- Bodley Head/Vintage (World English)
‘Original, fascinating and shocking... it will attract a lot of attention and a large readership.’
Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other and Manifesto
You may well know someone who has resorted to going far overseas and putting their future in the hands of a stranger to pursue their dream of becoming a parent; you may even know someone who has resorted to the services of an exam mill to get themselves through their finals or pass their professional qualification. But do you know anything about the people – women mostly – who provide these services for them? Meet Millicent and Rose, down in Nairobi, the new epicentre of surrogacy. They are lively, they are resourceful, they are under immense pressure, and they are unforgettable. Meet them here in Patricia Kingori’s revelatory, arresting account of the lives, dreams, agilities and difficulties of The Surrogates.
Surrogacy is always discreet, sometimes surreptitious, often illicit. Consequently, it is also shaded from view, and from accurate reporting. We know surrogacy in both its gestational and intellectual forms is a boom business in Kenya, even more so since its chief market rival, Ukraine, dissolved into conflict. We know that more and more people seek out gestational surrogacy in Africa as it can be achieved there with half the regulatory checks and at a quarter of the cost of European and American options. Ironically, given that homosexuality is outlawed in Kenya, same-sex couples are, alongside solo parents, prominent among those looking to birth a baby there. And, as with exam dissimulation, Kenya’s young population being extremely fluent in English makes them particularly appealing to British, North American and Australasian clients. But, in such an underregulated space, when disputes arise or accidents happen, little protection is afforded to the surrogates by their clients.
Kenya is the centre of the twin trades in exam dissimulation and in gestational surrogacy. And it is its brilliant if unprivileged young black women who are the cornerstones of both systems. Kingori tells the intertwined story of two of them, Rose and Millicent, who embody the pressures and dynamics of these two clandestine trades on which so many in the Global North depend. And Rose and Millicent see, hold and exploit truths about the broken social, educational and medical systems of the West that the governing authorities of those systems [universities, hospitals, ministries] cannot allow themselves openly to acknowledge. Arguably, their unique perspective on need, greed, shame, hypocrisy and transactional relationships allows them to see further into hearts and souls in the Global North than most.