Book Review: On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe

Book Review: On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe


A story about four black ladies abroad, On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe, details the often daunting experiences of women involved in prostitution in Europe. The women - Sisi, Ama, Efe and Joyce - in this story venture overseas to create a better life or escape a terrible one but come to discover a road that is quite rocky, if not deadly.

The novel centres mainly on Sisi whose real name is Chisom. Sisi travels to Belgium by choice in an attempt to escape the rather glib prospect that life in Nigeria was offering. In Belgium, she discovers a bittersweet life.

Efe's story starts with a death in her family, an event that sends her spiralling down a long and dirty stairway called life. She ends up an unwed teenage mother who has to deal with her child's father's unwillingness to take responsibility. In seeking a better life for her son, one her odd jobs cannot afford, she travels abroad.

Ama, who faced a dark torturous childhood, travels away from the family she has known all her life to a distant relative's where she is eventually presented the opportunity to go abroad.

And Joyce, by circumstances out of her control, ends up in Antwerp.

The story is written in a simple language but its back-and-forth narration can make for a pretty confusing thread.

The pidgin used in this novel is quite terrible, it made this reader cringe at how far gone it was, not unlike the conversations which are beyond normal and seem superfluous and atypical of Nigerians.

Some of the descriptions in this novel do not add to the narrative and appear to clog the free-flow the story so desperately needs. There are, however, fine quiet times in the novel when the writing gets really beautiful and profound.

The novel alternates between Antwerp, Belgium and Nigeria and there's a swift change of tenses between chapters indicating the present and the past.

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