Book Review: ‘La Bastarda’ An Unapologetic African Queer Tale by Trifonia Melibea Obono

La-Bastarda

Title – La Bastarda

Author – Trifonia Melibea Obono

Translator – Lawrence Schimel

Publication – August 2018.

Publisher – Modjaji Books

Genre – African LGBT+ Literary Fiction

The first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English, La Bastarda is the story of the orphaned teen Okomo, who lives under the watchful eye of her grandmother and dreams of finding her father. Forbidden from seeking him out, she enlists the help of other village outcasts: her gay uncle and a gang of “mysterious” girls reveling in their so-called indecency. Drawn into their illicit trysts, Okomo finds herself falling in love with their leader and rebelling against the rigid norms of Fang culture.

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First of all, even though I am extremely thrilled La Bastarda was translated into English, I still feel like I’m missing its full magic, I can only imagine how beautiful it would read in its original language if only I understood Spanish.

La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono is the first novel by a female Equatorial Guinean author that has been translated into English. It’s an amazing fit because of this book is African, loudly queer and proud!

I haven’t read or known about many published fictional works featuring African queers in African nations written by African queers in Africa nations, so when I read the blurb I knew I needed to read it a bonus because it’s not a lot of pages, so I knew it would be an enjoyable and quick read.

Judging from the title it’s obvious the main character has been labelled La Bastarda, a bastard, not knowing her father/unwanted by her father Okomo is a sixteen-year-old girl living in a small rural Fang village in Equatorial Guinea. She is being raised by her grandparents after her mother died giving birth to her outside of wedlock. How she wishes she knew who her father was, but he’s a taboo topic that only brought the wrath of her maternal family if she brought it up.

A Fang woman is worthy if her womb is fruitful, if her hair and face is made up beautifully to attract men-especially a rich man, to feed him, marry him and keep them in her bed, while giving birth to children and maintaining the household, with little or no physical/mental assistance from the man, who is very good at posturing, boasting and wasting the day away with their fellow man friends.

The culture and traditions of the Fang people in the village are so deeply embedded in them, it is all overzealous. Which is why they frown upon the man-woman, Okomo’s Uncle Marcelo, she is too young to understand he is gay, nevertheless, Okomo loves him with all her heart because he is the only family member of hers that treats her with love and affection, one who loves her unconditionally.

One day she follows three girls that her grandma has warned her away from because they are ‘indecent’ into the forest to fetch woods and there she becomes friends with the girls who are just like her, lesbians. They make her understand that there is nothing wrong in loving a girl even though they know they would face the wrath of their village of if they are ever discovered, they also explain to her why the village hates her uncle.

She develops deep feeling for one of the girls, who returns the feelings for her, this love although freeing is very dangerous and they all pay the price for it in the end, because even though the village acknowledges that there is such a thing as a man-woman, they don’t even want to acknowledge that there could be a relationship between women, that didn’t include a man.

There is more to the story, but what I have written is enough.

The pacing of the story is fast, and it felt like I was drifting through time and just seeing things through the surface, there’s no deep character development, but the message the story is sharing is very clear and I stand by it. The story is easy enough to read and I am very glad that I have read it and I hope more people read it because it’s wonderfully translated and edited.

Quick fact: This book is a Banned Book, Equatorial Guinea has banned the book because queerness is such a scary and dangerous thing in many African nations *eyes rolling*

3.5

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Book Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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Book: Holding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers 

Published: October 4th, 2016.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

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Book Review: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

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Book: Let’s Talk About Love

Author: Claire Kann 

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Published: January 23rd, 2018.

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

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Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Children of Blood and Bone 

Book 1 of Children of Orisha

Tomi Adeyemi

Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Out on March 6th, 2018

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

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p.s. this was my first reaction review. 

Be aware and be ready for Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This book will blow yours and my mind and leave you speechless, especially if you can get your hands on the first six chapters, you’ll understand why I’m a gushing mess…Read More »