I recently read Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. I had always heard people talking about Audre Lorde, but I just never got round to picking up any of her material until now. It was quite the education; I loved it and would happily recommend anyone pick up her material. It’s not as dense as reading Toni Morrison (in that I was not checking the meaning of every tenth word) but just as sharp and piercing in her arguments.
The emerging theme from the book is how do we get free / past the chains imposed because of our race, class, gender, or sexual orientation? Which remains a valid question today despite some of her writings being over 40 years old. Yes, there have been slight shifts, but I will be honest that as I read some of her arguments, it also felt like little had also changed.
Her work definitely confirms that racism is the ultimate distraction.
Having said that, some of her writing and thoughts made me very uncomfortable especially when I applied my true north, which is the Bible and so I wasn’t fully proselytised, but it was quite informative and challenged or refined some of my thinking.
From the specific essay titled Poetry is not a Luxury I loved the idea of poetry as giving language to experiences that are unique in a living way not the sterile way that forefathers previously considered. Her later work also talks of the low barriers to entry to writing poetry compared to say a novel that requires time, space and income while everyone can write a poem, perhaps not me, but certainly most people can.
The essay Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Responseblew my mind and particularly this quote on page 74:
The strongest lesson I can teach my son is the same lesson I teach my daughter: how to be who he wishes to be for himself. And the best way I can do this is to be who I am and hope that he will learn from this not how to be me, which is not possible, but how to be himself.
Another essay that spoke to me and I felt so deeply that I read it over days and not in one sitting was Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred and Anger. I love how she charts the anger that women feel – the source and how it plays out across various scenarios. Having done that so well, a part of me could understand why but I also struggled to understand why Black women then turn on each other, we don’t turn that anger outwards but at each other. Throughout the chapter, you certainly feel the anger, but it is so contained and well explained. She also talks of someone grieving the death of her mother and how sad she was that no one would see and love her as her mother did – her mother felt her, saw her, and loved her in her entirety. In one breath I felt my mom’s love and hoped that my daughter always the knows the same of me. Finally, from page 66, I loved this quote:
Mothering ourselves means learning how to be both kind and demanding in the teeth of failure as well as in the face of success, and not misnaming either.
I also loved the essay, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.
Our Book Club read for March was Toni Morrison’s The Source of Self Regard . I was really eager to get into it because of everyone’s reaction when she passed away in 2019, there was such sadness at the loss of a great literary mind YET, I had struggled to really get into her writing. Prior to this read, I had only read God Help The Child and I quite enjoyed it.
Her command of language and how she uses it to say what she says. I felt like I was in primary school turning to my dictionary for every second word but it was worth it. As a wordsmith she contorts language to do and say exactly what she needs to do and impart the feeling she needs.
Her writing confirmed that you can’t be such an accomplished writer and not read widely. Girl reads. Widely.
How she talks about language and what it can and can’t achieve. You feel it and you enjoy the experience of it all.
I enjoyed her talking about her writing process and how she thinks of it / approaches it.
Now to some specific themes and quotes that I loved from each of them.
The Foreign / Being Foreign
In the second essay she talks through Camara Laye’s book of how a white man would migrate back to Africa and how he prepares himself. Even then, there is still some caucasity.
The idea of home and how layered it is. No one knows this more than me, what is home and what makes it home?
She refers to James Baldwin in her tribute to him as follows: “your life refuses summation … and invites contemplation.”
Frederick Douglass talking about his grandmother, and James Baldwin talking about his father, and Simone de Beauvoir talking about her mother, these people are my access to me; they are my entrance into my own interior life. And that is so true, we understand ourselves best by looking at our families and those nearest and dearest to us.
But writing is not simply recollecting or reminiscing or even epiphany. It is doing, creating a narrative infused [ …] with legitimate and authentic characteristics of the culture.
the Afro-American presence in American literature
The so called every day life of black people is certainly lovely to live, but whoever is living it must know that each day of his “everyday” black life is a triumph of matter over mind and sentiment over common sense. And if he doesn’t know that, then he doesn’t know anything at all.
Post baby, I have not been able to get back to sleeping through the night consistently so when I get up, I fire up my kindle and read and then if it’s an interesting book, I might read for another 90 – 120 minutes
As I wait in a queue, or for an appointment. While I wait for someone.
If the book is really good, I also will read over lunch hour.
Certain TV shows don’t really require a lot of attention so I might read or read during the commercials or in between two episodes.
I began the year with no reading goal and I hoped that along the way I would read some good books and boy did I. Also, I read some duds along the way and by about September, I figured that I might hit a book a week target – this I did and surpassed slightly. Previous year lists are available here: 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Some overall thoughts, I got into audio books for the first time and since I also read ebooks, I don’t really care how the material is presented, books are books. I got into some new Australian authors (and podcasts but that’s another post altogether). I tried to read the Women’s Prize shortlist and got through 4.25 out of 6 of them. I also read some non-fiction, sometimes for work and others just out of interest.
Key: *** Highly Recommend ** Yeah, why not read it *Nah, only read if you have nothing else (No star) I have no feelings on the book
See the chronological list below and some thoughts I had as I finished the books.
Sex and Vanity – Kevin Kwan *
Destination Wedding – Diksha Basu – **
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows: A novel – Balli Kaur Jaswal ***
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters – Balli Kaur Jaswal **
Dreamland – Sam Quinones ***
A Bollywood Affair – Sonali Dev
Pride and Prejudice, and other flavours – Sonali Dev **
The Wedding Party – Jasmine Guillory *** LOVE ALL HER WORK
Recipe for Persuasion- Sonali Dev **
The Prenup: A Love Story – Lauren Layne
The Windfall – Diksha Basu. HARD PASS. The book did not start, get better or finish. The only interesting side note is that she is the daughter of a superstar Economist, Kaushik Basu.
Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell. Look I love Malcom’s books, all of them but this is THE WORST of his books. Wouldn’t recommend it.
Nothing Ventured – Jeffrey Archer
Hidden in Plain sight – Jeffrey Archer
The Family Gift – Cathy Kelly
The Fifth Letter – Nicola Moriarty ***
Those Other Women – Nicola Moriarty ***
Becoming Men – Malose Langa ***. Possibly one of the best non-fiction reads for 2021.
The Perfect Mother – Aimee Molloy **
The Hundred Wells of Salaga – Aysha Harun Atta **
Grown Ups – Marian Keyes ***. LOVED IT. Therapeutic.
Manchester Happened – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. *** Best Short Stories.
Eating from one Pot: dynamics of survival in poor households in South Africa – Sarah Mosoetsa ***.
How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House – Cherie Jones*. Didn’t like or get the story. I also think it could have been a short story.
The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman ***. Lovely little read.
Yellow Means Stay: An Anthology of Love Stores from Africa. DO NOT READ. Problematic collection that included a paedophile’s “love” as one of these love stories. Yuck, yuck and yuck. Reached out to the editors and their response was lukewarm at best.
Transcendent Kingdom – Yaa Gyasi ***
Unsettled Ground – Claire Fuller ***. Loved it! Finished it and immediately smiled. The book starts so slowly and there is build up but you can’t quite see it. I was rooting for Jeanie all along and it was nice seeing her develop through the course of the book.
The Wives – Tarryn Fisher *. It’s like two books in one. First half great! The second, confused, hurried. Still not sure what actually happened at the end there.
That Summer – Jennifer Weiner ***. It really got under my skin in a good way.
Here Comes the Sun – Nicole Dennis-Benn *** This book sat in my heart really painfully. It was tragic, it felt like poverty porn, relentlessly painful.
Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at Saint Paul’s School – Shamus Rahman Khan *** . A serious contender for Best Non-Fiction.
The Weekend – Charlotte Wood ***. WOW. I did not expect to be enchanted by this book as much as I was. Please read it.
Good Company – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney ***
The Nest – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney *
Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments – Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler ***
Love in Colour – Bolu Babalola *. This was one of those Bookstagram made me read this and it was honestly CRAP.
People we meet on vacation – Emily Henry ***
The Other Black Girl – Zakiya Dalila Harris *. I wanted to love this book but nah, I don’t get the hype.
The Kindest Lie – Nancy Johnson *** READ IT, JUST READ IT.
491 Days – Winnie Madikizela Mandela. Another non-fiction read that was a total education for me, I realised I never understood or made up my own mind about Winnie Mandela.
The Rose Code – Kate Quinn ***
Snapped – Alexa Martin **
The Huntress – Kate Quinn *
Other Women – Cathy Kelly
All Gomorrahs are the Same – Thenjiwe Mswane **
How we get free – Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor *
Apples Never Fall – Liane Moriarty *** (Definitely a top read contender)
We are halfway through the BSF Study of Matthew and the lesson I am getting in this season of my Christian walk is just how similar I am to my toddler. And it is a very humbling lesson.
I obviously have a toddler and spend so much time with her. Now toddlers are amazing little people. Funny, impulsive, willful, have no idea of what danger is or what could happen in ever situation. They are loveable but can also be tiring and that is exactly how I have seen myself revealed through the first 13 chapters we have looked at thus far.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22 - 25)
In the James citation above, we see that when we look intently at God’s Laws, we should our true selves magnified and this should draw us to repentance and to a deeper and more mature relationship with Christ. If we look, feel drawn to a particular response and then just as quickly forget, then its pointless. So while tough, its encouraging that I can see myself as maybe God sees me and this has two results. One, that I am striving towards God in deeper obedience to His will and two: it is helping me parent my daughter differently. Even when I mess up or frustrate Him, He still loves me. There are consequences to sin and all the mess I get into and while painful, I can trust God that His love and ways are perfect. I should and will show my daughter the right way, emphasize that, discipline when she falls short but over and above that in all ways I will continue to love her and show her that she is loved. Ultimately, my heart is filled with such gratitude that this is the God I love and serve and how faithful to me He is. What a faithful and loving God.