REVIEW: Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
Meet Yinka: a thirty-something, Oxford-educated, British Nigerian woman with a well-paid job, good friends, and a mother whose constant refrain is “Yinka, where is your huzband?”
Yinka’s Nigerian aunties frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, her work friends think she’s too traditional (she’s saving herself for marriage!), her girlfriends think she needs to get over her ex already, and the men in her life…well, that’s a whole other story. But Yinka herself has always believed that true love will find her when the time is right.
Still, when her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences Operation Find-A-Date for Rachel’s Wedding. Aided by a spreadsheet and her best friend, Yinka is determined to succeed. Will Yinka find herself a huzband? And what if the thing she really needs to find is herself?
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? brilliantly subverts the traditional romantic comedy with an unconventional heroine who bravely asks the questions we all have about love. Wry, acerbic, moving, this is a love story that makes you smile but also makes you think–and explores what it means to find your way between two cultures, both of which are yours.
CW/TW – colorism
Dear Ms. Blackburn,
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here, a good cover will get my attention. But honestly when I started to read “Yinka,” my thought was that I was going to get a fairly standard book. The plot is one that is easy to anticipate if you’ve read any amount of chick-lit books. It’s done well, the writing is fine, but yeah you’re gonna know what’s coming up. That is until it took a turn I wasn’t quite expecting. “Oh,” I thought, “It’s leaving the beaten path” and I sat up and stayed glued to it until the end.
Yinka Oladeji is a 31 year old British Nigerian woman. As the British born daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she’s always been a part of both British and Nigerian cultures. Her mum was widowed when Yinka and her sister were young, leaving her to raise them alone, facing down her fears of single motherhood. The family is supportive with several actual Aunties and of course 300 or so “Aunties” as any women of older age are known and treated with respect in Nigerian culture. But with her younger sister Kemi now married and expecting a child, more pressure is being put on Yinka to find a man. Yinka only wishes that it wasn’t such public pressure including lengthy prayers at her sister’s baby shower (to the obvious dismay of the white Britains at the party).
Soon things get worse when another cousin announces her engagement and Yinka is made redundant (let go) at her bank job. If she thought her mum and Aunties were laser focused before, now they are hyper determined and trying to set up Yinka with any man they know. Trying to keep from being questioned and lectured by her mum as well as dealing with other family and a Ghanian roommate, all with opinions about her life, Yinka might have made a few omissions and white lies. But she’s got a plan to find a date before the cousin’s wedding in six months. That is if her life doesn’t fall apart before then.
So yeah, this book was following along in the hallowed Brit Chick Lit tradition for a lot of the way. Yinka isn’t subjected to the pratfalls that Bridget Jones endured but she does have her mum and Aunties publicly praying for her to find a man, plus there was some cringeworthy behavior from a particular Auntie at a recent family wedding, so there is that. Yinka has enough flaws and vulnerabilities to make her believable yet it’s also understandable why she tries to “keep the peace.” Where this one shines early on is in the British Nigerian rep. The culture, the food, the religious service, the traditions, the clothing, the Yoruba language – I felt immersed and it was wonderful. What’s even better is that it didn’t read as if information had just been cut and pasted from the internet but that all of this was worked through the story in a realistic and natural manner. I also enjoyed how her roommate’s aromanticism was sensitively handled and actually a part of the story rather than just being a diversity box ticked off.
The struggles that Yinka and some of her friends and family face daily aren’t smoothed over either. One of Yinka’s Aunties (and I loved Auntie Blessing) is a successful barrister who, as a Black woman, has had to work more than twice as hard to achieve that. Yinka has an Oxford degree but also felt she worked harder than many of her colleagues. The neighborhood where she grew up is slowly being gentrified and when Yinka tries to bargain over a purchase with a Black shop owner, her friend takes her aside to remind her that those are the business owners in danger of being pushed out and who need to be supported. Time after time, Yinka sees Black men around her preferentially choosing to date lighter skinned women and her mother urges her to grow and treat her hair rather than wear it naturally.
As I mentally decided which man in the story Yinka would end up with and when she’d get a new job, things took a turn. I knew it would happen sooner or later and eventually Yinka gets caught out in some of her fibs then everything comes crashing down. She had frustrated me by not just telling the truth yet I could also understand the pressures that led her to do that. At this point Yinka, and I, went through the ringer. In a moment of despair she almost did something that had me yelling at my ereader, “No, Yinka, no! Don’t do that!” Luckily a friend was there for her and the cathartic section of the book began.
If Yinka had just found a man (even if he was wonderful) or gotten another banking job (even if it paid well) and not made waves with her family about the pressure put on her and been given a HEA, I would have thought “okay this was a nice change from the usual and I enjoyed the diversity” but no, that didn’t happen! Instead