Tag Archives: Books reading

My tried and couldn’t finish book list

woman reading book leaning near wall

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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

  1. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  2. How to Read the Air – Dinaw Mengistu
  3. All the Light we cannot see – Anthony Doerr
  4. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  5. Rachel’s Blue – Zakes Mda (South Africa)

And then there is Open City by Teju Cole that I hated but had to finish so I could hate on it 🙂

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Books on Letters between Friends

Image resultImage result for dear ijeawele

About So Long a Letter

About Dear Ijeawele

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

How I want to make Adult Friends

five women laughing

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

I have a friend who is a maverick at making friends. One on one, she seems incredibly shy but I love her attitude to making friends and how deliberate she is about it all. So when I think to myself that I would like to make friends, I always think of some kind of organised activity that brings people together on the regular.

When I think of this though I always wonder how I would go about starting one because it involves putting myself out there in some way or another which is not exactly my thing. But, if / when I get over this hurdle, these are some things I would like to do:

  • Listen to a key podcast each month and then meet and discuss
  • Start an article club – pick a Longread article and then chat about it
  • Pick a cuisine and then assign various parts of the meal (starter, protein, desserts, salad) to different people and thus have a supper club or a cookbook club if you are fancier.
  • Good old Book club
  • Board games with a group of friends, I really have mine eye on this one.
  • A cheese/ wine tasting club.

Do you live in Joburg, would you be keen to do any of this with me and meet some new people?

Book Review: Always Another Country – Sisonke Msimang

Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home by [Msimang, Sisonke]
 Buy here

I read this book over the December holidays and was sooo excited, I am not sure what happened and it’s almost four months later that I am here gushing about it. Urgggh!! Please see below my thoughts under the different themes, page numbers are provided in brackets for you to follow.

General

  •  This is a book for us women, refugees, blacks (6) and I totally totally agree.
  • I love that our time in Nairobi overlap – when she returns from Canada. I know all the landmarks she mentions of Nairobi. It felt so good to read a book about a place that I knew and know of so intimately. Double yay!!
  • I thought it was odd that she kept referring to her folks as Mummy and Baba??? So odd coz those are two different languages in my head and I would have gone with either Mummy and Daddy or Mama and Baba.
  • I wondered also why she protects the names of her own kids but not Simon’s eldest two. Not sure what that’s about is it maybe that they are adults and the other two are minors?
  • The things said to them about a male child being preferred to daughters. And how this is often blamed on the mother in a way that gives the husband carte blanche to stray in the name of looking for a son (pp 7 – 27). I know this reality all too well and all I think is Biology lessons are important for all.
  • It’s so subtle but her talking about not participating in the street games and fights as much as the local kids do coz it could turn on you:

“I had to choose how I would distinguish myself and I knew that it had to be safe.”(9)

  • The plight of house girls and domestic workers – all too relatable ( 50).
  • Having read Pumla’s Rape, it resonated with me how she spoke about the incident of being sexually attacked: her response and that of the adults around her (52 -55). Also, in the light of #MeToo, I thought it quite bold that she opened up about this incident.
  • The urgency for them to receive their citizenship. Yeah, I get that (67 – 68).
  • I remember the following events but was probably too young to consider their true impact on history: Chris Hani, Mandelas release, the IFP-sponsored murders and the election.

Growing up Foreign

  • Being called an African monkey. While that did not happen to me, I know about being called a refugee almost as though it was a dirty swear word.
  • And the rules that their mom had them follow because growing up in another country with parents working full time, there is not a big social infrastructure to support the parents. So rules are key or in young people speak, rules are bae.

“… the immigrant child knows that outside is one thing but home is another country.” (83)

“The immigrant child knows that the key to survival is in the inflection points. … The key to survival is in blending in first, in learning how to be just like else as a first step to freedom. You have to know how the inside works before you can stand outside and make everybody laugh.” (90)

“The immigrant child doesn’t make any noise. … She is preparing for the day when she will have mastered the art of being normal so that she can stand out.” (90)

Sisterhood

  • How she always talks of her sisters, so beautiful and in some way the story is as much about them as it is her. Yay sisterhood.

Race

  •  I understand when she talks of her discovery of her race in the States. The same thing happened to me in RSA.
  • Being foreign in South Africa has shown me that White ones are still preferred to Black ones. Sad but fact!

Moms: 

  • On discovering that your mom is not just a role – mom, wife, friend, daughter – but actually a woman with dreams, feelings and thoughts quite apart from me even. GASP, SHOCKING.
  • How their mom almost became like an older fourth sister but their dad remained a dad. I find this to be the truth with us too.

“To know your mother as an adult is to finally see that she has lived many more years as a woman than you have been alive. To be a grown woman who loves her mother is to understand that it is no easy thing to raise children so beautifully that they don’t worry about you until they are grown up and ready to carry the complex burden of that anxiety.” (304)

  • Class: I enjoyed reading about her relationship with her nanny especially when they were both pregnant. I thought it was the most honest tale by a middle class Black woman that I could totally relate to.

So please go out, buy the book read, it, share it and enjoy it.

Now, to make friends with her in real life?

Sunday Reads

 

15 Best Reads in 2017

I read some really interesting books in 2017.

  • On Black Sisters Street: Chika Unigwe – I read it in the context of the current mass migration tales and I helped me imagine the kind of backstories that some of the migrants are fleeing from.
  • The Woman Next Door: Yewande Omotoso – Great read. As I read it I kept thinking it would make for a great TV mini-series.
  • Rape: Pumla Dineo Gqola– Eye opening. Educative. Informative. Heavy topic, well written.
  • When Breath Becomes Air: Paul Kalanithi – I cried after reading this one. It made me think of legacies and the things that drive me.
  • Small Great Acts: Jodi Piccoult – I love her writing and as usual, there was a deep ethical question to ponder.
  • An Elegy for Easterly: Pettinah Gappah – I am not a big short stories fan but I love the author and the stories did not disappoint. Must admit to the fact that I kept thinking back to these stories during Mugabe’s exit.
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City: Matthew Desmond – I love these kinds of books that delve into one deep topic. It was interesting to also see how eviction has interlinkages with so many other issues: unemployment, poverty, crime, food shortages.
  • The Mothers: Brit Bennett – I enjoyed this read, it was an easy read but raised so many questions for me – especially on the role of faith in our lives.
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Pearce: Jeff Hobbs – Forgetting whether it is the author’s story to tell, this book broke my heart. For anyone that wants to read Hillbilly Elegy, I would rather recommend this one.
  • Stay With Me: Ayobami Adebayo – Loved, loved, loved this one. Definitely recommending it to one and all.
  • Who Will Catch Us As We Fall: Iman Verjee – Great story on Kenya post-2007. Faultless.
  • Lyrics Alley: Leila Aboulela – This book made me dream of visiting Khartoum and The Sudan.
  • Beneath the Lion’s Gaze: Maaza Mengiste – It helped me understand so much about Ethiopia. Definitely a must read.
  • Kintu: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – A book from home. I initially thought it would be too ambitious and then under deliver but no, it was a great book to read. Get it.
  • Pachinko: Min Jin Lee – I have a thing for dynastic reads and this delivered exactly what I love: joy, sadness, tears, laughter and triumph.

Sunday Reads

This definition of her: to go from her father to her husband, to be pretty, docile – a man made tragedy. Her soul was made of larger, more powerful things, things that create or desecrate armies and galaxies. This is why when she loves she changes kingdoms, and when she hates she destroys legacies.  Nikita Gill, Jasmine, A Princess That Belonged To Herself First

Recipes

Books Based in New York City

I love New York, I just love it and so I wanted to share a couple of books that remind me of the Big Apple.

 

  • I have shared before that I did not really like Open City and I thought he was just showing off.
  • I LOVED Behold the Dreamers. I felt it was more relateable.
  • Everyone is raving about the Leavers but I felt it would have been a better short story but it gave me a glimpse of Upstate New York.

Do you love the Big Apple and have you read any books based on this city?

Mini- December (Reading) Goal

So I recently had occasion to reflect on the past year and to start planning for 2018 and decided to close out the year by reading ten books until the end of coming February. SO here is my reading list (the ones struck off are already complete):

  1. Kintu – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  2. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doer
  3. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
  4. Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado
  5. The Leavers – Lisa Ko
  6. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
  7. A Column of Fire – Ken Follett
  8. Negroland: A Memoir – Margo Jefferson
  9. Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  10. The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

Bonus

  1. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. The Gene: An Intimate History – Siddhartha Mukherjee
  4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Harari
  5. Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home – Sisonke Msimang

Sunday Reads

 

What’s in a Bag

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So this is my current handbag that I bought at Maasai Market in Nairobi, Kenya

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Handbag contents

  • Brown notebook and a pen
  • Black kindle / novel
  • Tissues
  • Contacts lenses
  • Lip something or other
  • A pair of sunglasses
  • Ear phones and obviously phone
  • Pink Wallet
  • White power bank
  • Spectacles Case
  • Green scarf

So, what’s in your handbag????

 

Sunday Reads

“Silence is often a woman-flavoured thing. It is guilty of holding countless women’s names and voices hostage inside of its spine and its ribcage.” Nikita Gill 

 

Book Review: Who Will Catch Us As We Fall

Against the backdrop of the political shenanigans in Kenya, I read this very interesting book on Kenya by a Kenyan Indian author.

About the Book.
Haunted by a past that has kept her from Nairobi for over three years, Leena returns home to discover her family unchanged: her father is still a staunch patriot dreaming of a better country; her mother is still unwilling or unable to let go of the past; and her brother spends his days provoking the establishment as a political activist. When Leena meets a local Kikuyu artist whose past is linked to her own, the two begin a secret affair—one that forces Leena to again question her place in a country she once called home.

 

Interlinked with Leena’s story is that of Jeffery: a corrupt policeman burdened with his own angers and regrets, and whose questionable actions have unexpected and catastrophic consequences for those closest to him. Who Will Catch Us As We Fall is an epic look at the politics and people of Kenya.

So my general thoughts:

  • The book had quite a slow start, I mean you could tell she is hinting at something that happened in the past but she wasn’t going to give away anything quite so quickly.
  • I thought it was a good attempt for the author to include Kiswahili phrases but it probably needed an editor who also spoke Kiswahili as in the absence of that the book had basic editorial mistakes like the police moto: Utumishi kwa wote, not utamishi kwa wote; Jogoo House not Jogo House.
  • I thought that the city of Nairobi could have been more prominent unless the narrow lens through which it was presented was necessary to present how insular the Indian community in Kenya is?

The book had a few major themes that were particularly meaningful to me.

Race/ Tribe

  • Love that she talks about the race/tribe relations between Indians and Africans in Kenya. How there is a sense of mistrust and almost antagonistic hate or resentment. This was best played out by the employer – employee relations by the Indian mama and her Kikuyu/ African maid.
  • I thought the discussion between Jai and Ivy at the SONU meeting about what makes a Kenyan Kenyan quite insightful. It made me wonder whether by the same reckoning I would be classified as one because though by birth and upbringing I am one, then again, am I actually one? Will Indians ever be viewed as Kenyan?
  • My surprise at Jai choosing to study at UoN instead of going to England which as the mom confirms is the better option and generally the done thing among this sub population.
  • It was interesting to read about Pio Gama Pinto because he is one person who history has not represented very well even all these years later.

Gender

  • Jai could play outside but Leena couldn’t.
  • Jeffrey just “took over” his friends wife like she was a spare item and no one questioned that.
  • Also the fact that the wife just rolled over and adjusted to this new reality.

Power

  • The dynamics between a maid and her employer were very startling and playing into the perception of race and/or tribe in the book is the difference in treatment for a maid between a white and Indian employer.
  • Jeffrey wielded significant power and that was how over time he was able to become as corrupt as he was.
  • Who really ran the home between Jai’s parents, the mom or the dad?

Home

  • Leena’s characterisation of being in Nairobi vs being in London and how one can reimagine / build it up into something bigger than it really is. (p. 335)
  • I loved the following quotes that best typified Nairobi.

“I love this country but I must accept it for what it is. A place where thieves are celebrated and good men die unremarkable deaths.” (p. 357)

“Nairobi is a sly town. It is so small that run-ins with people one is trying to avoid are a common occurrence, yet it is segmented enough to keep two searching individuals apart. (p. 384)

Not as ambitious as Dust but for a contemporary book, it was a great effort and I would certainly recommend it to anyone.

Sunday Reads

What Home Feels Like

Travelling through Africa / To- Read Books

I recently noticed that I have been reading a lot of Nigerian/ Ghanaian authored books and so I set myself a challenge to diversify my reading to other parts of Africa. Here are some of the books on my to-read list.

  1. Lyrics Alley – Leila Aboulela (Sudan)
  2. So Long a Letter – Mariam Ba (Senegal)
  3. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze – Maaza Mengiste ( Ethiopia)
  4. Flame and Song – Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa (Uganda)

Enjoy!

Sunday Reads

Source

Recipes

Book Review: Rape – Pumla Dineo Gqola

Book Description

Why has South Africa been labelled the ‘world’s rape capital’? What don’t we as South Africans understand about rape? In Rape: A South African Nightmare, Pumla Dineo Gqola unpacks the complex relationship South Africa has with rape by paying attention to the patterns and trends of rape, asking what we can learn from famous cases and why South Africa is losing the battle against rape. This highly readable book leaps off the dusty book shelves of academia by asking penetrating questions and examining the shock belief syndrome that characterises public responses to rape, the female fear factory, boy rape, the rape of Black lesbians and violent masculinities. The book interrogates the high profile rape trials of Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang as well as the feminist responses to the Anene Booysen case.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would happily recommend it to anyone. It is obvious not a light or easy read and so even the review will have to be organised the different themes that I picked up on. Please get the book and share it with your friends and loved one and most importantly, men.

What is Rape?

  • Rape is not a moment but a language (p. 22)
  • Rape is violence and not sex (29)
  • the believability of a rape survivor depends on how closely her rape resembles her society’s idea of what a rape looks like, who rapes, who can be raped, when and how. (29)
    • The story told by a woman needs a body of evidence. It is not an interest in the pain of the rape, but a burden of proof placed on the survivor or victim of rape. (29)

The Black Woman as a sexual and rapeable object

  • At the same time that the rape of slave women was routine within slavery, slavocratic society created the stereotype of African hyper sexuality which sought to both justify and authorise the institutionalised rape of slaves. The stereotypes held that slave women could not be raped since like all Africans they were excessively sexual and impossible to satiate.(43)
  • At the same time that slave women were being routinely raped as a means to multiply their masters slaves, slave men, especially when they were African slaves were cast as dangerously sexual, with a ravenous sexual appetite better suited to slave women but with a particular danger to white women. (43)
  • While the rape of slave women was profitable, it also threatened ideas of racial hierarchy and produced anxieties about race-mixing …  of the unspeakable sexual intercourse between white women and slave men … about the loss of control over the bodies of white women, as much as it was about the idea of white women becoming impure. (45)
  • Until the abolishment of the death penalty, no white man has been hanged for rape, whereas the only Black men who were hung for rape had been convicted of raping white women; no white man or Black man had been convicted and sentenced to death for raping a Black woman. (52)

Black Men

  • The image of poor, young Black men as the figure of the rapist is not the reality SA women live under. (11)
  • We need to confront violent masculinities. We need to confront and reject violent men and the patriarchal men and women who enable them. (67)
    • “Your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lorde (67)
    • “All our silence is … complicity.” bell hooks (67)
  • If we accept that it is time to render all forms of gendered violence genuinely illegitimate in all spaces we occupy, then it follows that to do so we need to stop making excuses, that we take up the challenge to constantly debunk rape myths wherever we encounter them because all gender-based violence is brutality, a form of gender war against survivors’ bodies and psyches. (143)

Patriarchy

  • Rape has survived as long as it has because it works to keep patriarchy intact. It communicates clearly who matters and who is disposable. Those who matter are not afraid of being raped because they have not been taught to fear sexual assault. (21)
  • Patriarchy trains us all to be receptive to the conditions that produce- and reproduce- female fear, especially when it is not our own bodies on the assembly line. (80)
  • All men, no matter what race, class or religion have patriarchal power and can choose to brutalise and get away with it. (151)

Female Fear

  • Tired, hungry, distracted women are easier to control. (40)
  • The republic of SA has the contradictory situation where women are legislatively empowered, and yet we do not feel safe in our streets or homes. (65)
  • The manufacture of female fear uses the threat of rape and other bodily wounding but sometimes mythologises this violence as benefit. (79)
  • The threat of rape is an effective way to remind women that they are not safe and their bodies are not entirely theirs. It is an exercise in power that communicates that the man creating fear has power over the woman who is the target of his attention: it also teaches women who witness it their vulnerability either through reminding them of their own previous fears or showing them that it could happen to them next. (79)
  • The manufacture of female fear requires several aspects to work:
    • the safety of the aggressor,
    • the vulnerability of the target,
    • the successful communication by the aggressor that he has the power to wound, rape and/or kill the target with no consequences to himself. (80)
  • Women are socialised to look away from the female fear factory – to pretend it is not happening and to flee when ignoring it becomes impossible. (80)
  • Excuses make violence against women possible – they are part of the complicated network that says women are not human so our pain is generalised, unimportant, so we give violent men permission to keep all those they deem vulnerable such as women, men, and gender non-conforming people or children. (151)
  • South Africa has a greater problem with the existence of the […] rape survivor and victim that trouble by pointing to her/his/their own pain in South African public culture. The rapist is welcome to live and boast and be celebrated or lambasted for his hypermasculinity, even as he continues to flourish financially. (165)

This book helped me to understand the sexual objectification of African women and how we are often viewed as desirable and rapeable things by White and African men at large. Specifically for the White men, that attraction that often precedes that revulsion for deigning to be attracted to this lesser thing. Also, I could see how the morality laws are mainly to tame African men’s (sexual) appetites from being unleashed fully on (tired, hungry and distracted: read as helpless) White women. So on the one hand, it is perfectly fine to protect White women while on the other, prey on African women and continue to rape them and then blame them for it afterwards.

I also have a response to the cry “Not all men … ” if, and indeed it is the case, all men do not rape why do other men not call out these known rapists? Why don’t societies evaluate their ideas of a man and get their sons to grow up in a way that does not require them to diminish or brutalise women in order to feel fulfilled and accomplished. Being a man does not involve violence, rape or other attacks on women.

When I read the chapter of the female fear factory, I finally had to confront my own habits to counter this fear of being raped: smile at a group of men when they greet me even if I do not want to greet them; do not enter a loo if it is in a deserted part of the mall and there is a man outside; wear clothes that do not show my form if I will be going to certain crowded places; don’t walk in certain places after dark and the list goes on …

In closing this poem fully captures some of what this book tries to address: if he raped you, why didn’t you change/ who can be raped and how do they need to act afterwards? Also, this little paragraph about why the image of an independent black woman is a relic of racism.

Sunday Reads

  1. How to read more books this year. I am definitely taking it to heart by reducing my junk TV viewing and making sure I always have a book as I go about various chores.
  2. A reading list on Kenya in case you are interested.
  3. If a story moves you, act on it!
  4. This article on insecurity made me stop and think. Really hard!
  5. Somali nicknames are hilarious 🙂
  6. So many white tears in this article. I see that they have only a given demographic of foreign spouses married to South Africans.
  7. Also, this IS cultural expropriation.
  8. More on how couples deal with finances.
  9. I didn’t know there were Nigerian Jews in Johannesburg. Today’s fact!!
  10. What does it mean to be a boy or girl? National Geographic asks 9/10 year old kids.
  11. Stealing from one of the comments, “This is by far the best article I’ve read regarding LBGT and the gospel.”
  12. Chocolate cake and another vegetarian pasta recipe.

I read some good books last year

Both of these books have a similar theme and I read them back to back which made me so angry. But, they are well written and I loved them equally and would happily recommend them.

I love both of these ladies and so it goes without saying that I would enjoy their writing.

I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing. It’s simply beautiful. I have to say that anytime I say I read short stories, it’s obvious that I love the author.

 African literature is doing SO WELL. SO WELL. Both of these books are so well written, you just have to go out and get them and savour them for yourself. Yum!!!

My reading wish list (on Amazon)

I have this Wishlist off Amazon with a list of books that I would love to read (click on the book to the Amazon link).

Askari by [Dlamini, Jacob]

 

  1. I am not a Zadie Smith but I find that this book appeals to me and I’m anxiously waiting for it to be released.
  2. I hope the Couple Next Door does not disappoint like The Girl on the Train did. The story sounds intriguing though so hopefully not.
  3. I can’t remember where I saw Lauren Groff’s book but it remains relevant.
  4. There was a time all I heard was Angela Duckworth. Also, I am curious about nature of nurture so this sounds intriguing.
  5. I love this author, so hopefully Askari delivers.
  6. A friend recommended Isabel Wilkerson’s book.
  7. Anthony Doerr’s book seems to be highly acclaimed so I would of course love to read and tick it off.
  8. I listened to Sheena’s TED Talk and loved this topic.

Once read these books, I will post the reviews.