When Akanni’s mother died in early 2018, she stopped eating for three weeks. Her mood became unpredictable; she was often shouting or sulking angrily. Medicine from a local pharmacist didn’t help. At a loss for what to do to handle the trauma, Akanni’s father took her to a church in Abeokuta, Ogun state, in Nigeria. And then he left her there.
The day I met Julija she was playing cheerfully with her baby sister on the floor inside their room in Kragujevac, a small town in southern Serbia. When she saw me – a stranger -- on the doorstep, she smiled widely and stretched out her hands, offering a hug. As I held her, I could hear how difficult it was for her to breathe. I looked at her, she smiled and touched my face with her hands and only then did I see that Julija’s fingers were webbed.
Last week, I went to see the new flick “Love & Mercy,” about the life of Brian Wilson, a singer, songwriter, and the genius behind The Beach Boys. I hadn’t heard much about the film. In fact, I was expecting a summer movie about surfing and fun; The Beach Boys playing Kokomo, Good Vibrations, and Surfin’ U.S.A. on sunny California beaches.