If you lie to yourself about your own pain, you will be killed by those who will claim you enjoyed it.
There is something alive that crawls and breathes when Alice Walker writes. That is what keeps me coming back. She taunts. She pokes. She pushes. She decimates whatever cardboard comfort zone you are cowering in. Needless to say, I fall in love with her writing each time I read it. It has a taste, flowy. Like honey over dates. Sticky, sweet with the bitter aftertaste of too much sugar.
‘Possessing The Secret Of Joy’, I read in one Sunday. Morning to sunset. Couldn’t put it down. It tells the story the story of Tashi, who undergoes the cut and ends up killing the woman who performs the ceremony. Achebe says that we need story tellers because after the war and after the plague and after the battle there must remain those who will remember and pass it on, that is the power of story. That story clothes truths that embarrass us in their nakedness. It allows us to look.
I believe vehemently, to the point of making it religion, in the power of story to shape us. To sculpt as and chip away at our uneven rough edges and force us to confront the shards of glass that hold our reflection. When you find a story,whose core is the jagged form of a reality too stark too gaze at directly then you are in the presence of kryptonite and you are made Superman. That is why Chibuihe Obi counts it as violence when there is no literature that speaks to those of his sexual orientation in Nigeria. Because it is violence when you are rendered invisible in the world of print.
A story like Possessing the Secret of Joy forces you to glance at a truth that has been turned beggar on the street. It forces you to stop and question how many coins you’ve thrown into that battered plastic cup it holds. And too often it is that we walk by and soon forget. But there lies the power of story; story will not let you forget.
Tashi who you spend 8 hours with you cannot forget. All those numbers and interviews will fade and crumble but they will be reborn and they will take up a body and that body will be Tashi. You will be reminded by small things about Tashi and you will search in your pockets and dig up some coins for Ugly Truth. A token. Because that is the power of a story. That it can touch you in that place where female genital mutilation ceases to be a number and is embodied in one being. Once anything has a face, once you can call it by name, you cannot ignore it and every moment something may remind you of it.
An estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year.
What have you done for Tashi?