Posted in African literature, literature

Pigeonholing books and authors

The best thing about been in a book club is the mind blowing discussions that make me question my reading capability. The hullabaloo that got even the silent ones talking was on what is African Literature. There’s this merry go around we do where we read an African book for one month then the next month we do a non-African. The confusion started when a reader suggested we do Helen Oyeyemi  but i was quick to interject she is a British writer. Then to prove me wrong one said she was born in Africa and migrated to the UK at the age of 4. Correct i said, but been born African doesn’t qualify one’s work into been African Literature.

To make it even more debatable, readers went ahead to pin point African authors who live abroad and non-African authors who write African content. Pigeonholing also cropped up where many half cast African authors have frequently been asked to classify their writing or where audience is felt outside than in Africa. An article by Taiye Selasi on the Guardian Pigeonholing  aroused me even more.

Who is an African author? Which book qualifies to be an African book? Why do you read African books? It is because of the poverty porn displayed by authors, the different themes displayed, the style that showcases real life experiences or because it made it to been the best seller in some other continent? Not only Africa, does the same happen in other continents?

Advertisements
Posted in African literature, book review, challenge, culture, my library, reading

Changes: A Love Story

“Guilt is born in the same hour with pleasure, like anything in this universe and its enemy.”

At first i thought it was going to be a love story that brought changes to it but nada! The book focuses on 3 women Esi, Opokuya and Fusena and their spouses Oko, Kubi and Ali respectively. Esi is a career oriented woman who has no time for her hubby nor her daughter. Due to her busy schedule she hates been married, been a wife where a woman submits and the only way out is when Oko “rapes”her that she files for a divorce. Freedom, maybe! She falls in love with Ali who on the other hand doesn’t value the Muslim norms (marry a virgin who is a muslim) but introduces her to the family as his second wife but still isn’t getting enough from this marriage too. Fusena, does not get the opportunity to advance her career (children and hubby disagrees since he is rich) while Ali has his way to his education desires. However, Fusena’s shop business is the talk of town as she manages it quit well. Opokuya, a nurse by profession has 4 children, manages her home well enough but Kubi cheats on her frequently (add Esi to his list).
The overall review is that Ama brings out elements of motherhood, marriage, friendship, independence, money and culture in the female autonomy where CHANGE bypasses the old traditions. “It is a record of changing circumstances of women’s lives in contemporary Africa…..constructs a psychological blueprint for female portraiture.” The conversations between women in this book shows a lot of social change and from it, can truly say it is what happens in today’s era. Quite an interesting read that leaves one with lots of questions

Posted in African literature, book review, challenge, inspiration, my library, reading

Born A Crime

This failed to be in my list of memoirs (i literally refused to put it in that folder). Reason being he is too funny and unlike other serious biographies that has got a certain order of events this was one hilarious childhood book read. No wonder he is a comedian. So why born a crime? In a nation where apartheid ruled and two different colors of people could not mingle, his coming to being was illegal/ crime that saw him get bullied, hide while other children played and even get smuggled to see his father who was from Switzerland. Thank his mother’s christian ways that made them attend 3 different churches every Sunday where he got to mingle with various races that challenged his thinking.
Growing up he had it pretty rough but he managed to maneuver by learning all languages in SA that made conversations much easier while reducing racism at the same time. Trevor’s mum was a hyper woman who breached laws where possible to achieve her goals that saw her even work as a secretary in various government offices. Through it, she was able to provide a good upbringing to Noah until Abel became his stepfather and hell broke loose. (Drunk, violent, non-provider, shot Noah’s mum but she survived).
Noah takes a reader through his childhood in an exciting way but he does not dwell onto his success as a comedian or how he even got there. All we know is that he was a good DJ who used to burn CDs and sell out to buses that saw him go out to DJ at parties, and open shop at the hood where he made it big then a radio station took him in and before we know it he was conquering all. His jokes were his way to get along with ladies as he believed he was ugly and not good enough to date but boy, did he screw up so much!

Posted in African literature, book review, humour, my library, personalgrowth, reading

We need New Names

“Look at them leaving in droves, the children of the land, just look at them leaving in droves. Those with nothing are crossing borders. Those with strength are crossing borders. Those with ambitions are crossing borders. Those with hopes are crossing borders. Those with loss are crossing borders.  Those in pain are crossing borders…”

The characters, the names oooh my . Who comes up with such names? Bastard (naughtiest of all), Sbho, Stina, Godknows (always asking ques), Chipo (if you in my country this is fries/ female got laid and in the book she got laid by her grandfather?!), Mother of Love, Mother of Bones, Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro, Bonfree…man i could go on with the names but someone take me back. Take me back yas-yass-yaaasss. I think i need to see more creativity of names in the books i read next. Any who, Darling the main chic used to live a normal life where food, clothes, luxuries were not an issue until all that went away and her family relocated to the shacks. Her father ran to South Africa since tough economic times in Zimbabwe needed one to man up only for him to come back with AIDS! Life at the tins was not bad at all as tree climbing and stealing of guavas survived her and her pals. The gifts they got from the NGO peeps made them even more happier. And then all that changed for cabbage ears as her aunt took her in, in America and adjusting was not easy but she managed although missed her home terribly.
What happened on the last chapter of the book is that i lost concentration dance. I got bored by the ending (a jealous Chipo blaming D from running away from home, D reminiscing or did i miss something in between?) and just winded it for the sake of winding it. However, what captivated me the most is that Bulawayo deviated from the norm. The norm where authors come up with sweet names, the ideology where one leaves for the States and all this racism occurs;didn’t dwell on that just a sneak peak. The belief that living in shacks is hell nope-gif but the life these buddies had i would die for-Paradise is where the fun is. The humor, way of expression i mean you have to read it to know what am talking about. But all this misery boiled down to: poor governance, inflation, dictatorship, corruption, colonialism and a cry for change.

“……they flee their own wretched land so their hunger may be pacified in foreign lands, their tears wiped away in strange lands, the wounds of their despair bandaged in faraway lands, their blistered prayers muttered in the darkness of queer lands…”

Posted in African literature, book review, gender, humour, Lifestyle, my library, personalgrowth, reading, sexuality

Hairdresser Of Harare

What happens when everything you have believed in, the praise, pride and entire attention finally disappears in a snap? Faint probably. Vimbai was a known hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s hair salon who believed in making her clients look like white women since they all wanted a style that mimicked so and so from magazines. She rubbed shoulders with the who is who in Zimbabwe and she took comfort in been the best.  The setting takes place in Zimbabwe during Mugambe’s reign which depicts the rising useless dollar currency as citizens try to make ends meet. Not until one day Dumi, a young man appears from the bush and gets the city talking. He takes over as the best hairdresser, promoted to manager and at one time the other hairdressers receive their first pay rise thanks to unending clients. He even starts selling condoms and the salon changes its talks to sex!

When I read the book my guts told me the lad was gay and this had me read it all and bum- he was gay. This is proven when he moves to Vimbai’s house since his expenses are cut off from his accounts by his father who found out he had an affair with a white guy. She seduces him but nay women ain’t his brood. At a church service the pastor preached on homosexuality and Dumi opted they leave for the salon. Next prove is when Vumbai found him with MR.M in her house and it is shrugged off as a business talk not forgetting the glances at the salon were strange. To the real prove of all this is when Vimbai in love finds his dark diary under his bed and shoot-trouble looms.

Before all this truth in the last chapter😉yeah, i started with the last bits ,Tendai shows how culture shuns one off in the inheritance of property especially when women get it all. When Vimbai’s elder brother died in the UK,  his big mansion was left to Vimbai creating a will contest amongst her brothers but she won the case and ended up been hated by family apart from her younger brother Fungai who bothered to check up on her.

Like any other naive girl, Vimbai fell in love with a sugar daddy who pampered her with gifts but we know how the game gets played. Philip was the old bastard who raped her and Chiwoniso was born. Even today we clearly see young girls taking off with older men for luxury and good upkeep only for a lonely poor future when they hit the road.

Another disturbing element is misconduct towards house helps. There is always the notion that village girls don’t know a damn about housekeeping and city girls will strike you dead with their cunning ways.  Another fear factor is that you never allow her to wash your kids because abuse is everywhere and from doing it yourself you testify if indeed molestation happens when you away. Mandei wa Vs’s help who doesn’t receive praise but ridicule from her boss till one day she decides to treat her well; out of love frustrations.

The Ncubes, Dumi’s family get to know V after she attends Patrick’s wedding as Dumi’s plus one. Chemistry clicks off and she is liked by his entire family for saving their son. They even pamper her with trips, she gets a passport thanks to Mitchell corrupted ways and on her birthday she gets a salon of her own. Talk of heaven blessing her abundantly. It is not all rain and sunshine in her world when Dumi’s dirty diary is found and she alerts Mrs.M who sends out her mob to kill Dumi. With his life on the verge of death, Vimbai blames herself for letting the cat out of the bag but Mr.M assures Dumi of an escape to the UK. Mrs.M however has all Dumi’s belongings including his passport and no way can he leave. It is up to V to trade her life with the passport for Dumi’s safety.

This book has got a lot of comparison from then and now:

1) Back in the days hairdressers were women and a man who took up the task was regarded a sissy. Look at the best salons in today’s world all accumulating young men with creativity and passion that takes them to higher heights. I also want my hair done by a man, who doesn’t?

2) In the African culture homosexuality was a taboo and believed to be Westernized. The white people were regarded as the masterminds who corrupted our morals. Not blaming anyone in the present, the numbers of homos parading themselves in our streets is alarming and all I can say is quote Fungai’s philosophical thinking……….

The question of what the human body may or may not be used for is one that is as old as time itself. The question of what is termed human sexuality is perhaps even older. We assume that there are two types of sexuality since everything is made in pairs. Therefore,  when you look at what you think is a man and what you think is a woman, you fail to recognize or acknowledge other ambiguous possibilities eg. Hermaphrodites. ( What he says next might contradict me)😉

3) It was disturbing for a young man to be in a relationship with an elder woman who had a child. However, from the book the Ncubes are OK with it as long as their son’s secret is not revealed. Today we don’t hide secrets and it is very alright for one to love whoever. Age is just a number any who and kids are a blessing, we tell ourselves!

4) Racism was still present as a commotion  between white and black clients erupted in the salon. Power ruled and a group of guerrillas beat the color out of you. Today not so much is evident but we can smell it from a distance.

5) You should know people. People to run to for favors by chunking away a lumpsum to get deals done. Vumbai had no passport and to avoid the long queues, longer processes, Mitchell would jump in and help her secure one in a day! The wealthy speaketh in communities. Nowadays if you don’t have a godfather somewhere things might take eternity for fulfillment but hey I always think only the lazy go for godfathers. Why would you need one anyway?

6) Jealousy, anger, hatred and betrayal consume us when one challenges our careers. Vimbai had the right to be jelo but what was she not doing right? From the black diary, Dumi wrote that she lacked creativity from the soul-she was too mechanical. Today, we do things to please people, for the sake of it not taking into considerations how it makes them feel in the long run. Learn to do things from the soul.

7) On the inheritance issue customary law did not include women in the right to property. However, the law states that women have a right to equal inheritance as their male counterparts. The argument in the book and today is that the woman leaves her father’s home and is married elsewhere where she finds land. What if she doesn’t find land there? As long as the will includes or doesn’ t include her, she has a right to contest for her share. Period! Never argue with the law.

8) Rejection of men. Why is it that when a lady rejects your wooing the next thing that splits itself from your mouths is hate speech? V rejected many and all she got was “you ugly, you will die alone” naysay. Flashforward, it still happens and they hate to be turned down. If I  don’t like you, I simply don’t like you. Why is it hard to swallow that?

9) Punch lines. I would not be a-ow-kay if I don’t write this. We all get wooed but the lines this pot bellied man on the streets said to Vimbai got me thinking of DJ Khaleed and how he would put them across. Never mind me am that hiphop lady. This works out today I think…

God must be missing an angel because girl when I saw you, I knew you must be one of his angels. You must be a hell of a thief because you stole my heart just by the way you walk. Hell, baby, you are hard to get but let me be your Romeo and I’ll treat you like the princess you are.

10) Music. Rhumba is what people loved- Kofi Olomide , Awilo Longomba, Papa Wemba and this proved how people were loyal to their culture till  Dumi changed all that to urban grooves. The transition of music shows how it has progressed from then to now. Which genres do you like?

11) Pastors, pastors, pastors! Getting their flock pregnant was another but blaming it on the holy spirit was outrageous! Patricia a hairdresser got impregnated by Pastor Chasi making her get fired from her post. Is it not true even today we see pastors who are the holiest of hollies going contrary to their teachings?

12) Lastly, a book is not a book if it does not take you into the moment and let you feel you in the scene already. I was in Zimbabwe riding on kombis (buses I presume), taking tanganda tea, eating matemba and sadza, learning the traditional  greetings of makadini henyu, selling maputi and freezits,  walking on streets bearing Mugambe’s names to talking the Shona lingo. Not forgetting the worthless currency that is still present in the country.

…..and Mugabe is still president😮