Beyond literacy with Yejide Kilanko
April 20, 2015 By Abi Nuchi
Literacy is much more than learning how to read; it is building a culture of reading that enables people to see themselves in stories and use the written words as a platform for effecting change. This means that in addition to sourcing locally relevant content, we also publish stories that tackle difficult but salient social issues. Today, we are proud to announce the publication of Chasing Butterflies, an emotionally charged and poignant new novella by best-selling author Yejide Kilanko.
Chasing Butterflies explores gender inequality and domestic violence by introducing us to Titilope – a woman forced to take charge of her own destiny. Though contextualized in a Nigerian diaspora community in the United States, the issues raised are globally relevant. The World Health Organization estimates that up to thirty five percent of all women experience partner violence, and in an interview about her work Yejide references the fact that domestic violence “is one of the leading causes of injury to women” in the United States. Pervasive as it is, gender based violence is a taboo subject not often discussed publicly, instigating a cycle in which a widespread problem persists without challenge.
Chasing Butterflies’ main character Titilope exemplifies how domestic violence remains an issue through the secret trials and tribulations she encounters daily. After a particularly violent attack, “her body shook with silent tears,” however Titilope never reported her husband because in her community “a good mother does not run from her child’s home; she always stays and she fights.” Although this subject is complicated and taboo, promoting literature that explores issues in ways people can empathize with offers a platform to discuss social dilemmas impacting women and girls everywhere. As Yejide says of her work, “because books not only entertain but also educate, stories which explore the impact of domestic violence are important due to the conversations they initiate.”
A a culture of reading is fostered when readers identify with characters; as books that represent the identities of readers around the world become available, readers in those countries become more active. We’ve seen this amongst our readers who expressed joy at encountering certain characters in books they read on e-readers or mobile phones, and Worldreader Mobile statistics point towards African and Indian books as some of our most popular. Additionally, Nigeria, the country Chasing Butterflies focuses on, has one of the biggest reading bases with almost 61,000 readers per month, and with seventy percent of active readers globally being female and reading an average of 207 minutes per month, we know books like Chasing Butterflies can have a positive effect on our readers.
If both men and women see an example in Titilope of domestic violence’s impact on one family and community, it might encourage them to speak up against inequality. By providing millions of readers with access to a wide range of books, we are not only improving literacy but are effectively creating an empowering tool for inspiring and accelerating change.
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