Tag Archives: religion

Book Review: The Book of Memory

Image result for the book of memory

The story that you have asked me to tell you does not begin with the pitiful ugliness of Lloyd’s death. It begins on a long-ago day in August when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man.

Memory, the narrator of Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being sentenced for murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between past and present, the 2009 Guardian First Book Award–winning writer Petina Gappah weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate, and the treachery of memory.

The book reminded me of the book, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo particularly when she talks of the Harare township where Memory grew up. The characterisation of township life was totally believable and reminded me of my experience growing up. The book also does a good job of personifying the life behind bars and the dynamics of womanhood and female friendships.

Overall, Gappah is a lovely story teller, she builds it up slowly and steadily then lets it slow down later. I loved the pace. It totally sucked me in and I read it over a day or two. Then at the end I just hugged the book and smiled. The story continually switches between a flashback to the past and present time. Despite this, it was still easy to follow the broader tale.

Common themes raised in the book include: language, memory, family (siblings, mother-daughter, husband-wife), religion, colonialism(or race as a subset). Various questions I had though while reading the book include:

  • In light of the decolonised free education in our lifetime protests currently happening in South African universities, is the best education White/ Western and in a foreign (ex-colonialist) language? To what extent has this changed? Would you/ I feel comfortable to take our kid to a native school ala Spilt Milk? I am not sure. In terms of decolonising language, the best book I have read on this topic so far is Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
  • The book also touches on Africa’s complicated history with the White Man. Was Lloyd African? Why because he spoke the language and understood the culture / had allowed himself to be immersed in it fully? If we contrast Lloyd and Alexandra the sister, who is more African?
  • Colonialism and the White Mans’ burden also comes across when we look at the motives of Lloyd in adopting Memory.
  • That duality of existence that I find so intriguing about South Africans and now Zimbabwe. That deep belief in ancestry and mainstream religion or a more modern life. I grew up raised in a predominantly Bible-focused culture and so this duality is totally alien to me.
  • Do we trust our memories? Is it ever as we think or are there things we remember that as we have gotten older we have to come realise are not as they were. As the last child in my home, I have some clear memories of myself as a child but to be honest, I know that a lot of them are mainly based on what I have been told and not necessarily what I particularly remember. What are your earliest memories?

In closing, I am not sure why they did not translate the Shona bits which made me wonder who the real audience is here. It was quite frustrating for me a non-Shona speaker.

Question time

What I’m listening to: NPR’s Hidden Brain. Haven’t really gotten into any new music of late. So happy to take any suggestions in the comments.

What I’m reading:  Introduction to African Religion by John Mbiti; The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna.

What I’m wearing: Blue nail polish on my toes because nothing says summer quite like that.

What we’re watching: Just finished Shameless Season 5 and waiting to continue onto season 6. Trying to get time to get into Billions.

What I’m struggling with: My inner critic particularly professionally. Also, trying to maintain my theme to stay connected to some of my friends and acquaintances.

What’s making my heart happy: BSF, Downton Abbeys’ last season, Woolworths Spicy Chai tea

Inspired by Joy at Frock Files

The Centre Cannot Hold

I recently had occasion to read Things Fall Apart. I thought it would be quite overrated because how can it be that every single person would read this book and fall head over heels with it. BUT, I must say, it delivered on just about every aspect. It was an easy read, well written, timelss and very much classical. I loved it and would happily recommend it to anyone (like me) that hadn’t read it!

Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. Source

My overall thoughts?

  • I loved that the story was told through a very flawed but relatable hero.I loved that he took the time to develop other supporting characters and they were not a hollow supporting cast.
  • I greatly appreciated the proverbs and had occasion to smile at the meaning behind some of them.
  • Based on my upbringing whereby I significantly identify with a Christian Culture, I found some of the content quite other-worldly and very steeped in what I would call Witchcraft what with all the ceremonies, the belief in ancestral worship and the blatant worship of idols. That made me very very uneasy.
  • Having said that, it was quite enlightening to see how things ran say Pre-Christianity as we know it . To see how the people ( past and present), their land and their “gods” were heavily intertwined.I believe that we are merely stewards of the earth and that to some extent we have abused it.
  • The last section of the book dealt with the early Missionaries and the Colonisers that came to Africa and I must say it made me so angry.I actually felt like my stomach would turn from the rage.
    • It bothered me so much that Christianity was so heavily intertwined with Western Culture. African culture was not perfect, ABSOLUTELY NOT! But it was unnecessary to introduce the faith within such a narrow slant. I wonder whether it makes White people uneasy how integrated Church is with predominantly their culture. Yes, I understand it is a generalisation as I have attended churches that are truly multicultural but they are often in the minority!
    • I doubt that we speak often enough of the brutality of the Colonial rule. Physically and emotionally, it dehumanised and destabilised people. Something I believe inexorably altered the application of the Rule of Law across most colonialised nations.
  • I loved the sense of Community that was described and in particular the description of one of Okonkwo’s neighbours daughters and how the village chipped in to make the day a success and memorable. This was particularly memorable in light of a conversation I had with friends earlier last week on whether they would go through with traditional negotiations or if they would skip it altogether. There is a communal part to marriage that one must experience -regardless of how tough or difficult it becomes.
  • As a modern woman some of the practices were a tad out of date for my liking and the one that is foremost in my mind is Polygamy. Just no.
  • The ending initially for me felt like a cope out but then as I reviewed it over and again in my mind, I could see how it would happen. Okonkwo had been broken down slowly and then increasingly over time. By the end, he was not himself.

Definitely, go out, read it and share and let me know your thoughts if you have already read it!

 

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16 -18)

I especially like the part highlighted in bold.

I will also be honest and admit that so many times I have despaired and stopped praying.

Often this followed what I felt like was a long time for me to be praying for one thing repeatedly. As I type this I am struck at how ridiculous this must sound because this is the Great I AM, the Alpha and the Omega, the Rock of Ages. HE knows about eternity and that’s how he views our times that are in His hands (Ps 31:15). That is who we pray to.

This year I am reminded of two instances where I have been praying consistently in my personal life and then this shifted to praying sporadically and finally not at all only to begin the cycle repeatedly. I have been reminded without a shadow of a doubt that God is faithful and He hears us when we pray and that is the reason I should continue to praise Him and trust in Him. Also, that prayer is good for me and it strengthens my walk and my belief in Him and almost that God is not here for me but I desperately, desperately need Him to be in my life.

Yesterday in Church we sang great is thy faithfulness and the following sentences, that I will end of with, struck me:

Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Be blessed and strengthened in your walk and acts of faith.

PS: The title is also taken from the hymn mentioned above.

Sunday Reads

Sent from me on a particularly long drive so enjoy!

  1. Very sad story about the depths that refugees take to get to better opportunities in the West. Particularly following the news of the two South African stowaways.
  2. Some beautiful musical sounds! h/t Miss Milli B
  3. Marriage is so many things but this is a choice that my mind cannot fully wrap itself around. I can’t even …
  4. Simple explanation(s) why there are fewer women in Tech and possible solutions.
  5. In case you ever wondered about cooking and what they eat in Space!
  6. Bye bye SOTRU! I actually feel like I am saying goodbye to a good friend.
  7. I was just speaking to a colleague about how to make good food cheap for the poorer folk to be able to eat wholesomely.
  8. A better question to ask in life: What did I learn rather than did I win?
  9. No more sorry for me!
  10. I literally licked my lips as I read this recipe for Morccaan Spiced Pumpkin and Chickpea stew 🙂
  11. YUM!!! And this Coconut Quinoa bowl.
  12. I have enjoyed reading about this project – to read across the world in one year – over the years and the preparation for the Audiobook is no differen​t.
  13. ​I love this DIY Activity and would love to try it one day

Book review: Happiness like water

Happiness like WaterChinelo Okparanta

As promised here are my thoughts on this book.

      • For some reason, it is ridiculously priced at Exclusive Books and that’s if you can get it. I ended up getting it from Amazon at half price.
      • A part of me wanted not to compare her to that other famous Nigerian Writer and I tried most of the time.
      • The stories are divided into two parts – stories in the first half are based in Nigeria and the latter in America.
      • The predominant themes to her stories are religion, migration or identity, family dynamics and unexpectedly lesbianism, which begs the question, how many lesbians are there in Nigeria? (This scares me because of the traffic that will be lead to this blog ala this.) But in light of the recent anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda, it does raise the question of how difficult it is to be gay/lesbian in Africa. Culture notwithstanding.
      • She writes very simply but poignantly. A lot of the time, I had such strong feelings after most stories. Which to me is not necessarily a bad thing because I have to react to my stories to truly enjoy them otherwise it’s just not worth it.
      • I loved “On Ohaeto Street” because the description of where they lived reminded me so much of the estate I grew up in back in Nairobi. Very beautiful intro to the book. As with any short story, I was left wondering whether they got back together again?
      • The second story very touching as the wife had to go through the VERY public and then an equally private shame. Interesting also that it had to be the wife with a problem conceiving and not the guy. Like no one ever considered it could be him.
      • I also loved “America”. Quite a lot. I felt of all of them, this had the most potential to be drawn out further but maybe if it was, it wouldn’t have that same feel to it. Possibly. But reading this story, I did ponder on the issue of brain drain and how it was/is to some extent today that you haven’t quite made it in Africauntil you have gone overseas and studied/lived/worked. You can be great BUT and that’s a huge BUT.
      • As an eternal foreigner “Shelter” made me so sad. To be in a bad way and stuck in a foreign country without help or family. Worst nightmare.
      • Tumours and Butterflies” almost made me wail like a sick kid. I was probably quite emotional on the day I read it but it gutted me. Parts of you feel sorry for the mom that she is a battered lady, then you wanna feel sorry for the dad because he has Cancer and then you see him treat his daughter like that and you wanna get in there and beat him up. I thank God I am not a battered wife but her decision to side with her husband over her daughter I cannot even contemplate!
      • The title of the book comes from the story “Grace”. I felt like this story dragged on unnecessarily. However, is Happiness always fleeting … “maybe it is all about being on the verge of joy and similar small moments.” To me happiness is fleeting and joy is perpetual.

I loved this book, which is rare because I cannot be paid enough to read short stories. But this one, I would certainly give a proud 4.5 out of 5.

Happy reading!!

Lessons learnt: Religion

*This post might come off  as potentially controversial and somewhat judgmental and that is absolutely NOT my intention. I intend to say honestly and simply what I feel and reflect on some of the lessons I have learnt.

This month marks five years since I moved to South Africa.  Indeed, I moved here very young and in some respects, very naive  and open to so many life experiences. In the time I have been here, I have learnt various lessons but the one that stand out in a mega way to me is the  heterogeneity and difference among groups of people. Kenya in some respects (or the circles I moved in) is very homogeneous and  a lot of the people I socialised with were very much like me – in terms of race, socioeconomic standing and more importantly religion.

I went through Christian schooling, right from primary to university and had surprisingly little contact with non-Christians ( it helps also that Kenya is viewed as being 80% Christian). To be exact, I  went to school with only two Muslims but they had to adapt to my faith/ appear not to openly champion theirs and so it was not much of a learning experience. Since moving out here, I have met more Muslims, Hindus, people who don’t practice any faith and amazingly an atheist. Has my faith changed or been challenged in any particular way. Absolutely not. Coming from a  religion that seeks to proselytise, it does get a bit odd when I do hang out with someone from “another” faith and a huge part of me really wants to teach and preach. I find that I do pray about it (probably not as hard or as dedicatedly as I could, but I do pray that by my actions, I stand apart and not blend too much. Buts it’s hard) The atheist, I was shocked – I did realize at that point though that I would sooner have someone who does not believe in my God ( The Triune God) but some other heavenly being than someone who claims to have no faith in anything (but themselves). My faith and belief is a guiding principle and tolerance for other faiths stems from this role it plays and so to take this out just dumbfounds me.

Another positive aspect of living out my faith here has been the fact that I attend an Anglican Church that has people of all racial backgrounds and its a truly a joy to see us worshipping God in all the hues and shades that He intended at Creation. The shocking thing though is the age dynamic. I would place the average age at between 50 and 60. Some of the people that serve as priests, sidesmen and sound are in this age range. It’s a common occurrence during the service to say a prayer for a congregant who is severely bedridden or one that was laid to rest in that week (in both cases, an elderly member). During service, I sometimes wonder about the future of the service when all the older folk pass on. Will the rest of us decide at that point to also take up the mantle and serve around the church?

What I do miss from Home is the fact that I belonged to a vibrant (Anglican) Youth group and frequently went to a small group bible study where I was held accountable and got to know and love the other ladies that also participated. I wish I could replicate the same thing here but at my church, they tried to have a Youth Group going and only three of us showed up! A possible alternative is to join another Church for this aspect but I love being Anglican and would greatly struggle.

* This is the first of  what I hope to be a series of posts on reflections/ lessons since moving cities.

BOOORED but oh no!

I have had one of those weeks where the days seem to run faster than the 24 hours allocated to do them in…I have been getting to bed with just enough energy to just turn out the light and drop dead.

Excited about: my friend coming over for the next week and all the mischief we shall get up to, getting on well, coming clean with a friend, this  and this too! All the tools I need to feed my blogger-reading addiction.

Not excited about: marking 75 scripts THIS weekend (before the mentioned friends visit), my honesty that led to a conflict, the saids friends departure and the job hunting process

I guess, its a slow Friday and I just wanted to write something:-)

Oh no but i got something after that that i had wanted to write about all week…we went to this church on Sunday, all glitz and big screens and loud guitars and moving Worship and it confirmed to me once again why I’m such an Anglican…If I settle here I’m looking for a church like the one at home, very traditional but with myriad opportunities for me to serve at…speaking of which I was hearing about the thing that I want to be involved in: I want to work with little girls or guys, about 11 to 13 and maybe get involved with them for a couple of years and just help them navigate through live, love and faith and that thing…thats of course before my friends and I all start having babies and then we can do that for them

my mouth just went uh!

it hit me today why they call this secular education!

 while walking to the Lib i passed this cafe and i saw the Lesbian whom i blogged about here last month. they were all playing with each other in a lovey lovey manner and me i was just gawking with the whole saliva dribbling down my mouth like the ball on a B-Ball court. the guys on the same table as them didnt seem to mind and here was Ms. AK thinking, ukistaajabu ya Musa, utaona ya Firauni! what else could it be?

so i left this madness and went to sit in the sun, :-), and whilst i was there this bunch of Chuts came and sat quite next to me and as the shade was only there, sikuwa nisonge. Shortly, they chucked their shoes, got in line and faced Mecca and begun to pray! the whole bend, stand, look up,down and the cycle again- this was my poor mouth just gaping wide open. what now? whatarethiz? huh? after, they dispersed i was still shakin my head in shock. AGAIN.

 at my new research methods class this morning, it hit me right between the nose how i need to be thinking about my 10,000 word essay and im all clueless and all. i need to know what im working on by the 27th of this month coz my lecturer will be expecting an email on the same. this long essay must have data and you run econometrics regressions and the works or you could do a case study! such choice?  i dont know what to do here? women, policy matters, some behavioural phenomenon, i dont know now! so i expect that over the next couple of days THIS is all i shall be blogging or thinking about. urgggggggggh!

 had a bad tut last wednesday, hope it goes better kesho. yaani Lord, please?

 if i was prone to swearing,

if i was prone to taking drugs,

if i was prone to drinking and smoking,

if i was prone to burning buildings

 if i was prone to mad theatrics………

this would be it for sure!