Book Quote:

“…We who go with the landscape – we who should be asking ourselves, Why do we need white men and Arab men and China men and mulattoes to legislate and dictate and govern Mother Africa when it’s only the Africans who can save Africa? ”

Book Review:

Review by Friederike Knabe (JUL 24, 2011)

Eternity is an unusual young woman and an effervescent storyteller. She shares her life story in short, action-packed episodes that are embedded in evocations of colourful West-African ambience, and, underlying these, insights into societal and political upheaval in the fictional West Cassavaland, realistically set in that part of Africa. Adopted at birth and raised by two white scientists, Stevedore and Juliet Frankenheimer, she symbolizes a self-confident, stunning beauty – “pitch black and shimmering like the purple outer space of the universe.” However, she carries a secret that, once she is aware of it, will fundamentally influence the course of her life.

The novel opens with Stevedore dying in Eternity’s arms, apparently poisoned… From these first pages Kola Boof spins a rich, at times hilariously funny, at others seriously engaged, yet always provocative tale that owed as much to surrealism with a touch of sci-fi as it does to African folklore and traditional customs. Set against this backdrop, the novel brings out, in a sardonic tone, challenging socio-political positions that can be seen as confrontational and may offend some readers’ sensitivities.

Eternity’s secret not only sets her apart from her tribe, the Ajowa, but also makes her a fighter for what she believes troubles hers and other Cassavan tribes. In their society, the pure black people, like herself, while in the majority, are treated nonetheless as second class citizens. The ruling class, who call themselves now “Pogo Metis Signare” (and formerly were called by another ironic name, the “Bastars Elite”) are of European-African mixed heritage. Given societal pressures, any ambitious black African man’s aim is to have lighter-skinned children by mating with a white woman. Furthermore, a growing industry has been selling skin lightening treatments, such as creams and pills, without regard to serious side effects. One can recognize these “swallowers” everywhere by the discolouring of their gums.

Eternity’s upbringing makes her rebel against such obsessions and other strictures imposed traditionally on black African women. “The African woman is treasured for her obedience […, she] is but a flower in a garden – her husband the fence around it.” Yet, only when she comprehends why she carries the memory of another black woman, Orisha, “a real-life blue-black Ajowan woman,” who had fought against skin lightening and paid with her life for her outspokenness, does Boof’s heroine fully comprehend her role in society… As an internationally famous model, Eternity can use her sexual attraction to her advantage, and she does, yet a chance encounter with Sea Horse Twee, a true-black famous local rap star with strong political ambitions, threatens her physical and emotional independence. She is kidnapped, joins a harem of sorts and yes, maybe, even falls in love too.

Kola Boof’s novel is a fluidly-written, fast and easy read, her characters, some more fully developed than others, represent a wide range of experiences that serve the author’s narrative. In addition to Sea Horse Twee, together with Eternity, clearly at the centre, Tasso, Twee’s first wife stands out as does Eternity’s half-brother, Tiberius. The author does not shy away from clichés or stereotypes to raise her themes of colonialism, all kinds of racism (black/not black enough, black/white, white/black), and, very well illustrated, the corrupt and ineffective power struggles in African countries. Her passionate reaction against the treatment of young girls and of African women in general is palpable. While the author’s positions can come across as rather radical and uncompromising, within her story she couches them with a great sense of humour and even parody. Most characters are fictional, still, they may carry traits of real-life individuals. A couple of actual names stood out for me, Oumou Sangaré and Rokia Traoré, both well-known Mali musicians, both representing strong independent African women.

The novel’s title, The Sexy Part of the Bible, is deliberately provocative. As the novel’s epigram Boof cites a 17th century missionary, “The white woman is the virtuous part of the Bible; her hand is fair.” Eternity, in the novel, completes the quote (allegedly from a proselytizing pamphlet): “But the black woman is the sex in the Bible; everything about her his wicked.” Kola Boof (not her birth name) is the author of several novels and other writings. Her own life story may read at least as dramatic as that of her heroine, Eternity, in this novel.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 20 readers
PUBLISHER: Akashic Books (June 21, 2011)
REVIEWER: Friederike Knabe
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison



July 24, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, World Lit

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.