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BN Book Review: Tomorrow I Became a Woman by Aiwanose Odafen | Review by Chinaza Nwaeke

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The epigraph of Tomorrow I Became a Woman introduces how attention-catching and affectionate the book will be. The epigraph, “’She’s a woman now, a true mother,’ I heard them say as they scattered the dust on my grave. ‘She’ll watch over us from the other side,’” welcomes us to the exciting experiences in the book that will captivate the reader and make it difficult for them to put it down.

Aiwanose Odafen wrote a spellbinding and unapologetically Nigerian book that explores the reality of women in Nigeria. Split into three parts, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, we are immersed in the lives of three friends and their travails to becoming acceptable women in society. Uju, Chinelo and Ada are childhood friends who grow to become sisters joined at the hip. Out of the circle, Uju is constantly pressured by her mum to get married.  She meets Gozie, a God-fearing man with an angelic voice, and decides this is the man for her, but is he truly the one?

Stuck with her love for her Uncle Ikenna who goes missing after the Biafra war, Uju accepts to marry Gozie, who reminds her of her uncle, amidst the red flags she observes and her undefined feelings for Akin, her lecturer and a Yoruba man whom her mother would never accept. 

Uju wants the love of her mother and does everything required of her to become a woman: marrying immediately after university, forgoing furthering education to bearing kids, keeping the home and being the perfect wife. But is it ever enough? 

Chinelo and Ada’s situations are quite similar – Ada marrying the man of her dreams and Chinelo marrying the man she loves despite their inter-tribal differences. However, society comes into play. 

This book will leave you deeply displeased and annoyed about patriarchy and how women, churches, cultures and families influence marriages to go on, however detrimental they are to women. 

The title of each chapter highlights different expectations and requirements expected to be a woman: the harsh treatment towards being unmarried or giving birth to just female children; giving birth to two children of mixed genders and still expected to bear more against your preference; being the sole provider of your family as the wife and still getting abused physically by your spouse. 

Tomorrow I Became a Woman begs the question of why women and mothers suffer in marriages but will still want their fellow women and daughters to be married and suffer the same marital challenges. And why they also advise them to endure even when their life is threatened. The author asserts in the book that “we want women to put in everything and be okay with getting almost nothing in return. I’m not going to live like that.” 

The book explores the effect of the war on families in Nigeria and how it affects inter-tribal relationships and acceptance. And also the fight for democracy and Nigerian history from the period 1960 till date. 

In her debut novel, Aiwanose Odafen weaves a story from her personal life into different experiences and stories of three women, stories so strong and emotionally disheartening. We see themes of financial abuse, shame and growth conflicting between two generations of motherhood. In mama’s time, she is an enabler of the patriarchal system while Uju vows that her daughters would have their own voices. 

“You can fight, I thought, you can fight for your daughters. But then again, who was I to speak of such things?”

Chinaza is the founder of The Readers Hut; an online book marketplace that caters to the reading needs of Nigerians. She is the host of a reading community, an avid reader and a Pharmacist. She is passionate about the art of reading and having exciting reading journeys, exploring different cultures, thoughts and lives through the mind of writers especially those of African descent.