In Brimstones and Rainbows, Akintoye reflects obstetric fistula, gender violence
Iyunola was 12 when she got married to a man old enough to be her father. The architect of this marriage, her grandmother, felt early marriage and raising children would help the small girl ease the pain of losing her immediate family at a tender age. This decision, however, left Iyunola pushing out a stillborn at age 13 and having a ruptured bladder in the process.
This is a simple narration of the book by Ololade Akintoye titled, Brimstones and Rainbows. However, Akintoye’s plot, movement and characaterisation are what make the book an interesting read. The book exposes babaric practices such as, female genital mutilation (FGM) or cutting, child marriage and many more in some Nigerian ethnic groups.
Divided into two parts, the first explores Iyunola’s brief, but troubled life as a child bride. She is brutally raped on her wedding night, constantly abused physically and verbally during her short marriage, ostracised and unloved, pregnant and delivered of a stillborn and then developing obstetric fistula.
Young, orphaned and ostracised, she takes to hawking groundnuts until her breakthrough comes in the form of a young woman. She leaves her lonely village life to a warm reception from strangers in the city. She learns the name of the incontinence she’s experiencing, obstetric fistula, and gets a cure for it.
Beautifully, Akintoye crafts a book that gives the 13-year-old Iyun a strong will. Possibly, a stoic character. For a 13-year-old with no such option, it’s surprising she didn’t die after three days of experiencing such excruciating pain. In the course of her getting help for her fistula, a lot is shared about the condition.
Afterwards her life takes a meaningful turn.
The issues raised in the second part of the book are what many overlook: Total healing.
After being healed, how is she going to deal with the psychological baggage?
Iyun gets married again, but is very afraid of so many things. It quickly spirals out of her control to the point that she has to seek professional help. That is another topic for discussion; as much as the body needs healing so does the mind, sometimes.
Akintoye infuses relevant societal issues in the over 200 pages long book. There is no wrong time to talk about child marriage, rape, female genital mutilation, stigmatisation and adoption.
I would recommend this book for obvious reasons. The language use is simple to a fault and the themes treated are relatable. It may take time to eradicate these problems in the society but there is hope that the story will effectdesired change.
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