Francesca Ekwuyasi's Canada Reads novel Butter Honey Pig Bread is about food, family and forgiveness
Francesca Ekwuyasi's debut novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread, is a literary feast for the mind, the soul and the senses.
Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she was a spirit who was supposed to die as a small child.
By staying alive, she is cursing her family — a fear that appears to come true when Kehinde experiences something that tears the family apart, and divides the twins for years. But when the three women connect years later, they must confront their past and find forgiveness.
Roger Mooking is defending Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021.
Canada Reads will take place March 8-11. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem and on CBC Books.
Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist and filmmaker born in Lagos, Nigeria. She spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing Butter Honey Pig Bread.
Thinking about food
"I think of familiarity, home, comfort and pleasure when I think of food. Mostly good things. Food tastes delicious when you share it with people you love.
"I love everything about food: eating, cooking, watching other people cook. It felt natural — those were the easiest parts I found writing about in the novel.
Food tastes delicious when you share it with people you love.
"For Taiye, who cooks for a living, food is one of the main ways she communicates. That's how she communicates interest, presence and a desire for forgiveness."
A tale of two twins
"Kehinde is very afraid of being hurt, so she's very selective. The people she connects with in the novel have to earn her attention and earn her trust. It takes some effort. She's definitely more rigid around sexuality. She doesn't question her gender but does question her body — not necessarily in a gendered way, but in a survivor way.
Taiye is queer. She's queer from from the start.
"Taiye is queer. She's queer from from the start. She likes to date queer people and queer women and that's what she does. She's the character who takes a lot of lovers and is a lot more hungry and free in the way she perceives love."
A need for forgiveness
"I've been thinking about the concept of forgiveness a lot. It's difficult to forgive when there's no accountability and when there's no conversation. It's difficult to let something go if you've never even got a chance to express your hurt or remorse about it.
It's difficult to forgive when there's no accountability and when there's no conversation.
"This idea is what held the whole story together — the fact that the women never actually talked about the trauma that's happened in their past. Kehinde and Taiye are in so much pain about it in different ways.
"We need forgiveness in order to reconnect. It's painful to be apart, and yet we cannot go back until we face it."
Francesca Ekwuyasi's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
The Canada Reads 2021 contenders
- Rosey Edeh champions The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk
- Scott Helman champions Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee
- Devery Jacobs champions Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
- Paul Sun-Hyung Lee champions Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
- Roger Mooking champions Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi