Brimstones And Rainbows By Ololade Akintoye Raises Awareness About Violence Against Women And Girls
Iyunola is a young girl of twelve when she gets married to a man old enough to be her father. It’s entirely on her grandmother who feels getting married and raising children would erase the pain of losing her immediate family at such a tender age. This decision leaves her pushing out a stillborn at age thirteen and impairing her bladder in the process. Young, orphaned, damaged and ostracized she takes to hawking groundnuts until her breakthrough comes in form of a young woman. She leaves her lonely village life to meet 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. Afterward her life takes a meaningful turn.
Divided into two parts, Brimstones and Rainbows exposes the backward practices of some tribes: female genital mutilation or cutting, child marriage and so on. The first part explores Iyunola’s brief but troubled stint as a child bride; brutally raped on her wedding night, constantly abused physically and verbally, ostracized and unloved, pregnant and delivered of a stillborn and then developing obstetric fistula. The society we live in has for long trivialized the struggles of women. I read Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently and the first paragraph of the short story details the painful experience of delivering a baby. Zikora is a grown woman with a probably stronger pelvic floor than Iyun, yet she still opted for an epidural. For a thirteen-year-old with no such option I am surprised she didn’t die after three days of experiencing such excruciating pain. It is a terrible thing to subject a mere child to bear such responsibility. As if cutting their genitals is not enough! Although there is no excuse for that one as well. In fact, I don’t think the author effectively captured with words the pain the poor girl must have felt during the entire process. In the course of her getting help for her fistula a lot is shared about the condition.
The issues raised in the second part of the book is one that most people overlook. After getting healed from fistula how do you deal with the psychological baggage? Iyun gets married again, but is 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 our body needs healing so does our mind sometimes. I’m appalled at the fact that some people still think therapy is not an ‘African thing’. What then is an ‘African thing’? Dying in silence? It is necessary to seek help when in need of it. But first you have to admit that you need help.
I applaud Ololade Akintoye for fusing relevant societal issues in the over 200 pages long book. There is no wrong time to talk about child marriage, rape, marital rape, female genital mutilation, stigmatization, adoption etc. These are issues that wouldn’t have existed if we are in a perfect world. But alas, we are not. So, these are topics we have to keep talking about until the world fully listens. Also, the book was a simple read and the cover page is beautiful. The innocence and pain on the girl’s face is unmistakable. It symbolizes the struggles of thousands of girls out there who are helpless and hopeless.
I would recommend this book for obvious reasons. The language use is simple to a fault and the themes discussed are relatable. It may take time to eradicate these problems in our society but I hope these stories effect some changes in some ways.