'AFTER LIVES' by Abdulrazak Gurney

'Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero'…This African proverb aptly describes my thoughts about this book. A rare find in my local library that took me over a month to finish reading. I have to admit that the book started off very slow for me, there were mentions of names & lineage in families & I couldn’t figure out whose life the author was now describing, the father or the son. But when I got to the part where the Germans 'entered into the chat', I was hooked.

The book describes not only the German occupancy of Tanzania in the early 1900's but also the invasion by other colonial powers; Arabs, Portuguese, British, French after they divided up Africa like a piece of cake amongst themselves. It was refreshing to read about all these from the point of view of the fictitious characters in this book who are local Tanzanians. And even though the book details the trail of terror that colonialism left on the inhabitants of the countries that they wrongly occupied, it also gives us a glimpse of the day to day activities that the community had. Details like how they celebrated Idd, how the women met after finishing their household chores & what they talked about, how the men met in the evening & sat at the porch to hold 'Baraza'…these details were my favorite.

This for me should be how history books need to be written, for us & by us.

'THE WOMAN IN ME' by Britney Spears

I feel like I am one of the last people to read this book after making its rounds all over Social Media. Non-fiction books & especially Memoirs are not exactly my cup of tea, maybe because I want books to transport me to an imaginary world & reading about someone’s real life experiences are just the opposite of that.

Whenever I pick up a memoir, I don’t really expect to be wowed by the author‘s literary process, it’s more about hearing them owning their own story & that is exactly what Britney did in this book. As someone who grew up in the 90's with Britney Spears' songs as part of the soundtrack of my life, I remember gobbling up every single story that was written about her in the gossip columns. When she spoke about the 'All denim looks' that she & Justin wore to that Award show, I knew exactly what she was talking, the image was imprinted in my mind.

IMO, apart from the horrendous details about the conservatorship that her family put her under & her life during that time, there wasn’t much new that she added to what I knew of her story. But am glad that she got to tell it on her own terms & also in her own time. Also, Justin Timberlake is 🤮 IMO.

Have you read this book & what are your thoughts on it? Are Justin songs still on your playlist?

'THE COLOR PURPLE' by Alice Walker

I have to admit that the reason I added this book to my TBR list was because I wanted to read it before watching the film. I am one of the few people who never watched the first film because it was never shown in the country where I grew up. So the remake of the film sparked my interest to read this classic.

I really loved the way the Author cleverly gave the books' female characters their own strong & special storylines. By using somewhat sub-Par penmanship in Celie's letters, she reminds us of her life's circumstances that took her out of school & predestined that she live a 'simple life'. Nettie on the other, went to school longer & is able to live a more fulfilled & well travelled life. There storylines of the other women in this book are so good but I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it.

And even though Patriarchy 'rules' throughout the book with a heavy hand, the love between the sisters, mothers & their children & also the queer love that develops in Celie's life overshadows it & the characters get to experience kindness, hope, forgiveness & the possibility for a new start. 

This book & 'Alice Walker' deserve all the accolades & even more! 

'HOW TO SAY BABYLON' by Safiya Sinclair

Safiya Sinclair takes us on a journey of her life, born to parents who adhered to the strict lifestyle of a Rastafari Sect. Together with her sisters, she navigates this life that is controlled by their volatile reggae musician father who believes that he is to protect his family from 'Babylon', the western world full of immorality. But what her father doesn’t anticipate is how Safiya, a naturally talented writer & poet will grow to take that that was used to confine & silence her & transform it into her path to freedom. 

This memoir reminded me of a cocoon that is meant to protect a larvae before it transforms into a butterfly, which is somehow 2 sided because as it protects, it also confines & restricts movement!

I really enjoyed reading this book & was lucky enough to be attend the 'Bookofcinz' Bookclub meeting where the Author was part of the discussion.

'THE HAVOC OF CHOICE' by Wanjiru Koinange

This fictional book follows the life of Kavata, the daughter of a prominent but also corrupt politician in Kenya as she navigates first, her student life, then partnership, career & motherhood while trying to carve a life outside of her father's shadow.

The book is set in December 2007 when Kenya had it’s General Elections & the PEV (Post Election Violence) that erupted thereafter. Through Kavata, her family & the various characters that she comes into contact with in the book, the writer describes the harrowing experiences that wrecked the whole country at this time. IMO, in as detailed as the experiences were told in the book, I felt like I was reading a compilation of newspaper articles. The story was told in a very 'surface level' way without going deep into the emotional effects that the PEV had on these characters. I wish that the author had concentrated on just one character, like Kavata for example, & delved deeper into her story (the trauma & the healing) which would have given me as a reader more time to form a connection with her. But instead, I was torn between so many different characters & all that they were going through which in the end made me feel less emotionally connected with any at all.

This book had so much potential but it fell short of it, unfortunately for me.

'BLACK CAKE' by Charmaine Wilkerson

Who knew that a piece of cake left by a dying woman to be shared among her children would take us on a journey that spans 60 years in the life of a family. The writer does an amazing job as she takes us through the stories, past & present of Eleanor Bennet & her loved ones. And even as she tells the gripping narrative, she still manages to skillfully touch on important issues such as racism, family, generational trauma, survival, environmental issues, migration, motherhood & life in the diaspora. This she does with so much delicacy as she weaves them right into the characters' lives without having them take over the book, but they still remain as an inkling at the back of our minds.

And to top it all, she gives us a Recipe of the 'famous' 'Black Cake'. What more can a book offer. In my opinion, a definite ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

'BEFORE I LET GO' by Kennedy Ryan

Finally, a love story that reminded of my belief in love as I found myself fully immersed into it. Navigating a romantic relationship after loss is something that is rarely talked about, in books & also in real life. And I feel like the writer skillfully & in an empathetic way told us this story of a couple who believed in a love that would last forever but had their lives & love unfortunately shattered by a series of tragedies. We not only get to see them work through their own traumas but we also see the importance of Therapy, strong family bonds & friendships as needed in the restoration of their relationship.