Book Review – Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

 

Capture d_écran 2017-08-23 à 1.40.14 PMYaa Gyasi’s Homegoing assures me more than ever of the importance of storytelling! Outside being Fante and being more than able to relate to a lot of occurrences in the book including the refreshing use of Fante diction, I am happy that through this story a lot more people will be exposed to the immensely rich aspects of Ghanaian culture. The story is set in southern Ghana, Gold Coast in the narrative, and highlights not only the peculiarities of the group of people called Akan, (Fante and Asante encompassed) but also thoroughly educates readers on the dynamics of the slave trade and other equally important historical events that happened concurrently in the West and Africa, specifically the Gold Coast at the time of the slave trade. This post’s main aim is to highlight parts of the narrative that unravel the parts of Ghanaian culture that lie subtle yet remain pivotal aspects of who we are as a people and how these parts add to the wealth of cultural information this novel holds.

Proverbs

Each page in the book somehow reminds me of my childhood and events witnessed as a child such as eating with one’s fingers, lounging in the courtyard making small talk and listening to inconsequential neighborhood or family gossip or using terms of endearment such as ‘odo’. In the opening of the novel is a proverb that basically talks about the difference between the stark truth and impressions, facades or appearances. The fact that every family looks like a dense united front (forest) yet a close exploration of this ‘forest’ shows the reality of separation since each ‘tree’ (family member) is literally standing alone and apart from the other trees. So, in essence, each family has its own problems that divide them no matter how good or unified they look in the public eye. I dare say this reality of family differences gets more chaotic with extended families. What makes these family troubles more dramatic is the fact that the more traditional the setup, the more the fire is stoked since the partakers in the snags live literally next door to each other usually in a huge enclosed compound. Therefore, this pettiness continues until someone decides to begin thinking differently. I have witnessed my extended family go through these valleys and some of the occasions have been funny and others not so funny.

Anecdotes

In some Ghanaian homes, certain didactic anecdotes are told and passed on to children to serve as deterrents mostly with the general aim of preventing accidents or discouraging some actions. The moral of these stories help us understand why those actions need not be done hence these stories have a cause and effect structure which is meant to directly influence the listeners’ choices. In the novel, there is a brief story of a woman that carried hot oil around her home and ended up scalding her husband who lay in the woman’s path; the woman was banished as a result and later became known as a witch etc. Growing up, I heard stories of losing good luck if one swept at night. This anecdote and Yaa’s anecdote of the hot oil form part of the culture of telling didactic stories with the aim of keeping children safe. The truth behind the discouragement of carrying hot oil around over distances in your home is to avoid accidents. Sweeping at night, on the other hand, is also discouraged to avoid the sweeping away of precious possessions because the logic is that at night visibility is low as compared to the day.

Belief systems

I didn’t even know that the Fante and Twi languages and tribes are branches from one and the same Akan tree! It only made sense then to me in a huge eureka moment that this is the reason behind both languages sounding so similar with only vocabulary variations. How shameful that as Ghanaian, I thought I was very informed about my culture and pride. Happens there’s only so much I  know. I also liked the way a whole page of writing was dedicated to explaining the essence of matrilineal dominance in both Asante and Fante lines. A man is more interested in his sister’s children and considers them more his priority than his own children because his sister is born of his mother but his wife is not; so interest in nieces and nephews guarantee the maintenance of property in the ‘mother’s house’ versus wealth being lost to ‘outsiders’.

Adulterated expressions

Obroni is a term anyone who grew up Ghanaian would know otherwise you probably grew up under a rock . However, this word which originally read as ‘Abro ni’ has gone through stages that have finally brought it to the way we say it now. ‘Abro’ translates to wickedness or malice or the act of knowingly doing what is wrong. ‘Abro ni’ then goes directly to mean a wicked person. This two-word expression gradually becomes the one word we use today; ‘Obroni’.

In addition, I never really understood the full meaning of the pronounced gesticulations of the Adowa dance, I mean we definitely can’t understand everything right? sometimes you just gotta appreciate and leave everything at that but then Aunty Yaa Gyasi gives that insight into one of the meanings of the hand gestures in the Adowa dance. In the novel, a character did the Adowa and hands were brought up and over ‘as though ready to receive and give back to the earth.’ In that particular scenario in the story, the people had gone through a long phase of famine and the ground/Asaase Yaa had finally been able to bless them with abundant food and harvest, therefore, the little hand movement repeated severally in the dance became a direct symbol of appreciation or acknowledgment of everything they owned as a people having come from Asaase Yaa. In the Adowa dance, every dancer has a unique message they use their body to communicate,  one of which is this special hand movement which is a gesture of thanksgiving.

Reinforcement of traditional Practices

The story ends with two people who are attracted to each other. The interesting twist to this is that the two are related. Yaa ends the story with their returning to Ghana and taking a dip in the deep blue sea. Yet the reality of these two people being related hangs on the reader’s neck and we itch to see how this knot will be unwound. Like the proverbial two halves of one fruit, these two characters are from the same family, lost over years and decades and reunited by some random working of fate. Though Yaa leaves us in need of a sequel to satisfy our curiosity about what would happen between these two characters, the part of the book where we are left shows us the potential for love between these two characters.

The reinforcement of traditional practices is highlighted at this point and gives us food for thought because up until this point, Yaa’s character’s have married with no background checks whatsoever. One of the things that make Ghanaian marriages different is the exhaustive background checks done to ensure that incestuous relationships are not allowed to happen. The novel’s end forces a particular line of thought which encourages a renewed appreciation of some of our traditional practices.

Final thoughts

Yaa Gyasi’s book is a wealth of information about slavery and the aspects of history that are not too easy to talk about today. It is insightful material for anyone who wishes to learn more about slavery, Africa, Ghana and an intimate narrative that brings the reader into the story, allowing for active participation and not a dormant reception of information.  We are on a journey with the characters, feel their pain and relive moments from the slave trade.

Most importantly, the story removes readers from the impersonal and mostly detached and factitious way that our schools teach slavery. Slavery is reduced to a narration of facts and dates and fails to show the cultural-emotional extent to which this bit of history meant to many groups of people over long periods of time and even until today.

***

As a lover of the literary arts, I keep piling up reasons that ground my deep interest in this art. Below are a number of reasons;

Literature becomes a vehicle through which many topics can be discussed in a not too rigid way helping for the flexible accumulation of knowledge outside technical material

Literature exposes a people, their thought processes/social consciousness/belief systems, and culture….. this thought aligns with the first point…

We learn about own selves through literature, some works can emphasize what we already know and enhance our understanding of self.

Also, check out the post on Willie Lynch’s How to make a Slave as it aligns with several aspects of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.

 

 

Willie Lynch’s Letter on ‘How to Make a Slave’ and Personal Musings

Capture d_écran 2017-08-23 à 1.46.53 PMA friend and I had an extensive conversation in which I literally forced him to agree that racism had a hand in the original plan of slavery. We had time on our hands, and we were high from shoving down what would later turn into poop. We were bursting with a raw desire to toss around ideas. His main argument was that slavery had economic and political backing. Yes, but racism too, a desire to portray the superiority of one race over the other….That too! I screamed!

Who cares?!

So, when he mentioned this book, I was drawn immediately to its title. Among many things, How To Make a Slave. Okay, let’s go see what this literature held!

This material is simply a letter from Willie Lynch (whose last name is asserted to probably be the source of the word lynching ) to slave owners on how to keep their slaves from rebelling for a long time, (He promises them that if used well, this method could work for 300 years from the 18th century in which it was shared) Though I think this material aligns perfectly with some happenings in our world today, it is believed to be a hoax. Yet, it is written in such logical detail that it makes me believe it is ‘real’. The more I think about it, the more my conviction of an existence of what I like to call ‘workings behind happenings’. The fact that there’s always some twisted plot behind occurrences. Ebola, shootings of young black males in America,….Whether true or not, it is striking material that deserves attention.

This piece would highlight striking portions of the document while briefly discussing opinion on how it aligns with modern social happenings (largely in my Ghanaian society).

‘Use of fear, envy, and distrust for control’ (As a method to control slaves)

Excerpt

 ‘You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male. And the male vs. the female. You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks.’

Opinion

The social consciousness of pride associated with our black skin is growing, at least online, because of posts that demonstrate this, particularly on an online social space such as Instagram; however, how and why has there generally been a subtle preference for lighter skinned people women? Without any research, a cursory glance at my Ghanaian society, for example, presents anyone with a huge prevalence of lightening products. Lighter skin girls seem to be preferred by ‘society’ and playful accolades such as ‘Akosombo Kaniya’ (Ghana’s electric power source) is thrown around playfully hinting at the underlying thought of the lighter skin girl being preferable to the darker skinned one. Why would such a metaphor exist if it doesn’t hint at the superiority of a lighter skin tone? To compare a source of electricity of a whole country to a person renders that person quite powerful. Moving on, terms like ‘mi broni’ my ‘white babe’ (if you like) are terms of endearment some Ghanaian men use on their women. What does the use of ‘broni’ allude to? or bring to mind?

Excerpt

‘You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks. It is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us. Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful of each other’. 

Opinion

 Why do we seem to prefer doing business with Obroni versus another black man? In Chimamanda’s Americanah, she alludes briefly to one of the characters’ prosperity in business if only the face of his business is a person of Caucasian descent. This mentality is demonstrated further by the general preference of western products on our markets. Which is why the West (including people who trace their heritage back to Africa) can get the Shea butter, Cocoa, Angelina/Dashiki and Ghana- must-go and recently our Ahenema slippers repackage it for us, and we still buy…..

The Dashiki/Angelina cloth being a whole new conversation because do we own them technically if we don’t make them? We can argue that we do own them because they’ve been adapted to our tastes over the years and also because we have embraced and use them….


The other interpretation of distrust can be the encouragement of the use of the colonizer’s language versus our own languages. Slaves were beaten forced to speak English and not their languages so that in doing that, plots and attempts to escape would be eliminated. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a great novel that features several examples to back this example. Check out the post here

The rest of the post features other parts of the letter that struck me. Yet, my commentary ends at these two points. I made a concluding remark at the base of this post and added a video I think sits well with the theme of this post….enjoy…

Other excerpts

‘Let us make a slave. What do we need? First of all, we need a black nigger man, a pregnant nigger woman, and her baby nigger boy. Second, we will use the same basic principle that we use in breaking a horse, combined with some more sustaining factors.’ What we do with horses is that we break them from one form of life to another that is we reduce them from their natural state in nature. Whereas nature provides them with the natural capacity to take care of their offspring, we break that natural string of independence from them and thereby create a dependency status, so that we may be able to get from them useful production for our business and pleasure

‘Hence both the horse and the nigger must be broken; that is breaking them from one form of mental life to another. Keep the body take the mind!’

You must keep your eye and thoughts on the female and the offspring of the horse and the nigger. A brief discourse in offspring development will shed light on the key to sound economic principles. Pay little attention to the generation of original breaking, but concentrate on future generations.

The Breaking Process of the African Woman

‘Take the female and run a series of tests on her to see if she will submit to your desires willingly. Test her in every way, because she is the most important factor for good economics. If she shows any sign of resistance in submitting completely to your will, do not hesitate to use the bull whip on her to extract that last bit of resistance out of her. Take care not to kill her, for in doing so, you spoil good economic. When in complete submission, she will train her off springs in the early years to submit to labor when they become of age. Understanding is the best thing. Therefore, we shall go deeper into this area of the subject matter concerning what we have produced here in this breaking process of the female nigger. We have reversed the relationship in her natural uncivilized state she would have a strong dependency on the uncivilized nigger male, and she would have a limited protective tendency toward her independent male offspring and would raise male offsprings to be dependent like her. Nature had provided for this type of balance. We reversed nature by burning and pulling a civilized nigger apart and bull whipping the other to the point of death, all in her presence. By her being left alone, unprotected, with the male image destroyed, the ordeal caused her to move from her psychological dependent state to a frozen independent state. In this frozen psychological state of independence, she will raise her male and female offspring in reversed roles. For fear of the young males life, she will psychologically train him to be mentally weak and dependent, but physically strong. Because she has become psychologically independent, she will train her female off springs to be psychological independent. What have you got? You’ve got the nigger women out front and the nigger man behind and scared.’ …….

Conclusion

‘Keep the body take the mind!’ 

The slavery that took the body and human effort ended long ago yet mental slavery continues to exist. Though the term ‘mental slavery’ sounds so overused and bloated,  it still very much exists and is a term that should be revisited often and put in perspective. Ignoring the elephant in the room because we are more concerned with our individual lives instead of going to war for the greater good of the race or mankind is expected, however, talking about issues at the barest minimum will provoke thought, trigger conversation and gradually bring change. as seen on our social media pages …

Lynch, Willie. ‘How to make a slave’

Click to access The_Willie_Lynch_Letter_The_Making_Of_A_Slave!.pdf

Also, watch this video! It’s worth the watch!

 

 

Beach Road

The Gallery sat there, overlooking the ocean like a lone traveler taking in the night view of this small coastal suburb.

The gallery sat at the brink of the asphalt road and was pretty to look at

It had people on long drives by the beach road staring in its direction

The ramshackle Trotro buses rolled along and appeared small and bug like against the elegance of the gallery

I thought Trotro rides could range from painful, dehumanizing and risky to carefree, breezy and empowering

And in my unique experience, night rides along the beach road were everything but empowering.

Mosquitos that had the unique ability to permeate the thickest layer of repellant journeyed happily with travelers. They had a destination too I guess.

They’d paid their fare and duly earned their place onboard among legs.

Everything got even more irritating because the Trotro had absolutely no space to wiggle or convulse out of a bite.

This experience on the beach road at rush hour reminded us of a can of sardines.

All we needed was that shitor and gari to complete this delicious experience.

Humidity, spittle, sweat and other stale-I’ve-had-a-long-ass-day-smells transited with us.

The gallery and its unusual location gave that temporary respite that elevated us beyond the Trotro experience. The ocean too and its limitlessness gave that feeling of awe only nature gives.

Invictus, William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

Fall Nights

He knew I liked the dark. He called it the silhouette effect. Of seeing and not seeing entirely. Of inhaling sharply, touching and feeling taut smooth warmth.

We drove seeking the dark that night.

His signature cologne was held in a dark bottle and I thought it was such a rip-off using a product whose longevity one couldn’t determine. You would know you’d exhausted its contents when the puff no longer bore liquid

When the puff no longer bore liquid.

His puff no longer bore any liquid the third time and I knew he’d given me his all.

I was half amused at the thought of seeking the dark for what only we knew. I’d agreed with the zodiac character trait list that was attributed to his birth month. This was a person whose depth was not face value. He held furtive glances and a silent demeanor that opened with familiarity. Then there was that episode of an occasional admission that only surfaced with intense emotion.

‘This feels so good!’

He was highly guarded and immune to vulnerability. I smiled secretly each time I sensed that in a pile of words, there was a hidden message that needed my attention. I knew when he wanted something.  I learned that this was more about perception than overt expression.

More sensual than visual. Parallels with the idea of Dark Fall nights where everything was really more about perceiving than seeing or saying.

 

 

Factory Girls

4am. I am beyond late.

The idealistic part of me hated the job but the realistic part urged me and told me to go gather life experience and sauce for my writings. I’d read Emile Zola and how the repetitive imagery of darkness fills Germinal. A white horse trapped in the bowels of the mine remained untainted and my classmates and I took turns pontificating about why a horse could remain a solid pure white in a dark and dirty mine…Happens the horse symbolized hope. Hope of the common man’s resurgence after the ruling classes’ exploitation of them and blah blah

This morning though, darkness didn’t dominate my surroundings. The area was fairly lit and I stood in a sea of people, mostly women who were here to make croissants, brownies, cinnamon rolls and whatever else for the president. The task was simple. Perform the work of a human-robot picking and stacking containers with as much of what was rolling out on the carousel. And in an orderly fashion. These human robots had been at this task for years and their dexterity and pace was unmatched. How long? Twenty, thirty years? They were very protective of their work and reflected a collective sense of pride and confidence at being this excellent at their task. The task of stacking plastic boxes with cinnamon rolls for thirty years?! I shat on their ‘achievement’. I was not in awe of excellence at a career in stacking. The simplicity of the task rather exhausted me and I zoned off deep into my thoughts for life.

It was the era of the Octopus. He lay on the White House and puppeteered everything with his great long tentacles. I suppose he ate croissants too. Or did the Octopus eat croissants? Cos if he did like other normal people, he wouldn’t stir such trouble…then again, the idea of trouble is subjective so…. He probably ate croissants, that or at least some of the baked goods that this Bread company got its profits from. I wondered if the women would all pass E-verify checks. It was that or no work. You’d return home if you went hungry. Then again it was strikingly clear that this place was full of the Wall people. The people who were supposed to stay behind the Wall once it was built. They made no attempt at speaking some English and were very unapologetic about talking trash about other people just because they thought they had some kind of code language. I looked sideways at them. Another group of people here was the Dark people. The Wall people dominated though. Some of the Dark people had very dark lips, a slur and frankly needed the paycheck for the next pair of trendy sports shoes. What a life.

My guess was that the factory made more than five thousand pieces of baked goods each day. The ones that didn’t get sent off were frozen to be sent off later. A lot of the Wall people had a gold tooth or two. Was it a trademark like the Indians and Senegalese and their elaborate rings? Outside of this, I also noticed that some of the Wall people had backs that were tense and curved with years of repetitive work that no one wanted. I decided on day two that whatever this was wasn’t for me and with renewed thinking, I learned not to look down on the Factory Girls’ hustle.

They were right after all to be this protective of their work because no one else except they could do it this well.

The Octopus could have their work if he wanted to. After all, he had eight tentacles and near perfect business acumen.

Make America great again.

Songs of Sorrow, Kofi Awoonor

I
Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus
It has led me among the sharps of the forest
Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon feces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.1
I am on the world’s extreme corner,
I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky
Sit in the middle and forget
I am on the world’s extreme corner
I can only go beyond and forget.
My people, I have been somewhere
If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.
The world is not good for anybody
But you are so happy with your fate;
Alas! The travelers are back
All covered with debt.
II.
Something has happened to me
The things so great that I cannot weep;
I have no sons to fire the gun when I die
And no daughters to wail when I close my mouth
I have wandered in the wilderness
The great wilderness men call life
The rain has beaten me,
And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
I shall go beyond and rest.
I have no kin and no brother,
Death has made war upon our house;
And Kpeti’s great household is no more,
Only the broken fence stands;
And those who dared not look in his face
Have come out as men.
How well their pride is with them.
Let those gone before take note
They have treated their offspring badly.
What is the wailing for?
Somebody is dead. Agosu himself
Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.
Agosi if you go tell them,
Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove
That they have done us evil;
Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites;
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.

Feminism is not a ‘One size fits all’

Before falling into the temptation of providing a definition of feminism and its attendant compulsion to be bound by the definition, I would like to use this post to help our new generation of feisty lady feminists understand that feminism is not only limited to the literal fight against the male species.  The ideology is not a mere reduction to whether we are better than men or an unnecessary desire to be at par with them constantly.

Feminism is intellectual and subjective and like all other discourses and opinion, you must examine it for yourself (esprit critique) before you get lost in the all attractive tendency to base your whole life and line of thought and argument on only a distorted aspect of the idea. We are so quick these days to get so defensive over our nature as women and what men do or do not do and then run to the umbrella of feminism for justification.

Just because Descartes preached the need for critical thinking, independent thought as well as skepticism does not mean I jump on the bandwagon and live a life of complete skepticism of everything I am presented with. Also, just because I read a few lines of J.P Sartre does not make me suddenly go off and denounce my Catholic faith in favor of existentialist thought. To start off, the term feminist isn’t even African. In that sense, we can argue that the concept is lacking in addressing the African woman’s unique struggle. What I am driving at is the fact that before we get too quick to prescribe solutions or adhere to schools of thought, consider your own unique situation and apply your subjectivity. I love Ghana Feminist blog because the curators identify that the concept is a huge foreign umbrella that needs to be tailored to the Ghanaian woman’s unique situation. Ideas are appealing, they are the foundations for thought. If you accept an idea for what it is and remain only at foundation level, without building on it or questioning it and more importantly adding your own subjectivity to it, you go no further than a building stuck at foundation level.

Chimamanda in her Feminist Manifesto argues that girls need not spend too much time on their hair because while we do that, our male contemporaries may be using that time to self-develop. Though I adore Chimamanda, I am not obliged to prescribe to every thought she presents, though she is a force to reckon with in academic conversation.  In that sense, I as an individual with reasoning capacity will, examine the information presented and see if that opinion works for me. After all, though Chimamanda and I share a common sex, we cannot lump our experiences as women from two entirely different cultural heritages, ethnicity and nationalities, experience, etc together and claim to have a common world view. Surely based off of all these variables, we are different. The thing with our generation these days is that we’re quick to jump on bandwagons and adhere to opinions without thinking in-depth. One of the reasons for my disinterest in online debates is the fear of saying something stupid and distorted that would come back and haunt me. I intend to lean on one recent online conversation to push the argument that

  1. Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board
  2. Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  3. Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

I will make reference to one online conversation to build my claims; more specifically a recent reaction to a Nigerian talk show on Youtube called ‘King Women’ on Twitter.  A friend sent it my way and I hated the title immediately but then I loved the show and the idea of celebrating women’s success stories. I questioned the idea of female success being tagged with the crux of male success or dominance. Why couldn’t the show be called ‘Queen Women?’ or something feminine at least? We went on and on over this and I doubt I accepted his views though I made comments that demonstrated I had. I’m still thinking about his comments.

In one of the episodes, a successful Nigerian lady architect mentions that there is a difference between being submissive and obeying in marriage.Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.39.52 AM

She further explains that submission is about the possession of power but the decision to relinquish it. Obeying is powerlessness and unquestioned compliance. I agreed with this paradox of power and submission. She gave the example that if a woman has the same economic power as her husband and decided to travel and the husband asked her not to go, and she granted his wish, that was submission. The fact that she has the power to make her trip happen but deciding not to because he asked. The contrast with sheepish obedience though is being powerless (in this case economic) and obeying simply because you have been told not to travel.  (And actually not having the means to go anyway ) If you listen to this part well enough, you would realize there is an underlying message of the need for feminine economic independence.

Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.40.08 AMThough the message of submission has been distorted in our African society with the sad backing of religion and made to appear as a term that only applies to females, I think it is also very much applicable to males contrary to popular belief. Moving away from the gender conversation, if a human loves you, they will ‘submit’ to you. All we hear is wives submit to your husbands’. I do not blame some women for clinging onto what society feeds them. However, the fact that society feeds our thoughts and perspectives does not mean subscribe to everything it tells you. Matter of fact, submission does not mean lay down and be a doormat ladies! Both humans can submit to each other if it works for them. For women such as Jumoke , her subjectivity and personal interpretation of a word ( that sadly connotes being a doormat in society) allows her to navigate her relationship with her husband. Why then will other women come online and rubbish or disagree with a concept that they may not have fully explored or personally analyzed for their own unique situation(s)? Jumoke’s definition of feminism is different and works for her. She is successful and confident enough to share an opinion that she is entitled to. One of the online commentators wrote  ”Women like these mislead other less informed women out there who look up to them. I feel sad for them.” What I think is that no one needs to allow themselves get misled. First of all, you do not have to subscribe to everything you are fed. #LessonOne. Rather cultivate the habit of independent and subjective thought and then you won’t be misled. Also, there is no need to lose emotions. Be sad for causes that need sadness.

img_1796 In conclusion, I will copy and paste my three motivations for writing this post.

  • * Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board without taking into consideration your unique situation
  • * Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  • Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

Here is the entire conversation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG7yo5m_T9s&t=3879s

Letters to a YOUNG NOVELIST I Mario Vargas LLosa

Capture d_écran 2017-08-23 à 1.49.49 PMNote from the blurb ;- “he (the writer) lays bare the inner workings of fiction, all the while urging young novelists not to lose touch with the elemental urge to create.”

One of the truest reasons for my huge attraction to fiction is my recognition of the existence of inspiration all around us. There are stories all around! The story of your neighbor, your own life, the events that unfolded between you and the random man or woman you met! Or the dramatic break up of your friend who never listened to your words of wisdom on that waste relationship. Seriously, there are countless reasons to create! Having this in mind, I was happy to read about not losing the urge to create in the blurb of this book and discover a narration of how to grow the spark for writing.

The book is a collection of short stories, each crafted with a specific message to be delivered. I smiled as I read the parts of the book that addressed my fears/secret wishes and maybe uncertainties. How revealing it all felt! Without even going over my head with excitement and a stark fascination at how piercing its truths were, I had to remind myself that of course, this was more or less a manual of some sort created with aspiring writers in mind. One of these truths that pummeled through me addressed the aim of being a best-selling writer. Was my aim selfish or legitimate?

“I venture to suggest that you not expect quite so much and that you not count too much on success. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be successful, of course, but if you persevere in writing and publishing, you’ll soon discover that prizes, public acclaim, book sales, the social standing of a writer all have a sui generis appeal;  they are extraordinarily arbitrary, sometimes stubbornly evading those who most deserve them while besieging and overwhelming those who merit them least. Which means that those who see success as their main goal will probably never realize their dreams; they are confusing literary ambition with a hunger for glory and for the financial gains that literature affords certain writers (very few of them ). There is a difference.” 

This right here is an answer to the thought that has long gnawed at me. I wondered constantly how best selling authors ‘did it’. Was there a special formula to becoming a best seller? Did it have anything to do with how the material was sold or marketed? Did it have anything to do with the title of the book in question? Who decided if a story was worth the hype or not? Did the story have to be overly intellectual and loaded with lofty allusions or was I going to be fine writing about mundane things? How about the countless writers already on the scene? How do I ’emerge’ from the lot? I actually told a boy manfriend about my dreams of being a writer and he replied asking me if I knew the number of books that had already been published and if I really thought I could stand out? Did this remark ruffle my feathers? I kept my composure on the outside but on the inside, I crumbled and hated him immediately.  However, this quotation just allayed the ‘fears’ I had created for myself. Reading this quotation though, I found the answer! Consistency and a focus on the desire to create versus a fixation on the thought of success whether in the shape of fame or monetary were not the more important question. What mattered was wanting to write and keeping at it regardless of all the odds.

And how do you know you are cut out for writing? Here you go; “deep inside, a writer feels that writing is the best thing that ever happened to him, or could ever happen to him because as far as he is concerned, writing is the best possible way of life,..” 

But of course, I more than agree that writing is “a mysterious business, of course, veiled in doubt and subjectivity” DOUBT! Doubt and subjectivity! How many times have I done and undone lines because I felt I didn’t sound smart enough?

How does it all start? “a man or a woman develops precociously in childhood or early in his or her teenage years a penchant for dreaming up people, situations, anecdotes, worlds different from the world in which he or she lives, and that inclination is the first sign of what may later be termed literary vocation”. These lines explained the constant pang in me to write. I do have a penchant for dreaming up people and situations. Whenever I meet a person, I try to get to know them as much as possible and listen to all of their stories. I also allow different perspectives to air and will only cut in if I feel what I am hearing is absolute nonsense I can not deal! Yet even with all of that, there really is a drop of truth in some kinds of trash talk. So I still listen just to be able to bring all these together in a rich melange for stories.

But why do I like literature though? Answer – Because my age old mantra has reminded me that literature mirrors life and that it is a way through which life’s events can be reflected.  Yet for some reason, an interesting truth about fiction that I know I knew subconsciously but never happened to consider forthrightly was the fact that we write to alter reality! We do! Well I do! ; ‘The secret raison d’etre of literature / what they (writers) were (are) obliged to fabricate because they weren’t (aren’t) able to live it in reality and, as a result, resigned themselves to live it only in the indirect and subjective way it could be lived: in dreams and in fiction. Fiction is a lie covering up a deep truth: it is life as it wasn’t, life as the men and women of a certain age wanted to live it and didn’t and thus had to invent.

Bam!