July 15th. Quintessence Bookshop by Parkview Estate, Ikoyi. I was a guest at the public reading of Lara’s Lessons by Ronke Giwa-Onafuwa, an award-winning broadcaster and girl-child advocate whose role as mother and mentor of teenage girls informed her understanding of the lesson’s taught through the lenses of an adolescent girl named Lara.

Adejoke, Ronke’s publisher at Purple Bloom had requested my presence as a guest poet. It was on that note that Ronke gifted me an autographed hardback and I read it all up in the unnerving Lagos traffic on my way home. Yes, the book is a page-turner!

Lara’s Lessons, though a fictional account, is a timely manual for African/Nigerian parents raising young, vulnerable girls in a Gen-Z and Gen-X era with all its accompanying evils and tragedies meted on young women at the slightest opportunity. Young women, and sometimes older women, are now daily victims of kidnap, rape, ritual killing, cyber stalking, and other forms of sexual abuse, and most of these crimes are facilitated through social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp tools are now meant for stalking, monitoring, and luring young girls into coming out to meet their killers in the guise of a hangout. At other times, the younger, impressionable ones are hoodwinked into sending their nude photos and are eventually blackmailed into redeeming themselves with sexual gratifications or parting with huge sums.

The prevention of the above, the solution, and the answers are what Ronke’s book addresses through Lara and her parents, hence the book is deservedly a manual for parents and teenagers who would like to avoid the mistakes made by most parents and their teenage daughters which mostly lead them into the waiting arms of their usurpers. One key victory of the book is that it is written with empathy – the author, during the Q&A at the reading, provided insight into why and how she came about the book by admitting that aside from lessons learned from mothering and nurturing her three daughters, her personal experiences also played a part, given that she was a nearly timid and unsure teenager who made a lot of mistakes while trying to figure out her life. So here is not just a book from mere imagination, it carries the grace of personal lessons now projected through Lara and her parents.

In ten easy-to-read chapters, and with an abundance of youth/reader-friendly diction, Ronke’s offering could easily be ranked with Chimamanda Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, though the latter is non-fiction. With lessons on adulting, social media, kindness, self-awareness, money, speaking up, beauty, failure, association, and so on, Lara’s Lessons announces itself as a must-have for every home, and for every teenager.

This is surely a book to read. Copies are available in bookshops across the nation.

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