Book title: Of Women and Frogs
Author: Bisi Adjapon
Genre: Coming-of-age fiction
ISBN: 978-978-55721 9-3
Per the blurb of this strikingly impressive debut novel by Bisi Adjapon; “Of Women and Frogs is the coming-of-age story of ‘Esi’, a feisty half-Nigerian, a half-Ghanaian girl growing up in post-colonial Ghana, with occasional visits to her maternal family in Lagos. When her curiosity about her body leads to a ginger-in-the-vagina punishment from her stepmother, Esi begins to question the hypocrisy of the adults around her who place restrictions on her just because she is a girl.”
Gripping blurb, with an arousing interest in its title, right? It certainly doesn’t disappoint in all of its plot and characterization.
Bisi Adjapon captures and weaves out fearlessly and skilfully certain themes our culture cowardly ignores.
Some of the truly difficult aspects of love and sexuality for girls and women in Ghana is also boldly addressed.
Then there are the physical and sexual aspects of adolescent love in all its mad glory – invigorating to see a Ghanaian woman writer dealing daringly with blossoming female sexuality.
Now, the novel’s protagonist Esi, born in Nigeria, grows up without her mother, in the household of her father’s wife in Ghana. The language was uneven, which is actually creative because the character Esi was captured as a 9-year-old in the beginning part of the novel. Bisi does a marvellous job in challenging our perception of how aware kids can be. Esi in the novel’s portrayal is far from ignorant.
This shores up the dynamic chemistry she has with her father.
Like most children, Esi could recognise the pretence of adults, which of course muddled her thoughts at some point but all contribute to shaping an adult version of herself.
Esi’s ability to detect pretence continues into adulthood.
Moments of jealousy, resentment and pain, but also of love, are beautifully captured. There is love, although it is sometimes hard to find.
What really got to me was Esi and Kayode’s story. Love, choices, giving up and taking new paths. Bittersweet, with a sting in a tail at some point.
I loved the difference between Esi’s life in Ghana and her time spent in Nigeria with her mother’s people. In Nigeria the love is much less conditional, the women somehow more powerful.
Brace up your inner childhood more because some parts of the novel will bring back memories of the complete joy of awakening sexuality and of the strange freedom that boarding school brings.
More difficult for me are the choices that Esi does not make as she grows to adulthood. Her Nigerian aunt points the way to true sexual independence, but it is a path that Esi fails to take.
This book also draws an accurate historical picture of the political landscape in Ghana and Nigeria and still managed to lace it with some humour. I certainly wasn’t born around that period to ascertain its accuracy but I didn’t miss my history and social studies classes thus my confidence in its accurate portrayal of historic events.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Bisi’s writings.
Looking for my criticism? It is difficult to find one but at some point, I struggled to follow the flow of the book when periods of time were skipped a bit unexpectedly. In an interaction with Bisi on the read- book-a week show, the author made listeners and myself understand this was how Esi would have narrated her life, picking out her most impactful memories. The ending of this novel caused me to think about the stories that defined who I am today.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut and looking forward to many more works from this author who confirmed on my show a new project in the pipeline. Bisi has come to stay and fuel our drive for reading!
I would highly recommend this book – it’s an awesome read and opens the door to a conversation about themes often put to rest and unattended to.
Click on the link below for the full radio interaction with Bisi Adjapon;
The writer is the host of book review show, Read a book a week that airs on Radio Univers 105.7fm every Wednesday at 3 pm. You can get interactive with him on Instagram @Kayleb_ahinakwah and twitter @KaylebAdjetey