cover image On Black Sisters Street

On Black Sisters Street

Chika Unigwe, Random, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6833-3

In her U.S. debut, Nigerian immigrant Unigwe sets a melancholy tale in her adopted home of Belgium. When "Sisi" receives an offer from a questionable businessman to work in Belgium she accepts, agreeing to repay expenses as she works. She leaves the depressed, jobless Lagos only to find herself employed as a prostitute on Antwerp's Zwartezusterstraat (literally "Black Sisters Street") along with fellow Africans Ama, Joyce, and Efe. Despite her dire circumstance, Sisi falls in love with a native Belgian who encourages her to break free from her madam and the Lagos businessman. Freedom, however, remains elusive for Sisi, whose pitiful life is cut short with the swing of a hammer, prompting her Zwartezusterstraat sisters to share their own stories of fear, abuse, and violence, and allowing Unigwe to give powerful voice to women of the African Diaspora who are forced to use sex to survive. The author's raw voice, unflinching eye for detail, facility for creating a complex narrative, and affection for her characters make this a must read. (Apr.)