Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.
La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono (translated by Lawrence Schimel) is the first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English, though it is in fact banned in Equatorial Guinea. This novella made such an impression on me that I chose it when it came to my turn to choose for our book club, and in fact it was the only book so far that has been unanimously enjoyed!
In a nutshell: This slim novel sees teenage orphan Okomo confront the suffocating rules of Fang culture in rural Equatorial Guinea where, though she’s under pressure to find a husband, her realisation that she’s not into men leads her towards an altogether different community.
To pluck out a line: “If a man who is with another man us called a man-woman, what are women called who do the same?”
If I had to choose one image: Throughout the book, the forest grows into an increasingly beautiful place full of freedoms, hope and unity.
Sharing a thought: ‘Witchcraft’ is thrown about by the conservative elders as the reason for all manner of misfortunes when in fact the architects of these circumstances are often those in local positions of power – either Fang men or mitangan (missionaries).
Fact: Abosede George’s afterword contributes many insights into the record of past dissident sexualities relating to the discussion around queerness and Africanness (though – for anyone who does read the book – I did disagree with her point that the Indecency Club’s polygamy forms a straightforward contrast with the village’s normative polygamous marriages, since both involve envy & ruptures).
If you’d like to read La Bastarda, visit here.