Tomorrow I Become A Woman by Nigerian author Aiwanose Odafen centers on an inter-ethnic love triangle while exploring the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.
The novel follows Objianuju, a woman torn between two men from different ethnicities. She has a lot in common with Gozie, who is Igbo and Christian, just like herself. He is charming and easy on the eye. But Akin, who is Yoruba, is the one who really makes her seen and special, though the prospect of being with him is complicated by the fact that he is from a different ethnic group. Against the backdrop of this romantic dilemma is Obianuju’s mother whose expectations for her daughter has become both a driving force and a burden.
Tomorrow I Become A Woman is a complex meditation on what contemporary womanhood means in relation to social and cultural expectations in Nigerian culture. Aiwanose’s novel touches on themes of history, love, politics, friendships, and loss, which places her work in conversation with other complex love stories such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀‘s Stay With Me.
As Aiwanose remarks in a note to Brittle Paper, the novel captures the experience of women who feel stuck and burdened by patriarchal values:
I began writing Tomorrow I Become A Woman from a deep sense of frustration watching many women around me struggle in difficult situations and remain in those situations because it was what they were raised to do…I was struck by just how much of our womanhood hinged on circumstances (could we have children? were we married? could we have male children?), on just how much we were willing to endure (how we were raised to endure), how our situations were for better or worse, how we just couldn’t live our lives for ourselves.
According to the publisher’s note, Obianuju’s story is inspired by the experiences of women in the author’s life. Aiwanose channels these real life stories that shaped her own experience into a fictional work exploring urgent questions about what it means to be a woman today, the kind of choices and pressures women face, and how to fight for the right to live and love on one’s own terms.
Aiwanose was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She holds an MBA from the Said Business School, University of Oxford. She has contributed to published non-fiction books and participated in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus Trust Writing Workshop. She was longlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize.
Tomorrow I Become A Woman is currently only available in the UK and was published by Scribner Books UK on April 28.
Read an exclusive excerpt of the first chapter here.