‘A PROMISED LAND’ – A REVIEW

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Written by the first black President of the United States, A Promised Land is itself, a historic labor of literature. Selling over 1.7 million copies in its first week, these presidential memoirs are proving worthy of their title, just like the author.

A Promised Land is an incisive summation of the eight years of the Obama presidency. More than giving an honest historical account of his time in office, President Obama gives a personal account of his life in public service. 

In a way only he can, he guides the reader through the often unseen but potently present, toll that politics took on his health, family and marriage.

This is the story of a boy born to a single white American mother. A boy who barely knew his biological father and lived a largely peripatetic upbringing. A boy who struggled coming to terms with his mixed American-Kenyan heritage. A boy who struggled with a stubborn smoking habit and the ravages of racism. This is the story of a boy who would surmount all the odds to be elected as President of the United States. 

This is the story of Barrack Obama. 

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‘NO FUTURE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS’ – A REVIEW

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Imagine voting for the first time at 62-years old. Imagine living in a country where by law, you were considered “less than”. Imagine having to contend with squalid living conditions, ill-stocked hospitals, discriminatory policies and poor quality education. Imagine living a life where police brutality was all you knew.

For this man, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, those are not things he had to imagine. Like millions of native South Africans, that’s a reality he lived. Even with a Noble Peace Prize, apartheid laws required that he seek permission to occupy the official residence of the Archbishop. 

No Future Without Forgiveness is a personal recollection of the dark times of apartheid in South Africa. Desmond Tutu, then the Archbishop of Cape Town, played a pivotal role, in steering his country forward.  

He writes of his experience through the Sharpeville massacre and Soweto uprising. He examines in details some of the atrocities that have pockmarked South Africa’s history. 

Principally, he writes of his experience as the chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was appointed by President Mandela and charged with leading the commission that would facilitate the painful but necessary process of healing. He writes of the unenviable task of sitting through harrowing tales of horrendous atrocities committed against his people.

No Future Without Forgiveness is touching account of the tedious work of nation building. Desmond Tutu writes of his wins and losses. With the benefit of hindsight, he gifts the reader with invaluable lessons. Lessons on leadership, democracy, justice and above all, humanity. 

Desmond Tutu will go down in history was an advocate of peace, par excellence. His contribution to reconciliation shall live beyond South Africa. Indeed, he was been a mediator to many warring countries across the globe. 

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‘ELIZABETH COSTELLO’ – A REVIEW

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Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee delivers a thrilling novel in his brilliant book Elizabeth Costello. He writes of an elderly, divorced, successful author, Elizabeth Costello, who travels the world giving lectures on an eclectic range of topics. Among them; Realism, the Novel in Africa and the Problem of Evil. 

Each lecture series offers the reader deep insight and plenty of food for thought. The South-African born author espouses the finest of literary minds with his sharp, witty and thought-provoking penmanship. He uses his characters to explore sensations and ideas. The tangible and the abstract.

Elizabeth Costello is an easy to read, short and entertaining novel. The type to lull the reader into a dreamlike state in which time and space of the real world are superseded by the time and space of fiction. The type of fiction to take you out of yourself and into the lives of others.

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‘THE TRUTHS WE HOLD’ – A REVIEW

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Kamala Harris… Oops. My manners. Vice President-Elect Kamala (pronounced comma-la) Harris has been a trailblazer long before she ever considered a stab at the presidency. Born to a Jamaican father, Donald Harris and an Indian mother, Shyamala Gopalan, Kamala is not new to shattering glass ceilings. She has served as District Attorney, Attorney General and as the first black woman from California to be elected Senator.

The Truths We Hold is a recollection of her life’s journey. It was written amid a time of a huge political upset for the democrats. Hillary Clinton had just lost the 2016 elections. Ipso facto, VP-Elect Harris views this book as a call to action. I imagine she must beyond elated now. Don’t you just love when it all comes full circle!

Herein, she speaks about her life’s upbringing, the lessons her parents taught her, their divorce and the subsequent effect on her life, failing the bar exam, a blind date that resulted in marriage and eventually becoming a US Senator.

Her story, like that of most immigrants, is one of struggle, mixed-worlds, and finding one’s identity. She makes a thorough assessment of the ills that bedevil governance in America. She sheds light on the truths of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, mass incarceration, and legal loopholes, among others. Her experience both as a trained lawyer and a politician come in handy.

She explains these salient issues at length, armed with facts, and with the clarity of a monk. Even more reason to look forward to January 20th!

Above all, she preaches hope. Hope in America’s institutions, values, grit and its future.

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‘I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME’-A REVIEW

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A question: Have you ever experienced shame? 

Another question: What is shame anyway?

Aha! Shame is such a shameful subject that you feel ashamed to even think about it?

No worries. Dr. Brené Brown is here to help!

This has been one of the most insightful and intriguing books I have read yet. The author, Dr. Brown, is an academic. Her field of expertise is shame. That’s right, she’s a shame researcher. 

I Thought It Was Just Me is the canvass upon which she painted an arresting picture on shame, power, and courage. Specifically, in relation to women in society. Herein she offers the reader information, insight and specific strategies for understanding shame and building resilience to it.

Taking the bull by its horns. Dr. Brown delves into the universal struggle that is shame. She taps into her years of research, teaching, interviewing and yes, living through it, to enlighten the reader on this subject. 

She sagaciously offers practical strategies and tips on how to face, acknowledge and conquer shame. As she continues to empower millions of people through her speaking and writing, she is powered by one statement: You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.

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‘THE HAVOC OF CHOICE’ – A REVIEW

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How disastrous can one choice really be?

How much havoc can be generated by a single decision? 

How life-altering can a solitary action be to the lives of millions?

Wanjiru Koinange sets the stage for the answers to these questions to unravel. In her inaugural novel, she chronicles the havoc that one choice could cause. 

The Havoc of Choice is set in the run up to Kenya’s 2007 general elections. The events span just twelve days. Twelve days of extreme changes. Changes in emotions, vantage points, life style and life itself. 

Wanjiru novel’s follows the career of Ngugi. A bright architect who marries the daughter of a long-serving politician. After a spell of unemployment, he gets a lucrative government job offer, almost out of the blues. What should have been the chance of a lifetime turns out to be a direct ticket to infamy.

Corruption is exposed in the department he heads. He is hounded out of office. His reputation and career take an almost fatal beating. He finds out that his father-in-law, had indeed set him up for the job, and for the fall. 

He keeps a wide berth from him, to the delight of his wife, Kavata. Until he shows up one evening with news that turned his marriage on its head – He was running for office under the tutelage and sponsorship of his father-in-law. The same man that ruined his career. Battle lines are drawn. Kavata discreetly leaves for the US. She runs away from the possibility of her husband turning into her father.  

An election is rigged. Lives are lost. Blood is shed. Life is never the same again. 

The Havoc of Choice is a high-octane political thriller. It brings to fore the intrigues behind power. Wanjiru expertly highlights the horse-trading, back-stabbing, bribery and debauchery that characterizes Kenyan politics. She speaks to the pertinent issues that have bedeviled Kenya’s history. Ethnicity, corruption, electoral violence and a system of patronage. 

She reminds the reader of the abyss that Kenya missed by a whisker just thirteen years ago. In doing so, she honors the memories of the innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire of political conquest. The healthcare workers, women and girls who bear the brunt of sexual abuse, men and boys who are recruited to cause violence, and everyone in between. 

Her’s is a salient reminder of the ripple effect that one decision could have on millions of people. Such a timely read, just two years away from Kenya’s next general elections. 

The Havoc of Choice is entertaining, thought-provoking, and mind-blowing. 

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‘THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD’ – A REVIEW

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Buchi Emecheta sets her novel in pre-colonial Nigeria under the chokehold of British colonialists. She dexterously uses flashbacks to juxtapose different time periods and their trends.

Her main character, Nnu Ego is born into a wealthy family. Her father, a chief, is a revered legend in society. Her marriage was every bit befitting of a daughter from an affluent background. Complete with the traditional pomp and fanfare. 

Her fortunes however change when she is slow to conceive. Her husband marries another wife who conceives in quick succession. He’d die leaving both of them widows. Her father organizes a second marriage for her. This time, with a man in Lagos. She leaves her father’s land to begin another chapter of her journey. 

To her utter disgust, she finds out that her new husband works as a domestic worker. He washes clothes for a British couple. Something deeply frowned upon in her Igbo traditions. 

Buchi Emecheta deftly interrogates the pertinent issues of: polygamy, Christianity vs African traditional religions, colonialism and its effects on the African architecture and the place of women in African societies. 

Why is it that the worth of a woman is hinged on a man her entire life? When she is a child, her worth is determined by who her father is. When she grows into puberty, her worth is determined by the man she gets married to. When married, her worth is determined by how many sons she can conceive. 

These are the questions that Buchi Emecheta’s characters struggle to answer. 

The Joys of Motherhood is a beautiful story of the African way of life by an African. It’s exhilarating, insightful and so much more.

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‘INTERVENTIONS’ – A REVIEW

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What does a four-decade career at the United Nations look like? What have the eyes of the first black Secretary General of the UN seen? What lessons has one of the world’s most formidable negotiators learned? What’s the future of international relations?

These are the questions that Kofi Annan answers in his memoirs. Interventions chronicle his life’s work. From his upbringing in Ghana to the lofty offices of the United Nations headquarters in New York. He writes of leading efforts against HIV/AIDS, advocating for girl’s education, advancing human rights across the globe, leading relief efforts and intervening to stop wars. 

It is as honest as memoirs get. He offers the reader a sharp assessment of his wins and losses. He valiantly calls out the shortcomings of the very organization he led for 10 years and the world leaders he interacted with in that period. 

Interventions is a personal account of Kofi Annan’s service to the United Nations. A personal account of his efforts to address major diplomatic, development, and humanitarian challenges facing the international community. 

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‘COMMITTED’ – A REVIEW

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ELIZABETH GILBERT! Another one! (DJ Khaled  voice). 

Committed was written after her self-inquiry trip across Indonesia, Italy and India (See Eat Pray Love). It is a non-fiction book. A memoir of sorts but the events herein sound like something out of a Shonda Rhimes film. 

Her journey towards marriage was necessitated tacitly by the US government. Yes. That’s right. The United States Department of Homeland Security. She met her affectionate Brazilian lover in Bali. Both survivors of nasty divorces, both gutted by the consequent experience, both on a journey of healing. It was attraction, adrenaline, courtship and then full-blown love. Until the US government came into the picture. 

Following the horrific terrorist attack of 9/11, President Bush’s government beefed up security on every front imaginable. What erstwhile seemed like a routine thing, an Australian and American walking through customs, took an unexpected twist. Her lover was denied passage. This, despite the fact that he had erstwhile been allowed in and out as he wished.

After six hours of interrogations at the airport, he was handcuffed and jailed, awaiting the next plane out of the US. UNLESS, they got married.

The very thing, very word, very institution, they had both been fleeing from. That thing was their only answer. Their very survival depended on it. The wedding was to take place in the US and as an advance gift, they were presented with a blockade of bureaucratic red tape. The same State that made leaving a loveless legal bond such a painstaking process for Elizabeth Gilbert, now demanded that she get herself into another legal bond, but this time, it made it even harder for her to do so. 

Committed is the story of what ensued in that period between being her lover being expelled from the US and his readmission and finally, their marriage.  

Quintessential of Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed is witty, honest and full of wisdom gained from the school of life. Take this for example:

“Destiny’s interventions can sometime be read as invitations for us to address and surmount our biggest fears. It doesn’t take a great genius to recognize that when you are pushed by circumstance to do one thing you have always most specifically loathed and feared, this can be, at the very least, an interesting growth opportunity.”

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‘EAT PRAY LOVE’-A REVIEW

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Yes! I am officially a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert (*insert rest face emoji).

This one has a poignant start. Elizabeth woke up one morning and decided to face the truth she had been evading all along – she didn’t want to have babies. She was thirty one years old and had been married for six years. What followed were years of a protracted, heart wrenching, money-sucking divorce. Her emotional and mental health were thrown into a state of disarray. 

What’s a girl to do? Whatever a girl’s got to do. This particular girl decided to take a trip in search of the kind of healong and peace that can only come from solitude. 

Eat Pray Love is the story of her life’s journey during this tumultuous time. She has divided this book into three distinct parts that chronicle her time in Italy, India and Indonesia. The three countries that she visited during her period of self-inquiry.

Like she does so well, she captures the lessons she learned at each stage. She recounts in lucid detail her spiritual journey of finding God and peace. She recalls with studious candidness her time in meditation and everything she learned about herself. She chronicles, delightfully so, getting over her pain and anguish and allowing herself to experience love again. 

Eat Pray Love is the story of a woman who at the onset of her journey was despondent and broken but at the end of it, she was renewed in spirit and life.

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