Ekine’s debut, a memoir of his brutal upbringing, displays a steely self-acceptance forged as a shield against cultural and religious discrimination.
Ibifubara “Daniel” George Ekine was born the oldest of four in Lagos, Nigeria. The only male child of the family, Daniel behaved more like his sisters, wearing saris and worshiping Beyoncé. People considered him “un-African,” calling him names like “Skeliwawa” (“effeminate”) and attacking him on the street. The only familial bonding he experienced was the rampant abuse and harsh discipline doled out by his father, an officer in the Nigerian navy. At first, his mother allowed him to behave as he did, thinking it was “just a phase,” but once he acted like a fashion model on a catwalk at a school performance, she and his aunts beat him in public. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, Daniel’s family believed he was a “defect in Creation” and, when he was 12, prepared him for baptism through more physical and mental abuse. Despite such horrific formative years, Daniel knew that “God makes no mistakes.” So, he buried himself in his studies, escaped to Malaysia to study engineering on a government grant and, eventually, ended up in Westerly, R.I., where he now waits for asylum, arguing that a return to Nigeria would result in imprisonment or death. Accompanied by original “songs, quotes and poems” and 13 black-and-white “looks” that illustrate his flamboyance, the book rises above the standard coming-out tale due to Ekine’s unique perspective. “Smiling and laughing have always been my best makeup,” he writes, and this unwavering optimism transforms a series of violent and tragic episodes into sunny lessons about self-acceptance and courage in the steep face of adversity. Despite extraneous repetitions in the narrative and overeager capitalization in the text, diamonds of wisdom shine through, such as when Ekine states, “One Atom of Love is equal to a Million Hate.”
A powerful declaration of independence against a life full of ignorance and intolerance.