[19] Pride Book 2 Review

Between PhD stuff getting in the way and babysitting my beautiful niece I had little time this week to finish more than this book which is a shame as I ended up not really dedicating the time I wanted and just grabbing little moments here and there to read it. Nonetheless I read it and here’s the review

Under the Udala Trees

by Chinelo Okparanta

Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.
Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. 
When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie. 
As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.


Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Slight spoilers, nothing major.

Even though I stole moments here and there to read this book, getting back into the setting, the storyline and the characters of this book was quite easy. Chinelo Okparanta’s way of writing is so captivating you can feel yourself be transported into her world, going through what Ijeoma went through. Ijeoma is the main character of this book, the story is told from her perspective from being a kind of survivor of a civil war in Nigeria to when she first feels attraction towards another woman. The story isn’t just good at portraying the moments of intimacy and attraction between Ijeoma and her two lovers, to being discovered by her mother and the people she had been staying during the civil war. This, in particular, has some very powerful moments in how her mother reacts to her and how she finds herself doubting and questioning her religion and what christianity has to say about her loving a woman. It deals with Ijeoma coming to terms with her identity but also warring with her identity in a country where she is not accepted with a mother that continues praying for her to change. Religion plays a very big part in this book, as comfort, as something to be condemned with, as something that guides your life. It is an important book, especially when you think this is a story that probably resonates with so many given that in 2014 Nigeria (the country where this book develops) passed one of the world’s most punitive laws against same-sex relationships. It is quitely powerful, subtle and simplistic in the way it deals with all sorts of themes. But most of all, it is honest and at times brutal in the way it deals with religion, identity, societal expectations and your own personal beliefs and wants.

I can’t stop thinking and rewriting this review as I think there’s so much more I could say about this book that I haven’t touched upon but there are things I know will completely spoil the book, and I want to avoid doing that. I recommend this wholeheartedly, it is heartbreaking, positive and real. Let yourself be transported into Nigeria and walk in Ieojima’s steps.

Next up is:

I’m really looking forward to reading IWYATB, I’ve heard so much about it and have been keeping myself from opening the book. I should be posting sometime soon the review of both American Dreamer and American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera but no promises on the date of that.

See you next time,

Nini

[18] Pride Month: Book 1 review

Hi all!
The month just started and surprisingly I’ve managed to read 2 books so far, one which the review will be posted up next (American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera) and the first book scheduled (Guapa). Now, in my twitter I mentioned I have some extra readings that if I have the time I will read and review.

There’s a few more I might add if I find myself finishing these books early. I have way too much time on my hands recently. But I’ll update that here on twitter.

Now onto our first review of Pride Month!

Guapa

by Saleem Haddad

Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟 🌟

Set over the course of twenty-four hours, Guapa follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, as he tries to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and social upheaval. Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists and pining for the nights when he can sneak his lover, Taymour, into his room. One night Rasa’s grandmother—the woman who raised him—catches them in bed together. The following day Rasa is consumed by the search for his best friend Maj, a fiery activist and drag queen star of the underground bar, Guapa, who has been arrested by the police. Ashamed to go home and face his grandmother, and reeling from the potential loss of the three most important people in his life, Rasa roams the city’s slums and prisons, the lavish weddings of the country’s elite, and the bars where outcasts and intellectuals drink to a long-lost revolution. Each new encounter leads him closer to confronting his own identity, as he revisits his childhood and probes the secrets that haunt his family. As Rasa confronts the simultaneous collapse of political hope and his closest personal relationships, he is forced to discover the roots of his alienation and try to re-emerge into a society that may never accept him.

6 reasons to read this book:

*Ownvoices book
*deals with unintentionally coming out/anxiety over coming out
*beautiful, sad, heartbreaking story about being true to yourself in a country where it’s not really possible because of politics, government and religion
*really personal and political, you will find yourself immersed in this
*story develops through flashbacks and a few days in the life of the MC
*also touches upon moving outside your country, being an immigrant, muslim identity


Spoiler free

Sometimes I read books that feel so deeply personal and beautiful that I feel I’m not the right audience to criticise this. As a straight cis woman I don’t know anything about struggling with your identity and battling with shame and a culture that hates what you are. As a POC from a country that has been relatively stable since I was born (barring a few years of political instability) I don’t feel I can criticise the book’s way of presenting this nameless Arab country. So I think I won’t attempt that, this book was beautiful, sad, broke my heart but also I felt I was given a glimpse to a life and a country that wasn’t like mine. I know this book is not about me, I know this book is not meant for me but it was a delight to read, it humbled me honestly. Guapa gave me a personal, political, familial story about a day in the life of Rasa, through flashbacks and connections between scenes I got to know how he got to be the man he was. Through his inner musings I got to the sense of eib that he describes as shame but goes deeper than that, I got to discover his struggle with identity with discovering himself as Arab and what that meant for him while being in a country outside of his own. But it’s more than just telling you a day on Rasa’s life, it takes you on a journey, through his various interactions with other side characters, through his happy times, tragedy, significant moments, but ultimately it is a story about acceptance and how to move on from there. Overall, I don’t think I could recommend this book enough. 10/10 it made emotional and I cried a bit.

Next book review will be American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera but I might wait until I’ve read American Dreamer so I can review book 1 and 2 f the series.

Coming up next:


[9] pleasantly surprised

Something Like Happy

By Sasha Greene

An emotional and thought-provoking novel about friendship, love and day-to-day struggles with mental health.

Jade is just trying to get by. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She doesn’t want a fuss.

But one day she meets Nick and everything changes.
Out of the most difficult of situations, Nick and Jade’s friendship grows into something both of them never knew they needed.
Jade used to be sure that she was better off alone. But could it be that together, with Nick by her side, she can start to feel something like happy again?

5 reasons to read this book:

*issues around MI, depression, suicidal ideation, bullying, death, family issues
*story is also about connecting with other people, finding healthy ways to cope with MI, depression.
*make your own bucket list and stick to it, reasons to want to continue living kind of list
*reluctant friends to lovers
*slowburn romance that develops naturally but its a part of the novel not the main focus of the novel

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Thanks to NetGalley, Sasha Greene, Harper Impulse and Killer for the ARC in exchange for this honest review!

CW: suicidal ideation, MI, bullying, death

If you saw my tweet previously, you probably saw my comment on working through my backlog of Netgalley books. And how I was struggling to connect with some of them. This was the 3rd and as they say, third time’s a charm. Although I have to admit, initially this book was part of the ‘I don’t think I’ll connect, it’s a fine read but I might not feel anything when I finish’. The first quarter of the book had me reading a bit, stopping, checking twitter, going to the kitchen and rinse and repeat. Which is why I found myself pleasantly surprised, I didn’t expect to connect to this book as much as I did but as I continued reading I found myself relating to Nick in various ways, especially with struggling to find the perfect balance between having a support system but not being overly dependent on them. But more importantly, I was pleasantly surprised (I might use these two words a bit more in this review) by Jade, the love interest that not only was likable but she wasn’t the magic cure for all of Nick’s problems. While she did have her own reasons for wanting to connect with Nick it wasn’t about ~magically~ making everything better and fixing him. On the contrary, their relationship developed naturally and in a very healthy way (for a romance novel ofc).

I found myself enjoying how for the most part this book was upbeat but also it treated depression in a healthy and respectful way. Specially in the way the conversations surrounding depression felt natural and honest. Overall, this book was engaging and most of all, felt real and sincere. It was exactly what I needed to end my night.