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: Sadie by Courtney Summers

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Title – Sadie

Author – Courtney Summers

Publication – September 4th, 2018.

Publisher – Wednesday Books

Genres – Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery & Thriller.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

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ANNOUNCER: Book Review is brought to you by Lara Kareem, sponsored by Netgalley & Wednesday Books, a Macmillian Publishers Imprint.

LARA KAREEM: And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl. Such a gripping line don’t you agree, right off the bats after I read those words, I immediately became intrigued and anticipated what was to come.Read More »

Book Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Title – Grace and Fury

Author – Tracy Banghart

Publication – July 31st, 2018.

Publisher – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genres – Young Adult & Fantasy.

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

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Book Review: Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

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Title – Smoke in the Sun

Author – Renee Ahdieh

Publication – June 5th, 2018.

Publisher – G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Genres – Young Adult & Fantasy.

The highly anticipated sequel to Flame in the Mist—an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.

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