Granta 115: The F Word investigates Feminism and its power to transcend the ideal of femininity and the social constructed gender binaries. The magazine attempts to use literature, memoirs and photography as a platform from which to complicate and renegotiate the definitive boundaries of gender in culture and society.
As we await her much anticipated debut novel, Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi makes her fiction debut in The F Word with The Sex Lives of African Girls. The narrative exposes the sexual abuse and extortion of young girls; it consists of melt in the mouth prose composed beautifully through second person narration. Selasi calls this technique the ‘you voice’ and it procures a spectral ambiance throughout the text, making you fear for the 11 year old narrator’s safety. It creates a tunnel vision for the reader as we closely follow the lead of this little girl and fail to engage with the peripherals of other characters and events.
This compelling ‘you’ voice creates a spy-hole into the site of sex, a site of sensation, pain, perception and imagination. We cannot see anything that she does not see and we cannot feel anything that she does not feel.
Selasi’s is a dark and barbed story that pricks the reality of the reader. The image of men she creates is lustful and intrusive. Even the desired smiling, handsome houseboy ends up inflicting pain. Naming himself after Shakespeare’s Iago, an exacting character who learns and manipulates the desires of others, the educated reader is forewarned, making the narrator’s own disorientation more difficult to endure.
The rhythm and pace of the narrative makes it impossible to stop reading. Your eyes won’t leave the page after the first barb is twisted in the opening line: “Begin, inevitably, with Uncle.
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