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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Spark: Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko

The Spark is a weekly guest blog series by African writers talking about what inspired the big idea for their new novels.

Want to write one? I’m open to submissions for 2014. If you’re an African author or publisher with a new book out or coming up (or that came out in the last six months or so), please email me a query after you’ve read the guidelines here.

In 2012, Yejide Kilanko was named one of the top five hottest up-and-comers on the Canadian writing scene by the Globe and Mail. Her debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, was a national best-seller and long-listed for the inaugural Etisalat Prize. Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, she now lives in Ontario, Canada with her family where she writes poetry and fiction and works as a therapist in children’s mental health. Her next book, A Deep and Distant Shore, is forthcoming from Penguin Canada, winter 2015.

In this week’s guest blog for The Spark, she talks about what inspired the novel, set in her hometown of Ibadan, and the power of challenging silences.

The Spark of Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko

Author Picture-Yejide Kilanko-2013

“Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation. Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.” – Amy Tan

The inspiration to write my debut novel Daughters Who Walk This Path definitely came from a place of desperation. I found myself trapped there because long after the meetings ended, I replayed the disclosures of child sexual abuse heard at work in my head.

Struggling to sleep, I turned to poetry. Writing poems has always been my way of getting through difficult times. The poem below was later shared on Facebook. Prior to posting it, I couldn’t have imagined the conversations initiated by my Nigerian friends. Even though I knew children were being sexually abused in my birth country, I didn’t think it was so prevalent or had happened to people I grew up with.

spark poem

I was well aware of our culture of silence around sex, sexuality and other issues challenging traditional beliefs and practices. Family and friends, who perhaps thought I’d forgotten this because of my many years away from home, were quick to remind me about the dangers of speaking out when I announced the decision to write a novel.

“Don’t you care people might think it is your story?” someone asked with genuine concern.

“But it isn’t,” I said.

“You and I know it isn’t. Others will think it is and you know how our people talk.”

The thought that one day someone might read the novel – I wasn’t even sure it would get published – and think I’d been sexually abused as a child, made me pause. It brought on an unexplainable, irrational feeling of shame. The kind I had seen on downcast faces at work.

Anger at the injustice of the shaming and blaming which often follows disclosures of sexual abuse made me even more resolved to write the novel. It sustained me as I wrote the first draft over a period of eight months.

Set in Ibadan, my hometown, Daughters Who Walk This Path tells the story of two female cousins who both experienced child sexual abuse. Morayo was repeatedly assaulted by a family member, while her older cousin, Aunty Morenike’s rape by a trusted family friend led to a teenage pregnancy.

Since publication, I’ve had several people ask if Morayo and Morenike’s stories are mine. I always say, it could have been.

While the novel addressed difficult issues, it was important to me, for it to end on a life-affirming note. I wanted to reinforce the belief that life can still be beautiful after horrific things happen to us.

The courageous characters of Daughters Who Walk This Path, remind us all of our humanity while providing an uplifting, authentic cultural adventure.

Author website



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