Posted in Blog

Book Review: My Recommendations [TW]

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains discussions on marital abuse.

I’ve been reading A LOT lately, seeing as I’ve been on holiday plus having a break in between modules, giving me the head space I need for that time away from reality. I’ve actually been reading a lot of fiction lately too, which is unusual for me as I’ve always been a lover of nonfiction, but over the last year and a half I’ve been reading more black nonfiction. I’m passionate about my culture and learning more about my history especially witnessing the rise of racism and fascism seeing history repeat itself.

At the beginning of the month, I finally got to read Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”. by Zora Neale Hurston. Now, I say finally because it’s been on my bookshelf since it was released earlier this year and I genuinely haven’t had a chance to read it until now (I’m like a magpie; I buy books and then see others that distract me from my initial list of books to read or earlier purchases). This book is everything I wanted it to be: real, beautiful and heart-wrenching. This story took such a long time to be published not only because of the subject matter, but also because Hurston has written much of the story in Southern African-American dialect, as spoken by Cudjo. The story is a firsthand account of slavery and the formation of a new life in America post-slavery, therefore the dialect in my opinion is extremely relevant and effective to the storytelling element of the book. I can sympathise with the critics to extent though, as in the past, I used to find stories written in dialect extremely difficult to read (I still haven’t finished Trainspotting and started reading that while I was a teenager!) however, the more I read stories like this, the easier it becomes for me. It also felt like Cudjo was speaking to me, as opposed to me reading it, which is an incredible achievement by Hurston. I definitely recommend! 

I’ve read some amazing fiction books this year…

At the end of last month, I finished reading Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee, a story about a relationship between two sisters: Lucia, who suffers from a mental health condition and her older sister Miranda, who struggles to take care of Lucia and ensure that her sister is taking care of herself. The problem is Lucia finds it difficult to accept her condition and often prefers herself off medication; she also begins to resent her older sister who she perceives as restraining. The story ends tragically and is one that continues to live with you long after you’ve finished reading.

While on holiday last month, I read Halsey Street by Naima Costa, which is a beautiful novel about the relationship between mothers and daughters and what happens to a child when the mother leaves. The narrative mainly focuses on the effect of her mother walking out on the family has left on the protagonist, Penelope, who is a young black woman. Her mother’s absence shapes her character and the way she responds to life, by running away. The narrative of Marella, her mother very much reminds me of my own mother, who I often think resented being a mother and being the one who wasn’t able to walk out first, hence reading this left me with a lot of emotions and thoughts to deal with, which gave me some amazing material to work through in therapy! Seriously though, it was like a spiritual journey, working through the emotions both from a disengaged perspective through Penelope, whilst working through my own. 

Earlier in the season of Autumn, I read When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of The Writer as a Young Wife by Mena Kandasamy, a tragic tale of a woman who falls into the perils of an abusive marriage after suffering from heartbreak inflicted by a former lover. Her husband physically abuses her and crushes her soul by taking away her connections from the outside world, which she relies on for her piece of mind and writing career; the more isolated she becomes, the more she tries to become the wife he desires, but she never seems to be able to achieve this. She also frequently blames herself for the abuse, which is something victims often do and reading about her pathetic husband and the ridiculous things he punishes her for, you as the reader are consumed by a desire to just jump into the book and save her. This feeling of being a saviour is heightened even more as you read about her parents, who trapped in culture struggle with coming to terms with the extent of the abuse and for a while, the protagonist is left alone to struggle. 

Lastly, When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Poppola, was one of the first books I read set in London, making it extremely easy to escape into the narrative. Poppola tells a story about two young men, Karl and Abu, who in 2011 are growing up in the harsh realities of our capital city. These two boys are dealing with coming of age during the explosion of racial tensions in our capital city, family and rejection, displacement, and girls, whilst trying to keep their friendship intact. Again, this is a tale that lives on in you long after reading it. It’s full of familiarity, tension and tragedy. In fact, I think once I finished I just laid in bed for ages trying to process everything. So incredible. 

That’s it! I am now currently reading The Book of the Night Women by Marlon James, centred around the story of Lillith, born into slavery. So far I’m enjoying it and finding it gripping. It’s actually better than the only other novel by James that I’ve tried, A Brief History of Seven Killings (unfortunately I never finished it). I’ll update you all with a full review once I’ve finished!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my first book review! I’d love to know your thoughts on any of the books I’ve mentioned and also if you have any great books you can recommend!

Happy reading!

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Why Doesn’t Anyone Check In? Pt. 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been really struggling with my mental health recently, as well as battling an increase in seizures.

I found a draft post that I starting writing weeks ago and never finished, about sometimes feeling like a “Billy No Mates”. Some people put this down to age: once you start reaching your late-twenties/early thirties, existing friendships dwindle and it becomes more difficult to ignite new friendships (don’t we miss the days when you could just walk up to somebody and ask them to be your best friend? LOL). When you have a chronic health condition too, nobody really wants to be friends with you, when you’re the one who’s always cancelling plans at the last minute and aren’t really that much fun anymore.

However, although I can relate to both of these, I also think that I give off an impression that I can look after myself, so people don’t think to check in on me. I was discussing this in my most recent therapy session: I’m the kind of person who, if I know you’re going through a shit time, I’m going to check in on you. You need to know that you’re loved and I need to know that you’re still alive. But I rarely, if ever if I’m honest, receive the same back. Don’t get it twisted, I don’t give to receive, but when I’m hanging off the edge of cliff, I can’t be expected to save my bloody self really, can I?

In yesterday’s session I brought up my mother and my anger that she fails to check in on me, even though we’re not talking and this is something she actually failed to do, even when we were apparently close and was something I desperately needed particularly after my epilepsy diagnosis but I never got. At least my sister would check in to make sure I’d eaten, but my mother… nothing. If she heard from me, then that would be her confirmation that I was still alive.

Whenever I confronted her about this, her argument was that she knew that God was taking care of me, to which my response was, so does God relinquish your responsibilities as a mother? Sometimes, my therapist and I do role-playing in our sessions, where she will play the role of the person I have the conflict with, while I – as myself – take this opportunity to not only confront that person but simultaneously hear their point-of-view of the conflict between us. It’s also a great way of bringing past conflicts into the present and I always find this technique extremely enlightening. It went as follows:

Me: why don’t check in on me? It’s like you don’t seem to care about me.

Mother: Well,  you’ve always been really good at looking after yourself… and I just don’t want to look after anymore you because I’m tired of having to do it. I’ve done enough.

I often think that my mother was never prepared for motherhood and then being thrown into single-parenthood was just too much for her.

I often think that she never wanted to be a mother – particularly to me; it was a role forced upon her by her environment.

I often think that she resented and blamed me for putting her into those situations.

I often think that while I was the practice child, my sister who followed me was the one who received everything my mother could never give me.

Although my mother thinks that she took care of me, our perceptions of my childhood are complete polar opposites: I was consistently lonely and emotionally, psychologically and physically (denial of treatment for my epilepsy) neglected, forcing me into extreme survival mode, taking on the role of the parent for myself.

I’ve been reading a lot recently too, which I’ll get into more in a future post, but I just wanted to reference Halsey Street by Naima Coster, because without wanting to give too much away, like me the female protagonist is often perceived as this tough young woman who can look after herself, when inside she’s still the broken child crying out to be loved and like her mother who made sure that she was one to walk out on her family, mine always wanted to be the one who walked out on us instead of our father.

(Header image source) 

Have you been forced into looking after yourself and often find it difficult to balance that kind of self care with showing a side that people can reach out to when you need it? If so, I’d love to know how you deal with it in the comments.