‘Whether you’re an awkward black girl or an irritated disabled stripper, everyone should have the opportunity to feel represented in some way.’ – Issa Rae
‘Privilege comes in many forms, and being popular is one of them.’ – Luvvie Ajayi
After about four months of barely reading anything I’m finally back on my usual routine of actually completing a book before an entire month expires. With time I’ll soon be back on the one book per two weeks steeze too – watch this space. But I digress…
First book review of the year and it’s actually in January and not three months into the year… Yay! Started 2016 on a good, strong writing note, love it.
My last review of the year is here and of course it had to be a book by Chimamanda Adichie! She is after all only one of my favourite authors of all time but I digress. Some of you (read my friend Mumbe) may be wondering why it took me so long to finally read this book. In all honesty, I actually never paid it any attention. Well not until I started getting into a lot of African literature reading earlier this year. I had already read all of Adichie’s other books before this year began but since this was her very first novel, decided to finally give it a chance this year. I’m really glad I did.
Well being, Wisdom, Wonder, Giving
The above are four words that from the point I was done reading the book ‘Thrive’ to infinity will always be ingrained in my mind. I loved this book so much I decided to dedicate this review specially to the author.
All I want to say is thank you. Thrive is a book I have had in my possession since November 2014 and had not bothered to get into it as I thought it would be yet another cliche self-help book but; what makes this one quite different is how well you relate your entire life to the four pillars (mentioned above) that make up the third metric to success according to you. I read this book on a flight back to Kenya from India and I’m not a very fast reader… 8hours later I was done with the book and filled with a whole new insight to life.
We all know that we should take care of ourselves, mentally, physically and emotionally. We should be of sound mind to be able to perform our daily duties well. But the problem most of us face is the supposed ‘lack of time’ to take time out to take care of ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. This was the basis of your book fortunately (because were it not for your fall this book would not be in existence) and unfortunately (because you got hurt pretty bad, a cut eye and broken cheek bone?? Ouch!)
We all want success and fulfillment in our careers but at what expense exactly? I took this trip to India to visit my mother who was undergoing treatment there and it could not have come at a more perfect time as I was already feeling burned out (In March!) and in need of a break. I work 5 days a week at my full time job and weekends are spent taking care of different freelancing engagements if any… The life of a writer – the hustle never stops. My schedule isn’t as hectic though compared to some people I know who literally work almost over 20 hrs a day, Monday to Sunday and the only break taken is to either eat, answer the phone or take a nap for a couple of minutes and it’s back to the grind.
“Your business might have a great bottom line, but you are your most important capital.”
The 4 pillars to the Third metric of success all serve a particular purpose to our lives and as this is not only a letter but a book review as well, I will give my thoughts on all four here.
Well being is all about getting time to know YOU. You explain to readers that the three things that affect our well being are burnout, stress and depression. We constantly put a lot into our lives that we forget as the damage process goes on in our life, there must be time to repair and renew as well. Renewal happens in the form of meditation and plugging out of our digitally consumed life even if for an hour or less. Every minute not taxing your mind with so much counts.
I have never been one to meditate, I never seem to, for lack of a better word, ‘have time’ to switch off from the world even for 5 minutes. I have always been told it’s a good thing to add to your everyday schedule but I just found it as time wasted when I could do something else like check my email or twitter. The tips you gave on meditation for beginners by the way – stellar. It took me a good 3 days to get used to setting aside 10 minutes in the day to just be fully present and in the moment no matter what else I had going on but it has since helped me prioritize better and take on hectic tasks and hectic people better. A certain *whoosah* moment comes with taking time to be patient with yourself and everything around you.
Getting enough sleep and getting blood circulation going by staying active are two more aspects you talk about to help with taking care of your well being. As a self proclaimed insomniac and night owl, I find this part not impossible to do but it has its challenges. As a creative, I have since tuned my body to function best at night whether it’s when doing work or working out or getting inspiration to work or workout… Everything, according to my life since High school, has always worked better late at night. Getting into the real world after college gave me such a wake up call because the rest of the world functions during the day and never at night aside from a select few. Just until recently, read January 2015, despite having to wake up at 5:30am for my morning run, I would still find myself staying up way past midnight. I am not getting any younger as I work harder sadly and my stamina is slowly reducing thanks to how much I push myself. Sundays were the only day I would ever get a full 7-8 hours of sleep. That has since changed thankfully and I try get in as much as sleep as I can everyday, no matter the amount of work that needs to get done. There is a time for everything.
“When we are all mind, things can get rigid. When we are all heart, things can get chaotic. both lead to stress. But when they work together, the heart leading through empathy, the mind guiding us with focus and attention, we become a harmonious human being”
This was my favorite section of the book because of how open you were about parts of your life such as your daughter’s addiction problem. You were faced with the hardest challenge when the drugs almost took her life, but it taught you and your daughter how to be grateful for the most simple things and how to be vulnerable in the face of challenges.
Intuition is one other part in the wisdom chapter that equally resonated with me. I’m sure you have all heard the saying – trust your intuition, it’s almost always right. That’s because it is. The examples you give in the book are quite incredible and I have some interesting yet random intuition based connections that have really worked out positively so I truly believe in intuition – that inner voice that can only be listened to if you are mindful of it aka get enough sleep, learn to take time out of the world and be fully present. See what you did there?? Haha everything is one big circle. Well being, Wisdom, and now… Wonder. P.S: The gratitude list was the best thing I ever did for myself and my best friend, love it!
“My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me”
What I liked best about this section was the fact that the simplest things like the flowers blooming outside (Spring is nigh somewhere in the world) or taking time to disappear into a book, or encountering a random coincidence are all a form of forced reboot as you say. These things force us to stop and think about the present moment. Wondering makes us gain a sense of gratitude for things we usually take for granted.
The story about Scott Simon’s dialogue on death as he live-tweeted his mother’s death really hit home for me. I was with my grandmother during her last few weeks alive and to this day regret not being there during the last days. I was not prepared for her to go, I really wasn’t. I knew she would be home in time for my 20th birthday and we had even talked about what we would do on that day and how she believed that being 20 means I need to start finding a husband haha, she was a funny one my grandmother. Anyway, I clammed up after her death for about two years and with that came a depression that almost made me drop out of college in my sophomore year. It took me those two years to come to terms with the cruel but necessary hand of death and to accept it. To know that it should not be the end of my life and to be grateful for the mere fact that I was alive every single day I woke up. I wonder sometimes what she would be doing now were she still with us, and all I know is that she would be happy. Happy living her life as I should be.
“Don’t Miss the Moment”
Very self explanatory and important to be reminded about. Most insightful part was the section you wrote about go-givers being better than go-getters. Key word of this section – Social Entrepreneur, thanks Bill Drayton for the clever term. A social entrepreneur is basically a business entrepreneur and social reformer combined. Perfect. More and more entrepreneurs here in Nairobi are in it to better the country they live in while still getting a profit from giving a service as well. I have a friend who works in finance and has always wanted to start her own company. Having studied in the States during her undergrad she got to see how crowd funding works and works well especially for the youth. She has since started her own version of crowd funding locally but with a different twist. Her company, Mradifund, an online fundraising platform, helps small business owners connect with investors who provide both the capital and mentorship to help these young budding innovators get to the next level. The average Kenyan with a big idea gets to see his/her dream become a reality while the investors not only build their portfolio in the process but also get to become a part of the next big thing with each successful idea acted upon. Kudos to you @missvnjoroge!
Thank you Arianna for reminding us that success is not success if it only benefits you.
“Because it is really true that while we grow physically by what we get, we grow spiritually by what we give”
This is quite a long letter but after reading this book, I had to share my sentiments on it not just with you but with the world as well. Once again, Thank you for sharing your life lessons with the rest of the world and with each page of Thrive turned we all gain a sense of well being, wisdom, wonder and a sense of giving as well.
Avid fan of the Huffington Post and now, Thrive.
N/B: All quotes are from the book.
“Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”
Thanks to Beyonce, we all know this snippet from Chimamanda’s powerful TedX talk. Ms Adichie has gone on to write a short e-book based on this talk, the book suitably titled- ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. That was going to be the title of this post but I have to stick to the typewriter tuesdays theme because this is actually also a review of the book though I know I will go off on quite a number of tangents. Bare with me:)
Of course I agree with my all time favourite author that indeed we should ALL be feminists because it is quite necessary in this day and age; not just women, but men as well. Chimamanda did a sort of extension of the TedX talk because she wanted to fully explain why she is so adamant on her feminist stance and also why she thinks we all need to join the bandwagon. Being a feminist myself, I know you all may think I will be biased on this post but I will try my very best not to favour my opinion so much.
Chimamanda starts her book by telling a story about her long time friend, Okoloma who passed away in 2005. Okoloma was the very first person to ever call the author a feminist. She explains how at the time she had no idea what it meant but the way that her friend had said it, she thought it an insult at the time. Fast forward many years later, after the release of her novel, Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda was called a feminist yet again by her peers such as journalists, academics and the like. The word feminist according to these people was an unhappy woman who could not find a husband. Feminism was ‘un-African’ and an influence from the Western world; being a feminist meant that she hated men. Chimamanda took the moniker with pride and made it the exact opposite, calling herself a happy, African feminist who does not hate men. As the constant criticism kept rolling in, she could see that the word feminist was associated with so much negativity and she wanted to change that.
She tells another childhood story of how she was appointed class monitor but immediately lost that position to a boy simply because he was male and she was female despite being top of her class and earning the right to be the class monitor. Because boys were usually the ones that were class monitors, it became a norm that could never ever change. It is sadly not just an african mentality but a global one as well… ‘If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal’. Chimamanda talks of her life in Lagos, how extremely male dominated it is that even a simple girl seen walking into a hotel is looked down upon as people assume she is a sex worker as opposed to someone who really is just coming to the hotel for say a meeting or for lunch with friends.
A woman footing the bill at a restaurant is looked down upon, as if she cannot afford to pay her own bills. I have seen that a lot here in Nairobi as well, though I must send a shout out to the waiter at 360 Degrees, who placed the bill right in front of me at the end of a meeting I was having with a friend. I think because I got there before my male friend, he assumed I was the one who planned the meeting. When it’s a group of 2, even just 3 people meeting at a restaurant and one of them happens to be male, waiters/waitresses automatically assume it is he to pay for the meal. It is something we have been so accustomed to since time immemorial and hence, it became normal. So when a woman pays the bill, the man usually takes it as an insult to his ever fragile ego. When in essence, she is just doing what a man would do as well. She is paying for lunch/dinner/drinks etc, just as he would normally pays for the lunch/dinner/drinks as well. It is OKAY. She is capable of doing it herself so let her. Don’t judge her for it or take it personally. In fact, you should be glad she can pull her own weight in whatever situation just like you as a man, can as well. Equality can’t be that hard a thing to fathom can it?
Chimamanda emphasizes the fact that as humans we have really evolved but our ideas of gender are clearly still stuck in the medieval ages. Here in Kenya it is not as suffocating for an independent woman as it is in Lagos and that I am thankful for. Seems we are slowly heading in the right direction. A woman in Lagos cannot be able to do practically anything without a man, and it is not because she is fully dependent on a man but the society there has made it such a norm there that sometimes she has no choice. A woman in Lagos cannot enter clubs alone, she has to be accompanied by a man otherwise she will not get in. When seen hand in hand with a man, the man will be acknowledged but not the woman. The woman is basically invisible. She is just an object as opposed to a human being. I’d like to see the clubs in Nairobi try that and see if they’ll ever have a full house.
The work place is yet another place where people really need to understand why feminism exists and fight for the injustice that women go through on the daily. We all know how condescending some men can be, I say some because it’s not every single man who feels all high and mighty towards women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook wrote an entire book just based on this. Assuring women that they have a right to sit at the table as well, they can give their ideas and opinions and take action without the fear of being judged or even worse getting the sack. If we kept living in that fear, the Daily Nation would have a very hard time finding Top 40 women under 40 candidates for their annual Business Daily segment.
Chimamanda teaches a writing workshop in Lagos and she talks of some participants who have been warned to stay away from her workshop. That listening to her ‘feminist talk’ would make these women absorb ideas that would destroy their marriages. I don’t know why marriage is such a heavily talked about issue in African communities. I am only in my early twenties, but the pressure to tie the knot in this generation right now is crazy! I know some families that wait for their daughter to graduate from school and then the next thing is to find her a husband. Not get a job and build your career or even possibly get another degree, no… It’s all about – Get a man. Get a reputable man, get married, have kids. That is your role in life as a woman. Finding a life partner is not to be looked down upon of course, no man is an island after all. But this man should come into your life because of how you live your life. Not because that is all you want in life.
She not only focuses on women alone though. Like the title says, Chimamanda wants us ALL to be feminists. She has a section on men as well and how we as a society have done a great disservice to them in how they are raised. Masculinity is defined in an extremely narrow way and putting young boys in such a cage so early life teaches them to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of being human. This has left most men with very fragile egos. Any small thing, like say paying the bill at a restaurant instead of letting him do it, bruises their ego so much and they feel like you are challenging their manhood. Guys its okay to not be all put together, it’s okay to accept help when you need it. One of the quotes from this book that really spoke to me and relates to this was a quote Chimamanda said when asked whether she worries about men being intimidated by her… “A man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.”
Back on the marriage topic, it is quite sad that women are being pushed to get married by a particular age but men can stay single all through his life if he wants to. An unmarried 30 something or 40 something year old woman is seen as a failure yet for a man the same age it seen as him taking his time to choose a wife. Society needs to change its stance on these gender ‘rules’ if at all equality between the sexes is to be achieved. Women will give up jobs, career dreams, even going to particular places or acquainting herself with particular people all to please the man whilst in a relationship. Why do we never see a man making the same compromise?
The sad thing is we live in a society where men seem to have all the power, and why? Because it happens all the time that it has become normal. Feminists are not bad people. They are not trying to say that women and only women should rule the world, all we are saying is that society should really give us a break. We can’t wear what we want without being judged or some man seeing it as his chance to take forceful advantage of our bodies. We can’t go to work everyday and come home without a man expecting us to cook and clean and raise the kids as well yet he is quite capable of doing that himself. We can’t expect to be as successful as the man because the man expects us to be seen and not heard. So many rules and gender expectations are placed on the woman, especially the African woman and people are still wondering why Feminism is on the rise? Chimamanda talks of men feeling threatened by the idea of feminism, she feels that this is triggered by how they are raised… ‘Their sense of self-worth is somehow diminished if they are not naturally in charge as men.’
Culture may have stated many years ago that women are to be subordinate to men but culture is constantly changing and we should adjust accordingly to the changes. Chimamanda perfectly concludes her book with this powerful statement- ‘Culture does not make people. People make culture.’ She posed a question to her readers that I will post here as I am posing the same question to all of us…
‘What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?’
Would like to know your responses to that so feel free to comment below! This book though only 70 pages long is quite the short story, one I won’t forget anytime soon.
P.S: I think is the longest post I have done this year, goodness!
So Fault In Our Stars came out in theatres about a month ago I think… Before that I had no interest in John Green’s books at all but decided to check out the book before watching the movie because the book is always better than the film adaptation. Always. I’m yet to watch the film so will let you guys know if once again, this statement is actually true.
So far though, the book has won me over. I am officially on the John Green bandwagon! Let’s talk about Fault In Our Stars now shall we?
As I got into the first few chapters, I thought this was going to be another cliche, teenage romance type novel. I was partially wrong. It is a kind of teenage romance novel but not as cliche and with a lot more adult humor, sarcasm and quite a lot of cancer terminology than usual.
That’s because the story is based on two cancer patients. 16 year old Hazel Grace and 17 year old Augustus Waters. Hazel, diagnosed with lung cancer meets the ever witty Augustus Waters at a cancer support group she had dreaded going to at first. Augustus has osteosarcoma and had actually been cleared of his tumor after having his leg amputated but life really isn’t fair to all of us sadly. The cancer comes back 10 fold later in the story.
Hazel and Augustus form a quick bond and underplay their feelings for each other all the while having one goal in common. Their mission to find the author of a book they love to find out the ending of said novel. This takes them on an impromptu trip to Amsterdam to meet the author, but the trip proves futile in that aspect (said author ended up being a drunk bastard), but was significant in bringing the two of them closer than ever…. And then Augustus semi-ruins the mood by announcing the return of his cancer. Things change from there for Hazel who was not expecting to see her boyfriend go through stage 4 of cancer.
Okay so I guess it is a typical teenage romance type novel BUT in my defense, it really captured all my emotions and I am a hopeless romantic. I just don’t blast it on the PA system. It’s a wonderfully written book, think that’s why it draws you in more and more as you turn the pages. The storyline could have been a happier one but as John Green himself says, ‘The world is not a wish-granting factory.’ I finished this book in a week… quite a feat for me considering my 24hr schedule lol. Also tells you that it is a really good book to read for leisure purposes, perfect book for when you just want something to cosy upto during these long winter nights we have been having of late.
Favorite quote in this book- ‘You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.’
1st impression of John Green’s work – Love! Think I shall invest in more of his works now.
Back with a bang! This book took me particularly long to complete as I mentioned in the previous post just because I never had time to read or rather didn’t make that time lol.
Anyway, lets get right into it shall we? This week’s (rather this months, as I don’t know when I’ll be reading my next book…) book review is on Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth. Shout out to my pal Mumo who contributed some tidbits to this review as well:)
So it has been one super long minute!!!!!
Too long. I have been on a rollercoaster ride called life this past month and a half and slowly getting myself back to normal aka letting my feet touch the ground. That is a story for another day though. Today being Tuesday is time for yet another riveting book review:)
The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
What exactly can I say about this book? Well it started out great I can tell you that much. Chibundu really knows how to reel in her audience but what she lacks is how to keep the same audience captivated, to keep them turning pages and intrigued as opposed to exhausted by the dragging story line. This is exactly how I felt by the time I was finally done with the book… exhausted. And frankly glad to be done with it. Sad thing is I wasn’t expecting my thoughts on the book to be like that when I was basically halfway through it. This could be a case of the author having a certain page # quota to fulfill and that could explain why 286 pages felt like 486 pages instead.
I may have my own biased opinions to this novel but there are some good parts to it. The story revolves around two characters, Abike Johnson, a rich teenage girl living the lavish life in Lagos thanks to her wealthy father, and a lowly hawker, whose name we only know as ‘Runner G’ as his real name is not mentioned anywhere throughout the novel. We are introduced to Lagos, Nigeria in two different views; the wealthy upper class view and the poverty, low class view.
Abike buys an icecream from the hawker one day and she is intrigued by him. Especially by his ability to speak articulately which isn’t common among hawkers on the street. From the first interaction the hawker and Abike form an instant connection. A trippy romance between them follows and we get to see their thoughts and feelings played out in two different narrations from both of them. Further along in the story we learn how the hawker’s past is connected to Abike’s through her wealthy murderer of a father. The story then turns into a love story turned revenge tale in just but a few chapters.
One thing I like about Chibundu’s writing, despite the slow pace of the storyline, it still had its major twists and turns that gave the story that extra oomph. Her description of rich Lagos compared with poor Lagos really reminded me about the similar divide we have between the rich and the poor here in Nairobi and made me wonder if at all a wealthy teenage girl would ever give a hawker a second look and befriend him. Sadly the story became more and more unbelievable as the book progressed hence my frustration in completing it forcefully. As the plot thickened and FINALLY unfolded I was already uninterested and was just completing it for the sake of writing a review on it. If Chibundu had just stuck to the romance story of it all and left out all the politics, I think it would have made for a much more interesting story line.
I love my African authors, I really do but sorry Chibundu, this time an African author did not really wow me. I give her a 4 out of 10. I could have given 5 just because I enjoyed the first half of the book but half commendations shouldn’t really be given if half the story made a reader lose interest.
Just my two cents though, so let me know your thoughts!