Namina Forna was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa where girls are considered lesser than boys. Moving to America she’d hoped the patriarchal system would not exist on her new continent. Unfortunately, she was met with similar covertly tenets of what she left behind.
Namina Forna has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts. But it was in attending Spelman College for her undergraduate education she enrolled in feminism and religious courses that became the premise of The Gilded Ones. It’s an examination of a patriarchal system in a well-developed and thought-out land clearly influenced by her origin of birth and in America. Ms. Forna asks, “How does it form? What supports it? How do women survive under it? And what about men or people who don’t fall into the binary? Who thrives and who doesn’t?”
The author’s characters are like peeling an onion. Just when you think you know a particular character’s intent and motive, the author delicately incorporates a detail that keeps you peeling the onion until you get to the core. It’s not written in a way that frustrates the reader but excitedly propels them to read further.
This is her debut novel in YA Fantasy. But if you are a lover of Fantasy and encouraged by females that discover and develop into their own power, support one another, and strategically dismantle a patriarchal system, then this is the book to read.
Namina Forna’s YA Fantasy
The story opens up to a girl, Deka, apprehensively preparing for the Ritual of Purity ceremony in her village. Girls are chosen to be cut and if they bleed red, they will remain in the village, marry, and have children. If they bleed gold, the color of impurity, then they are a demon.
Deka does not pass the test. The horrors she endures from those that loved her and the male religious zealots who take pleasure in administering righteous corporal punishment is more than she can emotionally, mentally, and physically bear. That is until she is rescued by a fierce, mysterious woman. She gives her an alternative to the recurring punishment doled out to her by the village leaders pleasure. Deka can stay in the village or leave to be a part of an army of girls like her, the Alaki (near immortals with rare gifts), to train and fight creatures called the Deathshrieks. They are monsters who kill the people of the territories and the emperor desperately wants all of them terminated from existence.
Deka wants what all teenage girls desire: acceptance, to be loved, and to belong to a community. Instead, she’s ripped from all she’s ever known, her family, belief, and country. But can she trust her rescuer? What happens when the new community feeds her bits of truth that has ocean size gaps that give her diluted answers to what she is, who she is becoming, and why her?
Five Stars/Five Stars
Usborne. 432 pages. ISBN: 97819848487106