NOTE: I started writing this post the week of Memorial Day weekend, before the senseless and unjustified lynching of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. But for whatever reason and maybe the right reasons could not finish this blog post as intended. Since taking time to reflect and as I continue to reflect, I have found new meaning in this novel.
The Marvellous Equations of the Dreads, A Novel in Bass Riddim is a magical realism novel that weaves together the history of the Rastafarian religion. This novel will leave an impact on you.
The novel recounts many aspects of the life of Bob Marley who returns to Jamaica after his death in the body of Riva Man, a fall down angel who once guarded kings during lovemaking. Bob Marley upon his entrance to Zion realizes that he no longer has his ring; the ring he believes was once King Solomon’s, gifted to Marley by Haile Salaisse, the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, but is instead a replica of the real ring. Haile Salaisse (otherwise known as His Imperial Majesty (HIM)) believed to the Messiah returned in human form in the Rastafarian religion is, in fact, a god-like figure in Zion once Marley arrives there. And so HIM grants Marley 7 days to return to Jamaica in search of his ring.
Home. Is the one word the I would use to decribe Roxane Gay’s Ayiti. This collection of short stories centers on Haiti, the Haitian experience in Haiti, and those of immigrants who travel to the United States in search of a better life made me nostaligic to be home in Miami, in my parent’s house surrounded by my culture. The daughter of Haitian immigrants who immigrated to New York and Miami during the late 1970s , early 1980s, I identified with many of the stories as it relates to the lived experiences of my parents in a foreign country that has always looked at them as other in spite of their contributions to society.
Motherfuckers reminds me of my mother’s stories of her struggles navigating the latter part of her high schools years in America and the struggle of being Haitian at a time when it was not cool to be Haitian. About My Father’s Accent reminds me of my father’s still very Haitian accent despite living in the US for 40 plus years and how it connects to him to what will always be home and where he hopes to lay his bones when he has completed his dash on this side of heaven.
War is never a pretty thing especially, when it comes to the fate of women and children. However, what happens, when women arrise as warriors and take part in battle alongside men to maintain the independence of their country? Maaza Mengiste, through complex characters, highlights the unconventional role of Ethiopian women in the Italo-Ethiopian War to maintain Ethiopia’s independence, the only African country that has never been colonized. Mengiste does a wonderful job of unfolding the lives and stories of characters whose worlds are connected through war; not through her own voice as the writer but through the voice of the lives lost during the war whose spirits live on to tell the the story of how Ethiopia won the war against Moussolini’s army.
To Keep the Sun Alive is definitely a page-turner. I could not put the book down as I found myself up until 1am reading.
Ghaffari poetically captures the complex lives of an Iranian family just before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Ghaffari’s development of each character is phenomenal. My favorite characters are Majidid, Bibi-Khanoom, and Akbar-Agha. My least favorite character was Habib. Although, my least favorite character, Habib’s life is an example of how we are a product of our environments. To sum up his character, a man who feels nothing is a dangerous man. The relationships between the women in a patriarchal male-dominated Iran was beautifully depicted, a demonstration of how in spite of our differences, we’re all in this together.
I highly recommend reading this book. Ghaffari writes in a manner where you feel like you’re there among the characters, partaking in their varied life experiences and every varied emotion.
In Adunni’s village of Ikati, the worth of girls and women is dependent on their bride price to sustain her families survival in a village plagued by poverty and whether she can give birth to boys who will grow up to be men and continue the cycle of the objectification of the female body. Yet despite Adunni’s mother’s wish for her daughter to be educated and have a louding voice, Adunni’s fate becomes that of so many child brides in her village. Adunni’s story in The Girl with the Louding Voice is that of a young Nigerian girl who in spite of her circumstances holds onto her desire to be educated and have a louding voice. Adunni, survive’s sexual abuse at the hands of men who believe that a woman’s body is theirs to do as they please and discard when no longer of use. Despite the Adunni’s patriarchal world, her fate is also shaped by that of the women in her life, from her mother to Khadija to Ms. Tia, and Rebecca, whose life story mirrors that of Adunni’s. Adunni’s story is that of a young girl who overcomes every trial through her hope for an education and desire to have a louding voice.
Alice Walker is never an author to fail or disappoint her fans and readers. Walker in Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down thoroughly engages the mind of the womanist/black feminist. Although written in the 1980s, many of the short stories within the book are very much relevant today and I would venture to say may even awaken the womanist/black feminist thoughts of women who have yet to identify with either of the two labels. Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down explores the factors that shape the lives of black women, such as cultural appropriation, rape, abortion, pornography, misogyny, and the sexual objectification of the bodies of women to name a few. Of the thirteen short stories within the book I provide you with a brief summary of the two on the short stories that I’d have to say were my favorite.
How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy
In How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy, Walker explores the physical and mental rape of a 14 year old black girl. The protagonist was first raped when she was 12. As the protagonist recounts her story, the raping of little black girls is viewed as something normal and not rare during the times and society that she grew up in.
“It was nothing for a girl or woman to be raped. I was raped myself, when I was twelve, and my Mama never knew and I never told anybody. For, what could they do? It was just a boy, passing through. Somebody’s cousin from the North.”
Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban in 2012, beautifully recounts her life story as a child activist in I Am Malala; fighting for the right to education, especially for girls and women in a war-torn and misogynistic society under Taliban rule.
Born to a father who valued education and the believed that the “lack of education was the root of Pakistan’s problems…”, Ziauddin Yousafzai was a man set part from most Pakistani men of the Muslim faith; he believed that everyone had the right to a good education despite their income status or gender. Her father believed the pervasive ignorance in the Pakistan was as a result of the lack of education among the Pakistani people. Much of the rampant manipulation of the Pakistani people in the name of Allah or allegedly outlined in the Qur’an was due to their inability to read and interpret the teachings of the Qur’an for themselves.
“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche does it, yet again, bringing to life unforgettable characters, while also dissecting issues surrounding race, gender/feminism, and culture.
The award winning author of Half of A Yellow Sun (also one of my favorite books), most recent novel Americanah invites you into the life of Ifemelu; an opinionated, self assured, strong willed Nigerian born woman. Ifemula recounts her life growing up in a military dictated Lagos, Nigeria. We watch Ifemelu navigate the race related complexities as a NAB (non-American Black), a newly arrived immigrant to the United States; leaving everything behind in Nigeria including her lover Obinze. Through Ifemelu’s journey, Adiche, unravels the complex issue of race through the perspective of a NAB, suddenly introduced to the backwards concept accompanied by its injustices that grips the lives of American Born Blacks. The novel explores the various facets of race in America, through Ifemelu’s experiences while dating Curt, a handsome, ridiculously rich White man and an American born, Harvard educated Black man, Blaine. Yet despite vast differences in race relations between Nigeria and the United States—(the concept of race almost nonexistent in Nigeria); Ifemelu triumphs in spite the racial challenges experienced. The novel also explores gender/feminism, although very subtly. Adiche explores through Ifemelu’s experiences with Blaine and Curt the tendency for women to often suppress who they are in acquiescence to their lovers.
Americanah is a beautifully written novel that exposes us to the rich Nigerian culture juxtapose to American societal fallacies relating to race and how Nigerian born immigrants are able to excel on foreign land. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is sure to have you nodding your head in agreement and wanting more upon reading the last sentence of its ending page.
Leave your comments on your thoughts of Americanah.