I took a ‘leap of purchase’ based on a recommendation from a podcast I was listening to. I don’t really connect with a lot of people so I usually research things I hear on podcasts; typically if I am continuing to listen there is some trust there. *deep, I know* I wanted to get back in the groove of reading but this book was $35 at my bookstore. I didn’t make a purchase then as I wasn’t even sure I’d actually finish it. I still have books on my bookshelf I haven’t touched but lost interest in and tons unfinished. It’s bad, we fight a lot about my books in my home. I perused the bookstore site again a couple days after my visit and found it to be on sale for $17. I said, ‘ok, fine, since you insist’ and made a purchase. Now, before I discuss the book, I’ve been battling issues and concerns of raising a black son in North America. I still drift off on a fear-filled wonder thanks to scenes from the movie ‘Get Out’. I’ve purposely steered away from news about Trump and American politics because I was becoming mentally drained. I also have loosened the grip on my parenting, mainly due to work stress, so there’s been some guilt about that too. Also, I’m currently in a financial rut. I needed a hobby, I needed this purchase to be a win. I was already lagging on working on my art with no strength to change. I needed to peruse someone else’s art and TV shows were starting to bore me. So, purchased at the same time, I read The Handmaid’s Tale and got caught up on the show. I don’t usually care for autobiographies as they’re obviously meant to be self-absorbing, but I already bought this one. I was still empty and so I decided to start Trevor Noah’s ‘Born A Crime’ before it made it to my book shelf unopened.
My God, I felt so full. It was so fairly written.The delusions of race, the viewpoint of life as a mixed child, the tales of Africa; the continent misrepresented. The appreciation and honesty about his mother and her life. The history lessons. The humor. The role of religion in his life, traditional living, the misjudgments of Domestic Abuse. Parenthood. The facets of love, relationships and life. The mere voice of the author. I knew nothing about this man and have never seen him on TV or watched his shows, so I was basically going in blind. Let me tell you, when I say I could hear how he spoke and see clearly and connect with the things of which he spoke about; nothing was missed.
This boy spoke of his mother the way I would want my son to speak of me. When I read ‘The Second Girl’ I connected with the distance that caused her to be who she was. I am not a traditional mother. There are no grand/great-grand parents instilling any archaic child rearing disciplines in my son’s life. There are no rules in my house either, and I absolutely DO NOT believe a child should be seen and not heard. I also do not hide ‘real life’ from my son. I cry, laugh, fight, play, be mad and sad around him. At 2yrs old I sometimes ask him what he thinks about many things and even go along with what he chooses. The only areas of his life that I try to control is his diet, who gets to discipline him and who comes and goes in his life. I am not blinded by love either and is sure to ‘stick it to him’ when he misbehaves and will shamelessly laugh at his misfortunes. The fact that this man has understood, respected, forgiven and accepted his mother for who she is and all she gave at such a young age, warmed my heart so much. The maturity of this child had me in awe as there are still things I grapple with in my personal life. A good mother will give you everything they have, down to their bare bones and all they want in return is for you to be grateful. There is so much about humility that came from their relationship; so much mutual respect.
The way he spoke about race and the examples he gave made me sick to my stomach. Africa, as many know is all suffering, all the time. It’s what’s been fed to us on the media and even in schools. There is a stigma that comes with being African that lets people just not want to deal. The history lessons on Apartheid and the concepts of race and their division was so mind blowing. A couple ‘WTF?!’ left my mouth more than once. It made me think how current and needed his tutelage is. I wanted to get on a podium and scream into a mic “People please read this, IT IS intentionally being done; it isn’t in your mind. They think we should not have nice things!”. The political climate in America, the need for the BLM Toronto, the fact that a certain race that far out numbers many others and are becoming lawmakers in Canada, the segregation that comes with certain religions; it is all being called out in this book. You cannot possibly read this and say ‘Man South Africans are crazy and wack for that shit’ and not point a finger on the current state of things in many countries. There is a breakdown of poverty and awareness on ‘the black tax’; ‘the cycle of poverty and violence’ and the strong hand the government and law makers play in deciding the quality of life of others based on something they cannot control. You can bleach your skin, you can do surgery, you can assume a different identity and even start to talk funny; but there will also be the fact that you were born in the skin you’re in. That, you will have to take all that comes with it and deal; be quiet and slap a smile on while doing so.
Religion was a very big part of his life growing up and for many of us. I connected with him with many things that happened in his childhood and laughed at how much a West Indian life was so similar. We just basically have different name or places for things. Friends, here is a young person that grew up in a racist time under a racist regime, portraying it as the tool it is. Information and the way generations grow and change will even religion out. There are many dark places in every religious sect and the youth are not falling for it anymore. He also vividly showed how misused it is.
Part 2 of his book lost me a bit but I read on as the writing was very good. The voice of the author was very clear and easy-going, so you could cruise through and not lose interest. The aspects of his life that had to do with love and relationships were lost on me because I was a ‘prime’, wild child. I’d been kissing boys for years and you can imagine what else. I wasn’t much for impressions either and the one childhood crush I had, I fell in front of him outside of church one evening and that pretty much humbled me for life. Still, I read on. The love I wanted to explode was that between his mother and father. Why can’t people love who they love and be with who they want to? What does the government and religion have to do with love? This organic, natural uncontrollable emotion; why are those two so disgusting at being controlling. Why do they exist as a factor here? The relationship with his father and the way his mother handled it annoyed me to no end. There was also her own marriage to a monster that drove me nuts. In an effort to not offend those suffered/suffering from abuse and domestic abuse there won’t be much I’ll say there. Just that an unhappy life does not have to be your forever. A man that can turn his back on his own child can never be trusted and that love should never hurt.
There is a ray of hope that comes from this book in the Chapters ‘Chameleon’, ‘Outsider’ and ‘My Mother’s Life’. There is also a sick, sad detriment a CHILD was going through. Don’t become a victim of your circumstance. It is so easy to say ‘woe is me’ and to harp on where you place blame. However, we are our choices, be conscious and alert. Every move you make is your own responsibility and determines your own future. Look ahead and see the bigger picture and keep it moving. Most importantly, accept things. We are often taught to not settle, but there are situations that you will have to accept and work with until you can do better. Fight the social/societal constructs with your brain and not your fist. Adulthood will give you a lot of clarity on this; especially in an environment like the workplace.
This memoir was worth the purchase. One I will save for my children to read. My only regret is the curry stain on the pages from when my roti fell out of my hand one day at lunch…xoxo