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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Book review: Chika Unigwe’s ‘On Black Sisters' Street’

I read this book about four African women living and working as sex workers in Belgium in 2010, and the second I finished it I knew that if bookshy ever started this would be one of the first books I would review.

Chika Unigwe’s debut novel, De Feniks, was the first fiction title written by a Flemish writer of African origin. Her second novel Fata Morgana, was originally published in Dutch in 2008, with the English version On Black Sisters' Street published in 2009. As a researcher, I applaud a novelist that would wear ‘skimpy clothing and thigh-high boots’ to conduct research on the lives of African sex workers in Antwerp. But it paid off.

On Black Sisters' Street explores (no holds barred) the many factors that lead African women into sex work in Europe and the nature of their job on arrival.  These four women, Sisi, Joyce, Ama and Efe, were brought together by a loud, and rather annoying, man known as ‘Senghor Dele’ and now work in Belgium’s red light district to pay back their debt. Throughout the book we hear each of the women’s stories, which range from parental expectations, child abuse, war, to being a refugee, and more.

What I really liked about this book is that Unigwe avoided painting these women as passive victims. We come to understand these women and the choices they have made without ever seeing them in a negative light. 
This is a really fantastic read that I would recommend to anyone.


4.5 out of 5 stars




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