Book: Walking With Shadows
Writer: Jude Dibia
Publisher: BlackSands Books
Year of publication: 2005
Number of pages: 255
In which a gay Lagos executive is outted by a colleague and how it affects him and his family.
It was all fun and games in Nairobi as we awaited Binyavanga Wainaina’s latest literary baby The Africa39 Project when he decided to throw us something completely different. This was a brilliant essay I am a homosexual, mum in the Chimurenga Chronicle fashioned as the missing chapter in his memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. As you probably already know, it has raised a storm as he emerged as one of the most prominent Africans to openly come out on his sexuality.
As the dust starts to settle, I have started thinking about contemporary African literature that has gay characters. A book with one of these characters is Walking with Shadows, the 2005 debut of Nigerian novelist Jude Dibia. The book’s married protagonist Adrian Ebele Njoko is outted by one of his colleagues Tayo who he investigated for fraud. In revenge, Tayo informs Adrian’s family and friends about his sexuality.
The book recounts how everyone is affected by the dark secret emerging. These include Adrian’s wife Ada who is not amused to discover that the man she married and had a child with was not what (sexuality wise) he claimed to be. Adrian’s family is also affected; his father is so shocked he lands in hospital. His older brother Chiedu is so enraged that he seeks the services of a priest to whip the gayness from his brother. His younger brother Chika is confused but eventually supports him giving his brother the one thing he never received from his family; love.
On the work front he has to take leave for a few weeks as the rumour goes around the company; his only supporter is Rotimi who he mentored in the company.
Ada is concerned about how Nigerian society will receive the news of her husband’s sexuality and how it will affect her negatively. After much anger she comes to realize it is not all doom and gloom as she meets women like her who live with gay men as their husbands.
I love the prose in the book. What’s not to like about this?
“The silence was driving Ada mad. The silence exposed their difference as women. The silence judged them both, mocked them even. The silence threatened to speak of their vulnerability. The silence refused to remain silent.” – Page 202.
There are 255 pages of these kind of gems.
Also interesting in this book were Adrian’s gay friends; Abdul and Femi and the colourful George that appears later. These characters are able to bring about the debate of “gayism” (hey I’m Kenyan, sue me) to the reader in a very relatable manner without freaking the hell out of them. Paraphrasing Lupita from one of her many acceptance speeches, this book shines a light under the floorboards of our nation (Naija, Kenya same difference) and exposes what lies beneath.
Would I recommend this book? Hell yeah. It gives words to some of the problems experienced by the gay community in Africa.
Walking with Shadows is available at Amazon.com.
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