If I have a mouth on my face, then I must speak to save my head.



Young Esi Agyekum is the unofficial “secret keeper” of her family, as tight-lipped about her father’s adultery as she is about her half-sisters’ sex lives. But after she is humiliated and punished for her own sexual exploration, Esi begins to question why women’s secrets and men’s secrets bear different consequences. It is the beginning of a journey of discovery that will lead her to unexpected places.

As she navigates her burgeoning womanhood, Esi tries to reconcile her own ideals and dreams with her family’s complicated past and troubled present, as well as society’s many double standards that limit her and other women. Against a fraught political climate, Esi fights to carve out her own identity, and learns to manifest her power in surprising and inspiring ways.


I love Esi, her boldness, her fierceness. But she doesn’t become bold, fierce in a day. No. She takes us through her journey and draws us into her life, and I love the way she keeps leading us deeper and deeper into her life, fears, beliefs, suffering, till her story finally ends. At the young age of nine, she is left to figure out life by herself, and even though she has elder sisters who would teach her things she’s supposed to know about her evolving body, they don’t. She is left all by herself to wonder and wonder. Being a Ghanaian – Nigerian, she and her younger brother Kwabena, leave their mother in Nigeria to go live in Ghana with their father and step mother and sisters.

But instead of warm hugs and kisses, her step mother and sisters serve her exactly what is expected of polygamous families, hostility. Her sisters Abena, Yaa, and Mansa treat her like the nickname they call her, ‘Nigerian animal.’ They despise her and don’t even bother trying to hide their irritation. Maybe they’re jealous she has come from Nigeria to steal their Papa’s affection from them, or maybe they’re outright wicked. She, too isn’t all innocent, because she curses them inwardly too. She even nicknames the worst of the lot, Yaa, ‘Crocodile Jaws’ because she is ugly and looks exactly like a crocodile. They treat her so bad that she even wants to turn into a man with the aid of a frog. But when she realizes it won’t happen, she decides to continue being a girl, but with self-determination that one day, she will break the bias and be whatever she wants to be.

Why do we women act as if men are so frail we need to hurt ourselves to make them look strong?

Bisi Adjapon, The teller of secrets.

Esi is an inquisitive girl. She craves answers, why is her body changing? What is going on inside her? But instead of answers, her auntie and step sisters insert ginger inside her vagina, because she was caught peering into it with a mirror. The truth is she just wants to know what her vagina looks like, which is normal for a girl her age. But her family calls her a spoilt girl and deals with her mercilessly. And so she keeps her feelings bottled inside her. Everyone in their family hides to have sex with someone else, and she knows. She knows what everyone does in secret. But nobody wants to put her through, teach her things she needs to know about her body, and how to navigate through her pre-teen and teenage years.

However, she’s the secret keeper of the house. She knows Papa and ‘Hotel woman’ are having sex, she caught them on the night she spent with her father at a hotel in Accra, but she doesn’t tell anyone. She even knows Hotel woman has a baby for Papa, and she doesn’t tell anyone too, because she feels that’s the right thing to do and doesn’t want to cause problems for anyone. She knows Mansa doesn’t go for choir practice on the days she pretends to, and even the night she sneaks a man inside their house. She is in the room with them, watching them have sex, but doesn’t tell anyone.

A woman’s glory is her husband, says he. Without a husband, you’re nothing, and even a bad husband is better than spinsterhood. How I hate the word spinster. It sounds ugly, like spit landing on cement.

Bisi Adjapon, The teller of secrets.

Since answers are not coming from her family, she seeks them from school. She buries herself in books and learns that a woman can be anything she wants to be. At home, though Papa is an academia, he still maintains his patriarchal belief that a woman’s glory is her husband. But Esi starts unlearning and relearning everything she has been taught. She learns to speak out for herself, for her rights, whenever need be. She becomes a force to reckon with in feminism, and doesn’t hesitate to challenge any school of thought that demeans women.


Esi is feisty and outspoken. When the police tries to harass her and her brother on their way back from Nigeria, she challenges them and insists they settle at the station. When Papa beats Auntie, she challenges her father and warns him to never lay a hand on his wife again. She doesn’t even know where this courage comes from, she just knows she would take no rubbish from no one. When she becomes much older, and her elder sisters try to bully her like before, she stands up against them and dare them to. She’s no longer the weak nine year old, who cowers in fear when they curse and scream at her. In fact, if I am to describe her with a line from a song, it will be from Burna Boy’s ‘Last Last.’ “I no go fit take your insult o…” She doesn’t entertain any form of disrespect from no one.

I’ll help my sisters. I’ll help other women ignite their fires, blaze their paths through life, and leave behind embers to warm those who will come after them.

Bisi Adjapon, The teller of secrets.

This book explores so many themes like the importance of sex education, female rights and emancipation, military coup and self governance, human rights activism and freedom of expression. If Esi was given adequate sex education and orientation as a child, she would have averted some of the mistakes she would make in future. Set in the 1960’s and 70’s when Ghana was experiencing tremendous changes in government, the book tells us stories of how Ghana existed prior to the 21st century, and how those changes affected them and their relationships with other countries like Nigeria and Togo.

The government blames foreigners, just like what happened long ago in Ghana. Now Nigerians have had enough. They say foreigners must leave, especially Ghanaians. Here we go again, foreigners responsible for money troubles.

Bisi Adjapon, The teller of secrets.

In love, Esi is expressive and goes all out. With Kayode and Rudolph, she experiences true love and learns what she wants and does not want in a man. She speaks up for her sisters when they’re being maltreated by their husbands, and finally chooses her life, a life where she is free to live as Esi, and do whatever pleases her. Because at the end of the day, we all have only ourselves and we should do more of what makes us happy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the narration and descriptions. The characters play their roles very well, and I love how Bisi draws us in with her storytelling technique, how she teaches us history without boring us. I am glad she brought Esi’s story to life, and I resonated with some aspects of her experiences. In all, it’s a refreshing read and I seriously recommend. It’s a 4.7/5 book for me.

Have you read the book? What do you feel about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on all social media platforms and share with your friends.
Bye🥰🥰 I love you guys!


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