Sunday Reads Jan 21, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

Video I watched: I got a little addicted to the entertaining Crash Course series on YouTube where John Green and his brother teaches you all kinds of stuff!

 

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Rethinking Infidelity and Vulnerability

The psychologist looks out from the brightly lit stage and asks the audience, “How many of you have been affected by infidelity? As a family member? As the one who is cheating? As the betrayed partner?” The truth is almost all of us have been affected and infidelity is, as many other transgressions, painful and disruptive.

However, the psychotherapist Esther Perel has tried to reconsider what infidelity means in her new book “State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” (link to Perel’s webpage with the possibility of reading an excerpt). I haven’t read the book just yet as it only came out last month, but wanted to share the news of it with you, as I think it will be an interesting read for all interested in long-term relationships for a couple of reasons:

  1. If its half as good as her Podcast with the brilliant name “Where should we begin”, or the TED-video (see embedded below) on the same topic (the question she ends the talk with was mind-blowing!) and a worksheet that I think can be helpful to any couple struggling with the aftermath of infidelity. If just half as good, the book will be useful.
  2. I loved her earlier book. The ideas clearly are a continuation of Perel’s earlier book on relationships called “Mating in Captivity” and loved it! I think I loved this book because of its duality: merging practical, practitioner’s advice by generously sharing cases on the one hand, and theoretically thinking through what a monogamous relationship really is on the other. In this first book, Perel elegantly argues that a long-term love relationship really is about. Perel says it is about “reconciling the erotic and the domestic” and walks us through how impossible and paradoxical that is. I remember her asking a question in the book: Would you be more upset if your partner had cheated or if s/he never had? Here she is suggesting that a partner staying mysterious and secret to some degree ignites our interest in them, as one does not fall in love with a partner that is inseparable from oneself. Hence an affair or at least the possibility of it, on some level might be positive. On the other hand, and this is the paradox, a long-term relationship is by definition an institution we are supposed to trust. How can we rely on someone who lies about the most intimate aspect we share?
  3. Finally, the intercultural approach Perel takes to relationships makes sense to me. Not only is the world a global village these days with many couples looking something like the one I am in (Ghanaian -Swedish), on some level all couples are two cultures integrating, right? (not just two nationalities but also Engineer- Social scientist, Gen X – Millenial, working-class – middle-academic-class and so on). This New York Times article explains her intercultural approach (and as a bonus critiques her work effectively).

An excerpt from Perel’s new book asks some questions and suggest we should discuss them in a relationship before we are in “a storm” of infidelity. Among others, the questions are:

“Has monogamy outlived its usefulness? What is fidelity? Can we love more than one person at once?

For me, these conversations are part and parcel of any adult, intimate relationship. For most couples, unfortunately, the crisis of an affair is the first time they talk about any of this. Catastrophe has a way of propelling us into the essence of things. I encourage you not to wait for a storm, but to address these ideas in a quieter climate. Talking about what draws us outside our fences, and about the fear of loss that accompanies it, in an atmosphere of trust can actually promote intimacy and commitment. Our desires, even our most illicit ones, are a feature of our humanity.”

This suggestion of talking about difficult, but real things, reminds me of another favorite self-help writer of mine, sociology professor Brene Brown. Her new book on vulnerability says exactly this – by being vulnerable, imperfect, even failing (perhaps like dealing with infidelity as a couple?), we can connect with others. The book is “Braving the Wilderness” where the first word in the title is also a clever acronym on how to be brave in the wild…

Now, in the world we are not just rethinking infidelity and vulnerability, we are also rethinking what a book is. If you do not have time to read all the details, but still think the above sounds relevant, you have videos and other free online content there for you. I suggest you start with these two videos!

Photo above by CMEarnestOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link 

 

Sunday Reads Sep 17, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

      1. Female entrepreneurship rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world, according to a new report that says women’s entrepreneurial activity is increasing globally. 
      2. Africa doesn’t need white tech entrepreneurs – it needs a level playing field by Eliza Anyangwe.
      3. Over Certified & Under Educated a harsh but well-argued piece about Ghana’s higher education sector by Esther Armah.
      4. Young people and their plants by Lavanya Ramanathan
      5. A bit of context to the protests in Togo by Benjamin N. Lawrance.

Video I watched: No video! It was the first week of the fall semester for my daughters and myself! I just survived!

 

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Sunday Reads Sep 3, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

Book review site Bokhora’s review of Kristina Sandberg’s novel “Att föda ett barn”, (To Birth A Child)

This week I watched this video:

“Anne with and E” (Netflix). The remake of a book AND TV-series you love has everything stacked against it, but it was wonderful and glorious and adds new context to the times as well as nuance to the main characters.

Books I am reading: I finished reading the book series by Kristina Sandberg (oh how I love series or loooong books where one can dive into a world for weeks! Like Elena Ferrante’s books I read earlier in the year).

What I would have loved to read, but did not come across:

The news that Kristina Sandberg’s captivating books about Maj are being translated into English.

Now, tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Sunday Reads Feb 5, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. This Interesting article on the academic core task and the next generation academics by Andrew J. Hoffman on The Conversation.
  2. Incredible look into the future: Global digital identity – goodbye national passports? by Margie Cheeseman.
  3. The Neuroscience of Singing by Cassandra Shepard. I knew from experience singing is good for me, but not exactly how come…

Video I watched: The addictive The American People vs O J Simpson. The entire mini series. From beginning to end.

What I would have loved to read, but did not come across:

An article on corporal punishment in Ghanaian schools and what to do about it.

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Sunday Reads Jan 29, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. I don’t know about you, but I can’t take in anymore about Trump, so except for a few women march comments, I have just skipped everything orange and I justify it with this article by Bill Sher.
  2. Does a university degree really pay off? Here’s the truth from an American perspective (In a nutshell? Yes, it pays off).
  3. Bringing “sharing” back in (to cities) by Julian Agyemang and Duncan McLaren.
  4. Business Fiction by Tolulope Popoola (short! sweet! with lesson!) from African literary site Brittle Paper.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

Did not read anything in Swedish.

This week I watched no video, because of new semester! But I am reading the book series by Elena Ferrante (on the final book! So addictive!)

What I would have loved to read, but did not come across:

A longer analysis on what the regime change in Ghana means to the ordinary person.

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Sunday Reads Nov 6, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. This interesting article by Salim Virani on usability of websites in Africa:If Africa is leading mobile web usage, why are so many African websites non-mobile? A discussion started by me(!) on Twitter when University of Ghana told me the online registration for graduation could not be done on a phone or device.
  2. An article about the lack of African research by Celia Nyamweru on the interesting portal African Arguments.
  3. Writing a Paper (PDF) by George M Whitesides was required reading for the online Author AID course I am taking this fall.
  4. Citi FM’s coverage on the deplorable situation on mental health in Ghana.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. This Interview in Resume with Carl Waldekrantz, TicTail founder.

This week I watched no video, because of the craziness that is my life! But I am reading Amy Shumer’s book with the hilarious title The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Why I loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

file-2016-10-31-23-38-32I should have posted this as a SundayRead, because it was my weekend read and I really, really enjoyed it. I have been reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

I have heard it being referred to as  “an ambitious debut” probably because it tries to chronicle the slave trade and its aftermath through one family in one book. That has many dangers to it:  can become heavy with historical references, empty on a personal level when bigger narratives are the aim, or just a novel that should have been a textbook. This is none of that.

I cried, I laughed, I lived through the many many personalities you meet in this book (the book opens with a family tree, love books that start with visual schema!) My favourite characters were beautiful Effia and her queer son Quey, Ness Stockham and her tragic fate (climbing down that tree!), and Willie Black and her father H. But I feel like I got close to all of the characters – I wonder, how did Gyasi accomplish that?

While the book balances on an educational tight rope, it skillfully blends themes such as identity, evil, the origin of the word “obruni” for white person, American slavery history such as Jim Crow, the historical advent of mass religion, happiness, the list can go on. Maybe in a few places it feels like contemporary debates are “placed” in the story, or discussed with a contemporary lense: homosexuality, interracial relationships, how to apportion blame in Ghana for the slave trade, however it is those same “educational” debates that makes the novel so relevant and make me consider this book as a text for a class I teach at Ashesi.

We can tell it was a labor of love because the language is sweet, decorated with gems such as “She dipped her to a into water so cool she could taste it “ (p.196), “hell was a place of remembering , each beautiful moment passed through the mind’s eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango, perfectly useless, uselessly perfect” (p.28) or “He had never seen a woman move that slowly. It was like she had to wade though deep and mucky waters to get to him” (p.250). And the sex scenes!

The book accomplishes what many political debates, pertinent protests, and academic works have not: to show that we are all one family, one that is hurting, and desperately needs to step into the cold water, share the
burden, and just come back home. 

Guest Post: Why you should (not) read García Márquez

My dear friend Natalya Delgado Chegwin has in my view a very interesting take on the literary legacy of García Márquez, my favourite author who recently passed away. In her view, “I commend whoever has read his novels, but do not recommend them”.  I asked her to expand her (shocking!) argument for my blog. Enjoy her witty and insightful text below!

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I want to believe I have some authority to talk about Gabriel García Márquez: I am Colombian, just like he was; I come from the Caribbean coast, from Barranquilla, where he spent so many of his best years; he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, and I was born the next year; but mostly, I spent one year researching him and his work to compose my Bachelor thesis.

Thus, I have read García Márquez both as a scholar and as a “normal” person; that is like one who read literature to understand society as well as one who reads literature to jump into a new world. And the world that García Márquez presents is nothing short of magical – it is not for nothing that he is credited with the creation of magical realism. But instead of my diverging into whether or not he did, actually, create magical realism, let me jump into the true point of this post. You would expect for me, a Colombian literary scholar with some authority to talk about García Márquez, to be the most avid supporter of all of his writings. But I’m not.

I don’t think everyone should read García Márquez, especially not One Hundred Years of Solitude. The novel is not only incredibly long (spoiler alert: it spans 100 years!) but is plagued with hundreds of names (neither the use of the word “plague” nor the seeming hyperbole of the names is coincidental…). His last novel, Memoria de mis putas tristes (Memories of my melancholy whores), 2005, is an apparent apologetic to prostitution with a shorter time span and fewer characters, but not for that a better or worse read than his masterpiece.

I, too, fell in love with his Of love and other demons, considering the (his)story of Sierva Maria the best and most profoundly pure love story I had ever read. That was 15 years ago. I re-read the novel recently and noticed that what had once allured me no longer piqued my interest. You see, his novels are filled with stories that do not grow with you; they are not novels that are meant to be read more than once. Written beautifully, yes, with a masterful use of vocabulary, both colloquial and with a yesteryear flare, albeit stories that don’t change. So no, not everyone should stop what they’re doing to run to their nearest bookstore to purchase one of his novels. His novels are an acquired taste, and a difficult one to acquire. I commend whoever has read his novels, but do not recommend them.

Not the novels, at least.

Because his short stories, his journalistic reports and his essays are genius. Those are something everyone must read. You see, García Márquez was a journalist at heart, that was his dream. He just happened to discover that he was a good novelist, too, and when he won the Nobel Prize he kind of relinquished journalism for long and prosper career as a novelist. Do you want to know the real García Márquez? Read The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (1970), News of a Kidnapping (1996), Living to Tell the Tale (2002), Eyes of a Blue Dog (1947) or Big Mama’s Funeral (1962). The order is based on my favorites. The last two are two of his short story collections; Living to tell the tale is his autobiography, the brilliant tale of his amazing life, which one only enjoys more after having read most of his work. The first two, as their titles already hint, are journalistic reports, so cleverly narrated that you might just feel as if it were you surrounded by sharks or guerrilla. You see, García Márquez’s genius lies in the fact that he is able to completely spoil the climax of the story in the title, and you still are fascinated with the sequence of events.

In his Chronicle of a death foretold (1981), you will learn within the first three sentences that Santiago Nasar is shot in the morning by two Vicario Brothers. And in spite of having read this now, here, I promise I have not spoiled a thing. Therein lies his skill – you will want to continue reading.

So don’t jump on the bandwagon and try to tackle his impossible Buendía family tree. That is, unfortunately, not for everyone. Rather look through his titles and see which one interest you – I can guarantee you will fall in love. And then maybe, just maybe, you will want to know about Aureliano and the pig’s tail…

 

Text by Natalya Delgado Chegwin, illustration borrowed here.

My Uncle Gabriel Garcia Marquez is Dead

Gabriel Garcia MarquezHe was like a talkative relative, one who remembered really ancient times with daguerreotypes and railways and horrible diseases and cousins and aunties. He opened doors to far away lands, noisy bars and shadowy back yards – and of course to latino bedrooms!

He was a favorite author of mine and I devoured every thing he wrote (well, in all honesty except for his biography Living to tell the tale, which just have too many personalities in the first 50 pages for me to follow!) Of course the romantic and highly implausible 100 years of solitude, the sad Love in the time of cholera, thoughtful Noone writes to the colonel (short stories), and gripping the Autumn of the patriarch and many other fantabulous stories.

When I recently had a question from a student of what he could read that would challenge and capture him and be funny at the same time, I recommended (maybe my favorite novel)  Of Love and other demons, a tale about a girl who is going to die. When the Ghanaian student came back the following week and had entered the world of hopeless love, catholic monasteries and filthy mansions…I wish tio Garcia Marquez would have seen his face, glowing with the discovery.

Muchas gracias de todas historias, tio!

Photo borrowed from The Guardian where you can also read a sparkling obituary.

 

Mahama’s Biography: My First Coup D’Etat or the Lost Decades of Africa

 Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 5.38.25 PMGhana’s president John Dramani Mahama is the first Ghanaian president to be born in Ghana – his predecessors were all born in the colony of Gold Coast. This fact was many times commented on in the 2012 elections and maybe it was an advantage to his main opponent who, 20 years his elder, belonged to the group born in the Gold Coast. What makes Ghana’s current president even more unique is he is the only Ghanaian President to have written an autobiography before entering the office.

I read it last year as prep for my election involvement. I was surprised at how well the book worked as literature. I was surprised to understand that Mahama who has an air about him to be “an ordinary man”, in fact is a descendant of kings on both sides of his family.

I felt the book expertly walks us through how someone finds themselves politically, discovers their ideology and therefore I decided to use it as a required reading for my Social Theory class. Reading a book with a group of 120 others, makes it even more come alive and also other qualities are discovered.

For instance, many of the students liked how he wrote about music and what it meant to him as a young man. Others found side stories interesting such as how he dealt with bully Ezra, the friendship with his teacher and his strange welcome into the Soviet Union as formative moments, possibly shaping his political thoughts.

There were also some surprising voids, for instance his romantic relationships were reduced to a cute story about a young Mahama falling in love with a 12 year old neighbor. What about his wife Lordina and possibly other women? What his personal relationship to Flight lieutenant Rawlings, now an elder in Mahama’s party, who led the nation in difficult years of starvation and lack of freedoms in the beginning of the 1980s and Mahama’s father was forced to leave the country?

Reviews have over all been positive. See for instance the extensive review in WSJ:

Mr. Mahama is at his best in describing this vanished world. He does so with the eye of a historian and the flair of a novelist. “My First Coup d’Etat” is a collection of personal reminiscences centered on the traditional customs of his home village, where every older man is respectfully called a grandfather and every woman a grandmother.

and blogging colleague Nana Fredua-Agyemang:

There is some ambiguity in Mahama’s (the author’s) life as described in the book. On one hand his home was better than the average Ghanaian – thus, one could – in the context of Ghana – say that he was a privileged child, regardless of the ups and downs that came with it. However, his individual life – isolated from that of the family, was average.

In this video, J. D. Mahama reads from the book. 

Frankly, I am surprised this book has not been made more readily available in Ghana (for instance through a local publisher) as it is an important, well written book that lets us understand our current president a bit better; where he –  and the country –  is coming from.

Taiye Selasi and the Ghana Must Go Frenzy in Accra

I have a handful of emails in my inbox about events with Ghanaian/Nigerian/Afropolitan writer  and filmmaker Taiye Selasi taking place on three different days  in three different venues this week. Her book Ghana Must Go came out recently and with favourable reviews from the right outlets, the excitement among book nerds in Ghana has been palpable!

Tonight, I get to hear her speak (at the Yale Club of Ghana conference), so before her persona clouds my judgement of the book, I wanted to scribble down my mini review.

The story was not the usual returnee/ IJCB* story as it chronicles a whole family’s return to Africa rather than just one, hip 30-something. That means we have a nice gallery of people: two parents, four children, later a few partners, house keeper, friends and one new wife, but the basic frame is those six. Maybe I am biased to this group size, being one of four kids myself, however I believe it creates a certain space for the story to unfold.

The Ghana Must Go book is divided into three parts: Ghana, Must and Go. I love authors’ quirks like this – it is elegant and fun! “Ghana” about the father in Ghana and his house (oh, how I love this house…the slowly built, carefully designed dream…with rooms for all the children and a wild center of greens, grass that you can feel under your soles…almost an allegory to the Ghana Must Go Book?), “Must” about the troubled, beautiful and brilliant siblings, left in the US. Go about a return that heals.

And wow! There are many things to heal in this book. Wanna-be-authors get to hear there must be at least one major conflict and this book is overflowing of them! It is definitely not a feel good book, but to me it rings true.

The language is not overly decorated, but one that provides vivid images, maybe it is Ms Selasi’s filmmaker side that shines through? We also get served with insights – I kept highlighting little gemstones of them when I was reading.

To conclude, the hype is not for nothing – it is a great book in my opinion – one I will reread and recommend to many friends and students. And I heard the two prior events were full to the brim, oh how Ghana has been waiting for a literary star!

* I Just Came Back, read it in the last New African of African Business Review Magazine!