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On Black Sisters Street

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,077 ratings  ·  307 reviews
On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives.

Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, promising to make men’s desires come tru
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Random House (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe is a difficult novel to read. The story centers around four women who are sex workers in Belgium. In an all too familiar story, the women leave their native Africa for a "better life," only to end up in Belgium, working in the red light district. They will never be able to pay back their trafficker and must endure a life of violence, loneliness and rape. One of the women, Sisi, is murdered.

While the book is a work of fiction, one can only think
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bechdel-pass
I heard second hand a story about a man whose son had died some years before. Asked how he found the energy for his community work after such a heartbreaking loss, he said Life is not about waiting for the storm to end, but learning to dance in the rain. In the self-stories shared by four women in this book, their dreams, their vulnerability, their sufferings all invoke sympathy, but it's the way they somehow pick themselves up and carry on, the way they just about sustain each other, messily an ...more
Abeer Hoque
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“That first experience [of sex] was so painful in its ordinariness that she had spent days wanting to cry.” 

On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe is a novel about four African sex workers who by distinct and tragic means travel from their home countries to work in the red light district of Antwerp, Belgium. The story begins with Sisi, perhaps the most complicated character, who turns to prostitution because of a failure of all the options in her life, perhaps most stunningly, education - the h
I've wanted to read this book since Chika Unigwe won the coveted $100k Nigerian literature prize. This book is entertaining indeed, in some places unfolding just like the popular and highly entertaining Nigerian dramas. One thing that Unigwe did well here was the rich dialogue: you could envision yourself in the middle of the conversation. And the strategic sprinkle of dialect: just enough to be authentic, not too much to overwhelm.

The story is about African women with traumatic childhoods who
Amal Bedhyefi
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was not an enjoyable read . As a matter of fact , it was not written to please , but to disturb .
Reading about prostitution and the stories behind different prostitutes started ever since I discovered Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho .
However , this book is different . The message behind this story is different.
This time , I was left with a lot of unanswered questions and I was filled with both confusion and agony.
Is there really an escape for prostitution or are they bound to do this job th
Carolyn Moncel
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in Switzerland, stopping human trafficking is a goal for many Int'l agencies here. It's a very interesting book because the topic, though fictional, is very real. It's not just a problem in Belgium, as depicted in the story, but all across Europe, Asia, and yes, North America. The stories and circumstances for which the women find themselves are believable and very sad. The author does a good job in providing some insights into the backgrounds of these characters. If I have any criticism, ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
This is the story of 4 black African girls living together in Antwerp (Belgium). Each of them owe an enormous amount of money to Dele, a Nigerian in Lagos, who has facilitated their arrival in Europe. To pay him off they must sell their bodies to the sex-starved men of Antwerp.

When I began reading the book I was a little confused, but after re-reading the first few pages a couple of times, I was rapidly sucked into this charming novel. Gradually, we learn about the lives and ambitions of the 4 w
Rory Kieran
May 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Set in the infamous red light district of Antwerp, Belgium, On Black Sisters Street follows the lives of four nigerian immigrant sex workers - Sisi, Efe, Ama, and Joyce. The four women have a supportive but distant relationship, until the murder of their colleague forces the survivors to confront the anonymity and secrecy of their lives. As they grieve and open up to each other, a complex cast of characters whose lives are shaped by violence and hope unravels.

On Black Sisters Street serves as a
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reading this book made me reflect on a lot of things about Nigeria: the diversity, the peoples, the hardships and the choices and sufferings of said peoples.

The story is about the lives of four different African women, forced to trade their bodies for a better life far away from their own country, in Belgium. The sudden death of one of the women finds the other women in shock, and in the spur of the moment, they find themselves exchanging previously untold secrets and chilling, grim tales of th
The story of 4 women and how they came to end up as sex workers in Antwerpen, for most of them because it sadly seemed like the least bad option. A way out of poverty and powerlessness. It is very well told and it is also a book about life, love and the choices we make, and those others make on behalf of women.
I don't know if the joy and dreamy optimism of these women are actually worse, when you read this, than the harsh realities of their pasts and their present? I'll start with 4 stars but ma
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters Street is the story of four African women who leave their respective homelands for Belgium with hopes of improving their lot in life. They harbor dreams of freedom, of sending money home to their families, and of saving money to establish themselves anew. Reality sets in as soon as they arrive in Antwerp. Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce find themselves trapped as sex workers, flaunting their skimpily clad bodies in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, trying to ...more
Wow. I don't even know how to begin describing how amazing this book was. I'm a person who is very interested in other's backgrounds and Chika Unigwe gave me a enlightening glimpse into the past of 4 Nigerian prostitutes and what brought them all together in one of Belgium's red light districts. Their stories broke my heart, and even though this book is fiction, their's are the stories of not just African women, but stories all women can relate to regardless of our differences. Not only that, bu ...more
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Literary Enthusiasts who enjoy reading books with black female protagonists
Recommended to Yasmin by: Phyllis Rhodes, Beverly Jackson
On Black Sisters Street is the story of four African females, who for various reasons, end up prostitutes in Belgiums red light district. All are chasing the dream of a better life outside their native countries in Africa. For one of them the dream will end tragically. On Black Sisters Street is a raw, provocative and riveting novel from debut author Chika Unigwe. The beginning was a little juxtaposed for me, but once I got past the first couple of chapters and began to hear the voices of Ama, J ...more
Imade (Bridge Four)
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very well-written book. I felt immersed in the story, and very involved in the lives of these four women, who life has crushed at every turn. The story portrays the hard & cruel realities created by gender, race and class and its victims therein. The point where Joyce/Alek narrates her rape experience, I couldn't take it anymore I was just literally screaming & tearing up. Not a happy ending, but a not a sad one either. It's just as messy as real life is. ...more
Oh gosh Chika Unigwe writes with such heartbreakingly beautiful prose… You will need to have a box of tissues nearby when you read this book as it is impossible to keep the tears at bay. While On Black Sisters Street is fictional, human trafficking is a very real problem that is a very real part of our world. Ama, Sisi, Efe, and Joyce may be fictional characters, but I am sure there are many women around the world who can relate to their stories, past and present.

On Black Sisters Street is the
Ayanda Xaba
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This... absolutely amazing!
Canadian Reader
Four young African women—Sisi, Efre, Ama, and Joyce—(the "black sisters" of the title) have been trafficked to Antwerp, Belgium, by Dele, a wealthy, corpulent Nigerian. Three of these young women believe that they were the ones who made the choice (no one coerced them!) and that work in the sex trade is the route to a better life. One of the four is actually university educated, but even this had provided no advantage when it came to finding work in Lagos. For all of the girls, their bodies are ...more
Chiseke Chiteta
Apr 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was an eye-opener to the reality of women who are trafficked for sex work. Fictional as it may be, I believe it presents the reality of (mostly unskilled) women, from third world countries who take the opportunity to move to first work countries under the guise of better work opportunities only to realise that they were trafficked for sex work. Some are lucky enough to know exactly what they will be doing once they move to those countries, for others that may not be the case. Moving ab ...more
Madolyn Chukwu
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing

What a brilliant book, so empathetic.
At the end this moving passage almost haunts me: (quote) ' Come here" Ama says to Joyce and Efe. She stands up and spreads her arms. Joyce gets up and is enclosed in Ama's embrace. Efe stands up too and puts one arm around each woman. Their tears mingle and the only sound in the room is that of them weeping. Time stands still and Ama says, "Now we are sisters".'
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
You know when a book is so good that you cannot find words to describe it, this is the one for me.

The stories behind the glass cage in Antwerp's red light district, so heartbreakingly haunting. I cried for Ama. I cried for Alek. I cried for Efe. Most of all, I cried for Chimson.

Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would have DEFINITELY given this book 5 stars if it hadn't ended so poorly. This book started out rich and decadent right out the gate, filled with heart and vivid imagery. Each chapter jumped from one period in time to another from each of four women whose lives intertwined because of their connection to the dark underworld of sex work in Belgium. Though the stories were sad and heartwrenching, Unigwe tells them in a way that is very matter-of-fact and tinges the endings with hope. The story ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is one of those books that hides lazy writing and cardboard characters behind a topic you can’t criticize: in this case, it’s sex trafficking. Now, if you love every book you read with tragic subject matter you should probably skip my review, but if you are looking for literary merit, then read on.

On Black Sisters Street features four women – three from Nigeria and one from Sudan – working as prostitutes in Belgium. At the beginning of the book we learn that one of them, Sisi, will be murde
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-books
2.5-stars, really.
"There were worse things to become, she reminded herself. She was not a robber, not a cheat, not a 419er sending deceitful e-mails to gullible Westerners. She would make her money honestly. Every cent of it would be earned by her sweat. She did not need to enjoy her job, but she would do it well."

i am having trouble rating this novel. the issues unigwe highlights are very important, and telling these stories is important. we are given four women who have been trafficked fr
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. I won this book from GoodReads and thought it sounded promising - four Nigerian immigrants are thrown together in Belgium, where they've been imported to work as prostitutes, and the murder of one of them draws the other three closer together into a tight-knit sisterhood. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to its promise. I never felt as if the women were truly bonding or forming a sisterhood, and the story was so weak on the main plot that threaded everything together that it f ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
On Black Sisters Street is an eloquently written novel, that provides a vivid account of the global sex trade industry. Author Chika Unigwe depicts the numerous elements of the trade, by profiling four young African women, who each come from different backgrounds and circumstances, that bring them together in Antwerp Belgium to serve as night women. A tragic loss will transform the women as fellow work and housemates to a permanent bond of sisterhood, which delivers encouragement and strength to ...more
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Black Sisters Street is Zwartezusterstraat, in the middle of Belgium's red-light district, home to four African women who have left their homeland in the naïve hope of betterment. The story begins when one of the women, Sisi, is found murdered. As her remaining co-workers and house mates, Ama, Efe and Joyce come to terms with her death, each relives their painful journey from Nigeria to Belgium to become sex workers, and how they have been brought together by Dele, a Nigerian pimp, and by "the t ...more
Siyamthanda Skota
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
- Armed with a vagina and the will to survive, she knew that destitution would never lay claim to her"

- Whoever said that money couldn't buy happiness had never experienced the relief that came from having money to spend on whatever you wanted
Vannessa Anderson
Apr 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
On Black Sisters Street and I were not compatible.
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Taking place in Belgium, On Black Sisters Street tells the story of 4 women who are in the prostitution business.

At the beginning of the book you are told of a murder. Someone the women know has died and it's the death of this person that draws the women together for the first time in years. Slowly with anger and exhaustion they reveal their stories, their upbringings and what eventually lead them to the red light district.
It was a very dark book. There isn't a bit of light thrown in but t
Four young black women live together in Antwerp working as prostitutes. Three of them came from Nigeria and accepted their employment as a way of eventually getting back home and having some type of life that they could control. But the new life would only happen after they repaid the enormous debt they owed for being given this job in Antwerp.
Sisi, one of the Nigerians, goes missing and then found murdered. The three remaining women find solace is telling each other about their previous lives
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Chika Unigwe was born in Enugu, Nigeria, and now lives in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four children. She writes in English and Dutch.

In April 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature.
Unigwe holds a BA in English Language and Literature from the Uni

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