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Fata Morgana On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives Each night Sisi Ama Efe and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red light district promising to make men’s desires come true—if only for half an hour Pledged to the fierce Madam and a mysterious pimp named Dele the girls share an apartment but little else—they keep their heads down knowing that one step out of line could cost them a week’s wages They open their bodies to strangers but their hearts to no one each focused on earning enough to get herself free to send money home or save up for her own futureThen suddenly a murder shatters the still surface of their lives Drawn together by tragedy and the loss of one of their own the women realize that they must choose between their secrets and their safety As they begin to tell their stories their confessions reveal the face in Efe’s hidden photograph Ama’s lifelong search for a father Joyce’s true name and Sisi’s deepest secrets— and all their tales of fear displacement and love concluding in a chance meeting with a powerful sinister stranger

About the Author: Chika Unigwe

Chika Unigwe was born in Enugu Nigeria and now lives in Turnhout Belgium with her husband and four children She writes in English and Dutch In April 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literatureUnigwe holds a BA in English Language and Literature from the Uni

10 thoughts on “Fata Morgana

  1. Bernadette Bernadette says:

    45 Stars On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe is a difficult novel to read The story centers around four women who are sex workers in Belgium In an all too familiar story the women leave their native Africa for a better life only to end up in Belgium working in the red light district They will never be able to pay back their trafficker and must endure a life of violence loneliness and rape One of the women Sisi is murdered While the book is a work of fiction one can only think of the women and children world over and in our own backyards who are being sex and labor trafficked The book left me sad angry and tired Unigwe is a talented the writer and is even able to infuse some humor into the horrific story

  2. Zanna Zanna says:

    I heard second hand a story about a man whose son had died some years before Asked how he found the energy for his community work after such a heartbreaking loss he said Life is not about waiting for the storm to end but learning to dance in the rain In the self stories shared by four women in this book their dreams their vulnerability their sufferings all invoke sympathy but it's the way they somehow pick themselves up and carry on the way they just about sustain each other messily and with a 25% critical failure rate by hearing and affirming and sharing laughter and hope that makes the book bearable to read even helpful like those words of courage in terrible griefThe fragmentary narrative structure works beautifully collective memory gradually emerging enabling the reader to feel the women's relief from the loneliness of living in a foreign country behind the sex worker's protective mask of glamour when they tell their own stories This is how I was betrayed by a man and how I have survivedOne thing I found weird about this edition was the blurb which says the book is about Dele above all Maybe this is an attempt to assign responsibility to an abuser but I don't think it's appropriate Like all the men in this book Dele controls women's lives but the women own it all the way wresting every shred of self determination available from whatever horrible situation they're forced into They are never idealised and are often unlikeable They make bad choices and abuse others too but we're made well aware that their options look like the frying pan and the fire

  3. Cheryl Cheryl says:

    I've wanted to read this book since Chika Unigwe won the coveted 100k Nigerian literature prize This book is entertaining indeed in some places unfolding just like the popular and highly entertaining Nigerian dramas One thing that Unigwe did well here was the rich dialogue you could envision yourself in the middle of the conversation And the strategic sprinkle of dialect just enough to be authentic not too much to overwhelm The story is about African women with traumatic childhoods who escape from Nigeria to Belgium in order to better their lives What they must do in Belgium however is also traumatic So how do they go from trial to triumph? That was the problem for me with this book I didn't see that I couldn't stay with one character for too long because I got a lot from their childhoods but not a lot from their adulthood I yearned to see of their personalities in their adult jobs get taken behind the scenes with them

  4. Abeer Hoque Abeer Hoque says:

    “That first experience of sex was so painful in its ordinariness that she had spent days wanting to cry” On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe is a novel about four African sex workers who by distinct and tragic means travel from their home countries to work in the red light district of Antwerp Belgium The story begins with Sisi perhaps the most complicated character who turns to prostitution because of a failure of all the options in her life perhaps most stunningly education the holy grail that has been held up by her own thwarted parents to be their saviour “A prophecy that would rinse her life in a Technicolor glow” ends up failing them all It is a testament to Ms Unigwe’s understanding of the economies of mega cities and the politics of those societies in particular Lagos that we can see how Sisi’s ambitions burn out inexorably one by one “Count your teeth with your tongue welu ile gi guo eze gi no and tell me what you come up with”Sisi’s apparent murder at the beginning of the book draws her three housemates together in a series of confessions revealing their own rich backstories and ambitions Ama hails from Enugu in southeastern Nigeria where Ms Unigwe and I were both born an angry tempestuous woman with violence and oppression marking her past Efe is from Lagos a young mother abandoned by the father of her child and now seeking a better or at least monied life to support her son and siblings And Joyce is from war torn Sudan perhaps the most beautiful of the four and the most desperately alone“He laughed A laughter that stretched itself into a suare that kept him safe”Ms Unigwe never stoops to cliche nor self pity Some of the reviews of OBSS have mentioned the stereotypical male characters who are unilaterally awful human beings but honestly that particular critiue means little to me Those men are all based on real people we know them or of them and I was interested in how well the female characters are realized Each of the four main female characters is fully and distinctly drawn and the writing like their lives is sometimes plain sometimes glorious “She went in and bought a sandwich with lettuce spilling out the sides ruffled and moist”“here were drunks with eyes like uarter moons and throats full of stories”I love the Igbo interspersed with the English sometimes translated often not as well as the pidgin that some of them speak Here are three lovely examples “I liked the look of the woman Ugly Ojoka but in a very attractive way”“I saw this with my own koro koro eyes” “With my height if I no wear heels I go be like full stop on the ground”The women are reaching for “the life of the rich and the arrived” and their end goals and ambitions are as varied as their personalities But it is their particular histories that tie this clear spoken heartbreaking book together how very different people can come together and move on “the Udi Hills surrounding Enugu rolling and folding into one another like an enormous piece of green cloth”Ms Unigwe’s first two novels were written in Dutch making her the first Flemish writer of African origin and her next two have been in English This kind of language proficiency is just marvelous let alone how challenging it seems to me to write a book about sex workers that has the ring of resonance and truth all around I’m much looking forward to reading her other work those written and those to come “The road is far uzo eteka

  5. Amal Bedhyefi Amal Bedhyefi says:

    This was not an enjoyable read As a matter of fact it was not written to please but to disturb Reading about prostitution and the stories behind different prostitutes started ever since I discovered Eleven Minutes by Paulo CoelhoHowever this book is different The message behind this story is differentThis time I was left with a lot of unanswered uestions and I was filled with both confusion and agonyIs there really an escape for prostitution or are they bound to do this job their whole life ? The ending left me absolutely furious because I feel that there is neither a proper justification for its reasons nor for its motives I'm trying so hard not to spoil It was as if Chika deliberatley left her readers on a cliffhanger Why would Sisi's life end up like that ? Didn't she deserve to live the life that she chose ? Didn't she at least deserve to have control over her life and make her own decisions ? This is heatbreaking knowing that this story is based upon real stories of real nigerian women living through this hell in Belgium is really sickening You should definitely add this book to your TBRs if you love reading African Literature that deal with issues which I would say are under represented in literaturePS There are multiple detailed scenes of sexual assault and it also contains other distressing and violent scenes If you're going to read this book be aware of that

  6. Ojo Ojo says:

    Reading this book made me reflect on a lot of things about Nigeria the diversity the peoples the hardships and the choices and sufferings of said peoples The story is about the lives of four different African women forced to trade their bodies for a better life far away from their own country in Belgium The sudden death of one of the women finds the other women in shock and in the spur of the moment they find themselves exchanging previously untold secrets and chilling grim tales of the experiences that culminated in them becoming flesh traders in a foreign land Each of the women has experiences that are both uniue in their grimness and horrifying in nature Each of these experiences closely mirrors the realities of early 21st century Nigeria The prevailing societal vices of the day as well as a number of the horrifying atrocities committed by people on a daily basis and how they affect the lives of five women is the epicentre of the story The story is an expository into how lives are shaped by specific experiences In the story all of the four women experience sexual abuse of varying degrees Coupled with the hardship in the country and the pressures of religion society and culture the women are forced to make a choice whether to persevere with no end in sight to their sufferings or to trade their female dignity for European baubles The story is told in the form of a flashback The effect is an increased depth in the intensity of the experiences shared in the story and the drawing of the attention of readers to a number of common underlying factors in each experience The characters are revealed with all the attention and intricacy of a highly skilled artist A gradual unravelling of the nature and then the experiences that shape each character The result is a tale that is incredibly accurate in its portrayal of lower class Nigerian society Each character is portrayed in all the gory glory of abuses suffered dashed hopes false prophecies and all of the vices that infest human society A must read

  7. Adam Adam says:

    This is the story of 4 black African girls living together in Antwerp Belgium Each of them owe an enormous amount of money to Dele a Nigerian in Lagos who has facilitated their arrival in Europe To pay him off they must sell their bodies to the sex starved men of AntwerpWhen I began reading the book I was a little confused but after re reading the first few pages a couple of times I was rapidly sucked into this charming novel Gradually we learn about the lives and ambitions of the 4 women and how and why they have ended up as prostitutes in a Belgian city It is not only a compelling tale that makes one want to move from one page to the next as soon as possible but also a revealing series of insights about life in 'black' Africa Although there are several sad strands running through the book I was not left feeling depressed but oddly upliftedChika Uniwe the Nigerian author of this novel is like her compatriot Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie a good story teller She is able to conjure up vivid images in the reader's mind despite being extremely economical with her language She creates a brilliant picture in few words I look forward to reading books by Ms Unigwe

  8. Carolyn Moncel Carolyn Moncel says:

    Living in Switzerland stopping human trafficking is a goal for many Int'l agencies here It's a very interesting book because the topic though fictional is very real It's not just a problem in Belgium as depicted in the story but all across Europe Asia and yes North America The stories and circumstances for which the women find themselves are believable and very sad The author does a good job in providing some insights into the backgrounds of these characters If I have any criticism it is only in the way the book ends it rushes too uickly to a conclusion Also I didn't care for the way in which the main character Sisi was revealed Overall I found myself invested in these characters from the beginning At times despite their dire circumstances I still wanted to strangle them for making such dangerous choices I look forward to reading work from this author Very well done

  9. Wanda Wanda says:

    Wow I don't even know how to begin describing how amazing this book was I'm a person who is very interested in other's backgrounds and Chika Unigwe gave me a enlightening glimpse into the past of 4 Nigerian prostitutes and what brought them all together in one of Belgium's red light districts Their stories broke my heart and even though this book is fiction their's are the stories of not just African women but stories all women can relate to regardless of our differences Not only that but it gave a name face and voice to the women working as sex slaves and that they are than just a body standing in a window enticing men; they are human beings who have lives dreams hopes aspirations and what they are doing is just a means to get them where they want to go because due to life's circumstance it was the only card they were allotedThe book takes place in 2000's but for some reason the ideas and thoughts of the characters kept making me think it was written in the 1950s It's difficult to imagine that even in the new millenium people still face fear of genocide people are tortured by the military baby's out of wedlock are frowned upon and men have all the power over a woman's body but this is still the case in modern day Africa This book educated and opened my eyes to the horrors women still face daily in some parts of AfricaI would definitely recommend this book to any and everyone because it is a reminder of how resilient the human spirit really is

  10. Yasmin Yasmin says:

    On Black Sisters Street is the story of four African females who for various reasons end up prostitutes in Belgiums red light district All are chasing the dream of a better life outside their native countries in Africa For one of them the dream will end tragically On Black Sisters Street is a raw provocative and riveting novel from debut author Chika Unigwe The beginning was a little juxtaposed for me but once I got past the first couple of chapters and began to hear the voices of Ama Joyce and Efe against the backdrop of Sisi it became a very engaging read for me and one that I didn't want to put down until I got to the very last page Of course I had to know what happened to Sisi and how she came to her demise I recommend On Black Sisters Street to all who enjoy literary reads storylines about women from the African disapora stories about female protagonists who despite life's circumstances still dare to dream Get ready to care about these women and empathize with them and their situation Get ready to be emotionally charged by these characters I hope this author writes something else soon as I would definitely read another book by her

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