Book Review: On Black Sisters Street – Chika Unigwe

On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives.

Following Paulo’s Alchemist, during the Book Club discussion, the ladies felt like exploring the topic of female sexuality and prostitution, and this book happened to win the vote of many.

The discussion revolved around the four main characters in the book, and how their stories went. Each one had suffered a circumstance which drove them to say yes to Dele who offers them “work” in Antwerp, Belgium which is where this book is set.

The author, posed as an underground sex worker tells the tale of four women, who probably represent the many souls in similar or even more devastatingly awkward situation searching for “Greener Pastures” in Europe, having left their home countries in despair or desperation.

Sisi – A young graduate from University who prides herself on her achievements, but is unimpressed with what Nigeria has to offer to someone of her caliber.

Ama – Victim of Sexual abuse from her father, whom she later discovers is not her real father after all, is forced to leave home after her outburst accusing her father threatens to rip up the security of her mother’s world.

Efe – A young girl who’s desired in life are too large for her pocket, and so resorts to being a sex object for a sugar daddy, who impregnates her and later, as the story always goes, refuses to acknowledge her existence. She bares him a son.

Joyce (Alex) – a Sudanese refugee who dares to fall in love with a Soldier, who “sells” her to Dele, a pimp, because he cannot go against is mother’s wishes and marry an outcast. Or maybe he just got bored with her.

The book gave a whole new perspective on Sex Workers (a more politically correct term than prostitutes) and how they sustain their lives as part of the trade in foreign countries. (pressures to perform, the looming threat of not being able to pay back debt, the demands from the Brothel owners, and no option to escape).

We got an insight into the lifestyle Nigeria has to offer, although all cannot be that bad as stated by the author, or by other Nigerian authors. Although the problems with electricity are rampant and unemployment is a serious issue in Nigeria, how far will anyone go to leave their country in search for greener pastures in Europe, under the title of a sex worker. All except one of these four women chose this as the means to fulfill their desires and aspirations in life. The question remains, is it worth it?

The cost of not fulfilling your debt or altercation from the contract can easily lead to death. You merely disappear into thin air, with no trace, or explanation to the loss of your existence. As happened with Sisi. However, there was speculation about whether her death was real or did she fake it, at first. I guess we shall have to accept that she did commit the unthinkable and tried to escape from “Madam’s” clutches and had to thus pay the price.

There were a couple of take-aways from the book, and a personal opinions was asked.

Would you, if driven low in despair, ever resort to such a choice?

The answer in unison was No. Several of us have been out of work at some point in life. There was a fellow reader there who has been out of work for three years, but choosing “prostitution” has never been an issue.

In today’s day, there is a modern twist to the ancient game and it is called Escort Service. So this is more elite, big bucks but maybe the requirements/demands are higher. But equally shocking.

There are also those women who do it for the fun and not explicitly for the money. They have no qualms about their reputation and basically

Would you recommend this book to anyone?

Again the majority of the votes were leaning towards a NO.

The content is very sad and depressing and personally for myself, I would not recommend this book because it simply suggests that opting to become a Sex Worker is a shortcut to end your dilemma.

I am not being judgemental here, and it takes one to walk in someone’s shoes to really understand why they make the choices that they do, but personally, this should not be the case. Someone like Sisi who was so well educated was having a terrible time finding a job, a good job, but is all that wealth and fame worth it at the end of the day when there is a sadness within you that just eats away at you?

 So, although this was a good read and the writing style was quite commendable (stated with the end and then goes back into how it all started), it has some very serious content. Something that stays with you, and because you tend to find or run into a sex worker at some point in your life, this book will come to haunt you and leave you with the question, “So what’s her reason for choosing this life?”

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