All posts by Nthepa

Autodidact & Bibliophile

The Things I Lost To The Silence

A short story

When Auntie died Mama stopped talking to my sister and me, for a week, three days and nine hours. When she heard the news, her phone slid off her slim long fingers and fell into the bowl of carefully chopped spinach that she was going to fry with red onions, garlic and tomatoes. A favourite.

Lulu quickly grabbed the phone, the voice on the other line repeating, ‘Hello? Miriam, are you still there?” But Miriam wasn’t there. She sat on the blue kitchen chair, the one with a shifting seat, and she was gone for a week, three days and nine hours.

Lulu told Uncle that Mama couldn’t come to the phone and promised she would get her to call him back. We don’t know if she heard Lulu tell her to call back, or if she heard us when we spoke to her that evening, the next morning, the whole of the next afternoon, until we gave up in the evening and avoided her silence.

In that week, those three days and nine hours she hardly ate and when we bumped into her and forced to look at her face, we noticed how the bags under her eyes were oppressed by something heavier than grief. If we did happen to lock eyes we saw the accusation, as though we had unknowingly conspired with death to take her sister away.

Each time she came home from the police station without a permit to go bury her sister, the silence took on more flesh, fattened its belly with the awkwardness that stretched its legs in our living room. We weren’t allowed to travel until the end of the Lockdown but the regulations did allow for a few people to travel between provinces for funerals and burials.

There was a time in that week, three days and nine hours when she looked like she was coming around, they had given her hope about the permit. We also felt that hope when for the first time after Auntie died, Mama cleaned the house and cooked a meal that tried. She still didn’t speak but we were hopeful. When she came back the next day, it wasn’t the permit that was the problem anymore and that wall that had slowly started to come down quickly rebuilt, higher and thicker. Only fifty people could attend a funeral and so, we’d find out after two weeks, three days and nine hours, just when Mama was about to get her permit the list of funeral attendees had been filled and submitted. She couldn’t go bury her sister.

*

Where she was you’d find me. Where she was and I wasn’t, was surely where I’d eventually be. Miriam and Ouma, three years apart but everyone called us twins. Our mother dressed us the same until we sort of became individuals with different shapes and tastes, and one too tall and skinny while the other petite, and so couldn’t always find clothes that matched. Nail on a finger. Tongue and saliva. Heart and blood. We shared trouble as we shared delights. Until she shared too much of my delight, grown women we already were and she took off with Mike who left me with the twins. No, Mike and I never were never married. No, we didn’t live together. Yes, we had only been seeing each other for a few months when I fell pregnant, what’s your point?

When he left I had the queasiness, the thickening waist and my stomach didn’t take too well to the smell of fried fish, cabbage or beer. Ouma said they had history way before we’d met, but I would’ve known because weren’t we as fused as blood and heart, saliva and tongue? I would have known. When I met Mike she was the first person I told and I thought the way she kept on scrubbing the same spot of a burnt porridge pot was only because she had to get it clean before our mother and father came home. When we lay on our thin mattress in the kitchen that night, as I tried to tell her I thought that she really was too tired to keep her eyes open although it was her ears I needed. She said she didn’t know how she could’ve told me when I’d been so excited. And so I didn’t speak to her, for a week, three days and nine hours.

*

When Auntie died Mama stopped talking to my sister and me, for a week, three days and nine hours. The silence couldn’t grow any further and the day it burst, she found us sitting outside hanging clothes on the line and asked, “How are you hanging so many bloomers at once, have you girls been keeping them in the basket again?” She was back but not fully back. A full return would’ve continued and scolded us, and dished out punishment that would last for a day or two. She quickly forgot about the bloomers and told us to wake her when supper was ready.

So many things had grown in the silence. Sometimes those things would break in through the window while we laughed and talked over a cup of tea or a bag of peanuts, and she’d stop mid-sentence and leave the room, only to return to us hours after we’d accepted she was gone again. Her coldness yo-yoed so much that a year or so that later when it stopped it made us uncomfortable. A year or so later, with neither hint nor warning, she returned to the mother who was chopping spinach which she was going to fry with red onion, garlic and tomatoes, just before that phone call. It made us crawl back into our shield and we avoided her because we didn’t know what to do with that mother. That mother would be followed by a week, three days and nine days of silence, and a year or so of a rickety home. A year or so later, was after we had gone home to visit Auntie’s grave. She’d gone alone ten times before we returned home, and that’s when she chopped spinach again and expected us to welcome its estranged taste.

*

For twelve years, I fed on the closeness of my daughters to remind me of the taste of what Ouma and I had had before their father left me. For twelve years, I’ve watched them become entwined, stitching into each other’s lives and beings. So, when the phone slid from my hand and fell into the bowl of spinach I’d just chopped, my eyes met them and all I saw was what I had lost, long before today and wouldn’t be able to get back. The fear of having to bear their bond while ours was lost clasped my teeth and neither word nor sound could reach them.

I chewed on so many thoughts from the past and each day I could feel the rotting chunks of if’s and could-haves growing blisters on my tongue. If she hadn’t wasted time chasing after Mike, who eventually left her as he had left me, we would’ve made time to stitch back what was broken. But what if they had loved each other even after he had left? That thought sat in my throat for twelve years and all I could give her was my silence.    

When we could finally travel, a year later, I went to see Ouma. There she was choked by the earth that buried her, no fresh flowers on the mountain that blanketed her bones. I went for ten days and each day I told her she needn’t have died for me to forgive her. With permission from time, we would have found our way back to what we had always been. We would have returned to what my girls have.

We’re back home and today I feel the wound accept itself as a wound. A wound I can strap on my back and carry with me wherever I go, and when it hurts a little more, I can rock it, sing a soft lullaby and hush it to sleep. A wound is better, way better than the cavity left behind by loss. A cavity dug by confusion, anger, misunderstanding, denial and all sorts of things the heart feels but doesn’t have names for.

If I carry it long enough it will outgrow the comfort of my back and bosom. So I picked up the chopping board, the knife and the bowl. When I cut up that spinach and asked the girls to bring the red onions, garlic and tomatoes, the wound left and re-invited that cavity. When the girls took steps away from me without moving I knew that while I chased Ouma’s vanishing footprints they had slowly grown tired of waiting for my return. The knife slid from my hand and fell into the bowl of chopped spinach and I knew I’d lost my girls to the silence.

My Book Wish List

Since my focus has been on reading more books by women, for women and about women, I’ve noticed how lacking my bookshelf is. It’s really not supporting my mission, so my collection is about to change. Some of the authors I’m adding to my wish list are popular and some I discovered through research.

Here are some of the books I want to add to my reading list.

Sojourner Truth

She was a women’s rights activist and abolitionist, who was born into slavery but managed to escape. The book I’m adding is The Book of Life.

“You may hiss as much as you please, but women will get their rights anyway”
― Sojourner Truth

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a civil rights activist, feminist, poet and essayist. Some of her titles that I wish to read are; Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, and The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde.

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
― Audre Lorde

Alice Walker

Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and activist. I want to read her famous book The Color Purple and some of her other works, Possessing the Secret of Joy and In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose.

“Resistance is the secret of joy!”
― Alice Walker

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler was a science fiction author and from her list I’m adding, Kindred, Parable of the Sower and Bloodchild.

“I found that I couldn’t muster any belief in a literal heaven or hell, anyway. I thought the best we could all do was to look after one another and clean up the various hells we’ve made right here on earth.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Nawal al Saadawi

She is an Egyptian writer, feminist and psychiatrist. I want to read God Dies by the Nile, Woman at Point Zero and The Hidden Face of Eve.

“She is free to do what she wants, and free not to do it.”
— Nawal El Saadawi (Woman at Point Zero)

Roxane Gay

She’s a feminist, social commentator, editor, professor and writer. I am adding Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and Ayiti.

“I believe women not just in the United States but throughout the world deserve equality and freedom but know I am in no position to tell women of other cultures what that equality and freedom should look like.”
— Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist: Essays)

Betty Friedan 

Betty Friedan was a women’s rights activist, feminist and writer. I have always wanted to read her book, The Feminine Mystique and I am definitely adding it to my wish list.

“Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves? Who knows what women’s intelligence will contribute when it can be nourished without denying love?”
— Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique)

Ama Ata Aidoo

She is a playwright, poet and author. I’m adding The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, Changes: A Love Story and An Angry Letter in January and Other Poems.

“Humans, not places, make memories.”
— Ama Ata Aidoo

bell hooks

bell hooks is a feminist, social activist, professor and author. I want to read Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, and Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood.

“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough.”
— bell hooks (remembered rapture: the writer at work)

Virginia Woolf

Woolf was an English 20th-century author and I’m adding A Room of One’s Own to my list.

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”
— Virginia Woolf 

Janet Mock

Janet Mock is a transgender rights activist, director, producer and writer. I want to read her book Redefining Realness.

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. – Janet Mock

Zora Neale Hurston

She was a writer and anthropologist, and it’s definitely time for me to read her book Their Eyes Were Watching God.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
— Zora Neale Hurston

Margaret Atwood

She is a literary critic, essayist, novelist, poet and activist. I also want to hop onto that The Handmaid’s Tale train, and add The Testaments while I’m at it.

“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.”
— Margaret Atwood

There are more authors I want to add, but as I keep reading and learning, I’ll keep adding more to my shelf. One can never read too many books. I’m excited and can’t wait.

What are you adding to your wish list?

It’s Not About the Burqa

Mariam Khan, freelance writer, editor and feminist, has compiled essays from seventeen Muslim women in the UK, who challenge some of the stereotypical views we have about Muslim women and their communities.

How many of us look at Muslim women and think of oppression, silence, abuse and misogyny? I read this book because I wanted to hear from the Muslim woman herself, and It’s Not About the Burqa, though not representing ALL Muslim women, shed light on many issues I had never thought about. Issues that a lot of us do not care to consider. The women in this collection speak about feminism, racism, sex, sexuality, faith and other issues that concern Muslim women in the West.

Some of them take us through a journey of how they found their voice, and how they shed identities that were given to them by the communities they came from and the ones stamped on them by the rest of society. Sufiya Ahmed shares her experience of discovering Prophet Mohammed’s first wife, Khadija bint Khuwalid, who was not a silenced and oppressed housewife, but rather a successful businesswoman and the wealthiest merchant in Mecca at the time. Not only do you find such stories in the history of Islam women, but the essayists share how the Quran, contrary to the spread laws or rules of tyrannising women, supports and empowers women.

What I found the most interesting is how these Muslim women discuss the balance between identities, and how they’re expected to only be one thing, get rid of one to become the other. Things such as being queer and Muslim, being feminist and Muslim or being black and Muslim. I had never thought about it that much but it made me realise how mainstream feminism can be so damaging instead of freeing. For example, one essayist discussss how feminism talks about equality and liberation of all women, and yet will expect a Muslim woman to choose between her faith and being a feminist, which becomes pointless because it is doing the very thing it claims to fight against.

There’s also so much about how representation of Muslim women has gone wrong, in the way that it’s done by fashion designers, or on magazine covers, where what they are doing is representing a Western model and ideal of a hijabi. There is also the idea of representing only what Muslim women look like but when they have to speak for themselves, their vocal representation is not given a platform.

It’s Not About the Burqa also challenges members of their communities themselves, to stop doing things that give the rest of the world the wrong perception of the religion, giving them even more armour to attack their identities and their faith. They do not deny the existence of things such as misogyny, as they do exist in so many other cultures and religious communities.

I appreciate the honesty of the essayists in admitting their inability to speak for all Muslim women, because it’s impossible. They’re all different, from different communities and with different experiences and cultures. However, as Muslim women they should be able to create a platform where Muslim women are not spoken for. We cannot say Muslim women are silenced by their religion yet not give them a platform to speak.

This is a well written, edifying, enlightening and empowering book. It’s also light, you can breeze through it, it doesn’t burden you with complaints and noise. No, it’s bold and it challenges the narrative about Muslim women.

I want to say feminists will love this, which they’ll do, but I think anyone with good sense and who wants to see all people given a chance to be fairly represented, seen and heard will enjoy this.

It’s really not about the burqa, or the hijab, abaya or dupatta. It’s so much more.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Chibok Girls by Helon Habila

‘The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria’

Two years after Book Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, Helon Habila travels to Chibok town, in Northern Nigeria, to track down the survivors and the bereaved families of the girls. On 14 April 2014, this once peaceful and sleepy town was rattled by the terrorist group Boko Haram when they took the girls, with only a few managing to escape on the way. When Habila visits the town he witnesses how ruined, sad, and depressing the place is – bullet holes on some houses, some roofs still burned down, and the abandoned street sides. It’s also not easy to get into Chibok as access is restricted.

On the day they took them, the Boko Haram members told the girls that they were soldiers, there to protect them from the terrorist group, and herded them into trucks. When Habila returns the second time to meet the girls who’d managed to jump off the trucks, they tell how the terrorists called them infidels and that they ought to be married. The terrorist’s ideology is against most aspects of modernization, Western influence, including Western education.

Habila’s account of this tragedy includes the state the parents are in. Some have died from stress-related illnesses, while some have carried funeral rites, seeking closure. Helon Habila also goes to the place that is the Heartland of Boko Haram and visits some of the landmarks in the Boko Haram war. His investigation has heart-breaking results, some revealing the state of displaced women in refugee camps, not all refugees but some are housewives impoverished by the war.

I learned a lot from this short yet powerful book. Habila’s account of this tragic story enlightens us on not only the kidnappings but also the way it was handled, the lack of concern for the masses, the manner in which an intense and sensitive issue like this can be mishandled in a place that is rife with corruption and focused on showcasing itself as an economic success.

Reading The Chibok Girls has also highlighted how the effects of terrorism spread out beyond the victims themselves. There’s a continuous pain that is left behind, permanent for most. There are still over a hundred girls missing, and the ones who were released carry scars with them. These girls were forced into sex slavery, starved, raped, abused, impregnated… I also learned how vulnerable women and girls are in times of war. However, another thing we may overlook, which I gathered from the account of one of the girls who managed to escape from the trucks, is how young boys are also recruited into the terrorist group and trained and turned into killers.

This is a heart-rending yet necessary book. In the midst of tired and recycled stories told in news reports, The Chibok Girls is much needed.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I Am So into Women

Exploring Women in Literature

I recently visited one of my favourite bookstores (where they’re a quarter-to giving me a mattress and a blanket), looking for non-fiction books by women. Bookstores are usually therapeutic for me, but this time I left frustrated and disappointed. In 2020, a lot of books I find by women are mostly fiction books. I don’t know how the stats stand but I later went to a bigger store, that has way more titles and I had the same experience.

I was looking for female non-fiction because I wanted to hear the voice of someone whose experiences I can relate to. We know that historically women have been kept out of everything and have had to fight to break down walls and burn gates. We’ve been misled to believe that men are the ones who created and shaped the arts, and well, everything in this world. It’s not that women never had anything to contribute, they were just not allowed to do it, they were not allowed to even dream of doing anything but stand and watch.

I spent a little time in the Classics section and was surrounded by Plato, Aurelius, Homer, Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Twain, Salinger, Orwell, Achebe, Mphahlele and many others. Yes, there was Shelley, Woolf, the Brontës, Rand, Dickinson, and a few more, but the gap was still big. Male authors still dominate bookshelves. Even when I moved to business and self-help, the highly praised books are from names like Kiyosaki, Carnegie, Hill, Gladwell, and a million others. This is also frustrating because as great as these books are, when we women read them we often have to find ways to alter the message to make it apply to us, and sometimes, given the challenges we have, it is close to impossible.   

So all this frustration led me to think about what it is I want to read, what kind of messages I want to collect, what kind of solutions I’m looking for, and who I should get them from. I do not disregard men’s work, not at all. I have read many books by men that have helped me improve my life in tremendous ways.

However, I love the voice of women. I want to hear women and I want to hear about them. I want to read women. Give me women, please! I have read so many books by men with families whose success stories show that they were able to do things, have the time and energy to do them because their partners were taking care of everything else. I want to read about that woman, with kids and a home to run, and how she did or does it.

It’s not just in self-development books or classics. Across genres, the same problem exists. And so, on my quest to find these intelligent, brave, successful women, I’m going on a quest to read more women’s books.

“Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I want to read their biographies, their poetry, their tragedies and achievements, their struggles, and their successes. But I will not limit myself to only those stories, I do believe that there are male writers who have supported the voice of women in literature and there are men who have portrayed powerful and positive images of women. I am for that.

I don’t want any of that damsel-in-distress bullshit. I want to see women characters who show real women who don’t need to be saved. I want to dissect this vexatious yet interesting area of literature. The world should be seen through the eyes of the very people who live in it. Women, as members of society, should be able to express their existence in the same way as men do. In this open and inclusive manner, we can fully understand the world and understand each other.

When I made this decision, I went through my own shelf and saw how male-dominated it is. I’m ashamed. Honestly.

So I don’t think I’ll be able to read or write about women in literature following historical timeline. It will be challenging to find relevant books if I do it that way and it will be boring. Instead, I’m starting where I am, and from the unread books I have, what better way to start with women from cultures, traditions, and religions that are known or said to be oppressive? We’ll figure it out through the readings. So my first part will be on Muslim Women in Literature.

I have, on my shelf:

  • It’s Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • The Chibok Girls by Helon Habila (I said I’ll include a few men who do justice to women’s voices
  • Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy
I have no idea how that book ended up upside-down 🤦🏿‍♀️

I’m starting with Muslim women because, I already have these books so it was an obvious choice, and also, because it’s so easy for the rest of us to look at Muslim women and conclude that they’re oppressed and miserable. I’d rather find out first, preferably, from them.

So, here we go.

I’ll repost the review of Infidel. I had already started The Chibok Girls and stopped because it was depressing, but it’s short and I’m almost done. And I don’t think there’s time to be depressed, if you go into something that talks about injustice, oppression, prejudice, discrimination, abuse…it will be depressing. It’s inevitable.

So let’s do this.

To women!

Poetry: Divan of Shah by Shah Asad Rizvi

 “Gratitude

is the key

to all doors

of peace.”

Divan of Shah is a collection of poetry that explores the dance of love, life, consciousness, and all things that truly matter. It’s been long since I’ve read poetry that doesn’t sound like its authors attended the same workshop, so reading this was refreshing.

The collection is made up of just a little over a hundred poems, with structures that bounce from short to long, and breaks of wise and beautiful quotes. This tender anthology is an honest display of love in its rawness and vulnerability.

The poems take us into a bold journey of love – a love of life, of self and other. There are some elegant and exquisite poems that I found deeply romantic and mood-elevating. There’s a lot of dance in the poems and when you drink enough to understand the context you’ll find how well he writes about dance beyond the physical. There’s the experience of dance within, of feeling, of the soul, and celebrating the dance of life as a gift.

“One step at a time

stumbling on struggles

and courage turns the tide,

we dance the dance of life”

It is quite long, and it took me double the time I’d thought it would take me. However, if it’s not borrowed then there is no need to hurry it. Take sips of it and enjoy every depth and breadth of it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Elevate Your Life With Books

A handbook to help you read, learn and execute.

“Contrary to popular wisdom, knowledge is not power-it’s potential power. Knowledge is not mastery. Execution is mastery. Execution will trump knowledge every day of the week.”
— Tony Robbins

When reading books, the gaining of knowledge is only half the work. The rest you need to do, and in order to fully benefit from the book you need to apply that knowledge. At The Book Neighbourhood, we emphasise the need for execution, or else that knowledge may be worthless.

We’ve designed and written this handbook that will help you get into the habit of reading for benefit. In it you’ll choose the different life areas you want to focus on, choose (with our help) books that are relevant and resonate with the challenges you’re facing, and offer step-by-step guides on how to extract as much information as you can from the books and apply it to your life for improvement, development and growth. It is a well-organised handbook that will help you restructure your life and organise it in a way that makes it easier to approach your problems with more clarity and with more useful tools – from books.

We will be announcing the release date soon and hope it will change your life.

While you wait, you can download our free guide to help you get into the habit of reading. Download the Read Like A Boss guide here, and warm yourself up for the handbook by working your way to becoming an avid reader.

It’s been said a million times and I’ll still say it – not doing something is just as much of a
habit itself. Reading is a habit but so is not reading.

Review: Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

“Although I’m only fourteen, I know quite well what I want, I know who is right and who is wrong.”

Hitler’s obsession with having a “pure” race lead to an unspeakable period of barbaric and brutal war against the Jews and other million others targeted for racial, ideological and political reasons. When he became Chancellor in 1933, he did not waste time in starting his anti-Jewish operation.

There was mass transportation to concentration camps where imprisonment, mass gassing, death from starvation and diseases, and other merciless crimes against humanity took place.

The years from 1942 to 1945 were a time when Jews from all over Europe were sent to these concentration camps and it is during these years that Anne Frank put down pen to paper to pour down her account of the time she spent in hiding with her family, another family of three and a friend.

Anne’s diary entries begin in June 1942, on her 13th birthday, about a month before they go into hiding. In July they go into hiding in a building where his father’s office is and here begins their two-year hiding.

Anne records the atmosphere in their dwelling, describing the environment itself, the food, the daily activities that are mostly reading and writing, and the rows that take place among them.

Below them, on the ground floor is a warehouse that is used during the day, and at that time they have to stay as quiet as possible to avoid getting caught. As grim and tragic as their circumstances are, Anne expresses hope and a positive outlook on life.

“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”

There are times when she writes about her pain, depression, crying herself to sleep but her writing still bursts with impressive wisdom, maturity, introspection, intelligence and wit.

Her diary shows her depth of feeling, things she doesn’t share with anyone else but feels so strongly about. Her opinions are strong and she has an independent mind, as well as a clear direction that she wishes to take after the war.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

There are many things to enjoy about this diary, especially Anne’s belief in freedom, despite the confines she and her family are in where freedom has been taken away from them.

She expresses a belief – freedom for people to live in peace and freedom of self. In the midst of fear of being discovered and taken away, she still shows courage and cheerfulness.

Her thirst for learning is unquenchable. She finds comfort in reading, learning and writing. In the depth of a miserable situation where the future is unpredictable and she has no idea about the other side of the war, she still commits to absorbing knowledge and creating.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

I enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl because of how it can shift one’s perspective on their own suffering and worries. It’s inspiring and informative in the way that it takes you into her contemplation of the war. It’s also a good read for people who are interested in history and war.

The last diary entry is on 1 August 1944 and shortly after an informer tells on the family. Their place is raided and they’re taken away. Anne died in 1945. Only her father survived and when he returned after the war, he found the diary kept by his office workers. Anne had wanted to become a writer and to publish the diary, and her father published it in her memory.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Powerful Quotes From Chimamanda’s ‘Dear Ijeawele’.

This pocket-sized book is packed with powerful and inspiring messages about feminism and femininity.

Let’s get right into the quotes. I hope you feel inspired.

– The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina.

– Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women.

– We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable.

– Isn’t it odd that in most societies in the world today, women generally cannot propose marriage? Marriage is such a major step in your life, and yet you cannot take charge of it; it depends on a man asking you.

– Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that.

– In every culture in the world, female sexuality is about shame. Even cultures that expect women to be sexy−like many in the West−still do not expect them to be sexual.

– Tell her that her body belongs to her and her alone, that she should never feel the need to say yes to something she does not want, or something she feels pressured to do. Teach her that saying no when no feels right is something to be proud of.

– People will selectively use “tradition” to justify anything.

– If she likes makeup, let her wear it. If she likes fashion, let her dress up. But if she doesn’t like either, let her be. Don’t think that raising her feminist means forcing her to reject femininity. Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive.

I would suggest you read this book along with ‘We Should All Be Feminists’.

Hyped Books I Found Underwhelming

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

I often find my IG timeline flooded with the same books, just different accounts and different poses. Some of these books also make it onto the pages of figures who are worth learning from, and so it becomes easy to choose a book because there is so much hype about it.

There are times when I want a book that matches the mood I’m in or which can help me deal with a particular issue, and so I’ll Google and get a list of popular books that match what I’m looking for. Some of them do deliver, they really live up to the hype while others leave me wondering what the fuss really is about.

However, I do believe that it’s not because the books I find underwhelming are bad. It’s just a preference thing. Some books are powerful and amazing for some people while they suck for others. Just like everything else in this world- music, food, art, people, etc.

So, here’s a list of books I went running to buy because I was told they were mind-blowing but didn’t work for me.

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

I read this back when I used to commit to a book. If I started a book, I had to finish it. And so I tortured myself through Adultery, constantly saying, “Please tell me it gets better. Please tell me it gets better,” until I reached the last page. Before this I’d read The Devil and Miss Prym, The Alchemist, Veronika Decides to Die, Brida, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Winner Stands Alone and Manuscript Found in Accra. I loved all of them, some more than others, but Adultery became my last.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

When I read the reviews I saw, “thrilling, intelligent, pleasant, chilling…” but I didn’t experience any of those. It was okay but it didn’t keep me at the edge of my seat. When I got to the end I really wondered if that was it. That’s it? That’s the story? It clearly wasn’t for me.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

I read this in Jan or Feb this year and wrote a review. I believe if I had read this four or five years ago, I’d have fallen in love with it, revisited it even. I think once you’ve read a whole lot of business, self-help or entrepreneurship books, some being absolutely powerful and life-changing, when you read one that sounds like a repetition of what you’ve already learned, you can become easily bored. That’s what happened with The $100 Startup, so I’d still recommend it as a good book but just not for me.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

I didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t fully understand it. I only got to appreciate the book when I read The Art of War for Women by Chin-ning Chu, which I found absolutely impressive and useful. The original text by Sun Tzu is on the list of books that changed history but whose history, I ask. Wealthy people, dictators and the whole cluster of people in positions of power swear by it but I honestly didn’t get it.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

This is a good book and a necessary book. I say this because I appreciate the message she’s sharing. We need to hear more female voices promoting women empowerment and I appreciate the way she raises a voice for women and their space in the workplace and home. I reviewed it and I took only the great bits and gave it a positive review. The only thing for me was that the book was not exciting. It talks about crucial issues but it wasn’t stimulating. There’s a way to make even the most serious matters sound exciting, and this one just didn’t do it for me.

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

This book has a few parts that are funny and pleasant to read. It’s also a good story overall, all the right and basic elements of good storytelling are in there. But it didn’t have that punch, it didn’t knock my socks off. I read it but once I closed it, I quickly forgot about it.

What Colour is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles

I couldn’t!

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

I don’t think I’m the target audience.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

There are many gems in the book and you will leave with something that will help make some change in the way you see things. I bought it because of the title, it’s a really cool title. Somewhere in the middle, I lost interest and my enthusiasm dropped significantly until I couldn’t force anymore and had to put it down. I did, however, pick it up again and finished it even though it still wasn’t as amazing as it had first started.

The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma

I’m a fan of Robin Sharma’s work and there’s always so much to learn. The way I feel about his work is the way I feel about Paulo Coelho’s work, inspiring and motivating, but repetitive. If you read more than three of his books then you will notice how a lot of times you pick up the same or similar lines, or the same lesson. Maybe it’s intentional but it can be exhausting. Another reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much is that I think the advice is great but it doesn’t fit into my personal life, I can’t follow it, there’s not much room for it. I did try to personalise the advice so that it can work for my schedule and my home and work life, but it didn’t happen.

What are some of the hyped books you found underwhelming?