cover image La Bastarda

La Bastarda

Trifonia Melibea Obono, trans. from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. . Feminist, $15.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-936932-23-8

Obono's account of a young woman growing up in a rural African village, the first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English, is slim yet undeniably potent. Okomo is 17 and living in the rural tribal town of Ay%C3%A1 Esang with her grandparents. As her grandmother delicately describes her situation: "your mother is dead, your father is a scoundrel, and you're a bastarda." In the stifling, male-dominated Fang society in which Okomo grows up, "woman is born to reproduce." Okomo's unmarried uncle Marcelo is shunned for refusing to help impregnate his sister-in-law, as tradition demands, and he further complicates things by compromising the crops. Marcelo, who is taunted as a "man-woman," lives on the edge of town until he is driven into the jungle when members of the community burn his home down. Okomo rebels against tribal norms and, after being inducted into "the indecency club" by four other girls in the forest, falls in love with Dina, the ringleader of the group. While Okomo navigates her new romance and searches for her father, her grandmother ceaselessly tries to find a man for her "who might support the family at last." Obono's voice is assured and vital, and her tale of queer rebellion in Fang society is an exceptional take on the coming-of-age novel. (Apr.)