In her new novel Eyo, Nigerian author Abidemi Sanusi follows the journey of an illiterate 10-year-old girl as she is trafficked from the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, to the U.K., first as a domestic servant, then as a sex slave. Before sending her abroad, Eyo’s mother says, “You must endure because you are a woman.” Eyo does endure and survive, but at horrific cost.
The first piece of adult fiction published by WordAlive Publishers in Kenya, Eyo was shortlisted in the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book for Africa Region, an international award for outstanding fiction.
The book confronts readers with the deception in human trafficking, the helplessness of its victims, and the complications for those who escape. Nigeria is reputed to be Africa’s largest source of trafficking victims. The character Eyo gives a face to the thousands of girls and women trafficked to Europe and beyond.
“I wanted to write a book about African children,” says Sanusi. Eyo focuses particularly on “the status of the African girl[s] and the sacrifices they're called to make on behalf of their male siblings.”
Eyo is fictitious, but the story is rooted in Sanusi’s experiences growing up in Nigeria, her human rights work, and her relationships with activists who campaign against child trafficking.
Because African Christians are socialized to believe that reading fiction is not “spiritual,” local publishers are cautious about publishing stories and novels. WordAlive’s CEO David Waweru chose Eyo to launch the fiction line because the book is both well-crafted and culturally relevant.
Eyo “shocks the reader out of apathy,” he says. One reader writes, “I cried and repented on behalf of mankind.”
Eyo is available at WordAlive Publishers and will soon be available through Amazon.
(This article was first published in Inside MAI, March 2010. The review was written by Alyssa Keysor.)