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review 2017-02-18 16:04
Sifiso Mzobe: Young Blood
Young Blood - Stephanie von Harrach,Sifiso Mzobe

DNF @ about 75 pages in. 

 

I'm ill and have been resting most of the day, so I thought it might be a good moment to tackle my TBR pile shelves. 

 

This is an advance copy I grabbed a couple of years ago, but it turns out the story just doesn't work for me. The translation was clunky in places, which didn't help—I can see how the writing may have had a lot more charm in its original English. What made me give up on it, though, was the main character's treatment of his girlfriend. It may be realistic for a guy his age and background, but I simply don't care to spend much time on narrators who are that unapologetic about their abuse/misogyny.

 

He keeps trying to pressure his girlfriend into sex, engages in emotional blackmail, gives her the silent treatment when she says she's not ready yet, doesn't care about her crying while they drive home, and constantly cheats on her with other women. And yet, somehow, the jacket copy suggests that it's his getting into stealing cars which puts a strain on the relationship.

(spoiler show)

 

Edit: Looks like the spoiler tags in the text editor don't work. How do I hide spoilers properly? 

 

Edit: I think I got it to work!

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review 2016-12-31 07:42
Colonisation from the Colonised
Things Fall Apart (African Writers Series: Expanded Edition with Notes) - Chinua Achebe,Simon Gikandi,Don C. Ohadike

Look, I am going to give this book a good rating, not because I actually enjoyed it or was drawn into it, but more because it gives us an insight into the colonial world from the eyes of the people being colonised. This book is set in Nigeria, and is written by a native Nigerian in English (which by the way is his second tongue, though he is also a professor at Brown University). However, one sort of wonders if this example of post-colonial literature is designed to criticise the colonists or the world that is being colonised.

 

 

There is a concept, I believe first coined by Rudyard Kipling, called 'White Man's burden'. This is the idea that the European civilisation has been given the job of taking their civilisation out to the world and raising the non-European races out of barbarity. However, one sort of questions whether this burden, as it is coined, was really the intention of the colonisers, or simply propaganda that was spoken by the imperial overlords. I am inclined to lean towards the second interpretation.

 

 

The reason that I say this is because if we take one case study, that of the Australian aboriginals, we see that white man's burden never actually lifted them out of poverty, and it was not for lack of trying. In fact, the attempts to civilise the aboriginals had almost the opposite effect than was intended. Granted, there is a very small group of aboriginals in our society that have successfully integrated into our culture, but there are still many that haven't. While it is possible to wonder around an Australian city and not actually see aboriginal tribes camping in the city parks, I assure that they are there (and I caution anybody against approaching them 'just to have a look').

 

 

What we see in this book though is a view from inside the culture that is being colonised, and like the aboriginals, it does not work. However, the book is divided into two parts, the first part involves the social collapse of the indigenous culture from within due to its own contradictions, and the second part involves the destruction of the lifestyle and the culture as the imperialists (in the form of missionaries) force their gospel of European Economic prosperity upon them.

 

 

In many ways we like to criticise the imperialists for destroying the natural cultures of the indigenous people, however sometimes it is necessary. There are many aspects of our culture that we take fore-granted, and there are many aspects which are truly barbaric that we simply want to step back and say, 'but that is their culture'. Take the aboriginal act of spearing somebody through the leg for punishment. What is it supposed to do other than cripple the person. Is it supposed to be a deterrent? Well, like most deterrents, it does not work. The death penalty is a deterrent against drug smuggling in Singapore and Bali, but it does not seem to stop people smuggling drugs, or killing people in the United States. What about cutting off the right hand of a thief in some cultures (the right hand being the hand you eat with and the left hand being the hand you wipe your butt with), is that a deterrent, or simply a punishment that literally prevents the person from ever being able to integrate back into society again. We all make mistakes, and one of the good things about our society is that punishment does actually allow people to return and become productive members of society (as has happened with myself).

 

 

Then there are the missionaries, not that I actually have anything against missionaries. Many have suggested though that missionaries are the first wave of colonisation. This means that when the missionaries arrive you can be sure that the merchants, then the army, and finally the colonisers, are close behind. However, I am doubtful that many missionaries, both then and now, ever considered themselves to be the first of a wave of colonists. There are many historical missionaries that actually went out to do what they believe (and I believe) is a good thing. I do not believe it is wrong to offer somebody an alternative to their religion, especially if their religion keeps them living in fear and oppression. However, it is clear, historically, that more scrupulous people have used missionaries as the vanguard for colonial efforts, and when the missionaries were expelled from China, I guess that was one of the reasons for doing so.

 

The title of the novel is about the destruction of the traditional life of the village. To us it is about change, where as to them it is their world that they have lived in for thousands of years being destroyed. Colonialism was always going to happen, and I do not believe that we should not give tribal people the opportunity to experience a new way of life, however I do not believe that we have the right to roll out a monoculture across the world. One thing us Europeans, especially us Christian Europeans, forget is that Christianity was never meant to create a monoculture, but rather it is our stubbornness, and refusal to look outside the narrow box that we surround our lives with our own misguided sense of what is right and what is wrong.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/318431016
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text 2016-03-22 02:38
Text Annotation
Junebug - Alice Mead

Citation: Mead, A. (2009). Junebug. Square Fish.

 

Annotation:

"Some of the stuff that goes on in the Auburn Street Projects, I'm never gonna do. These projects are like some kind of never-never land, like they never got put on a regular map. Nobody comes around here on purpose. It's as if we all got lost, right in the middle of the city."

Reeve McClain, Jr.--Junebug--has decided to skip his birthday. Since ten is the age when boys in the projects are forced to join gangs or are ensnared by drug dealers, Junebug would rather remain nine. Still, he does have a birthday wish: to someday become a ship's captain and sail away. So Junebug comes up with a plan to launch a flotilla, fifty glass bottles containing notes with his wish, in the hope that someone somewhere will help to make his dream come true.

 

Author's Information: I had an unusually healthy childhood-sailing across the ocean on a steamship at age 7, visiting England,Scotland, and Norway, and playing endlessly with my dollhouse, which perhaps eventually lead to writing many books for children. Because I live in a refugee resettlement city Portland, ME, I wrote about displaced kids from war areas, Sudan, Kurdistan, and Kosovo. I was also an art teacher. The book, Soldier Mom, now 20 years old, was written during the first Gulf War, when we suddenly used a "reserve" army instead of an enlisted one. I had two active sons, dogs, rabbit, chameleon, hamster and later assisted 40 Kosova high school students. I loved gardening, painting, reading. But suddenly began to hurt everywhere, falling, weak. Nothing helped.I had to leave my job as an art teacher but was still able to write.
Nearly twenty years (plus a bout with severe cancer) into feeling weak, I now know I have Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease that affects your eyes, breathing, endurance and speech.
I still write, paint, sing, practice my standup comedy, and take photographs. Really nothing inside me has changed at all. I fight to improve, laugh over the silliness of ordinary life, and am curious about all sorts of things.

 

Rewards: None

Reading Level: Grades 3-5

Genre: Fiction

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text 2016-03-22 02:33
Text Annotation
Junebug in Trouble - Alice Mead

Citation: Mead, A. (2002). Junebug in trouble. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

 

Annotation: It's Labor Day weekend, and Junebug hasn't seen his friend Robert since May, when Junebug's family moved from their housing project. Now, Mama, Tasha, Harriet, and Junebug are off to the beach for a reunion. Robert is there, but so is Trevor, another boy from the housing project who is a gang member with a gun. With Junebug gone, Trevor easily befriended Robert and is luring him to join the gang. Can Junebug stop Robert?

 

Author's Information: I had an unusually healthy childhood-sailing across the ocean on a steamship at age 7, visiting England,Scotland, and Norway, and playing endlessly with my dollhouse, which perhaps eventually lead to writing many books for children. Because I live in a refugee resettlement city Portland, ME, I wrote about displaced kids from war areas, Sudan, Kurdistan, and Kosovo. I was also an art teacher. The book, Soldier Mom, now 20 years old, was written during the first Gulf War, when we suddenly used a "reserve" army instead of an enlisted one. I had two active sons, dogs, rabbit, chameleon, hamster and later assisted 40 Kosova high school students. I loved gardening, painting, reading. But suddenly began to hurt everywhere, falling, weak. Nothing helped.I had to leave my job as an art teacher but was still able to write.
Nearly twenty years (plus a bout with severe cancer) into feeling weak, I now know I have Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease that affects your eyes, breathing, endurance and speech.
I still write, paint, sing, practice my standup comedy, and take photographs. Really nothing inside me has changed at all. I fight to improve, laugh over the silliness of ordinary life, and am curious about all sorts of things.

 

Rewards: None

Reading Level: Grades 4-7

Genre: Fiction

 

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text 2016-03-22 02:18
Text Annotation
Leon's Story - Leon Walter Tillage,Susan L. Roth

Citation: Jones, J. (1909). Leo's story. London: Religious Tract Society.

 

Annotation: Leon Tillage grew up the son of a sharecropper in a small town in North Carolina. Told in vignettes, this is his story about walking four miles to the school for black children, and watching a school bus full of white children go past. It's about his being forced to sit in the balcony at the movie theater, hiding all night when the Klansmen came riding, and worse. Much worse.


But it is also the story of a strong family and the love that bound them together. And, finally, it's about working to change an oppressive existence by joining the civil rights movement. Edited from recorded interviews conducted by Susan L. Roth, Leon's story will stay with readers long after they have finished his powerful account.

 

Author's Information: Leon Walter Tillage lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he has worked for thirty years as a custodian at The Park School.
Susan L. Roth's many picture books include "Ishi's Tale of Lizard," which was an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. She lives in Great Neck, New York. 

 

Reward: winner of the 1998 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction.

Reading Level: Grades 3-5

Genre: Autobiography Nonfiction

 

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