Book Review: Kintu

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I didn’t really think my first post for the #UgBlogWeek would be a book review but I’m all about that ‘Hype your writers like you do your rappers‘ life. So here goes nothing.

The question for the person who has not read this book is whether it is worth it. Because if your acquaintances, like mine, are voracious readers, then they have surely read it and incessantly make references to it. The natural response, if you are noncomformist or pretend to be, is to assume you’ll never read it because really, why so much talk? Okay, this applies to those who have not(and obstinately refuse to) watch Game of Thrones. Otherwise, the normal response is FOMO.

Sigh. It is with a heavy heart that I say, yes, it is worth it. (Now I am like everyone else who has read it, can you believe? I need to spend some time in the company of the good people at Kampala Express.)

The story of Kintu is a very stunningly disturbing one. I don’t know, are you superstitious? Coz damn, this story made me believe all kinds of things. But you know what they say, nothing imagined is too far from the truth. Joel actually believes the things in this book to be true, and not just myths or nice stories. *shiver* It sort of traces a curse from the 17th century to well, the 21st century. I really hope that’s a neat one line representation. But if it isn’t, read the book πŸ™‚

The thing about literature, I have come to learn, is that it plays an important role in decolonization of the mind because it makes you ask yourself questions(right? Right? Yea, we good). Kintu is such a powerful book in this sense. I want to add especially for our friends with fragile masculinity but I don’t have the energy. Anyway, in a way we have ‘culture’ to blame for this. My very brilliant friend, Sunshine, likes to say that if you are going to throw the word ‘culture‘ around, be sure you are not picking out only the parts of it that serve you. And it seems like we are always trying to reconcile this culture Β with who we are. You know, like Faisi’s family who are Christians and want nothing to do with any of their ‘pagan’ ways or the atheist and believes in neither the ‘pagan’ nor Christian ways. It’s really interesting, the way Jennifer deals with these characters (yes, first name basis what about? Lol, I’m wanting.)

Anyway, do you think if black people had colonized wypipo we’d all be worshipping Jjaja Ddungu or whoever else? Like, I mean the mainstream religion.

P.S: don’t read the book at night or just before you sleep πŸ™‚

P.P.S: The background in the photo is the place the book is about. Coooool, right? Yes, that excited me.

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Book Review: Penumbra

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“The worst form of dying is to drown. You go through all the emotions, and think you are going to survive, only to die.”

Perhaps that is the one thing we all have in common with the protagonist in Penumbra. But as forlorn as that sounds, it actually a funny book even though it is not supposed to be. In fact, it isn’t. But it is. Does someone catch my drift? It is a story about mental illness, I suppose. Drug addiction, maybe. Unrealized dreams. Finding Jesus in a very comical way. I don’t really know how to say a book is about this one particular thing because I guess it’s all life really.

“I think each person has their journey and that’s it… It becomes yours and no one else’s. This world has this way of measuring people… but time lapses and there’s nothing you can do about it, I think the biggest lesson to be learnt is that of being a person… and that exists outside all these schools.”

Manga is one of those people who are seemingly ‘behind their time'(if ahead of time is a thing then this should be the antonym, no?) And so throughout the book, he is trying, like most of us, to figure out this life thing. I relate with him so much on this. It’s like being the lost sheep. You know how everyone else seems to have it all figured out and you are just constantly asking yourself what’s going on. Okay, I’m losing the point but you get the point. He loses his mind in this process of trying to piece it all together. But what’s interesting is being in his mind throughout the whole dilemma. From when he is a sober human, to when he becomes an addict and when he finally decides to quit in the process changing from agnostic/atheist to believer. It is very melodramatic I tell you.

I think at a point, we are all Manga except we are only bordering on this insanity because we manage to stay afloat. Which is unfortunately not the case for everyone and also something we fail to recognise till it’s too late. Okay, I’m not supposed to be delivering a lecture on mental health. Long story short, I enjoyed the book(3.5/5). And it was especially funny being in Manga’s head. Also sad. Oh yes, and isn’t it ironic how many books there are about someone’s struggle to become a writer?

“The world has created it’s many chains: selling ideas to each other. The selling point for all these things is idolatry. Even for us who wanted to write, certain authors become our gods.” (This particular line reminded me of this story.)

At a point I feel like this book is spiritual, whatever spiritual means. There are some lessons to learn though and for me, it is that whatever does not serve me need not be in my life😊.

“I remember beautiful artists. They have a gift of seeing beyond conditions, and draw us to the blackness of uncertainty. That’s what art should achieve: point out the other side. Art is not there to unearth any truths, but rather to show the multiplicity of the nature of things.”

Oh yes, I was also excited because this is my first read by aSouth African author πŸ™‚

What have y’all been reading?

Book Review: Your Heart Will Skip A Beat and Other Stories

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Eish, how I’m I even supposed to review this as a book? Madness! Okay, my dramatics aside. Your Heart Will Skip a Beat and Other Stories is clearly an anthology. A flash fiction anthology of 13 stories by brilliant writers so technically speaking, I can’t talk about it as a whole, right? Or maybe I can.

Before I get caught up in my gibberish, my favorite stories are ‘The Kind of Water I Like‘ by Lillian Akampurira Aujo and ‘Tomorrow’s Burden‘ by Uzoma Ihejirika. The thing about reading an anthology is that you don’t get time to ‘recover’ from one story to another. I shall speak for myself though. I did read it all at once and I kind of can’t find my bearings right now. So if you haven’t read it yet, I advise you take some breaths in between the stories. Take as much time as you need to properly move on. I’m serious by the way(just in case).

There is no way(that I can think of) I am going to break down all the stories and not spoil for you…but let me try. ‘Justice‘ made me really angry. A righteous kind of angry. I even felt dead at the end of it. The sudden change of events took me by surprise, which is a good thing…but not a good thing. Ah, I’m itching to narrate the story but you’ll hate me.

I was still trying to get over myself when I read ‘Overcome‘. I think writers are some of the most cruel people walking this earth. The story ended as soon as it started and no, I was not feeling better. I was actually hurt by this one. Why? Why do writers do these things to characters? It’s not fair.

Aduke’s Waist‘ placated my mood. I actually managed to laugh. It’s funny. I hope I have a normal sense of humor though, you know, if someone else could please agree with me on this. It’s funny, right? And then ‘The Miners’ is that story that jumps at you and then just disappears. Does that make sense? Yes, of course it leaves with you with questions. Don’t read it before going to bed, or just sleep with the light on. Or maybe I’m just inciting non-existent fear hihi. I can’t know for sure, but those are my sentiments.

The Kind of Water I Like‘ is my favorite story, not just because it’s Ugandan(I really need to stop with thisπŸ™ˆ), but it really really warmed my heart. The ‘awww’ kind of warm. *wipes tear. I think seeing some things only on the news makes them seem so far off and stories like these, personal stories, bring the realities closer and paint a more realistic picture. Suddenly it’s not just another feature at 9’o clock.

I like the old man in ‘The Escape‘. He reminds me of so many incidences but I think the most relatable one is when someone seated next to you in a taxi says they are at a certain location. And then the way [insert name] manages to write a beautiful story on such an avoided subject in ‘The God of Death‘…

A man has got to do what a man has got do. That is the law of the jungle and Lagos is the jungle in ‘Lagos Doesn’t Care‘. I laughed so hard at the end of this story, mostly at how absurd it is. Life is hard people, life is hard. I literally clutched my tummy throughout ‘The Convenient Doctor’. Good God, isn’t it vivid?!

Another favorite of mine ‘Tomorrow’s Burden‘ also had me ‘aww’-ing. Never mind that is not a word. It had me on the edge thinking ‘just do it’ but sadly characters don’t listen to readers :(. Why are human beings like this though? ‘Your Heart Will Skip a Beat‘ left me conflicted.

Same Size Feet‘ is also another story not to read before bed. It is so emotionally draining from the beginning to the end of it. It made my heart so heavy and ending the book with ‘Juliet‘ didn’t make it any easier.

You can get the book here to have to go through all of this πŸ™‚

Book Review: The Headline That Morning

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I love poetry. Heaven knows, I do but I was not ready for this book. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. The Headline That Morning is Peter Kagayi’s first poetry collection. Any Ugandan literature enthusiast knows Kagayi has been at his craft for as long as I can remember. [Personal story coming through. Because don’t we like association πŸ˜…].

Anyway, Kagayi, with The Lantern Meet of Poets, used to drop by school for poetry recitals and the like. Of course, I attended all of them, never actively though. Actively to mean I did not take part in the reciting nor did I share any poems. Once after Coffee House(yes, it was called Coffee House), I held my purple notebook and started to walk out. Kagayi stopped me at the door and said he knew I was a good writer even though I had not shared. Of course, I doubt he remembers but…*wipes tear* Let’s talk about his book, shall we?

I wanted to classify the poetry as sociopolitical commentary but even I would not believe that. Sure, it is. It forces you to think long and hard. It forces your eyes open. It makes you angry, but it gives you hope. It is so intricately, so carefully written with very vivid descriptions that it makes it so easy to understand, relate with and of course, love. You have to prepare yourself for an emotional roller coaster before you read this book. Okay, that is if, like me, words strike a chord with your inner person. Ah-ah, don’t roll your eyes, it is deep I tell you.

I heard the boy playing Daddy say:
“I’ll beat you,
Because I am Daddy.”
The girl playing Mummy was kneeling before the boy,
Her head slightly bowed as though coy
Subdued.
I heard the boy playing Daddy say:
“Also like my daddy,
I’ll divorce you.”

-A Family Portrait

I want to tell you that I have a favorite poem. I really do. But I am afraid Kagayi made it next to impossible to choose. I could say ‘A Family Portrait‘ is my favorite. Damn, that poem broke my heart in 9 lines.Β  If I choose ‘Last Night I Told A Stranger About You‘, it will be because I like listening to it. Oh, did I mention the book comes along with an audio CD of some poems? Yes, you buy it too πŸ˜….

The poem “I Want To Write a Poem” intrigued me though. It is literally a description of the poems he writes. It makes me think of ‘The Audience Must Say Amen‘. Let me guess, am losing you, right? (Ah, just read the book already)

As poets we like to think of ourselves as few of those who like to think
But to think takes a lot of thoughts that the audience should resonate with
And thus the thought structures and psychoanalytical patterns to be drawn
Have to have the backing of the thought structures of the people around us.

-The Audience Must Say Amen, Peter Kagayi.

Yes, it is that kind of poetry. Good for your intellect. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as much as it worked my poor heart. I guess that is what we look for in a book. You are a different person after you read it, at least in your thinking. I wish our politicians could read some of these books though. Okay, I didn’t write the last line. Aliens πŸ˜†

And in case you did not get the memo, 19th July, you should want to say Amen.

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Book Review: We Are All Blue

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I am jealous. Why isn’t Donald Molosi Ugandan? Why? But the universe has been so kind, though he is a Motswana(yes, a person from Botswana is a Motswana. You are welcome.), he is an African.

What led me to grasping at any form of connection with the highly talented actor was his book, “We Are All Blue” which is what I should be telling you about and not my selfish interests.

Did Africa begin with colonialism? Was there no Africa before then? Why is it then that history lessons in most, if not all, African schools do not teach the time before then? Who made the curriculum? Is it still relevant? That we should learn about the French revolution like nothing significant was taking place on our continent just yet? Do other countries learn our history like we do theirs? Isn’t Africa, after all, a country that was only divided by governments that were taking up colonies?

I’m not sure that is what Donald(first name basis ey πŸ˜‰ wanted me to think about but those are the questions that plagued my mind while I started and as I finished the book.

We Are All Blue” is a collection of two plays; Blue, Black and White and Motswana; Africa, Dream Again. I’m guessing this is the part I justify my jealousy, right?

Blue, Black and White captures Bechuanaland right before it’s independence to become Botswana(Well, it was always Botswana but, apparently, the British could not pronounce it hence the name Bechuanaland.) It explores the racial tension that was created by the marriage of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s founding father, to Ruth Williams, a British lady. Yes, the play is factual. No, it is not a boring history lecture.

[Aside: Is this book used in Botswana schools? If not, WHY? If yes, can I change nationality? Tihihi]

The Botswana flag is actually blue, black and white(Y’all need to pay me for this education I swear) which, I believe, is very telling of the essence of this play. I was going to say it is to tell Botswana’s story but there’s so much to it that I feel that would be an injustice to the genius of Molosi. Yes, it does tell the story. But oh so insightfully it forces you to examine your own racial biases, rethink the education you have received and of course, question your history(as an African). Which is why I wish Molosi was a Ugandan. Don’t you think that would be about Uganda instead? (I’m sorry for being selfish. I can’t help it)

Motswana; Africa, Dream Again is more inward looking, questioning the concept of a nation. Again, it isn’t one of those ‘wire-rimmed-glass-wearing-barely-making-sense-but-sounding-intelligent-professor’ lectures. That was long. I know. It is an ode of sorts to what I would call ‘heroes’ of Africa that the author clearly admires(biting my tongue in case he doesn’t). Thabo Mbeki, Philly Lutaaya(yap, we got a shout out my people), Seretse Khama…what can I say? Reading this book made me so proud to be African, I tell you and I’m not even thinking about the play wright’s intentions here. It challenged me, my beliefs to be specific. Like a voice of reason that I think everyone needs to read. Oh yes, I mean everyone.

“I want to believe that a common ancestry is what binds us as Africans. I often imagine a common ancestor holding all Africans fiercely and warmly inside her womb. But we do not know that history, that womb. We are orphans. Bitter, broken, and beggarly orphans.

Our history of victories, intelligence, and organization has been successfully erased and replaced with sad fictions of -to borrow my dad’s phrase- things tumbling into rough weather.” – Motswana; Africa, Dream Again.

Donald Molosi, like the boy in the Botswana folk tale that begins the book, is giving life to some of these stories that are like lost scrolls. And very brilliantly so. In my stalking business, call it research, I found out he’s done a play(No Idea, 2010) on former Ugandan child soldier too. We need more Africans telling the African stories this way, not people who are going to call some strange thing rolex.

I’m not sure I have told you everything that is amazing about We Are All Blue, but suffice it to say, every page is food for the soul and mind. It is proactive Pan Africanism, and it does not fail to capture your attention so I recommend you read it on a weekend/public holiday(like I did) as it is easy to want to finish it in one sitting.

Yes, and I still think he should be Ugandan.

 

 

 

 

Of Reading Slumps (and other things)

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How is June treating you good people?

I have been suffering. Suffering, I tell you! But before I begin to rant, I should say that I recently turned 16 (don’t ask how I do it. It’s beyond me to explain how I will also still be 16 next year. Thank you for understanding.)

That is important to note because, in my diagnosis(the only time I fancied being a doctor was when I was err…never), the excitement that led to my awesome birthday was the cause of my suffering. I was going through a reader’s worst nightmare. No, not Fifty Shades of Grey or Danielle Steel. Worse. Far much worse, I tell you.

A reading slump 😑

A reading slump is sort of like writer’s  block. In this case, for my case actually, I could not find it in me to start a book and the idea of reading was simply not a welcome one. (Oh, the problems we face! ) It’s like the time in a relationship when you would say, we need a break. Almost like the other person is suffocating you without doing anything out of the usual. But focus, it’s not a person. It’s the books. And no, I didn’t do the whole dramatic “it’s not you, it’s me”. I just spent my time (and data😞) watching Matt Steffanina and the Les Twins dancing instead.

Anyway, turns out it’s not that big of a deal being 16 (yes, I am maintaining it) so all the excitement that came with the awesome birthday ended as soon as I had to clean up alone. And just like that *drum roll* I’m in Botswana(no, I’m not YET  visiting Kea but I’ve heard books can take you places so I might as well just be in Palapye).

Have a lovely June folk. The tide is changing and the only way to go is forward, and upward(For example, I’ll be posting micro poetry on my instagram every Saturday.)

Book Review: Women

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[I’d rather not be writing, honestly. Or I’d rather be writing about what’s happening in my country because it’s tagging very heavily at my heart but I made a commitment to do this every last Sunday of the month so yes, book review it is]

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I remember saying I preferred books that make me cry once. Forgive me for I had not yet met Bukowski. Yes, I am leaving y’all in your sentimental book club alone. I cannot remember laughing so much at how absurd some situations are than when I have had to read a Bukowski. Basically, Women is absurd. In fact if I were to surmise, it’s about three or four or five different women in Chinaski’s life. Done.

[Spoiler alert]

Take this for example;

“…I’ll have her fix you breakfast after I leave tomorrow morning.”

“Alright.”

“No, wait. Tomorrow’s Sunday. We’ll eat out. I know a place. You’ll like it.”

“Alright.”

“You know, I think I have always been in love with you.”

“What?”

Every time I play out that scene in my head, good God it cracks me up! That scene takes place after Chinaski has broken up with Lydia, the first woman we meet in this book. And there’s one when Lydia is stuffing her mouth with food and Chinaski(first person narrative) says he saw passion. I think it was at this point I was thinking no, I’m done with this madness.

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My expression when Chinaski called it ‘passion’ for Lydia to be stuffing her mouth with food.

But I sat it out and for the most part, I have no regrets. The title of this book is not one you can count on. Maybe only for the fact that it’s about different encounters with women(which, of course, makes perfect sense) but there’s nothing to ‘learn’ as such.

Chinaski is an absurd lead and if anything, the only thing that draws you to him is his honesty. Nothing is ‘sugar-coated’ or over-explained so that it loses meaning. If he woke up, he says he woke up. But you sure get to like him. I think he resonates with that part of us that desires to live a carefree life. He wold be the present day ‘fuckboy’ or ‘bad boy’. At least, that’s how I imagine them to be like.

I like him because he’s contradictory. Like c’mon we all like people who seem to have their minds in the ‘wrong direction’. Once [spoiler alert], he’s at a poetry reading(Oh yes, he’s a poet) and then he just puts the poems aside and says “Let’s talk.” Or the time he describes the poetry reading as “the audience shouted at me, I also shouted at them and it was done.”(paraphrased) The hell?

I recommend this book if you’re looking for an easy read with a lot of humor(and sex but not too graphic, one sentence or two. Like I said, things just are). Yes, there’s also a great deal to quote from the book. But one which, I feel, describes the character of Chinaski so perfectly;

β€œPeople with no morals often considered themselves more free, but mostly they lacked the ability to feel or love.”

[I feel a little bit better for doing this. I think it comes with talking about something you are so fond of.]

And about my country(this is from a poem);

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting. -Charles Bukowski