiction and poetry, Kilanko’s debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, a Canadian national bestseller, was longlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize and the 2016 Nigeria Literature Prize. Her work includes a novella, Chasing Butterflies (2015), two children’s picture books, There Is An Elephant In My Wardrobe (2019), and Juba and The Fireball (2020). Her short fiction is in the anthology, New Orleans Review 2017: The African Literary Hustle.
Kilanko lives in Chatham, Ontario where she also practices as a therapist in children’s mental health.
- Publisher : Guernica Editions (Sept. 1 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 380 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771836016
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771836012
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