As much as “Walking with Shadows” is a poignant testimony of a closeted man being forced to come to terms with his sexuality in the most inhospitable of social environments, I have one critique (or question that I should have asked him tonight) that I would like to address:
If the general consensus is that Adrian passes as heterosexual, I find it interesting on pg. 36 when Ada begins to contemplate about all the initial “signs” of Adrian’s “gayness-” attributes mostly relating to his physical characteristics that should have informed her that she was barking up the wrong tree. For example, Ada believes that Adrian’s “prettiness,” his “elegant gait,” his well-maintained appearance like his “pretty eyebrows,” his immaculate neatness, etc are major indicators of her husband’s homosexuality. She even reminisces about how Adrian “was always arranging things and had all the best ideas for doing up the house,” that she equates as “subtle signs.” (36) Granted Ada embodies the rampant homophobic sentiment alongside her fellow Nigerians, I find it interesting (and somewhat disheartening) that Dibia decided to showcase the most “obvious” characteristics that some consider to be synonymous with gay men to justify Ada’s initial suspicions. However, I don’t understand why Dibia would use these stereotypical associations, and in a way, subtly create a stereotypical portrayal of gay men in his novel~ that idea that of course a man is gay if he has a fashion sense or “struts” around with confidence!
Another example of these stereotypes is Abdul’s apartment on pg.25. Based on the description of his living arrangements, the “scented candles with a hint of jasmine and lavender” and the “sofa a beautiful shade of red,” Dibia depicts an environment that sounds like it was arranged my a member of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy-” that every gay man is inherently good at interior decorating or destined to be a talent home maker.
My point is that there are many nuances within queer culture and I wish I saw this more in the novel. To give him the benefit of the doubt, though, I understand that Dibia has to start somewhere in hopes of dismantling all the cultural misconceptions surrounding homosexuality in Nigeria. Perhaps by starting with the most blatant (or easily understood) portrayals of gay men (even in the Western media!) the Nigerian audience can gradually see that even the most masculine and testosterone-filled of men can be attracted to other men- that homosexuality isn’t exclusive to men with an impeccable fashion sense or top-notch designer skills.
What do you all think?