She should have been prettier, he told himself. After all, his family had made a point of forgiving her poverty; her good name would do. She was tall by his family’s standards. Lean in a way that made wrappers and dresses appear ill ﬁtting and silly. Still, her thinness was ideal for the blue jeans that American women wore. His father, who had never visited America but had watched every videocassette he had mailed him, had reminded Job of this. His grandmother had insisted her small buttocks would grow with the birth of their ﬁrst child. She is still just a child herself, she had explained. Iﬁ’s legs were bony and ridged at the knees, her face taut with strain around her eyes, as if she squinted furiously at everything. She was also not as light skinned as his mother would have preferred, and her hair was not ideal. But, Job reminded himself, she wasn’t ugly.
Job sank down onto the toilet, striking his foot against Iﬁ’s bag and knocking the few articles of clothing, makeup, perfume, and jewelry loose. He began to place each item back in the bag, using the flickering light of the candle as a guide. Women with all their tools. Men didn’t have it as easy. If a woman was fat, thin, too dark, too light, too short, too tall, there was always something she could do about it. His sisters, Jenny and Florence, had used lightening creams for years, wearing tall heels to compensate for their short frames and even slipping cotton balls into their bras. When they went to their rooms at night, they were his plain sisters with ashy skin and acne, but when they reemerged, they were something new.
Excerpt is reprinted by permission from Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Julie Iromuanya.