Tag Archives: reading

First time reading Audre Lorde

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.

General thoughts

  1. 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.
  2. Her work definitely confirms that racism is the ultimate distraction.
  3. 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 Response blew 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.

Book Recommendation

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.

General thoughts

  • 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.
  • What IS African American literature? Is it a separate thing and/or what actually defines it. Also the hoops it has to jump through to be understood or taken seriously. Gave me twice as good as them to get half of what they have vybes. But we the readers are so much richer for this because the writing is so much better.
  • 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.
  • Writers, like water, have perfect memory. 
  • 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.  
  • I simply wanted to write literature that was irrevocably, indisputably black not because its characters were, or because I was, but because it took as its creative task and sought as it’s credentials those recognised and verifiable principles of black art. 
  • Others are “raced” – whites are not. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. The truth of course, is that we are all “raced”. 

Language

  • when language dies, out of carelessness, disuse, and abuse of esteem, indifference or killed by fiat, not only she herself, but all users and makers are accountable for its demise. 

Other themes, she covers but I did not get any specific quotes on, include, female empowerment, the press, money, human rights, and the artist in society, 

Best chapters 

  1. Racism and Fascism
  2. Home
  3. Wartalk
  4. The Slavebody and the blackbody
  5. Hard, True and Lasting

It is not an easy read at all but certainly worth the time and energy (and dictionary checking). Get it, this is a 5* from me.

Bookish Sunday Reads

When do you get time to read?

Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com
  • 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.
  • Obviously before I sleep.

Some sweet parenting moments around here

Photo by Nicholas Githiri on Pexels.com
  1. Dropping off the Toddler at school and seeing how excited she is to see her little friends and the teacher;
  2. Putting on her playlist and seeing her face light up and watching her sing along to her favourite parts;
  3. Watching her interact sweetly with another child in the park, a restaurant or anywhere really;
  4. Seeing our family and close friends just love her and react to her;
  5. She loves books and might cry at night if you do not read her a story;
  6. Hearing her laugh with her father just before he puts her down;
  7. … actually every father-daughter interaction is a tearjerker;
  8. We have been teaching her seTswana, Kiswahili and English and finally she is getting better at expressing herself and I love it 🙂
  9. Her full belly laugh at anything big and small;
  10. Watching her character develop and figuring out where she is like me, her dad and mostly, just herself.

A Friday in July

From my favourite spot in the internet:

* a TV show, movie or book you’re into right now
* what you’re looking forward to
* something that’s worrying you
* a dessert you’ll never refuse
* would you rather have flight vs. invisibility?

Right now I am reading some awesome books: The Weekend, Good Company, Unsettled Ground. Nothing really good on TV right now.

I am looking forward to taking my daughter for a visit to my parents later next month.

Worried about whether we will ever get to herd immunity with such varied responses to the COVID-19 vaccine.

I will never say NO to ice cream. Nope!

I would rather have invisibility. All the conversations I will be able to listen to and places I can hang out and not worry about being seen.

What is your response to this pop quiz?

21 books in 2019

photo of woman holding book

Photo by Ree on Pexels.com

I read 38 books in 2018 but with the birth of my daughter I only made it to 21 last year which I am very proud of.

See the full list below.

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

  1. The Believers – Rebecca Makkai ***
  2. 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.
  3. The Year that Changed Everything- Cathy Kelly. First of her reads and I loved it.
  4. It Started with Paris – Cathy Kelly.
  5. The Storyteller- Jodi Piccoult **Do terrible deeds define us or can we be someone else with time?
  6. Secrets of a happy marriage – Cathy Kelly
  7. Homecoming – Cathy Kelly.
  8. Dead to Me – Lesley Pearse. Love that it was about strong female friendships and personal endurance.
  9. Without a Trace – Lesley Pearse
  10. Just Mercy- Bryan Stevenson *** There is now a movie being made on this book, check it out.
  11. A River of Stars – Vanessa Hua. What a dud, don’t bother.
  12. Me and my Sisters – Sinead Moriarty
  13. The Secrets Sisters Keep – Sinead Moriarty
  14. Between Sisters – Cathy Kelly
  15. This Child of Mine – Sinead Moriarty. Skip it at all costs, this could have been a short story or a novella at best.
  16. Our Secrets and Lies – Sinead Moriarty
  17. Unnatural Causes – Richard Shepherd. This helped with my morbid fascination with dead bodies.
  18. The House on Willow Street – Cathy Kelly
  19. I owe you one – Sophie Kinsella
  20. Washington Black – Esi Edugyan. This was certainly an over hyped book, I wouldn’t recommend it.
  21. 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.

Notable mentions were: Home Fire: A Novel and Becoming.

Books I wanted to like but just.did.not: Washington Black

How many books did you get through last year?

Sunday Reads

Recipes

Values I admire in my Parents

old couple walking while holding hands

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Faith and the role of God. He is over and above all things, always has and always has been.
  6. 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.
  7. A love for books. Yes!!!

 

 

Sunday Reads

Recipes

My tried and couldn’t finish book list

woman reading book leaning near wall

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

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 🙂

Small Thursday Challenge

The finalists for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing were announced earlier this week. The Caine Prize for African Writing is a registered charity whose aim is to bring African writing to a wider audience using our annual literary award. The finalists hail from Kenya :), South Africa and Nigeria and here are their short stories:

I wanna challenge myself to read them all and then guess which one will win. Join me?

 

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

I Got You Friend

I miss my gal pals the most when I see stuff like this that we could do together .

I particularly think of the things that I have missed out on with my better female friends: baby showers, bridal showers, high tea, being able to do random things together, road trips, dinners, first homes, come meet my new guy, the new baby, watch a new show together and laugh about it – just a lot of stuff. Yes, IRL I have friends and people I do this but it’s also different.

From the blog post:

I particularly love #2,6, 9 and have done #3 – adult baking dates are awesome – 10, 13.

The comments as usual provides such gems and so here is my to do with a friend list.

  • Volunteer together at a cause that’s meaningful to either or both of us.
  • More concerts – I watched John Legend with a pal and her cool mom and it was awesome!
  • Coworking sessions. Yes to these.
  • Sit together and read dates.
  • Sleepovers with no husbands or kids.
  • Pottery / learn something class.
  • Try and commit to an exercise class together.
  • Talk about podcast episodes we both love. Tried to get so many pals into this that I am glad I can do it with my sister and partly with The Mr.
  • Watch TV shows together and make comments in between, ideally together or even if separately, concurrently.
  • Same day road trips and do stuff along the way or at the destination.
  • Supper club where each person brings one.

In fact, I decided to have a little snacks and games afternoon at my place next month! Done!!

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.

 

Sunday Reads

  1. Do this to improve your potluck hosting game.
  2. Important subject matter (slavery in literature) and I definitely want to read the book, The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehad)
  3. Interesting thoughts on appropriating food from another culture. Not unexpectedly, I am more chilled about it provided you show respect.
  4. So much I didn’t know about one of Brazil’s most iconic landmark.
  5. Green bean stir fry.
 

Sunday Reads

  1. Very similar education issues (SA) (USA)
  2. Teaching parents to become better parents for better outcomes.
  3. Dealing with your partners’ anger.
  4. So grateful for my upbringing.
  5. Recently finished God Bless the Child – Toni Morrison
  6. This first chapter of this book looks very interesting.
  7. Nothing says winter like wanting to bake bread.
  8. Falling in love and staying with your (long-term) partner.
  9. All things meatballs.
  10. There are two kinds of people – those who take restaurant menus as a given, and those that think its a suggestion.
  11. Read this article on the relationship between graduation rates and socio-economic backgrounds and I must say I have very mixed feelings because I know of so many local rick kids that do not finish school and seem to be able to do that because they have a safety net.

Reviews of Books I have Recently Read

I had a few books that I needed to get through and here are my thoughts on some of them.

Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

  • The story talks about identify, self expression and family as well as issues of class and wealth and post-colonial African societies.
  • Made me ask myself what makes me African. Is it my dreadlocks, my clothing style, the language I speak or not speak. My race perhaps? Africans come in many moulds and it is fine because we build up each other and our environment.
  • It’s critically acclaimed and I agree that it’s definitely an important piece of literature for our time.
  • The writing style is not great and it was very confusing to know when it was a thought or the actual storyline and a good editor would have helped with this. But its a few pages so you could quickly get past that.

Spilt Milk – Kopano Matlwa

  • I quite liked this book, slightly better written but it definitely had more promise than it finally delivered because it just ended abruptly. To be honest, it also started just as abruptly so maybe this is a stylistic feature?
  • Can’t really say much about the other themes but the theme of education and a School that influences young African minds and philosophy personally appealed to me.
  • I also loved that she paid homage to all the (black) African greats and it was very encouraging to see this greatness that has gone before us. Led me to ask myself, who is writing the African story? My story, your story?
  • Loved the story and would definitely recommend it.

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta

  • I love, love, love this book. Love the author and her previous collection of short stories. So before you ask, I will recommend this book.
  • Themes: love, marriage/ relationships, family, homosexuality, loss, identity.
  • I love here writing style and the language she uses also how she develops her characters. You get to really understand them and start to root for them.
  • The novel is extremely complex and multi-layered and is not something you read casually.
  • I have shared before my thoughts on homosexuality and fully stand by the fact that the action is sinful but the individuals are beloved of God and so I read the story more for the literature but not because I stand by or believe in it.
  • Nigeria has the Biafran War that has been included in a lot of literature. This made me think of what contemporary Kenyan or Ugandan writers talk about as that definining moment of our history.

Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

  • This book is a historical account of Kenya as a novel. It takes us through the history of a nation through the story of a house and a family from 1963 to 2007/8 when the post-election violence happened.
  • If I had to give any criticism, its that the book has two very distinct parts and only the very patient will see it to the end and enjoy it. It starts slow and seems patchy and disjointed in certain places then it picks momentum and takes off. Beautiful work!!
  • There are a lot of characters, yes, but they are all interconnected so its quite easy to lace through them.
  • The books themes include: nationalism/ identity, love, passion, corruption, leadership, art/ creativity.
  • Must read to anyone wishing to understand Kenya or planning a visit there.

Have you read anything interesting recently?

 

Book Review: Happiness is a Four Letter Word v Men of the South

Following this summary of what is currently on my to-read bookshelf I have a couple of books that I would like to review.

Happiness is a Four Letter Word – Cynthia Jele

I loved this book, it deals with two things that I am particularly passionate about: Johannesburg and female relationships.

  • The book is what would happen if Sex and the City had been cast in a cosmopolitan African city. If you would love to see that, check out the YouTube series, An African City.
  • The themes are easily recognisable: love, family, beauty, work/ career advancement, marriage, female friendships.
  • The book is a really easy read, I started on Friday at 7 and finished the next day by 12.
  • Having said that, it is definitely a conversation starter and will have you thinking deeply about some of the issues dealt with for instance, what would I tell a dear friend that was cheating on her husband because she did not exactly marry him for love? Or a friend that rekindles communication with an old ex?
  • Only concern and I guess because of my personal views, I feel like the author portrays a very negative view of (Black) relationships and someone that is not acquainted with any Black people might take it as a given that this is how our love dynamics play out. Yes it’s a novel, but their portrayal is definitely very one-sided, what happened to “normal“?
  • Would I recommend it? Definitely yes!! I actually cannot wait for the author to release a second book.

Men of the South – Zukiswa Wanner

A bit of a preliminary disclaimer is that I read this book on the back of Happiness and the after-glow it gave me.

  • The book’s main theme is love and relationships (gender dynamics, hetero- or homosexuality, family and friendships) and it definitely deals with each of these in turn.
  • The book is set in Johannesburg and Cape Town, cities that I can safely say I am familiar with which makes the reading that bit enjoyable when I can understand the physical setting.
  • The book provides an entry point to have some difficult conversations for example, being a Black homosexual in a culture where one is expected to get a wife and settle down or what if I earn more than my husband and can take care of him, should he stay home while I work?
  • However, I think it attempted to do too much in a few pages and fell short. Hence, it was not as memorable as it could possibly be. I also felt that the first person reportage was not too helpful either.
  • Overall, the book was quite predictable and I would not recommend it unless you maybe had a few hours and did not want to be wowed but wanted to tick a book off your reading list.

Rachel’s Blue – Zakes Mda

I tried to read this book and failed to get into it despite trying. In light of my recent advice on how to read more books, I am giving up and will mark this is a non-read on my part. My biggest issue I suppose is that I love it when he writes about various aspects of South African people and the setting of this book was too different for me to adjust my expectations accordingly.