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7 Books to Read this Spring Break

Hey there! If you don’t know: reading is love, reading is life. As a high schooler, I am beyond lucky to get two weeks of Spring Break this year where I can finally binge read and indulge in one of my favourite past times: reading (you guessed it)!

I’ve read a lot of books in my seventeen years of life, but these books have really popped up in my mind so I decided to share these jems! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

  1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo– This book was one of the most recent books that I read non stop from cover to cover. It describes the increasing poverty gap in a beautiful story style but it is actually all based on real life. Follow families living in poverty on the outskirts of Dubai, in the slums. The rawness of emotions and ideas that came out of reading this book is phenomenal. Never before did I really see an inside perspective of what it’s like to work day in and day out but never ease your family out of poverty. I saw the desperation within those who would do anything for a better life. This book will introduce you to things we may have never took much thought of. And it also added more fuel to the fire that I need to do something to help those living in poverty.
  2. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout– This book is a recount of the experience Amanda had when she was held hostage in Somalia. When I started reading this book, I simply could not put it down. But at the same time I thought the author was telling a  story and not their own real life experience until I had finished the book where an author’s note lay. Even without knowing this however, I felt for Amanda through all the terrible things she had to go through. I learned a lot about the various countries she travelled and unfortunately the horrific abuses she endured by her tormentors. Eye opening in a new sense about how really one’s life can change in the blink of a moment either for better or for worse.
  3. The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald- If you haven’t read any classics outside of obligations (like school or university) I suggest you read some more because they’re famous for a reason! Starting to read classics a few years ago, I fell in love with the Great Gatsby (not just Leonardo DiCaprio but the book itself). I really enjoyed Fitzgerald’s writing and the complex themes discussed under such seemingly simple places, people, and things. It got me to ponder on a deeper level about many societal themes like the American Dream and it got me thinking about what makes people the way they are, like the characters Daisy and Tom. Every time I read the Great Gatsby I pick up another aspect about the theme, the characters, and the morals of the book. It’s astonishing because you would think maybe after two times I would have understood the characters, but no! With every reading, I am able to uncover another complex layer of the characters within this story.
  4. Animal Farm/ 1984- George Orwell- Honestly, read anything of Orwells and you cannot go wrong (that’s just my opinion though). His writing is so thought provoking that I almost think about the themes and ideas raised in both his books everyday! If you’re an expert on literature, history, philosophy, or psychology you may not find this book as too much of a surprise, but being the young student I am, I was mind blown by the writing and complexity of thought that accompanied this book. Read this book if you want to be challenged both intellectually and idealistically. Read this book if you want to learn more about history (Russian Revolution, communism, dictatorship, Stalin, etc) and people. I included these two books because they’re the two major novels, but Orwell has written countless amazing essays that also need to be checked out!
  5. Steve Jobs-Walter Isaacson I put this in here because biographies/autobiographies might be boring for some but honestly we learn a lot from one another. This was a major autobiography (quite big and famous) that I read most recently considering I have yet to finish others. But try reading about someone’s life that you’re curious about or want to learn more about. I picked up this autobiography because I wanted to see the work ethic of Jobs and how he made it to the top. I won’t reveal too much but I loved the honesty of the author as the book was consisted of raw real life moments of a person society high values. It’s quite amazing to catch a glimpse of a famous person’s life to understand that we all have our struggles but it’s what we do to conquer them that initiates our path to success. There are countless other autobiographies or biographies to read, some that I have seen around are: Malala, Carly Fiorina, Michael Phelps, etc
  6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway- Call me crazy but I had not heard of Hemingway up until a few years ago (I was fourteen). And I am currently reading A Farewell to Arms and about to tackle For Whom the Bell Tolls. I would not say that I’m ecstatic about his writing just yet but his writing does do wonders. The first book I read which is quite short: The Old Man and the Sea really got me to think about life in a completely new aspect. An aspect I had considered before but it wasn’t until reading this book that I fully comprehended it in the context of my own life taking it from the boy and his grandfather. Honestly, read it for the themes and for Hemingway’s writing! If you don’t enjoy it, at least you can say that you read Hemingway!
  7. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnman- I picked this book up in the summer at the Harvard Book Store (so I will cherish the memories that come with it) and I didn’t know exactly what to expect. It was on the shelf of MUST READS and the fact that Dr. Kahnman has won the Nobel Peace Prize for Economics further reiterated my need to get the book. Due to school I am not completely finished but I am around half way. It definitely is different from a typical snuggle up rainy day kind of book. It’s again a thought provoking book about Dr. Kahnman’s research on our thinking in regards to our intuition and our slower thought processes. He discusses a lot of experiments and the results to further explore his research and introduces new data that I had certainly not given a lot of thought to before.

I hope you enjoy that reading list! I am also writing an amalgamation of book reviews for some of my other books on the free reading/writing site: Wattpad! You can find some romantic/comedic books that I’m reviewing here: Best Wattpad Novels

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The Book of Negroes

From the perfectly fitting writing style and captivating characters to weaving literature with history through new perspectives, there are many qualities the novel, The Book of Negroes, encapsulates leaving it as a memorable piece in modern literature. However, while teaching readers about the history of the slave trade among various other historical occurences, the author Lawrence Hill focuses on accentuating a woman’s journey of self exploration and her path to empowerment.

 

Aminata Diallo transforms and grows from her various experiences but in an interesting way that allows her to remain true to who she is. She travels various places and acquires wisdom from all the people she meets. Her journey in every sense is a literal journey where she travels across the sea too many times to count. But the real adventure is that through all her trials, she is on a journey to finding herself again and learning more about her potential. The process of picking up the pieces and mending herself back together allows her to discover who she is. From losing herself, she is able to find the “self” that she lost the night when she was captured. She is given a new identity, “A new name for the second life of a girl who survived the great river crossings,” (pg127). But she successfully is able to reclaim her old life again through her journey of self exploration. This determination of reclaiming her old life is shown with, “The power of the spoken word,” when she shares her story. The powerful messages of her story easily embed in my heart.

 

Her story is an amalgamation of strength, determination, love, and beauty that inspires me as a global citizen and as a growing woman. By firmly standing behind her values in an age and culture where women are not allowed to make their own decisions, Aminata is able to blend across different time periods and be a great example of what a feminist is in our modern time. Her resilience and steadfast loyalty to her own beliefs is the definition of what many women are coming forward to stand for today. For instance, when she makes decisions, she does what she believes is the right thing and is not easily swayed by other’s influences. Various times she displays this strength of staying true to who she is. Her marriage with Chekura was a reaffirming statement in that “[She] married the man she loved,” (pg 174). She did not let the circumstances of being enslaved or Appleby’s threats get in the way of fulfilling a value that was very meaningful for her. Furthermore, during the time and culture where she was brought up, many decisions like marriage were often made for her and not by herself. However, despite the risks and consequences that follow, she continues to go with her heart. The courage to be herself and to be able to use the bad experiences as an extension to be better person despite all the terrible things that have happened is exactly what makes her so admirable and a beautiful role model. Her defining characteristics are wonderful examples of how to conquer obstacles and to maximize personal potential. Even as a fictional character, she represents many courageous women who stood for what they believe in. It is very difficult to fight the strong tide of society sometimes, but her power inspires me to continually try to allow my personal voice to speak through.

 

Following her through her experiences, I felt this urge to do something and say something because of all the profound emotions I found myself experiencing. While unconsciously learning through character development and the exploration of many fundamental themes of a tale that is one with history, each page is a piece of the past and the truth. This book is a combination of an intellectual and emotional stimulant, but the real treasure is that it resonates a living message to take action. Through Aminata, I have the ability to see women around the world who live in circumstances where they are oppressed and dominated by men. I see the children and families destroyed by the inhumane treatment inflicted by others. I see the unending cycle of greed and how it ties into the slave trade of the past but also the human trafficking of now. Her story is a catalyst for change, for development of human rights, for the growth of women’s voices. Her story is the connection between my willingness to fight for women’s rights and the understanding of what women in the past and present live through in a society where they are not valued. Lawrence Hill effectively demonstrates his passion for the advancement and empowerment of women by pouring life into Aminata. Her life isn’t just for reading but for understanding.

 

This book catalyzes my growth in regards to strength and purpose. Perhaps in the future I may forget what Aminata went through, but I will not forget her words and how they make me feel. I was with her on her journey every step of the way. I felt the uncontrollable throbbing of anger with the cruelty humans treat one another with. But I also felt the soaring thumps of my heart with the joy of knowing when those who are lost, Aminata and May, are found. Their fight for justice, catalyzes my determination to make a difference. After going through some personal trials in my life both physically and emotionally, this story allows me to firmly believe that everything does happen for a reason and that there is nothing we are not strong enough to handle. Aminata’s story starts off rocky but as a whole, she is a fundamental character in the battle against slavery. Without her experiencing suffering, she would not have been able to empathize with others who were enslaved and fight the way she does for freedom. Similarly, without the personal circumstances that jumble up my life, I would not have been able to find the joy in making others smile. In the case of this novel, suffering led to Aminata’s purpose and like her, my purpose was discovered through growing past obstacles. This revelation allows me to completely immerse in this story because of the similar emotions both Aminata and I went through when tackling challenges. Making this connection to a fictional character, reformed my mindset. No longer am I alone but I am bond to others through a cycle of understanding. Just like when Aminata looked into the eyes of asylum seeking slaves, she saw their stories colliding with hers. And with all these pivotal moments there comes feelings that are everlasting. There is simply nothing more breathtaking when a book anchors itself into real life because the story may fade one day, but the change that accompanies those reading is everlasting. Now as I move forward in life and experience harder trials, I will not be disheartened because I will remember Aminata. I will apply the lessons I have learned to be the best human being and global citizen I can be.

Review #3 BON cont’d

Three posts won’t be able to get all my thoughts and feelings about this book but I thought I would try. The last part of the book or major chapter of Aminata is so long and filled with more sorrow that I almost forgot Appleby because by that point he was so long into her past.

After Aminata has lost her baby, she has no will to live and she becomes sick. She is extremely fragile both in physical and mental state that Appleby sells her “stupid no-good Guinea wench” to Solomon Lindo the indigo inspector of the region. Actually, a few months earlier before she was introduced to Lindo and  other men who are part of the slave trade. One of the men tries to rape her but she is luckily saved when Lindo walks back into the room. For me Solomon Lindo is an interesting character because I do feel that he tries to be a good man and displays growth throughout the novel. I’m glad he is not part of her life and helps to at least wash away some of the pain she experienced with Appleby. She departs for her new life in Charles Town and Lindo promises her to treat her as a servant instead of a slave. Lindo does treat her with the kindness he promises by treating her with respect. She meets Dolly who is another servant at the Lindo household, despite the fact that she doesn’t become as close to her as she did with Georgia they become friends. Due to Aminata’s intelligence, Lindo decides to put her to better use and teachers her more reading and gives her books to practice. He then gets her to earn money by catching babies in the town. He says,” I knew you would catch on fast. I saw the intelligence in your eyes and I wanted to lift you up,” (pg 201). She even gets to catch Ms. Lindo’s baby and takes care of him. But unfortunately the pox kills a lot of the villagers including Ms. Lindo and her son, and Dolly. For me it was simply put very sad. Throughout the few chapters that Ms. Lindo was in Aminata’s life, she treated her like an equal and with true kindness. She gave her books for her service and always advocated for her when her husband would be strict. Even Aminata states, ” I had trusted her more than any other white person, and had come to care for her son David like a child of my own,” (215). In a way Ms. Lindo protected Aminata and there was a connection between them. After their deaths, Mr. Lindo changed drastically and his actions towards Aminata also change. He has no heart to care for her and Aminata realizes the truth that he was the one who arranged the transaction of selling her son. That is the moment when she disentangles herself from his life and she doesn’t want to hear his excuses. But when he leaves for New York City he takes her with him to start a new life and try to mend their relationship. However, riots break out in the city due to the American Revolutionary War and Aminata has the opportunity to escape while Lindo flees back to Carolina.

In New York, Aminata is again really quick to make friends and after the British surrender, they offer slaves who have worked for them asylum in Nova Scotia. I like this book because it easily threads different issues and pieces of history into a very interesting life. I learned a lot about the historical backdrop of the story as well as a personal account which is very fascinating due to the realism that peaks its way inside. The issues discussed parallel nicely with the themes. When the slaves are offered asylum, Aminata’s friends touch upon a wonderful point. They talk about trust and how can they ever trust people who treated the way that they did. I see validity in their arguments, but Aminata’s wisdom really reaches more than her age because in her mind she know’s there is no other choice but to keep fighting each day and the only way to survive is to trust the British because continually living in New York is more dangerous than handing herself back to those who captured her in the beginning. Her friend Sam whom she befriends helps her along the way and gives her the advice to keep moving when more terrible circumstances arise.

There are so many events that arise but I’ll briefly discuss three more major points that occur in the last book. One of the first is when Appleby finds her again and drags her to court to make her come back with him. When she declares that she is actually Lindo’s, not many believe her without her documents of proof. Luckily, Sam helps by finding Lindo and bringing him to court. It was like a breath of fresh air when he comes to let her go. At this point of time Aminata has another child with Chekura and when Lindo reads out the documents of truth (the slave trading of both her and her son Mamadu), she can’t help but dash out the door to save her child from hearing such poison. At that point in time she can’t yet forgive Lindo or thank him for giving back what had always been hers. She can’t hate him but she can’t forgive him either. When Lindo tries to make amends by talking to her, she can’t listen and leaves. That was the closing of the book about Lindo and Aminata. In a way, that scene made me depressed because Lindo really did mess up and Aminata deserves every right to not talk to him. But I do feel that Lindo is trying hard to make up the mistakes he made in the past.

The second point is that Aminata decides to go to Nova Scotia (hence the no choice but to trust in the British one more time). But her husband took the ship before her while she chose to stay a bit longer. She does hope to see him one day while in the meantime she works by entering the names of slaves who want asylum in the Book of Negroes. That book itself is a symbol for so many different things: suffering, sacrifice, and hope are just a few. The book though also represents broken promises because unfortunately the British lie to the slaves once again. The promises that good awaits them is quickly brushed away when Aminata finally arrives in Canada. Everything is the most difficult that Aminata has had in a while because surviving throughout the day is her priority. The regret Aminata describes makes me feel disappointed as well. Because I wonder what it must feel like to be fed so many lies all the time only to have it all come hurtling back on me and hurt me even more. After all these revelations, she doesn’t want to give the British ‘second’ chances because she has finally learned her mistakes.

A lot conspires between the major events I would like to discuss but because of the depth and complexity of the book there is simply too much to discuss. I will hopefully talk more about aspects not covered in my blogs during my presentation!

The third point is despite everything that has happened in Aminata’s life, she is incredibly lucky. She doesn’t know where her husband is, and her second child, May, is taken by the Witherspoons who she previously befriended. This is the third time that her heart is stabbed by an emotional infliction that will be very difficult to heal. When she learns of her husband’s death, she decided to make a journey back to her homeland. While various things happen when she is given the opportunity to go back to Sierra Leone (she learns that she is from Africa), she crosses paths with abolitionist Clarkson who wants to end the slave trade. Trying to immerse herself back within her country is very difficult because the villagers now there do not want her back. Realizing that she can never really return to her hometown, she heads back with Clarkson to join the other abolitionists to end slavery. This is where we are led back into present day! Her writing accounts of her experience with slavery and the amazing feat that she is still alive despite everything that has happened to her gives her a lot of attention in the newspapers. With this newfound coverage, it is then that her long lost daughter May finally finds her again. They embrace and in that moment I can’t but finally feel so happy and let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. In the end, it seems that everything is worth it because while Aminata thought she lost everything, in the most unexpected times she found her everything again. At this point in time, Aminata is very old and she is soon going to die. Her daughter takes care of her and we are left with Aminata still striving to end slavery in Parliament.

Review #2: BON cont’d

Book 2 -3

The story picks up again in the present where Aminata is at the meeting with the abolitionists who work hard to abolish slavery. ” Even if you destroy every slave ship, I say, what remains of the men and women already in bondage?” This is a memorable quote that displays Aminata’s losing hope and I can’t but help agree with her. However, the bright side is that even if one slave ship is destroyed, hundreds of slaves would be set free. In modern day, the abolitionists seem to treat Aminata with respect but they do not fully welcome her. Aminata feels the same way when she states,”The abolitionists may well call me their equal, but their lips do not yet say my name and their ears do not yet hear my story. Not the way I want to tell it. ” So she picks up her quill and starts to recall her experiences after coming off the ship.

All the captives (slaves), are brought to an island off the coast of the toubabu’s land (Sullivan’s Island). They are all on the brink of dying and for me one of the saddest moments was when Aminata thought that she was burning from the smoke that came from her mouth. They were living in such horrible conditions and practically freezing to death yet Aminata had thought that someone lit her tongue on fire. Aminata’s innocence is heavily contrasted with the brutal conditions she is living in. This goes to say, how the mistreatment of children is even more wrong because children can feel terrible but they don’t know exactly what is happening to them. She is only able to keep herself from dying with the strong words of her friend Biton: ” Remember your mama and your papa, you carry them in your heart. Listen to them. They will tell you what to do.”

Another ship comes and they are again rounded up according to their medical conditions. At this point in the story, the inhumane treatment of these villagers from Animata’s community is unbelievable. It’s the second major point in the novel that I can feel my fingers tremble as I try to turn the pages because I can’t picture such cruel treatment of people. The toubabs seem to be doing the people a favour by examining their health conditions but the way they prod these people’s body’s like objects is disgusting. Not only are Aminata’s people publicly harassed in front of their community crowds but they also are publicly humiliated. If it isn’t enough pain to deal with the physical inflictions, the shame is something all the captives have to go through on a daily basis. Growing up in a progressive society that is more attentive to human rights leaves me baffled at all the horrific things people had to live through on a daily basis. Every page of this book was a new revelation to me. I love books because the difference from learning about the struggles of the past, with words and literature I can actually feel and live the things that the characters experience.

For Aminata as she recalls these experiences, she does not once complain or exclaim the unfairness. She simply lives through it and deals with the toubab head on. In a way, I can infer that even though Aminata is going through so much difficulty, she doesn’t fully comprehend all the things she’s going through. She only has her feelings to base her opinions but because her knowledge is not yet at her peak, she can’t make claims about the ill treatments she goes through.

After the voyages, a big part of Animata’s life is spent on Appleby’s Farm located in South Carolina. We learn that Appleby now owns Aminata and her friend Fomba who now are enslaved to his work due to the slave trade during the late 1700’s.  They work on the fields for harvesting but prominently for the indigo plantation where they work to make indigo hues for clothing specifically Appleby’s. At the time Aminata arrives to “Master” Appleby’s farm, she is on the brink of death and if it isn’t for Georgia, who is also works for Appleby and nurses Aminata back to the health, then Aminata would have died from dehydration, illness, and exhaustion. During the time on the farm, some notable events happen! Due to Aminata’s quick mind to learn skills, she is often praised by Appleby and his assistant (Mamed). Unexpectedly the very scary and serious Mamed has made an offer to secretly teach Aminata how to read. As time goes on, Aminata is able to read, speak, and write in English but in order not to infuriate her Master she must act stupidly and not raise his suspicions. Since Aminata is a strong worker, very bright, and also beautiful it isn’t long before Appleby notices her. At this point in time, Aminata is a young lady that has only recently starting to have her menstrual cycle which makes the climax of Book 2 even more drastic: Appleby rapes Aminata. He rapes her out of anger as Aminata is still seeing Chekura and there relationship is budding. With jealousy he takes something from her that she wanted to save for her loved one: Chekura. This was the first time I read about rape in the first person and I saw it coming but it was so quick. Within the span of a few minutes, her life isn’t the same. For me, after that moment Aminata is an adult. She isn’t the innocent child she was before who didn’t understand all the things happening around her. Now she knows a lot more and begins to actually see the toubab’s treatments for what they really are. His words still echo through my brain and that is the control he has over her being and her everything.

The next major thing I wanted to discuss that was again heartbreaking and disgusting was what Appleby did to Aminata. When Aminata begins to recover from being sexually assaulted and her strength again shines through, despite everything that happenes to her, Appleby rips her newfound happiness away from her multiple of times. The first is when Aminata begins to feel like a real woman when she secretly marries her lover, Chekura, and she is impregnated. After a months go by, she has also grown out her hair beautifully. But when Appleby learns of her lover from the fact that her stomach has grown huge, he humiliates her by asking her to come into the big circle where all the workers on the plantation gather around. He asks her to strip naked in front of everyone and throw her fires into the fire that was just made. Despite what he asks of her Aminata states,” I made a decision then. He would do whatever he wanted, anyway. I was from Bayo and i had a child growing inside me and I would stand proud,” (pg.176). After he makes her throw her clothes in the fire, he commands her to scrubs herself in a small tub where everyone is watching. He then pours buckets of water over her and asks her to bend over or sit down. He then mocks her by grabbing her hair and taunts her to call her own hair, ‘wool’ which is very dehumanizing. Robinson Appleby then begins to snip all her hair. Aminata’s hair in a way is a symbol of her own beauty and strength. It reminded her that despite everything that she was still standing and it was also what she tried to grow out despite being raped. When Appleby cuts her hair until she is bald, she can’t help but cry. Aminata rarely cries and that was a moment that we so painful because something broke within her. She even goes to beg him to stop which she rarely does. Even when she was being raped, she just choked down her cries and stopped begging. He tortures her further by forcing her to look in the mirror. And as the book quotes, ” I screamed as I have never screamed before. I didn’t recognize myself. I had no clothes, no hair, no beauty, no womanhood,” (pg 178). The worst thing that Appleby could do to Aminata was strip her of her inner self and that was exactly what he did. All the physical and emotional pain Aminata went through she could handle because she believed in herself and her strength. But the moment he destroys that, she can barely live with herself.

It was March of 1761, when Aminata conceived her baby and called her boy Mamadu after her father. And for me I thought finally Aminata can have something to hold onto that can give her strength again. But being too naive I forgot about Appleby too soon. He comes in again to destroy her life. I have no words to describe the actions he did so I can only bring in the excerpt of the story which is in Aminata’s perspective.

“When my son Mamadu was just ten months old, i woke up in the middle of the night to his bawling. I rolled over to bring him close, to relieve his cries… My hand brushed against the bed of woven grasses. The bed. The air. My own body. Nothing else. I opened my eyes…. I jumped up, dizzy, confused and full like an unmilked cow, and there I saw Robinson Appleby put my baby into a man’s arms up on a carriage,” (pg 183).

I had thought the previous events Appleby could never surpass the next actions he does, but each time he has proven me wrong. Appleby sells Aminata’s baby through the slave trade.

“Bring back by baby,” I shouted./ He laughed in my face,” (pg 184).

If I could slap and hit Appleby in that moment I would with all my being. I can’t describe all the horrible words I could use to describe him. He laughed in her face!

The agony with which Aminata crumples to the ground fully reveals her desperation. She says,” I had never before wanted to kill a man. But I would have killed Robinson Appleby then. My heart and my body were screaming for Mamadu. But my baby was gone. Sold, sold, sold. Appleby would not say where,” (pg 184). I think at that point I was crying so hard for her because I could try to imagine all the trouble to conceive a baby and have given birth to such a precious little being that was mine. I mostly imagined what it would be like for my mother, and when I saw her face morphed into Aminata’s it was so hard to bear because to see a mother in pain because of her child is mortifying. I really don’t know how Aminata continually gets up from the ground to only be pushed even further down. Her baby was her light, the one good thing in her life and now it’s finally gone.

Her husband stopped visiting her and she felt it was her fault. She not only had guilt because she thought it was her fault but she had not fight in her anymore.

Review #1: The Book of Negroes

It wouldn’t make a lot of sense if I didn’t quickly summarize the story’s events because there are so many things to experience! This novel follows the main character, Aminata, who is recounting her life in this book where the real book itself is like a memoir. The book is not only adept at making the character quickly draw upon the descriptions to craft their own experiences, but it is extremely realistic that I felt I was reading a real memoir! Aminata in the present, is an old woman living in 1802 London who constantly visits the public to tell her stories. She feels that it is her duty to share her story as she has survived through so many hardships. Since she feels that she has been so fortunate to have lived so long, she recounts fragments of her past life.

In the beginning, we are transported back to Aminata’s childhood in Bayo (1750’s) where her father is a jeweller and her mother is a midwife. Her mother teaches her the secrets to catching babies and right from the start, readers can sense something special with Aminata. Her parent’s different upbringing which focuses on the importance of education proves to be life saving in the future. Despite the villager’s lack of approval, she is taught how to write and speak various cultural languages. This important backdrop sets the tone for the story. The reminiscent and melancholy feel that comes with the novel allows all the experience’s of Animata to impact my heart. It’s hard not to feel empathetic because within a couple of pages, the beautiful childhood memories of Animata are destroyed when she and her mother are kidnapped.

The smooth transition between the change of events really allowed me to live through the eyes of Aminata which is a prominent reason for why her account is so believable. Her kidnapping and her witness of how her parent’s fought for their survival until they were killed by the robbers, rapidly starts Aminata’s exponential growth out of childhood. The innocent descriptions of her thoughts and the feeling of helplessness as she watches the two people that she loves so dearly is heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but feel angry and want to take revenge for her. As well, I also felt helplessness because in that moment she was vulnerable and I wished I could have comforted her. Even though, everything in that instant changed Aminata’s life forever, she is still able to push through. She is courageous even for such a young child! She knows that life must go on and so she accepts her fate but also hopes for the best.

As the story goes on, we learn that Aminata has been kidnapped by what she calls toubabu, which we learn later is a white man. The novel is not too graphic in manner, but the descriptions Aminata recalls of her treatment is heart wrenching. What’s more is that it isn’t so much the physical pain or torture that comes from these kidnappers, but the humiliation with which she is treated. She talks about her dignity and that these men have often tore piece and piece of her dignity away. Through the process of reading this story, it’s like plunging into something foreign and enigmatic. For me, I didn’t know exactly what was going on until I started looking in hindsight. It may be obvious for some, but Aminata was unfortunately kidnapped into the slave trade. They walk for many day and nights where time is interestingly recounted differently by her people. The book wonderfully brings in different cultural practices and the unbelief to our modern culture allows me to see how others feel when they view our Canadian/American cultures. For instance, she talks about time in regards to nature like three revolutions of the moon, fourteen rains, etc.

The novel set up of Aminata’s story is told through four books which marks four significant bundles of time in her life. Specifically in the first book, two characters Fomba and Fanta from her hometown provide her comfort as they have also been kidnapped into the slave coddle where they all wear yokes around their necks.

Fanta and Aminata are able to put away their past dislikes of each other to support one another. Aminata even helps Fanta catch her baby, Sanu. Fomba is also her friend and is a well known hunter in her village, but does not speak often. She is easily able to make friends with those around her, and she befriends a boy, Chekura, who is her captor at first but she realizes that they are on the same side.

After many revolutions of the moon, the villagers are sent onto a ship. Due to Aminata’s ability to speak various languages, she is of great help to the investigators or should I say interrogators on the ship. All the people that are meant to board the ship are inspected with at times humiliation. Once on the ship, the brutal living conditions lead to the death of many people. The crowded spaces, lack of food, and poor treatment of the people by the toubab are impossible to escape, but luckily Aminata, Chekura, Fanta, and Fomba are all able to survive. Unfortunately some of the people she meets in the coddle, have died. She is able to get onto the good side of the medicine man who is alos a toubab. And she uses this to her advantage to gain more medical resources and small snacks for her and her friends.

Time and time again, Fanta’s bold spirit defys these men and she tells Aminata to never trust the toubab. The villagers feel oppressed and mistreated, so after a few weeks, they go on a rampage that kill many of the toubab. Aminata soon loses her trust towards Fanta especially as she sees how Fanta is easily able to kill her own daughter and other humans. She understands that a baby is a burden especially on the process of survival but she cannot get over Fanta’s acts and distances herself. Even though Aminata dislikes the toubabu, she can never get over the murders of so many people on the ship.

All in all, as I recount the first book, I felt that in some ways this book is a symbol within itself. A symbol of courage and transparency that gives a taste of what many slaves went through.

I am very happy to have chosen this book because it has definitely opened my eyes to a personal recount of what it might have been like for those who were sold into the slave trade!

Shooting an Elephant by Orwell; Review

A great friend of mine and one who has a great taste in literature, recently recommended some of Orwell’s essays to me. I am so glad he did because I am once again mind blown about the thought processing and profound use of writing that can make me delve deeper into philosophical ideas. I loved 1984! After reading it a year ago, I was hooked into Orwell’s writing. His writing made me connect on another level mainly because I shared many similar philosophies to the main character himself, Winston. Anyways, I apologize for going off a tangent but after reading some essays by Orwell and my review, definitely go check out his novels as well!

Here is the essay: Orwell Essay

After careful analysis on my part, I realized this was not necessarily a formal essay but a narrative. He starts with a wonderful start of his work in Burma. An important part to note is the simple yet elegant descriptions of the surrounding environment that enables readers to experience a bit of what this exotic place is like. A main feature of Orwell’s writing that I also admire is the closeness to 21st century English. Even though written more than a few decades ago, I can easily understand and interpret meanings of all of his works. The prominence of this essay is what I felt after reading it. I felt a gaping hole in my heart, and a throbbing in my head because what might seem a bizzare scenario: shooting an elephant touches upon my conscience. In that moment, when Orwell was contemplating his decisions, I flashbacked to many moments in my life where I had felt his conflictions. Was I supposed to do what was expected and the “right” thing in other’s eyes, or was I going to follow my heart and do what I considered was “right”? More times than not, I submit to the fear that is within me, that fear of no acceptance, or sudden hatred against me from society. I do the things that are expected and slowly lose a piece of me. The braveness of the narrator speaks through by connecting us all, in that he describes that he knew he was wrong. By fulling admitting it through this essay, it allowed me to find the courage within myself to empathize. I realized that we are all so much the same, more than we realize. So many times, I think that I’m the only one with these bad thoughts or weird thoughts, but reading Orwell’s writing has allowed me to admit my own mistakes and be able to feel somehow accepted.

My Mistress’ Eyes are nothing like the Sun ( Sonnet 130) by William Shakespeare

The poem can be found here: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/130.html

Through, “Sonnet 130,” Shakespeare fabricates a lyric poem about his mistress and his love for her in the most unexpected way by drawing upon her unattractiveness. Like usual, Shakespeare again excels at his own type of sonnet: Shakespearian Sonnet with the form of iambic pentameter. The use of this rhythm is commonly used by Shakespeare to achieve a certain flow of how the poem is read by the reader. This is often the distinguishing feature of Shakespeare’s writing through the plethora of iambic pentameter, he used throughout his works. More specifically for,” Sonnet 130,” Shakespeare uses an abundance of metaphors and similes to elicit the image of his mistress while mocking the conventions of beauty in his era. While other poets of his era compare their lovers to idealized images of beauty, Shakespeare on the other hand tells the truth, ” [her] eyes are nothing like the sun.” He seems to say,” Oh you’re mistress’ eyes are like the sun, well my mistress’ eyes are certainly not!” He uses these cliche comparisons in the negative form to really bring to light how funny the metaphors that emphasize beauty are. Trite but true, beauty is within the eyes of the beholder which is the second message that Shakespeare touches upon. This poem questions the legitimacy of society’s boundaries of what the definition of beauty is or encompasses. By telling the truth that his mistress is definitely not the fairest by society’s standards, he displays the significance of his love for her. For he ignores the ephemeral things like fleeting beauty or appearance and accepts her for who she is on the inside. All in all, the poem is again wonderfully written and does Shakespeare justice. This sonnet is famous for it’s satire, but even through the satire, a deeper tone of seriousness is able to be explored from the underlying themes of true beauty and love. This was seen through the structure of the poem, which was well thought out. The beginning of the sonnet contains truncated comparisons but are stretched out in the middle of the sonnet, and then finishing with a bit of a plot twist. This structure keeps the reader intrigued and leads to an ending that was definitely not expected.