Self Help

Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

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Leggy mentioned this book to me and told me I’d like it. I trust her recommendations so I joined the hold list at my library. I thought I had thoughts on Cheryl Strayed but I realized I might have been confusing her with Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love. I watched the movie, Wild based on Strayed’s book of the same name, that chronicled her grief after losing her mother. I watched her talk about her grief on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah while bawling my eyes out. So I think that made me think I had an opinion on her but I have never read a book by her and never read the column this book was based on; so it was going in with a blank slate.

“Dear Sugar” is based on a collection of an online advice column on The Rumpus. For the longest time, the identity of the author was anonymous until it was revealed that “Sugar” was actually Cheryl Strayed. I think every experience in life was covered in this collection in the form a letter that was written in. Relationships, addiction, the realization that one is a shitty mom/friend, dealing with illness, abuse, sick fetishes, infidelity, grief, trying to leave a marriage, jealousy, boundaries, weight/body issues. I could go on and on, but almost – if not everything, was covered.

What makes this book work is that you can tell Cheryl has lived a full, full life. I say this because the format in which this was done was that Cheryl would respond and provide advice by telling a story from her life experience that was relatable to the issue at hand. So yes, she lived a very full life because she had a story for every topics. The other important thing is that she actually learned from her experiences. Because it is one thing to have experiences and it is another to learn from them and grow.

I did this book on audio and Cheryl herself narrated it. The first few chapters had me like “ehn, I hear you but nothing groundbreaking”. I think I was fully in by Part IV of the book. Another good thing is that Cheryl mastered the art of being honest and giving it straight without being rude or judgmental. I had to read this in sections because reading a help letter one after the other was a bit much, so I had to space it out. I also found it aggravating how she kept interspersing tears of endearments to those who write in. She’d call them names like “honeybun”, “sweet pea”. I get the joke (because her name was Sugar) but it irked me and got annoying real quick.

The last letter where someone asked what she would write to her 20 something year old self, might have been my favorite because it embodies everything I believe life should be about. Throughout the whole book, Strayed encourages people to not be afraid of life and to always choose happiness above all things and not let fear in. At some point she says “Courage is a vital piece of any well lived life”.

Overall, I don’t expect every letter to resonate with whoever is reading but just like life, I do think something can be learned from each letter. I think the book as a whole serves as a gateway to self reflection that every person should be having with themselves. It gives perspective and reminds you of how life can be awful and amazing at the same time. It’s a strong recommend for me.

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

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“I was born without a voice, one cold, overcast day in Brooklyn, New York. No one ever spoke of my condition. I did not know I was mute until years later, when I’d opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted and realized no one could hear me.”

This is a story of multiple generations of women trying to survive the deeply patriarchal culture that they are born into as we watch history repeat itself multiple times. 18 year old Deya, born and raised in Brooklyn primarily by her grandparents, is about to finish high school and is starting to meet with suitors. Even though she wants to go to college before getting married, her grandparents give her no choice in the matter.

Isra, Deya’s mother, also had no choice in the matter when she got married as a teenager in Palestine and moved to America to be with her husband, Adam. Finally, there is Fareeda, Isra’s mother in law, who knows and accepts her role in this culture. She thinks this is a man’s world and all the hardship and abusive she suffered in her own husband’s hands are just parts of being a woman, so she looks the other way when her son begins to act just like her husband.

“A real choice doesn’t have conditions. A real choice is free.”

I really loved this story. A lot of people of color and immigrants know that you do not air your dirty laundry in public. You do not want to confirm the West’s single story about the Middle East or Africa so you, deny, deny, deny! But this book lays bare all the stereotypes and gives them human emotions. It centers around the people that matter and does not care about the white gaze at all. As someone who was born and raised in Nigeria, this book could have easily been a Nigerian story. We see women who have been treated terribly in marriages, abused because they couldn’t give birth to a male child and just for being a woman, turn around and inflict the same conditions on the next generation.

Isra is unable to give her husband, Adam, a male child and is subjected to abuse from her mother in law who inflicts verbal abuse on her every time she gives birth to yet another girl. Adam in turn takes out all his anger on her by being physically abusive while Fareeda chides her for not hiding her husband’s shame and parading her wounds for all to see.

“…my fears while writing this novel—fears of further stereotyping and marginalizing my culture as well as adding to our “otherness” by bringing our domestic abuse and inherited family trauma to light. But these very fears are what shame our women into silence and, ultimately, what keep us from advancing as a society and culture.” – [The author, Etaf Rum on her fears while writing this book]

I do think a lot of people need to read this story and realize that this is just one perspective. I read a lot of reviews on goodreads that were mad that this book was written and worried about how it further stereotypes the Middle East, as being backwards and oppressive.

I think that as long as this story is a story of even one person then it deserves to be told. It is up to us as the reader not to use this book as a blanket read of everything about the culture, or as proof to further our stereotypes and biases. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recognized every woman in it as someone I have known in real life and there are a lot of people still living this life. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Fiction

We Chit Chat : Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

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“I’m still me, I want to say to him, your son, but that would hardly help if I am currently everything wrong with the world.” 

Taynement: On to our third author of the year.

Leggy: I know. This was a pretty short read.

Taynement: Yes, it was but I think he did a lot with a short book and more authors could take a page from his book. Pun intended.

Leggy: I actually think he did way too much for such a short book. At some point, I got whiplash like am I reading a different book?

Taynement: Interesting. I disagree. I think he integrated a lot of themes with perfect balance.

Leggy: I really didn’t like the shift in focus to police brutality. It’s rare you get a book from an African author about being a gay, second generation African in America. I would have appreciated the book so much more if he had focused on that.

Taynement: I liked that he didn’t dwell too much on the different themes save for  the focal theme of Niru being Nigerian and gay and trying to deal with that.

Leggy: I enjoyed the first half of the book but after the incident, I skimmed the rest of it.

Taynement: Really liked that angle. He touched on the Nigerians but didn’t dwell. Even when they went to visit Nigeria, he described Nigeria so well and the way his father’s behaviors changed was so apt. Even touching on how Nigerians revere pastors and how they deal with homosexuality. I wasn’t expecting the incident and right after, all I felt was rage. I really hated Meredith. But again the way I interpreted it was a touch on how you might think you’re Nigerian in America but at the end of the day, all they see is your skin color.

Leggy: I think this is why I didn’t like that part of the book. I was waaay too angry while reading it. I couldn’t understand how anybody would react the way Meredith and her family did after the incident. Okay, what is done is done, that part wasn’t your fault but you let this young man’s reputation be dragged through the mud without any interference.

Taynement: Reminder of the havoc white women wreak. There was a part in the book when Niru’s dad, half angry-half pleading says “All you people do, wherever you are in this world, is just bring death and destruction, you bring nothing good, nothing good”

Leggy: I just couldn’t understand what kind of parents would do that. Also, reading this book from Meredith’s point of view filled me with so much rage.

Taynement: Exactly. Her parents were the worst and I wished bad things for Meredith but, I think we digress. Moving back to Niru, it’s an interesting look at Nigerian parenting. Niru was a model child that was even headed to Harvard and yet his gayness overshadowed everything. It also showed your basic Nigerian marriage dynamic.  I felt his mum was weak and she could have stood up for him more.

Leggy: When his father said it was better if he had murdered someone, and then the irony of the incident. Well, he kind of got exactly what he asked for. You could tell his mother didn’t think it was that bad, being gay that is, but she didn’t have the guts to stand up for him all through.

Taynement: Can I just say that I wondered a little about how his older brother OJ was written. I actually thought he was dead. Niru kept referring to him like he was a memory.

Leggy: Never got the idea that he was dead. Just think he is basically such a god in their eyes that it made him sound like a memory more than an actual person. He should have called his brother when the whole thing blew up in his face. Also his friendship with Meredith was weird to me. I felt it wasn’t a real friendship on Meredith side because it was built on her infatuation of him. Is it a real friendship if you spend the entire time lusting after said person? Or maybe I just hate her.

Taynement: Fair enough. She’s not a likable person. She has that typical white girl entitlement air about her but as Niru said “Without her life is quiet, with her it is often unbearably loud”

Leggy: Also, it’s quite interesting how so ashamed Niru’s dad was of his gayness that he couldn’t call a conference and say his son is gay. Even with the accusation, he was still too ashamed to admit that. They had proof that he was gay. He had a Tinder account. He had gone on a date. But they chose silence over that option.

Taynement: That’s so deep and so sad and I give Iweala all the credit for delving into this topic and as an acknowledgement nerd, I read it and he felt the need to clarify that he isn’t gay. He also mentioned how this story evolved from a short story of his about a teenage boy outed to his Nigerian parents. He originally did not set out to write about a gay character. He wanted to write about the immigrant experience but he ended up here coming form a community that is conservative about issues of identity and orientation.

Leggy: Of course he had to clarify that he is not a gay guy considering how crazy Nigeria as a society is. Also shows how no matter your credentials and money and background, you’re still black, black, black! His Harvard didn’t matter at the end. His parents living on the right part of town didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the color of his skin.

Taynement: Yes, I mentioned that earlier, still black at the end of the day. Overall, I thought it was a good book and I would recommend it. I did not like the ending.

Leggy: I did not like the ending either, I just felt like Meredith does not deserve closure or anything good.

Taynement: Lmao. I feel like you focused more on Meredith than Niru or rather she had more of an effect on you.

Leggy: She definitely had more of an effect on me. The whole situation was just too crazy for me. And she kept acting like she was helpless and had no agency at 18. Overall, I would recommend this book too. Gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

Memoirs

Book Review: This Will Only Hurt A Little

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Busy Philipps is an actress that is probably known more for other things than her acting roles. In recent years, she has become more popular from her Instagram stories and being so open about her life. I wasn’t privy to this knowledge and was surprised when she got a book deal. I was like who wants to hear about her life? The book was everywhere so I decided to get in on the action.

Busy obeyed the golden rule of memoirs and was very open. Like super, duper open. We get a detailed account of her life starting from her childhood, which unfortunately is always my least favorite part of celeb memoirs, I just can’t find myself wanting to care about it and would rather get to the juicy stuff. Busy shares her family dynamic and how her sister was so mean to her. She gets into the dirty when she talks about losing her virginity at 14 and having an abortion at 16.

She progresses to when she decides to be an actress, her first few years in college, her first big break with Freaks and Geeks where she was not a fan of James Franco and considered him to be a douche. She speaks about the set of Dawson’s Creek, becoming friends with Michelle Williams, her failed relationships. Meeting her husband and their difficulties, her weight struggles in Hollywood and struggling with being a parent and much more.

As is the rule, I audio’d this one and I liked the layout and pacing of the book but man, getting through her vocal fry and valley girl accent was a chore. She was also so hysterical for most of it and came off as entitled. Or was it bratty? She did give the disclaimer that her version of stories were her memories and it could quite possibly be wrong.

While she comes off as privileged, I did like how she acknowledged she had a sparkly personality which she explained as people always wanting to do stuff for you and things working out for her. But in another breath, she was open about how hard it was for her and her husband when the jobs dried up and they couldn’t afford a nanny before she got the Cougar Town gig. She wasn’t very kind to a lot of Hollywood figures in the book which was bold of her considering most people don’t speak up on this.

Overall, I think I liked the book but now in hindsight, I am thinking “did I?” because I am not sure I would recommend it? If Busy is someone that has been on your radar then I think it would be worth your time because she doesn’t skimp on details at all. That much I’ll give her.

Taynement

Fantasy

Book Review : Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

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“Truth is truth and nothing you can do about it even if you hide it, or kill it, or even tell it. It was truth before you open your mouth and say, that there is a true thing.” 

Tracker is highly sought after, for his skills as a hunter. He finds people with his intense sense of smell. He is called upon to find a mysterious boy who disappeared from his mother’s house three years earlier. He finds himself in a group of very odd people with very unique powers all on a quest to find this boy that none of them know much about. When they start getting attacked from all sides, Tracker wonders exactly who the boy is and where the quest is actually going to lead him to.

“Life is love and I have no love left. Love has drained itself from me, and run to a river like this one.” 

This book was a highly anticipated release, it was sold to the audience as the African Game of Thrones. Let me disabuse you of that notion now. This book is NOTHING like Game of Thrones. I have read the Game of Thrones series and again, it is nothing like it. First of all, this is only for hard core fantasy fans and even if you’re one, you’re going to suffer through this. It is less of a straightforward first person narration and more of a stream of consciousness. Tracker narrates the stories himself and it takes so long to get to the meat of the matter. He goes on so many tangents that I won’t be surprised if a lot of people don’t finish this one.

“He is my friend.” “Nobody ever gets betrayed by their enemy.” 

Also, don’t do this book on audio. The narrator has a very thick accent that’s a cross between what Hollywood thinks Africans sound like and a Jamaican accent. You get used to it after a while but this is not a book you can have in the background while doing other things. You really have to listen attentively to understand what is being said. If I had a drinking game for every time the writer said “fuck” or “cock”, I would have been drunk before I hit 10% of the book. It has a lot of sex and if you’re a prude, this is just not the book for you.

“Better to be with the ancestors than to live bonded to somebody else, who might be kind, who might be cruel, who might even make you master to many slaves of your own, but was still master over you.” 

I liked some of the world building in this book. As Tracker follows the boy’s scent from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers, the descriptions of the societies in these cities and the creatures they come across in these forests are fantastic. There were moments I got a glimpse into what this book could have been, if the writer had taken it a different route. I think the premise of this book was great but the execution, not so much.

I found this book to be a maze and you will get lost and confused a lot, I can only advise you to just plow through it if you feel compelled to get through this book. I don’t think this book is for a lot of people and personally, I wouldn’t even know how to sell it.

I think I’m still going to read the next installment in this series because I’m really curious about where the author intends to take this book to. I gave it 2 stars on Good Reads. If you really want to read this one, I think you should persevere through the first 100 pages until the adventure starts off before you decide to give up cos those pages might be just for you.

Have you heard of this book? Are you planning to give it a go? Let me know in the comments.

Leggy.

Fiction

Book Review: A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult

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“It stood to reason that both life and death began with a spark of light”

The Center is a woman’s reproductive health services clinic that provides gynecological services to women, including abortions. It’s one of the last of its kind as the people of Mississippi do not take kindly to abortions mostly because of their religion. One fine morning we meet a whole bunch of characters who go to the center for different reasons.

15 year old Wren was there to get birth control with her aunt. We have Joy, who is there to get an abortion and Janine, who is a pro-lifer that was at The Center undercover to get ammunition. There are a host more others who are unfortunate to be in there when a gun man seeking revenge, walks in and holds them hostage. To make matters worse, the lead hostage negotiator turns out to be Wren’s dad and the situation becomes personal for him.

“Your religion should help you make the decision if you find yourself in that situation, but the policy should exist for you to have the right to make it in the first place. 

When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because YOUR religion forbids it, that’s a problem.” 

It’s been a while since I read a Jodi Picoult book. The only thing I remember about her books was she must always have a character that dies. This book was mainly based around abortions and was a challenge to pro-lifers everywhere, to see the other side of the coin. While it was clear where Picoult stood, she was very fair in showing both sides of the argument. Each character was fully fleshed out and you really got to understand why they made the decisions they did and how they ended up at The Center.

The book is written in reverse order, starting at 5pm and it.drove.me.nuts! Now for those who rush to the back of the book before starting, this may not be an issue for you. It just took away from whatever semblance of a buildup there was. There was also a twist that came from nowhere and seemed like an after thought.

Overall, I liked the book okay because it was a timely issue – women’s rights, with strong view points. It’s one of those books that you hope makes a difference and helps people have a well rounded view. If you don’t think reverse chronology would bother you, I’d definitely recommend.

There were so many good quotes that I figured I’d share some of my favorites:

“Laws are black and white; lives of women are shades of gray”

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.” 

“Louie believed that those white men with their signs and slogans were not really there for the unborn, but there for the women who carried them. They couldn’t control women’s sexual independence. To them, this was the next best thing.”

“Vonita, God rest her soul, used to say that if men were the ones to get pregnant, abortion would probably be a sacrament. The Super Bowl halftime show would celebrate it. Men who had terminated pregnancies would be asked to stand and be applauded at church for the courage to make that decision. Viagra would be sold with a coupon for three free abortions.” 

Taynement

 

Fiction, Uncategorized

We Chit Chat: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

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“Agbatta-Alumalu, the fathers of old say that without light, a person cannot sprout shadows. My host fell in love with this woman. She came as a strange, sudden light that caused shadows to spring from everything else.”
Leggy: An Orchestra of Minorities. Do you know I went into this book without reading a single thing about it? Not even the plot. I kept wanting to but never got around to it.
Taynement: Shouldn’t be a surprise but same for me. I just kept seeing it everywhere and a friend asked me if I’d read it because he was enjoying it.
Leggy: How was your reading experience?
Taynement: Very interesting.  I sent you a screenshot of the very beginning and I prepared myself for a bumpy ride. This was going to be one of those wordy Nigerian authors. It was a rollercoaster. I got in a groove and started getting into the story line. Then I started looking at my clock and the book just wouldn’t end and then it did and I was relieved.
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Leggy: I did this book on both audio and kindle. My audio experience didn’t last very long because the reader completely butchered the Igbo language. I was cringing so bad and it kept taking me out of the story. I’m Igbo and speak Igbo fluently and if you are like me, I do not recommend the audio version but if you don’t understand Igbo I think it was well done. I had to return to kindle for my sanity. This was a bumpy reading experience for me because I was cringing from both the characters and yes, the book just went on and on, mummy.
Taynement: While I always admire Nigerian writers who are unapologetic and write straight Nigerian languages and slang, this was on another level. The illiteracy of the main character was … something else. I mean he called his girlfriend “mummy” and where anyone would say “yea” or “sure”, he would say “that is so, mummy”
Leggy: Girl. I couldn’t imagine what Ndali saw in him. He was so uncouth, he couldn’t speak fluent English, he wasn’t particularly clean. There was nothing he had going for him.
Taynement: And I don’t know how realistic that was, considering Nigerians as we know are as shallow as they come. And she was from an affluent family. Like travel overseas affluent. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Leggy: And she was beautiful. It’s not like she was ugly and managing. She was beautiful, in Pharmacy school and struggling to marry someone like Nonso? It just didn’t make any sense to me. I guess it’s because he saved her life. That probably clouded her judgment.
Taynement: Yeah I thought about that but I don’t think I’m sold on that. There’s grateful then there’s this intense relationship they had. Going back a bit, I did like the setup of his character. It was a chore to get through but I think it was needed. Letting us know his childhood, relationship with women, his dad, how he ended up as a farmer etc and the Igbo cosmology. What did you think about that?
Leggy: That “Chi” had wayyy tooo much to say. I was exhausted. He would go on so many different tangents
Taynement: I got to a point where I was skimming. But I liked the many names he had for the gods
Leggy: Yup, but I was really impressed that he didn’t refer to “ekwensu” as the devil. He said he was the god of trickery and I was like okay, this man researched for this book. That’s what he’s supposed to be in the Igbo cosmology. But God, I was tired. And you know I did some of this book on audio so I couldn’t skim those parts.
Taynement: He did! You know I like to read acknowledgements and he mentioned how he did research especially through his dad.
Leggy: What did you think of the events that occurred before he left for Cyprus that’s the main reason I was like what kind of illiterate character is this? I could see the scam coming from a 1000 miles away.
Taynement: It was a lot and all the more made me question what kind of love is this? Is jazz* involved?
(* slang for African magic)
Leggy: As in, selling his house just to go to college because even if it wasn’t a scam
and it was all legit, who the fuck does that?
Taynement: I think everything he did to go to Cyprus was so questionable. To the point, I wondered if he was mentally challenged.
Leggy It was insane and if I was Ndali, that is the point I would have left him. He didn’t talk to her about any of the decisions he made.
Taynement: None.
Leggy: He just made them, thinking he was doing them for her. She didn’t approve of them even when he told her.
Taynement: Yea this book was a lot now that I think about it.
Leggy: A lot! That was why I was so frustrated and hated the character after he came back from Cyprus. Because Ndali didn’t ask him to do any of the things he did. But somehow he felt that she owed him.
Taynement: I actually didn’t see the events in Cyprus coming. I thought it was going a different direction and he would see the light and betray Ndali.
Leggy: I knew he would end up where he ended up. That’s how all these stories go. Immediately he met the white woman and she talked about her marriage, I knew what was going to go down.
Taynement: On a random note there was so much mention of urine in this book.
Leggy: Lmaooooo
Taynement: And it was called urine
Leggy: So muchhhhhhhh. In so many different ways
Taynement: I really would like to know why the writer wanted to go the really “bush” route
Leggy: Because how else would he have ended up in Cyprus under those circumstances? I think any other person wouldn’t have put themselves in that position
Taynement: No, I mean in general. Even down to his description of stuff in the book. Like when he described the diarrhea it was sooo bush. And sometimes with no warning or context
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Leggy: He wanted it to be “authentic”. What did you think about Ndali as a character? Did she feel real to you?
Taynement: She did until you asked me this question and now I could see how she could have been a figment of imagination
Leggy: She didn’t seem real to me at all. When they had sex and she was telling him that they’re now one, I was cringing so bad. Her entire character seemed not grounded in reality. For such a young and smart girl, she seemed so desperate to get married
Taynement: Hmm I didn’t get the sense she was desperate to be married just more be connected to someone. Which is on par, considering she was going to kill herself over a breakup when they first met
Leggy: What did you think of the events with his friend Jamike? I got tired of the back and forth and wondered why Jamike stuck to it
Taynement: I don’t think I really have any thoughts on him. He wanted to be a martyr and I think by then I was ready for the book to end.
Taynement: Overall I think the book is very hit or miss. I can see why people would hate it or love it. As always I wondered how non Nigerians would view this book. Especially since in this case, there was heavy illiteracy in this. For me, the story had my attention and I appreciated the knowledge on Igbo cosmology in the book,  but at the same time it was kind of a chore to read. It was such a descriptive book. Everything was written with all the details and for a squeamish person it grossed me out a bit. Whether it was describing diarrhea, rotten food or bodily functions it was like yeah okay we get it
*A quick google search and it seems Americans love it and it was a Man Booker Prize finalist. Those that don’t, seem to think it was sexist and Ndali was just a figure head and most of her perspective was not included*
Leggy: Oh absolutely. This was a very easy read but I couldn’t wait for it to finish
Taynement: Really? Definitely didn’t think it easy
Leggy: The suspension the author set up with the chi situation was quite well done because I couldn’t wait to find out exactly what Nonso had done. I really liked the last few pages of the book. It was well written and I liked how it ended. Would you recommend this book to anyone?
Taynement: Hmm. Nah, I don’t think so. Not sure I’d know how to sell it
Leggy: Wow. Really? I definitely would if they’re looking to read more African authors. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll write next. I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads.
Taynement: Don’t necessarily think this book made me interested in his past or future works.
Leggy: Wow Really?
Taynement: Yea. I didn’t hate it but I just don’t think it would be top on the list of books to recommend
Leggy: Honestly, most people who like Nollywood would think it was okay. I’d say if you like really dramatic Nollywood movies, you’d probably like this
Taynement: Hmm. I don’t know. Watching is not the same as reading and the Chi was verrrry wordy.
Leggy & Taynement