Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pages: 66
Genre: Non Fiction
Read: April 2017
Rating: 9/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: A must read, feminism 101, common sense

Read If You Are: a human being.

Having followed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks on feminism for a while, I think I finally understand why I look up to it so much. It isn’t that she a revolutionary feminist. She just has the ability to say things that make sense in the most simple and digestible way.

This book, fashioned as a letter she once wrote to a friend who just gave birth to a baby girl, is a ‘feminist manifesto’ that details 15 suggestions that would help this friend to raise a feminist. From gender stereotypes to making sure the kid reads to ensure broadmindedness, all the 15 suggestions spoke to me personally.

A super quick read (and an easy one), this is a book I would recommend to everyone. Be it a to-be parent (mother & father) or just anyone wanting to understand or remind themselves what it like to ‘be’ a feminist.

Favourite Quotes:

“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.”

“Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women.”

“Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.”

“Everybody will have an opinion about what you should do, but what matters is what you want for yourself, and not what others want you to want.”

“Because you are a girl’ is never reason for anything. Ever.”

“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned.”

“If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children, we give them space to reach their full potential.”

“Men who, when discussing rape, will always say something like ‘if it were my daughter or wife or sister’. Yet such men do not need to imagine a male victim of a crime as a brother or son in order to feel empathy.”

“Why does a woman have to be successful at work in order to justify her keeping her name?”

“Her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of equal humanity of other people.”

“Her standards are for her alone, and not for other people.”

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The Princess Saved Herself This Time by Amanda Lovelace

Pages: 155
Genre: Non-Fiction, Poetry
Read: March 2017
Rating: 3/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Boring, A bit much

Read If You Are: I really can’t give you a reason

I bought this book keeping ‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur in mind. That was clearly a bad idea.

I can’t imagine the sort of life Amanda Lovelace has gone through, but if her poetry is a witness to her life then it was quite a ride. However, unlike Rupi Kaur who also used personal experiences to write her poetry, this wasn’t quite so powerful. There were only a handful of couplets that I liked and none that truly spoke to me.

This poetry collection is divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. It speaks of a volatile relationship with her parents and loved ones, grief and loss and learning to be okay with yourself – loving yourself.

Content wise, I think her heart is in a good place and I agree with what she’s saying, but it just didn’t work for me. A quick read though the writing seemed forced, contrived and I admit I ran through the pages waiting for it to get over.

So I can’t in good conscious recommend this book to you. However, if you do find a free copy around and wish to go through it, it is a quick read.

I guess to each their own?

Favourite Quotes:

“I never expected death to be my most faithful companion, but she is the only one who will come without being asked.”

“All the oceans and galaxies did not conspire together to create me so I could reproduce for you.”

“I am a tigress who has earned her softer than velvet stripes.” – an ode to stretch marks

 

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Pages: 231
Genre: Non-Fiction, Fiction, Short Stories
Read: February 2017
Rating: 7/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Heart breaking, raw, real

Read If You Are: Young and looking for someone to encompass your ‘modern’ feelings into one book, in need of good literature in the form of short stories and essays.

On 26 May 2012 Marina Keegan died in a car crash.

This isn’t part of the story of the book. This is real life.

Marina Keegan and her boyfriend were driving her to her father’s 55th birthday party on Cape Cod. Though he was neither speeding nor drinking, he fell asleep at the wheel. The boyfriend was unhurt; Keegan was killed.

To keep her legacy alive, her parents, friends and mentor helped piece together this book of short stories and essays that Keegan had written during her lifetime.

The introduction by Marina’s professor, friend and mentor – Anne Fadiman itself made me cry. Death is a terrible thing, but to lose someone with so much potential so early, feels like a loss for humanity.

The book is divided into two parts – her fictional writing and her non-fictional one. If I had to use on adjective to describe pretty much all the short stories it would be ‘heart breaking’. ‘Sad’ would be another. Why is there so much sadness?

The book was full of realness and displayed the raw power of words and emotions. It’s one of those books where you can’t help but highlight lines because the words speak to you, where you can’t help nodding because you’ve been that person, because you’ve thought those things, said those lines.

Had Marina Keegan been alive, she would have been around my age. I understand her words. I understand the emotion. It’s a book of my generation, for my generation.

But this isn’t a good book because it’s published posthumously; it is good because it is good. As Anne Fadiman said in her introduction –

“Marina wouldn’t want to be remembered because she’s dead. She would want to be remembered because she’s good.”

And that’s just what this book is – good. Is it the most amazing book I’ve read? No. But did it speak to me? Yes, and that’s why I like it.

Favourite Quotes:

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”

“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can still change our minds. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical.’

“The best years of our life are not behind us. They are part of us and they’re set for repetition.”

“And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.”

“Success is transparent and accessible, hanging down where it can tease us but not touch us.”

“I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There’s less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting to involved.”

“The thing is, I like being liked.”

“But it became clear very quickly that I’d underestimated how much I liked him. Not him, perhaps, but the fact that I had someone on the other end of an invisible line. Someone to update and get updates from, to inform of a comic discovery, to imagine while dancing in a lonely basement, and to return to, finally, when the music stopped.”

When Breath Became Air by Paul Kalanithi

Pages: 228
Genre: Non-Fiction
Read: February 2017
Rating: 9/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Introspective, Reflective, Inspirational, Courageous

Read If You Are: Looking for a piece of work that is pure soul.

If there is one piece of advice I could give you while reading this book it would be – Do not read the end in public. You will cry. No doubt. You will have to blink back the tears even though you know what’s coming.

The thing about the book is, it’s not about the ‘what’. It’s not even about the ‘why’ or the ‘how’. I can’t explain it but to say – it’s about the soul of the book, the soul of Dr. Paul Kalanithi. You feel it too, when you read the book. With each sentence and paragraph, you feel an outline of a person being built in front of you and against all odds, against the fact that you know he is no more – you still root for him, pray for him, wish things were different.

Dr Paul Kalanithi – a talented neurosurgeon, ahead of his game had everything crash around him when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He wrote this book because he loved literature, studied it and wanted to leave something behind. More than that, he spent his life, through neurosurgery and literature, trying to understand life and death and what makes human life meaningful. We still may not understand it, but this gave us more to think about.

Through the book you hear of his story from the beginning to the end. It is disjointed and ‘incomplete’ because he did write this in his final months but isn’t that just life? Incomplete.

I have read many a memoir, but I have never read anything with the sort of reflection the author had. Was it the death that he was facing that made him think this way or was he just like this as a person?

The preface, written by Abraham Varghese, is alright but the afterword by his wife Lucy Kalanithi gives you more insight and more tears.

At the end of the day if you ask me, this book isn’t about cancer. It’s about courage. But mostly, it’s about perspectives and life. As one reviewer on GoodReads said, ‘It’s a little bit about dying, but more about being alive.’ And I couldn’t agree more.

So don’t read this book to know of the life of a then dying man. Read this to understand the perspectives and thoughts of an intelligent, inspiring man and learn from his experiences.

P.S. The message he wrote to his daughter in the last paragraph absolutely devastated me. (First quote in the Favourite Quotes section)

Favourite Quotes:

“That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

“Maybe life is just an instant, to brief to consider.”

“Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job – not a calling.”

“This is not the end, or even the beginning of the end. This is just the end of the beginning.”

“Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgement will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

“The word ‘hope’ first appeared in English about a thousand years ago, denoting some combination of confidence and desire. But what I desired – life- was not what I was confident about – death.”

“It occurred to me that my relationship with statistics changed as soon as I became one.”

“Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.”