TITLE: I know Why Your Mother Cries
AUTHOR: Kehinde Badiru
REVIEWER: Shoola Oyindamola
As writers, it is important that we respond to the prominent events in our communities with our words.
Kehinde Badiru has written as an advocate for the less privileged and as a voice for change. His words interpret the sufferings that the poor, homeless, unemployed, and minorities face. He paints his poems with didacticism and with well-penned pun (play on words).
The titles of the poems are carefully created and they are as good as the content of the poems. For example, rather than writing "Poverty", Kehinde writes "POOR-VERTY" and instead of writing "Our motherland", he writes "OUR MURDER LAND". This is a height of creativity that I rarely see in the titles of poems and short stories written these days. The titles of the poems in the book: "I Know Why Your Mother Cries" eat into the core of our imagination and they entice the reader very well without giving the poems away.
As much as I admire Kehinde's work, my feminist side eye hisses at two poems in "I Know Why Your Mother Cries". The titles are; "Aunty Caro" and "Woman of Substance". These poems complement each other at opposite extremes. "Aunty Caro" is a reference to a woman who chooses to use her sexuality as she pleases while "Woman of Substance" is about the godly woman who is submissive, conscious of marriage, and childbirth. I agree with the message that Badiru preaches with "Aunty Caro" which is for a woman to have virtues that are not wayward. However, his portrayal of Aunty Caro's actions like abortion, promiscuousness, and living a false life on social media platforms only brings an unfair attention to one side of the coin. Rather than to criticize a woman's production of such acts, why can't we aim to control the demand for it. A reduction in the demand for such acts by men who portray their sexuality without any condemnation from our societies will reduce a supply for Aunty Caro’s atrocities.
Furthermore, I am always hesitant to accept certain praises attached to womanhood. The most common praise that is attached to womanhood is selflessness and I think this hinders many women from going and doing beyond their abilities. Many women feel compelled by these praises to serve every bit of themselves for everyone else to consume. Eventually, their names move to the end of their wait list to receive love, attention, and affection.
In addition, the unfortunate part is that we create these theodicies to make this form of sexism look right in religious ways.
My favorite poem in "I Know Your Mother Cries" is titled "Na Naija We Dey." This is a poem written in pidgin English. I believe that writing in this manner makes a poem more interesting for readers who understand and speak the language. I was excited to see Kehinde mix culture and language in his poems. There were other code switches in between the lines of the other poems but none was as prominent as "Na Naija We Dey." "Na Naija We Dey" is an explosion of pidgin English.
To conclude, "I Know Why Your Mother Cries" translates the sufferings of the less privileged and also calls for positive change in our societies. Kehinde Badiru is a “one of a kind” type of poet. He is a poet of politics and an asset to inspiring better lives and ways of living.
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Awarded as one of Nigeria Writer's Awards top 100 influential Nigerian Writers under the age of 40
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