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)
Now two friends, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, tell the story of their equally messy and life-affirming Big Friendship in this honest and hilarious book that chronicles their first decade in one another’s lives. As the hosts of the hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend, they’ve become known for frank and intimate conversations. In this book, they bring that energy to their own friendship—its joys and its pitfalls.
An inspiring and entertaining testament to the power of society’s most underappreciated relationship, Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them. (less)
I read this book in August and it was amazing so get it. But I don’t want to do a review as much as talk about the one thing it made me think of.
The authors talk about a challenging period in their frendship where they were not getting on and they went for therapy together. Either in the book or in the many podcasts promoting their book I listened to they ask how people resolve conflict in a friendship and the process to get a “friend” therapist a specific type of therapist different from most other relationships.
This made me think of a troubled friendship last year that just fizzled out. We had a misunderstanding – not the first we had in the years of friendship but I suppose we are both moms of little ones now and pressed for time and sleep which probably accelerated it all. And then since then we have just ghosted each other. So this is what the book made me think of:
After all the many fights over the years, why was this the one that finally led to the estragement?
Over the years, were there many “missed” moments where we didn’t see the other and that escalated over time?
Could we ever move past this and if not, what would it look like to formally dissolve the friendship (especially where we have so many friends in common)?
Having thought that, I think the impasse is a resolution because in the past when I have cared, I have formally spoken about it with a friend so this is an answer of sorts.
Over the holiday I got a bit tired of listening to the same subscribed podcast content so I challenged myself to listen to shows I wouldn’t normally do or I had heard but did not want to commit to full subscription just yet. So here are some of those fantastic episodes.
I felt my back stand up when I first listened to her views on infidelity so I wasn’t open at all but I liked it so much I listened to this other episode on sexlessness.
Radio Diaries’ Teenage Diariesrevisited. I love that kind of radio soooo much. I was hanging on the edge of my seat listening. Definitely subscribing. As a teen I would have loved to participate in such an activity, to be honest, even now I would.
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
The Believers – Rebecca Makkai ***
Becoming – Michelle Obama *** I initially feared that the hype would be larger than the content of the book so I read it much later and I loved it. My only regret was by then all the book clubs had already met and discussed it.
The Year that Changed Everything- Cathy Kelly. First of her reads and I loved it.
It Started with Paris – Cathy Kelly.
The Storyteller- Jodi Piccoult **Do terrible deeds define us or can we be someone else with time?
Secrets of a happy marriage – Cathy Kelly
Homecoming – Cathy Kelly.
Dead to Me – Lesley Pearse. Love that it was about strong female friendships and personal endurance.
Without a Trace – Lesley Pearse
Just Mercy- Bryan Stevenson *** There is now a movie being made on this book, check it out.
A River of Stars – Vanessa Hua. What a dud, don’t bother.
Me and my Sisters – Sinead Moriarty
The Secrets Sisters Keep – Sinead Moriarty
Between Sisters – Cathy Kelly
This Child of Mine – Sinead Moriarty. Skip it at all costs, this could have been a short story or a novella at best.
Our Secrets and Lies – Sinead Moriarty
Unnatural Causes – Richard Shepherd. This helped with my morbid fascination with dead bodies.
The House on Willow Street – Cathy Kelly
I owe you one – Sophie Kinsella
Washington Black – Esi Edugyan. This was certainly an over hyped book, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie *** I simply loved it, check it out.
My book of the year was The Great Believers. This book deals with the burden of being left behind to confront the memories of a sad time. Also, just how far we have come since the first days of the AIDS scourge. Please do yourself a favour and also read it.
Enthusiastic recommendations for reads that will provide you with abundant reasons to rejoice, reflect or recharge, as suggested by TED speakers and TED-Ed educators. If you’re searching for some calm The Peace of Wild Things: And Other Poems by Wendell Berry This little book of poetry is my current morning dose of calm, and I use…
Today, I want to focus on my parents and the values they have imparted in me that I admire and hope to replicate with my children.
Their work ethic. My parents inspired my sisters and I to work hard, to be our best and not to be limited by gender, our circumstances or other life setbacks. They themselves came from such humble beginnings and accomplished so much that by their actions and choices, you were inspired to try your best.
Their relationship with money. As far as I know, my parents never bought anything on credit. If they couldn’t save and get it, they did not get it. Also, to save all your money, save even if you have no immediate plans, just save.
Family first. My sisters and I always knew (know) that we were important and that we mattered to them, that they gave us their best and withheld nothing from us. They loved and even, liked us, and we never doubted this. We are our parents best investment and choice and there is something comforting in that.
I love that their parenting style did not require them to compare any of us. To them, we are unique, we are individuals and each success was celebrated on its own and each failure dealt with separately. As a result, all five of us are friends and continue to do the same thing with each other to date.
Faith and the role of God. He is over and above all things, always has and always has been.
Choice. Marry when you want, there is no pressure to marry or in fact conform because we are women. Study what you want at school – whether Physics or Home science. Learn how to slaughter a chicken or change a tyre, just because you are only girls, you still need to know.
I recently went through an exercise to define my top values in life and it made me very reflective because values are something you never think of until someone crosses it then you realise, woah! something is off here.
My faith in God is something that I feel very strongly about and hope that people realise when they meet me. It guides my decisions, my reactions and my feelings through life. I believe in One God, the Father the Almighty, One God in Three Persons, He died and rose again and will return. That God, even when things in life go against this thinking, my prayer is I stand in my belief in God.
Family is very important to me. Loyalty to family, love for family. Enjoying your family. My sisters are truly God’s best gift to me and if we weren’t related, I would still want to know. My folks are the bomb.com. I always say that I would pay good money to live with them for a month some where. With the Mr, the idea is to make our home a home so we both have this enabling and loving environment where we both return to and just want to dwell in and enjoy each other. As you get older and refine your circle of friends, you ostensibly end up with friends that are like family and it is important to cherish those as well and invest in them. Friendship is important.
Serving God and fellow man is another thing of importance to me. If I do not give back to those that are less fortunate, if I am not moved by the plight of those less fortunate than me, then what I have is not worth it. Serving in Church is an expression of my faith and that must be done but I also still delight in that.
Working hard and being my best given my constraints is important. I love to set goals and work towards them and that feeling of meeting them and sometimes even exceeding expectations is so refreshing. I am not so concerned about being the first or the best, but being my best is good enough.
How I work hard is by being resilient. I take stock of the failure or the setbacks and then moving forward. I care about meeting my goals and not giving up when things are tough or not going as well as I expected.
Stability and Freedom that often comes from being educated or being financially stable. Also, from having family or friends do what they say they will, when they will do it. It helps clarify life and make things much simpler for you to really perform at that optimum level. As a worker, I also find that I like the autonomy to make my own decisions and work at my own pace as opposed to being micro-managed.
Fun and Play because you need to refresh, slow down and enjoy the successes otherwise they are useful and you do not perform at your optimum. For me this looks like reading books, listening to music, hanging with friends and family, journaling, watching telly or traveling.
What are your top values? What defines you and makes you unique?
You know those books that everyone raves about and then try as you might you just can’t get into them and then when you do it just feels like they will neither start nor end? Well, these are mine, now I just stop and move onto the next book
In March and April I read these two letters between female friends. Both of them touch of womanhood and issues of feminism which although books are written almost four decades apart, are still so relevant and applicable to the plight of women. All in all, they are both great books so I will talk about the common themes that struck a note with me.
Maintain your identity that is separate from your role as a mother, a wife, a sister-in-law. Maintain that single identity and I would even venture to say, keep pursuing those interests you have and love to do.
Make your partner a full partner. From Dear Ijeawele, this is quite obvious and self-explanatory. From So Long …. it’s not quite obvious but I like Aissatou (the friend)’s response when her husband married a second wife, she held him immediately accountable and left the marriage. Many called her names and wished something else of her but she held him accountable and did what she had to do.
Both authors talk about centering marriage in the right place as a nice to have/do but not the penultimate accomplishment. Marriage is neither good nor bad, but how we aspire to it could be.
Both writers caution each other against assigning certain roles to male or female children and the assumptions we make or impute. The future is not one where boys (girls) can do certain things that girls (boys) cannot. Also the language that we use when we explain the roles and responsibilities to kids also matters a lot.
The entire letter is an ode to female friendship which I totally loved and would therefore recommend both books. You can easily get through both in a single sitting or weekend.