My true loves: Wilkie Collins, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anais Nin, George Eliot, James Joyce, James Baldwin, George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, bell hooks, Chinua Achebe, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare... I'm falling for : Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, Frantz Fanon, Wole Soyinka, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Camus, Margaret Atwood, Somerset Maugham, Junot Diaz, A.S. Byatt... And the lists continue to grow! I will read almost anything, as long as it's well-written. I always love to expand my reading horizons.
This is a book that really grew on me. It starts off following a group of children in Zimbabwe: Darling, Stina, Chipo, Bastard and Godknows, seemingly innocent children living in a not so innocent environment. As a child, Darling and friends lived in shanty towns in Zimbabwe after Mugabe’s paramilitary police bulldozed down their homes. They spent their days stealing guavas,getting into mischief and daydreaming about the typical things African kids do- about eating good food and ultimately becoming rich overseas, in places such as Dubai and the USA.
This story is a sort of coming of age story of Darling. What complicates Darling’s coming of age story is her moving to Detroit, Michigan to live with her aunt.As is typical among Africans (and also non-Africans, of course), an escape to the West may not be what it seems. Added to that,the struggles and sacrifices they've had to make:
“We hid our real names, gave false ones when asked. We built mountains between us and them, we dug rivers, we planted thorns- we had paid so much to be in America and we did not want to lose it all.”
How is life like for an African immigrant in the USA or elsewhere in the West? Bulawayo shows that it’s definitely not a bed of roses. There are so many stressors, including listening to misconceptions about one’s land and cultures and having to quickly adapt to a new culture.Adding to the stress is the fact that there are so many illegal immigrants in the States who feel stressed by the threat of deportation looming over them.
I really liked the book's cross-cultural comparisons of Africa and the USA. The linguistic aspects were the most interesting to me:
“Because we were not in our country, we could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised, When we talked, our tongues thrashed madly in our mouths, staggered like drunken men.”
Reading some of the reviews, I’ve noticed that some people felt disconnected from the second half of the story, the part where Darling is in the States. I have to be contrary and say that that was the strongest part to me; it resonated with me the most. Perhaps it is because I have Zimbabwean relatives and I know many African immigrants who have experienced hardships after moving to the States and elsewhere. I know a lot of immigrants who experience depression, mental health issues and alcoholism due to their immigration. I know so many of their stories and I feel that Bulawayo captured them very well.
"The thing about Japan is that it's a developed country and a developing country all in the same breath. It's such a contradiction." - Veronica Chambers, Kickboxing Geishas
My selection of this book is proof that I am often drawn to a book because of its innovative title. I was definitely intrigued by the subject matter finding myself more interested in feminism, and also because I work at a Japanese company and know quite a bit about Japanese culture due to my Japanese co-workers. Given what I've heard from the Japanese women (and men) I've talked to about the high levels of chikan (groping) and flashers at Japanese high schools it was hard for me to believe that Japan is experiencing a feminist revolution, kickboxing gender roles.
This book is very informative about Japan and the strides that Japanese women have been making. Some of the topics covered:
- Enjo kosai - aka "compensated dating," a euphemism for prostitution
- Unique aspects of Japanese culture- for example, capsule hotels!
-Linguistic problems- single women are called parasite singles, single women over 25 are called stale Christmas cake, those over 30 are called make inu (losing dogs).
-The kawaii culture exemplified by Hello Kitty
-Japanese women in the corporate world
-The domestic impact of Japanese women travelling to foreign countries.
-Love, dating and marriage in Japan
I also learned that like politicians from anywhere else, Japanese politicians often talk rubbish. Case in point, the following comment from a Japanese Diet politician in the 1980s: "In Japan, the men cannot rape the women because they do not have the energy."
Initially, I found the writer's voice a bit distracting. It's written in an ethnographic style and the writer is too present, in my opinion. It's understandable that the background of an ethnographer is important to know as our perspective is based on this. However, her interjections did get a bit tedious and I wish she had kept more of a distance in her writing.
Despite this, I found the book interesting. It is definitely not meant to be academic and I think that people who already know a lot about Japan, they might find the book to be rudimentary.
“And few silences are as loaded in this country as the one encasing the cult that has grown up around our policy of multiculturalism.” - Neil Bissooondath, Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada
Well, this was a very controversial book, one I’m sure not everyone will like but it speaks a lot of truth, in my opinion. I came across the author while researching a paper on pluralism in Canada during my undergrad. Canada has a policy on multiculturalism, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1971, (see http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/multicul...) but according to the author, the policy, despite being one of Canada’s selling points , does next to nothing for real social cohesion in the country.
Bissoondath is definitely an ideal person to write this book; a Trinidadian-born Canadian of Indian heritage living in Quebec. The autobiographical element of the book resonated with me. The introduction to Canada’s race relations is important because it’s something that’s not talked about (see Chinese head tax, the Komagata Maru Incident, Native Canadian history, etc.). Despite this, I actually do not see the modern-day racism that Bissoondath talks about so vehemently.
I did like that Bissoondath challenged my thinking in several ways. His views on cultural appropriation and affirmative actions were enlightening. I also like that he felt he had to critique the multiculturalism policy. As he said, “No policy can be written in stone; no policy is immune to evolution.”
It's too late to say I hope that nobody calls Bissoondath anti-Canadian, as it has already been done numerous times. I find that quite unfortunate as he is simply challenging people to think critically. Yes, we are proud of our mosaic society in Canada but it doesn’t mean we can’t criticize the government using that to further their own ends. (See BC Premier Christy Clark's ethnic votes scandal http://www.news1130.com/2013/02/28/ch...)
Great book for anyone interested in diversity issues.
“Night. The stars and the moon impassive, undisturbed, eternal. A little of their impassivity flows into me. They are consoling. They reduce the intensity and acuteness of human sorrow.” - The Journals of Anais Nin, Volume Three
I love reading diaries in general and Nin’s are probably my favourite. I love the things she values in life; meaningful relationships, art, literature, music, culture. And not to mention she is the most feeling writer; her rich inner life comes across very well in her writing.
Nin has moved back to the USA following the break of World War 2. Having to leave Louveciennes, a place that she loves, where she writes and knows people is not easy for Nin. She experiences culture shock in the States and finds it difficult to integrate. Her European-style writing isn’t well-received in the States; it’s considered too surreal and flaky. As a result, she finds it difficult to publish and ends up printing her own books with a printing press.
I think this may be my favourite volume of Nin’s journals yet. During the first two volumes, Nin seemed to me a sort of ethereal being; a superwoman even. In this volume she was a bit different, a bit more “real.” Perhaps it’s to do with her homesickness, the outbreak of war, and also age, which often comes with realization after all. In this case, it’s the realization that she’s everyone’s “mother”; people take and take from her (and I have to say she’s a bit of an enabler too), very few give back. It was so sad to see so many of her “friends” sucking her dry, Henry Miller included. Feeling under-appreciated and overwhelmed, Nin suffers from fatigue and illness:
“I fell into a trap because of my compassion. At what point does self-injury begin?”
I always find it fascinating to see the famous people Nin met and what she thought of them. In this volume she met Dali and Tennessee Williams among others.
Her exhortation of the artist in society is something I appreciate. A reminder that we all need art in our lives.
“To say that the artist is not serving humanity is monstrous. He has been the eyes, the ears, the voice of humanity. He was also the transcendentalist who X-rayed our true states of being.”
As always, beautiful and engaging writing. I read this diary in record time, considering how busy I am.
One of the best books I've read in 2013. "Americanah" is a book of great impact and importance. This is the one book by an African writer that has spoken to me more than any other.
This is a book about Africa and the African diasporic experience in the USA and England, a backdrop for the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze, teenagers attending a Nigerian university who have to leave the country because of the university strikes in Nigeria. Ifemelu moves to the States, where she attends an American university and starts a blog dealing with race issues in America, while Obinze moves to England and ends up becoming an illegal immigrant.
The book examines the intricacies of race, especially in the USA, as well as the issue of immigration. It talks about the difference between being black in Africa and being black in the States. Adichie is seamless as she goes from country to country, from American to Nigerian, to Francophone African and English. She is a brilliant writer who gifts us with an entertaining story and introduces us to very real characters.
I found some of the themes discussed in this book similar to those discussed in NoViolet Bulawayo's "We Need New Names." This book helps show that immigrants have it tough; psychological changes, changes to identity, the need to reinvent themselves so that they can “fit in” and be accepted, and so on. Their issues often go unspoken.
Adichie is very aware at the subtleties between cultures and she highlights them well. There were some things that she touched on that I’d thought about but never really put in words. For example, people’s pity when they realize you’re African, and their need to talk about their charitable donations to the continent:
"Ifemelu wanted, suddenly and desperately, to be from the country of people who gave and not those who received, to be one of those who had and could therefore bask in the grace of having given, to be among those who could afford copious pity and empathy."
Adichie isn't shy about bringing up controversial issues, those that others keep silent about. For example, she explores the politics of natural hair among kinky hair:
"I have natural kinky hair. Worn in cornrows, Afros, braids. No, it's not political. No, I am not an artist or poet or singer. Not an earth mother either. I just don't want relaxers in my hair...By the way, can we ban Afro wigs at Halloween? Afro is not costume, for God's sake."
One thing I also loved was the fact that Adichie talked about Africans deciding to return to Africa after having lived abroad. She has Ifemelu saying, "And yet there was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, a bleakness, a borderlessness. It brought with it amorphous longings, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she had lived."
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, not all Africans in the diaspora are fleeing from Africa; many have questioned what they are doing abroad in the first place and want to move back home. A lot of people do not realize that Africa is growing and developing and that people might actually be happy to live there. Seeing the online communication links between younger people from different African countries makes me feel hopeful that my generation will do great things in the continent.
I love fiction in general but fiction with a message is even more appealing to me. This is a story with such important social commentary. All through the book I had moments in which I said "It's about time someone addressed that!"