by Trifonia Melibea Obono.Translated by Lawrence Schimel
Feminist Press. 112 pages, $ 15.95
Not only is this the first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English; it is also the first lesbian one. Equatorial Guinea is the only African country where Spanish is the official language, a holdover from colonial days. Set early in the 21st century in a village where ancestors are venerated, far from any cities, this is the story of a teenager, Okomo (la bastarda), who chafes at her grandmother's advice to be beautiful and never ask any questions. Marriage (heterosexual) and children were to be the only goals of any woman's life. Okomo is close to her resolutely unmarried uncle Marcelo, who's reviled as a "man-woman" by members of their tribe, the Fang, and she refuses all the matches that have been planned for her. Eventually she meets the young women of the "Indecency Club" and falls in love with Dina. Though each is punished after their lesbian activities are revealed, Marcelo finds a way to get them all back together again, and they manage to create a life for themselves in a much-beloved forest. Author Trifonia Obono, a university professor in Equatorial Guinea, has included echoes of European fairy tales in La Bastarda, and historian Abosede George has written a helpful afterword, putting the novel in geographic and historical context. Gay writer Lawrence Schimel's translation will do much to bring this novel's attention to the LGBT world.