At the start of this story, the protagonist’s eight-year-old daughter announces that, from now on, she is going to be racist — against soldiers, that is, their country being occupied by foreign troops. The woman lost her husband in a bombing, and now lives with his mother in her village, where she is the object of unwanted advances from a villager named Bilal. One day, her daughter stands up to a group of soldiers, which so impresses one that he starts to visit. But the woman’s attempts to come to some sort of mutual understanding with the soldier are misinterpreted by the village as lustful intentions.
The sense I gain of Oyeyemi’s protagonist is of a woman feeling the pressure of expectation from many sides — her daughter, her husband’s mother, Bilal, the villagers — and trying her best to steer a course through it all. I like the complexity of the picture that Oyeyemi paints: the villagers have their flaws; the soldier is neither a stereotype of badness nor a stereotype of badness-suddenly-turned-good; the daughter changes her opinion of the soldiers in the fluid way that young children can. The woman is ultimately forced into a situation she doesn’t really want to be in, try though she may to make light of it. All is delineated well by Oyeyemi
, and it makes me look forward to her story collection next year with anticipation.
EDIT: I’m not sure where I got the impression that Oyeyemi would be releasing a story collection in 2011, but she won’t be doing so after all.
ANOTHER EDIT, JUNE 2011: Perhaps I wasn’t entirely wrong to begin with; see my review of Mr Fox.