This month Natalie Collins writes a review on the book Papa’s Little Girls by Lola Akindele.
Lola Akindele, who has an MA in creative and professional writing, writes Papa’s Little Girl. She also runs a social enterprise, which mentors young women. The book gives us a glimpse into the lives of 11 different women and girls, from older women, down to toddlers. The main character of each short story is of African or Caribbean descent and has experienced some level of abuse or trauma. The issues raised include child sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, rape, domestic violence, stalking and exploitation through prostitution. Lola tells five stories, shares her poetry, and then tells a further six stories.
I must be honest and say this book isn’t one I would normally pick up and read. Working in the field of ending violence against women means I don’t usually read books on the subject unless it’s necessary or useful for work. The many stories I hear from those who are or have experienced abuse can be a source of vicarious trauma and so wherever possible I avoid books that will add to that.
I struggled with the writing style, it felt a bit overcrowded with similes and adjectives, but that may be due to my own preference, rather than a reflection of the author’s skill. Although the stories were raw and touched on many different and very traumatic incidents, they were purely a snapshot into women’s and girl’s lives, and it was difficult to read story after story of abuse, violence and trauma with no conclusion and seemingly no hope.
The poetry section was a welcome break from the painful stories being told. I found her poem “Black Girl, Black Girl” to be insightful and would love to read more of the author’s heart and experiences of judgement and the ways she has overcome and conquered stereotyping and the damage she has faced.
Following the poetry section were further stories of violence, abuse and degradation. Again the lack of conclusion or wider context made it difficult to feel any sense of hope. The stories themselves spoke of desolation and despair, but did not educate or challenge misconceptions, which I felt was a missed opportunity in a book about abuse, written from a Christian perspective.
The final story talks of a little girl who has been abused by her father and writes a letter to God. The last page is then a letter from God to His “dearest little girls”, the women and girls who had been written about throughout the book, and I would hazard a guess as also to the women and girls elsewhere who have experienced abuse. It begins by saying God loves them, is sorry they’ve been hurt and that He will take away their pain. Although I have personally experienced the healing love of God and know His power to redeem even the worst situations, the letter itself felt like an easy answer to the very complex and painful experiences of people’s lives.
Unfortunately because the book gives snapshots into women’s and girl’s lives it is difficult for the author to convey the hope or truth she was aiming for, which is a real shame as it has great potential. The book covers some really important topics, and unlike many other books on violence against women, the stories are all of women and girls of African or Caribbean origin. The courage of the author to write this book, and the need to have these issues discussed are its strongest points.
Natalie Collins set up Spark (www.sparkequip.org), is the creator of DAY (www.dayprogramme.org), and is an independent consultant working to prevent and respond to violence against women and enable others to do the same.