As any Nigerian who grew in the Nigerian school system knows, there were certain novels we were made to read in literature class. Some of them were clearly written for kids while others were adult books we had to read anyway.
I just always assumed these books were picked because they had life lessons to teach or whatever, but I recently realized that it was much more than that. They all had one thing in common:
The authors of these books aimed to teach lessons in the most horrifying ways possible.
Some of them went so ham on their agenda that the messages they were trying to pass got lost in the fucking terrifying stories. Here are a couple of offenders:
1) Ralia the Sugar Girl
Ralia the Sugar Girl was the book that opened my eyes to how all the children’s novels from the late 20th century and early 2000’s were actually nightmare fodder partly responsible for all the damaged adults walking about today.
So Ralia is a happy-go-lucky village girl who everyone loves because she’s so…happy-go-lucky. At some point, she wanders into a forest for some reason and gets lost. While there, she runs into SO MUCH weird and scary shit. The highlight of the many horrors Ralia encounters is an evil topless witch who threatens to dig out Ralia’s eyes and suck her blood, just because she trespassed on the witch’s property.
Ralia finds her way home eventually and the book ends. But I’ve always thought of writing a sequel, set three years after the events of the first book, where Ralia is in an asylum for the criminally insane because she had a and murdered her entire family due to her not getting the therapy she needed after her ordeal. The epilogue of the book would see Ralia get a visit from a mysterious woman offering to break her out in exchange for her joining a secret organization.
The mysterious woman is Alice.
Alice from Wonderland.
2) A Mother’s Choice
Mother’s Choice is about a boy named Ade, who has just graduated from primary school whose mother insists (despite her husband’s concerns) that their son goes to secondary school in the UK. As a weird form of foreshadowing, Ade’s father tells his wife that whatever happens to their son during his time overseas will be her fault. She agrees.
Long story short, Ade goes to England, becomes an alcoholic, gets hooked on drugs, engages in orgies with prostitutes, gets arrested, and ends up in a mental institution (due to all the drugs messing up his brain). Like, so much shit happens that you end the book wondering what lesson you were supposed to learn.
3) A Chained Tomb
The narrative of A Chained Tomb spans a couple of decades in the lives of a couple of people (most of them relatives) living separate lives. The main character is a boy named Uze, and he is the absolute worst kind of child. He joins a gang, steals, beats his mother to death in a violent rage, etc.
By the end, Uze in prison for murdering someone during a robbery. A female friend of his comes to visit him, and after letting the warden know who she’s there to see, the warden informs her that Uze died two days prior. After asking to see where Uze had been buried, the warden takes her to a patch of land behind the building that serves as a burial ground for prisoners who have no family on the outside. Uze’s grave has an unmarked tombstone with a chain around it. Seeing the confusion on her face, the warden lets her know that chains are put around the tombstones of prisoners who died without finishing their sentences, to KEEP THEIR SOULS BOUND UNTIL THE END OF THEIR SENTENCE.
And that’s how the book ends.
4) The Gods Are Not To Blame
You know what? I don’t think 12-year-olds need to be reading the Yoruba version of Oedipus Rex. I mean, the story’s themes of how free will is a myth, and fate is inescapable are awesome. But this story also contains patricide, incest, suicide, and self-mutilation.
Your kids don’t need this.