PUBLISHER: ONE PLANET
AUTHOR: EGARA KABAJI
REVIEWER: ANYANGO NYAR AKETCH
A Journey to Becoming is a fictional story revolving around Ghati, a beautiful high school student of age, according to their community time, and has to be circumcised because that is what their culture believes makes a complete woman. Ghati is a daddy’s girl because her father loves her beyond the ordinary.
It is the high season for female genital mutilation, and it is preached across the community so the girls can prepare to be introduced to womanhood. The people believe that this practice brings completion to a woman. They have refused to see beyond the risks and how the act demeans a woman.
Ghati idolizes Senje-the anti-FGM voice of reason which is hated by the community for preaching against the act. They believe her ideas are “weird” and plant seeds of defiance in girls yet. She carries within her the torchlight for the vulnerable girl child set for the cut.
Just before the prologue is a beautiful poem by Sara Teasdale talking about life and its beauty: beautiful music, beautiful environment, beautiful people and the imploration that we should do all we can to enjoy life.
Deresi introduces the reader to life as a journey and “a pendulum swinging between two polarities…” This prologue makes one question whether life is all fate or fixed destiny. But she gives us reasons to why we should experience life to the fullest, be it in pain or fear, in loss or in plenty, in love or with nothing at all.
How often do we take for granted the help extended to us by strangers? At times, we tend to think we deserve it. Do we really?
Life baptizes us by fire. The night comes with pain and loneliness. We must endure much before we finally get to give the victory smile. Deresi teaches us to stand up after a fall and hold our heads high. This tragedy is why Deresi must get up, fight, and start living again.
This prologue throws us into a deep desire to turn the pages and see if that owl that had “pitched a tent on the tree behind her hospital bed cried out a frightening song…” did bring about the bad luck it is associated with.
While we live this life, we are confronted with challenges bringing about experiences that shape our lives. We are introduced to Ghati as a charming and brave girl. We see how she welcomes Ahati who says it is time for the “mature girls to undergo the rite.” When Deresi states that she has to talk that she has to talk to Ghati’s dad first, Ahati is upset, and she blurts out, “is this a men’s business?” Ghati eavesdrops and is happy that her mother won’t just let her be pushed into doing what she doesn’t agree to.
The author brings a close-knit family to life in this text, who chooses to stand by their daughter’s decision not to get cut. Deresi tells her daughter that the practice does not happen where she was born. We see a family that sticks together through a trying moment. They are sidelined and alienated by the rest of the community. Only a few friends choose to stand with them but there isn’t much they can do to help them when the rest of the community turns against them. Che and Zik take their sister’s side and stand their ground that no one should touch their sister.
A clear picture of the politician’s greed is painted. The modern-day politician does not hesitate to stand in the way of justice. They do not like the truth and will do anything to protect that which serves their interests, like mismanaging public utility. They do not create employment so they have drunkards and drug addicts they can pay coins to do their dirty jobs. On the other hand, the police are not left behind in their corrupt ways. You have to give them “fuel” first before they can help. And the much they can help is keeping a suspect for a few hours and then letting them go saying, “This is beyond us…”
Despite people knowing the dangers of FGM, some women still advocate for it. The situation worsens for those anti-FGM women because other women have refused to dust their brains off the lies they have been told. It would have worked if everyone had joined in the fight against evil. It would have been easier if all women had said in a single voice, “enough is enough!”
Senje, Ghati, and Ghati’s family stand on one side of the fight, Mr. Vikiru, and Geresa. Against them, we find madam Nkeri and the rogue villagers. On neutral grounds, stand serikali that talks big and does nothing. We find practical use of the media here. One rare act of not spreading propaganda but reporting the truth as it is all for a worthy cause.
The author gives us a perfect father in the relationship between Ghati and her dad. He has embraced modernity and is free of societal prejudices against women that revolve around patriarchy. To him, FGM is a retrogressive practice with no space in the modern world. Even though this fight leads to his death, we see an upright man who stands for truth and goes through a ball of fire to save his daughter.
We see fear, bitterness, anger, and uncertainty in Deresi, and we remember that owl.
This book is well spin. It is engaging, delightful, and inspiring. FGM, arranged marriages, value systems that bring pain and suffering to society, and fairness to women are some themes that advocate for harnessing the power of both men and women. Toward the end of the book, we are met with new challenges and hope for a bright future.
The author has used simple language for easy understanding of the text. From the songs to proverbs, the author shows us that we are products of a system that is hardly considerate and that we must rise and fight social injustices for a better future. The pages turn fast, and one wants to know what happens to Ghati and how she overcomes her challenges.
I recommend that this book be read by all students so that it can open their eyes to the realities of life and gear them toward a better society.