Books et al

3 Books That Contextualize Mental Health in the African Setting

Mental health is currently all the rage. A hot topic of discussion in all arenas, it rings true with the pressures of the 21st Century.

For those with an African background, the portrayal of mental health is often disconnected from the realities we face. It is often said that art imitates life, and so literature is doing exactly that. In my most recent reading, I have three texts that well encapsulate the African experience of mental health; these books offer an alternative to what Western pop culture describes, portrays and relays it to be.

Here are three texts that you should definitely delve into:

1.Biko Zulu – “Drunk”

This Kenyan creative writer and published author has a knack for describing Kenyan-isms. And with a growing population, and troubled middle class in Kenya, Zulu tackles addiction and depression with ease. The book dubbed ‘Drunk’ is funny, clever and more importantly relatable for the African reader.

Set in Kenya’s bustling capital; the upward strokes and downward draws of dating, career management and general city melee consume the main character. This book is definitely worth a first and second read. You can also gift it to several friends as I have; they will not be disappointed.

Zulu’s second publication “Thursday” is also available for purchase.

2. Alain Mabanckou –  “Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty”

Congolese-born Alain is gifted. Not only for how he structures his stories like a rollercoaster, but more importantly for me, for how he bottles and packages all things African into a platter of wordy delights. As a reader, if you are craving consuming a text that screams “innately African”, Alain will always have something for you.

In this text, the main character a young pubescent boy strikes a friendship with the village madman. In most African communities, the saying “every village has its mad man” rings true and yet in this title Alain explores that anecdote much further; much deeper than one would imagine. His take on schizophrenia, poverty and African life is such a beautiful offering.

Alain Mabanckou tu don de Dieu!

His book, “African Psycho” is also a great read.

3. Akwaeke Emezi – “Freshwater”

The highly feted book made headlines, and remains a point of conversation. Now a famed novelist, Akwaeke is of Nigerian and Tamil descent and shares a heart-wrenching story that leaves readers on the edge of their seats. The narration acknowledges various aspects of being, expressions of selves and a troubling yet bundled together scheme to manage it all.

This text was Akwaeke’s big debut, and she has written 7 books including her most recent release “You Made a  Fool of Death with Your Beauty.”

Let’s connect in the comment section. What are you reading?

Books et al

3 Books That Changed My Perspective on Being A Woman

They say he who reads lives a thousand lives, and although I have not read a thousand books I can definitely appreciate the broadened mindset I’ve gained from reading.

So here is a trio that I believe are super important reads:

  1. ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott

The book by Louisa May Alcott is a classic. It was the first school-mandated text that I enjoyed, relished and continue to cherish to this day. Although the stories of the individuals are set in 17th Century America (hundreds of years before my time), I have found some comfort in the lives of the female characters championed in this book. It is written from a woman’s perspective and challenges societal norms in a way most classics hardly ever considered. For a feminist, or anyone interested in the pre-occupations of young girls, ‘Little Women’ gives a glimpse into the fixations of young women, the societal pressures they face and how every woman’s ideas of life are constantly evolving.

If you’re interested in also watching the characters come alive on-screen the 2019 remake is not too bad.

2. ‘Becoming’  by Michelle Obama

Prior to reading this book, I hardly knew anything about the first African American First Lady of The United States of America. I was pleasantly surprised to learn Michelle Obama was a pioneer well before becoming the President’s wife. The book is a page-turner revealing Mrs. Obama’s riveting backstory before her life under the glaring lens of the media. She had a life, long before she walked the hallowed corridors of the White House, and her life was full, challenging and significant.

The book offers an insider’s take on life in the White House, the ins and outs of Former President Obama’s exciting yet tedious presidential campaign race and the struggle every woman faces in achieving the so-called perfect work-life balance.

Mrs. Obama offers intimate details of her life; and draws great lessons from her life that any woman would appreciate.

3. ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Award winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a way with words. She shares the stories of African characters, refined with imagery and colorful culture. For an African millennial reader, her words come alive when met with the fast paced, intertwined well outlined character plotlines; the book ‘Americanah’ is a read that is worth re-reading again and again. For all those who value stories told from the African perspective, Adichie’s writing exposes the internal conflicts of African youth and unveils layers of truth, that are hardly addressed.

I have always been draw to the work of female authors, and the more I explore different work; the more apparent it is that women across the globe have and continue to face similar struggles. Nonetheless, it is riveting to read how we women manage to make the most out of what life throws at us, and it is exhilarating to see more stories told from a woman’s perspective.

‘We Should All Be Feminists’ author Chimamanda has a host of other award-winning books that are worth reading, and adding to your collection.

What female authors have you explored recently?