By Chinelo Okparanta
…..The Perils of Womanhood (Nigerian Edition)……
“Happiness is like water, she says ‘We’re always trying to grab onto it, but it’s always slipping between our fingers”
After reading Under the Udala Trees, I was so impressed by Chinelo Okparanta. I sought out more books she had written and stumbled on Happiness Like Water (well I use the term stumbled quite loosely what I meant to say is that I haggled and harassed every book dealer within my grasp and when I couldn’t take it anymore I resorted to reading an eBook *covers face with hands). So you can imagine how disappointed I was when Happiness Like Water did not satisfy the itch I had been plagued with for almost two months.
Before you hang me, give me a chance to explain myself. I agree the book tackled various societal issues Nigeria women face home and abroad. It is based on ten short stories of the struggle of immigrant life, the burden, and joy of love, the social pressures of skin lightening, family pressures of marriage and childbearing, domestic abuse and shame and stigma faced by Nigerian women who question their sexuality. Yeah very heavy stuff but still I felt that Happiness like Water lacked the same punch and delivery that Under Udala Trees had. It tackled the same issues but I just could not connect with it (believe me…I tried my best.)
Well It wasn’t all dreary; there were some good stories in the mix. My favorite one is Fairness where a schoolgirl is repeatedly urged by her mother to lighten her skin. Due to her obsession with light skin, she creates a bleaching concoction and then tests it out on the housemaid. Afterward, she can’t help feeling jealous of the ruined but pale skin of the maids face (Cuckoo!! Cuckoo!!)
If I’m being really honest, I’m still a bit torn about this one. On one hand, I love the subject matter but on the other, I feel a teeny-weensy bit let down (plus my feminist conscience is judging me……urgggghhhh!!!!!! pipe down queen!) I’ll have to leave this one to you guys to decide.
Till next time,