Category Archives: Reviews

How fast a reader are you?

books

So today I bumped onto a speed test for readers on Dickson Otieno’s blog and thought I must share this.

First, I took the test and failed miserably. I did 72 words per minute. I am 71% slower than the average UK reader.  That means I would read the book- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling in 19 hours and 49 minutes. Or Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell in 20 hours and 35 minutes. Here is a book I have not yet completed, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, I would read in 39 hours 14 minutes. Ooh!

Here is the App, try and test your reading speed.

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

I think I might just resort to audio books at this rate. The thing is, no matter how slow, I’m in love with books. Yesterday my neighbour came to my house and on seeing my collection, she asked, “When do you get time to read all these books?” Yeah, I guess I’ll stick to my title- Bookaholic.

Photo credit

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Book Review: We Need New Names- Noviolet Bulawayo

We need need new names

Paradise is a shanty where men’s eyes never lift from their draughts, under the jacaranda trees and women are busy with hair and talk, children on the other hand have no choice but to go steal guavas in Budapest due to their hunger.

People in Paradise once had real houses that were demolished by bulldozers, forcing them to come to shanties. The 10 year old Darling narrates how the demolishers even killed a baby in the debris.

Every chapter in Bulawayo’s book can stand as a short story, because she talks of different things related to  the desperate situation in their country- Zimbabwe.  I think the writer uses the voice of a child so as to lighten the issues she addresses.

Hunger and poverty

They live in tin houses and share the same room. Darling narrates how a strange man comes at night, sleeps with her mother and leaves while it’s still dark.

She describes the hunger they feel. It’s as if someone scooped the insides of their stomachs. They steal guavas because of the hunger, even though it makes them constipated.

Mother of Bones, Darling’s grandmother wears mismatched shoes, like a mad woman, yet she is not mad.  She has worthless money in her suitcase that she counts everyday and wonders why she cannot use it.

Children are no longer in school because the teachers left the country.

Dead foreign aid

The Chinese are building a big mall for them, yet they cannot afford to feed themselves.

The NGO people come with their lorries to give them rations of food, clothes and toys. The children as well as parents actually look forward to these moments. They pose for photos all the time, something they have rehearsed only too well.

Mass migration

People are fleeing the country to other countries where there are better prospects. They do not want to remain in  the “kaka” country.

Most men leave their wives and children behind to go work in the mines and forget them. They only come back home when they are sick and dying.

Some are fleeing from the government because they fear being killed. Governments are against democracy. It’s a form of Neocolonialism where the people of the land have turned into oppressors.

HIV/AIDS

This is refereed to as ‘the sickness’, and is something that is spoken of in whispers, showing the shame associated with it. Darling’s father returns home with the sickness and interrupts her life because she cannot play with her mates. She has to look after him and keep it a secret from everyone.

There’s a connection between Mother of bones and her referring to her ‘father’s bones’.

Religious fanaticism

Those who have sought refuge in religion are fanatics. Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro, is the religious authority who exorcises demons and extorts money from the already impoverished folk in exchange for prayers.

Darling thinks the god to whom they pray is a sadist who ignores their pleas. So the adults are just wasting their time. Only  when she gets to America, does she reach into the dustbin of her heart and retrieve God, because she has more than enough food.

Incest and abortion

Chipo is only 11, yet she is pregnant. Her grandfather raped her when her grandmother went to the market.

The girls plan to remove Chipo’s stomach, yet they are clueless. Only one of them, Forgiveness seems to have an idea. She is busy straightening a rusty clothes hunger for the task. This scene raises the hairs on my head because I am thinking what would happen if they succeed. Chipo could die because doctors are not in hospitals. They have all gone for ‘greener pastures’.

Identity crisis

Everyone wishes to go to America, yet after they stay there, they cannot return to their land due to lack of papers. Even when their parents die, they can not return to bury them and mourn behind closed doors, fearing to attract undue attention.

In America, they cannot raise their children the way they were raised because instilling discipline is considered child abuse.

Reliance on kin abroad

People back in the country rely too much on handouts from those ‘lucky enough’ to go to America. Those in America struggle to put up a show that they are prospering, working multiple jobs to send money back home. “Our parents have stopped being our providers, we are now their parents”.

The kin abroad have bought fancy houses for their folk back home, while they live in houses made of planks.

Get your copy and enjoy the humor, while you see the reality in some of our African countries.

Nyamchom, bonfire and laughter for book lovers

Photo: Mike Kuria (Facebook)
Photo: Mike Kuria (Facebook)

This Saturday we had a book club meeting with the Daystar University Book Club. Prof. Mike Kuria of Daystar University offered to host us at his Matasya home for nyama choma- roast goat meat.

We were discussing NoViolet Bulawayo’s book, We need new names, and boy! did the book generate great discussions. And laughter too! I will post a review later. For now, I just want to recount the eating, laughter and bonfire experience we had. It reminded some of us of  the stories we were told by other people, of grandmothers telling them stories beside the fire. We used to listen to these stories with our mouths open wide with awe. We were fascinated perhaps because we grew in Nairobi and our grandmothers never told us fireside stories. You get the gist of my digression, do you?

It is a  unique book club, which was formed by the Daystar University department of Language and Performing Arts. The first time I attended it, I was surprised to sit with faculty members, at a coffee shop discussing a book. As a student, I thought this was an innovative  way to inculcate a reading culture in the university.

Daystar University book club is open to all book lovers, even outside Daystar University. As we speak, we have even more members who are not  affiliated to the university.

We ate roast meat until our stomachs could not take anymore. Then there was the roasting of maize, which Kairetu turned out to be good at. I’m telling you, this  girl might be wasting her talent. (Ever thought of starting a maize roasting business?) The rest (You know yourselves) seemed to be in a competition to make burnt offerings of the roast maize. Perhaps the burnt  offerings were to appease the spirits back in Bulawayo’s Paradise.

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As you can see, the discussions went on till darkness came to send us to our homes. We even left with cobs of maize to show that our intestines were full. Actually:

When we were full we carried our dense bodies with the dignity of elephants- if only our country could see us in America, see us eat like kings in a land that was not ours.– We Need New Names- How they lived.

Movie review: For Colored girls

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This movie by Tyler Perry is based on the  Obie Award-winning, dramatic prose poem- For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange.

For Colored Girls is a story of seven women and the different struggles they go through. It has a feminist theme- at least that is the deduction that I drew from it.  It is a very emotive movie and you might find yourself shedding a tear or two. I did, both times I watched it.  But anyway, that depends on the person watching it.  I liked the spoken word in the dialogue, which cleverly woven to tell the stories of these women.

Each of the women have struggles related directly to men in their lives. The sub themes are:

Sex Addiction– Thandie Newton plays Alice’s Eldest daughter, Tangie, who loves sex.  She is using her body to torment men because of her inner unresolved conflicts. Double standards appear here because women are expected to handle themselves in a dignified manner. Most of the men sleeping with her equate her to a prostitute.

Abortion– Teressa Thompson, Nyla, is the young daughter who has unprotected sex on her graduation night. She is a dancer, waiting to go  into college on sponsorship. When she discovers she is pregnant, she asks for 300 dollars college application fees that she wants to to procure an abortion. Her sister Tangie, refers her to a backstreet drunkard who nearly kills her. “I couldn’t bear to let her look at me pregnant”, she says, referring to her mother.

Religion– Whoopi Goldberg takes the part of an overly religious mother of two, Alice, who in my view, is hiding from the reality of abuse from her father through religion. Unfortunately, her daughters do not turn out as she would like, one a sex addict and the other ends up having a backstreet abortion.  The irony is that she is disappointed by her daughters having sex, yet she subtly encourages the abortion. This shows a double standard in her values. “That which was growing in you was a sin, it must have been destroyed”, she tells her youngest daughter.

Rape– Anika Noni Rose, Yasmin is a dance tutor who undergoes date rape when she invites her date for dinner at her house. The police questioning makes one think that rape has to do with a woman’s suggestion. “Are you sure you didn’t do anything to suggest it?”

Domestic Violence– Kimberly Elsie, Crystal Lewis is an assistant  who is a mother of two and  lives with an abusive husband, Michael Elly, Beau. Beau is a former army man who turns to alcohol to drown his frustrations. He beats up his girlfriend and children and even ends up killing the children in a fit of jealousy.

Childlessness– Kerry Washington, is Kelly, the social worker who can’t have children because of an untreated STI. She has a supportive husband, Bill Harper, who is a police officer. She feels guilty for the death of Crystal’s children, because she could not rescue them from an abusive man.

HIV/AIDS and Infidelity– Janet Jackson plays Joanna Bradmore the role of a wife who has it all put together. The no nonsense boss who has a husband who feels he has to spend their money without her consent to feel like a man. She ends up infected with HIV because her husband is a man who loves sleeping with men.

Love and acceptance– Yuanita Sims is a memorable character. The nurse running the community center for women. Played by Loretta Devine, she portrays a woman who empowers other women, yet yearns the love of a man who throws her love in her face one too many times. A man who comes to her when he needs her and leaves when she needs him. I particularly love this poem when she decided to let go:

Somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff
And didn’t care enough to send a note home saying I was late for my solo conversation
Or too sizes too small for my own tacky skirts
What can anybody do with something of a nobellier on an open market?
Did you get a dime for my things?
Hey man, where are you going with all of my stuff?
This is a woman’s tripping, I need my stuff to ooh and aaah about
Honest to God! Somebody almost ran with all of my stuff
And I didn’t bring anything but the kick and sway of it
The perfect ass for my man and none of it is theirs
This is mine…Phemelo’s own things,…
That’s my name now give me my stuff
I see you hiding my laugh and how
I sit with my leg open sometimes to get my crutch some sunglight
This is some delicate leg and whimsical kiss
I gotta have to get to my choice
So you can’t have me unless I give me away
And I was doing all that till you ran off on a good thing
And who is this you left me with? A bad attitude
I want my things, I want my Oooh with a hot iron scar,
I want my leg with the flee bite, yeah I want my things
I want my calouse feet and quick language back in my mouth
I want my own things how I love them
Somebody almost ran off with all of my stuff
And I was standing there looking at myself the whole time
It wast spirit that ran off with my stuff
It was a man who’s ego won’t drown like road ants shadow
It was a man faster than my innocence
It was a lover I made too much room for almost ran off with all of my stuff
And the one running with it, don’t know he got it
I’m shouting this is mine and he don’t , and he don’t even know he got it
My stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure of the year
Did you know somebody almost got away with me!
Me! in a plastic bag under his arm, Me! Phemelo Motona!
Somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff!

Being Mary Jane: A typical single woman’s story

gstatic.com
gstatic.com

This week I have been watching Being Mary Jane series by Mara Brock Akil and I must say it tells the story of most single women. I intentionally want to steer clear of the black woman angle because women no matter their race, go through similar experiences.

Let me speak as a single woman chasing a career, educational advancement and financial stability. Sometimes you are so overwhelmed with life that you wake up to realize that you need children, a family and love. Could be the answer to my love of children.They are adorable, they make you smile involuntarily. I experienced this during my short lived attempt at motherhood as an inexperienced teenager, a decade ago. Maybe my attachment to babies helps me connect to those rosy memories. (I have to confess that after giving birth, I remember actually missing little David kicking inside me.)

Every woman has motherly instincts that make her want to experience the joy of feeling a growing baby bump, experiencing the discomfort of morning sickness and eventually holding their own baby. That’s why Mary Jane goes through the humiliating egg freezing procedure on National Television- albeit fictional, it resonates with many single women’s deep, secret desires.

I know I am still waiting for Mr. Right, or is it ‘Still looking for Romeo?’ I have been looking for Romeo ever since I was 23. Maybe he came and I never noticed. Maybe, in the article on KENWA’s Chance Magazine, I was just saying it without really meaning it. Maybe I was not ready to enter a relationship and bring another baby into this world under the wrong circumstances again. You see, once beaten, twice shy.

Does it mean I have not received offers? Don’t get it twisted, I’ve received a number and I choose to tread carefully. I’ve seen my friends deciding to take the risk of having babies out of wedlock and most of them are happy, some are miserable though. There are two sides of every coin. I respect every sister out there who is raising a child as a single mother, either by default or by choice.

Question is, do we now settle for less than what we deserve? Someone told me I don’t pray enough for my husband, another asked me what I was still doing in school. He said that too many books are corrupting my mind, preventing me from settling. This is someone who hopes to call you his wife. Need I say more? So yes, the clock is ticking, and it’s loud, yet it will not lead me to a rash decision, at least not now. So help me God…

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer