Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: Born a Crime

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As a South African myself, this book hits very close to home. Although I grew up poor as well, I’m a white person, and I’ve always had that privilege. It was fascinating and horrifying listening to how it was on the other side of the tracks, so to speak.

Through it all, Trevor’s optimism and strength of character shines through. I’ve always liked him, but now I have even more respect for him. His love for his mother is so clear a blind person could see it, and I found myself loving her as well. I’m so happy she survived all that happened. She’s such an inspiration and as a mother I think she did such a wonderful job of rising above circumstances… I just wish that she didn’t feel like there was no escaping from an abusive relationship that no doubt had an effect on her children…

Trevor did am amazing job with writing this book and his audio narration was such a pleasure to listen to. I’ve known about him for ages and just assumed that he had always been a comedian, so it was a shock to realize that’s not the case at all and to hear about his beginnings and his struggle was such an eye opener. I wish there was more though. I’d have loved to hear more about how his actual comedy career got started, as that part was skipped over entirely… I’m sure it didn’t go straight from being a DJ to the famous CellC ads.

Of course the crime in South Africa played a fairly big part in this memoir. It is a big deal to us after all, and there’s been a lot of outside focus on it over the years, with a lot of the blame game being played across the board. Other than a few house break-ins (while we were out thankfully) I’ve mostly been lucky and haven’t really had to deal with some of the things I’ve heard from family and friends. Funny enough, I got mugged for the first time in my life while listening to the chapter about crime and jail! Just a strange coincidence, but I’ll definitely never forget which book I was listening to the first time I had a really scary experience!

Rating: 5 Stars
Date Started: 11 January 2017
Date Finished: 14 January 2017
Pages: 304 (8:50:00)
Genre: Memoir

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Book Review

Book Review: New Boy

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Rating: 2 Stars
Date Started: 1 April 2017
Date Finished: 14 April 2017
Pages: 192
Genre: Fiction, Retelling

I’m just gonna go ahead and blame this book on the bad reading slump I’ve experienced these last two weeks. I mean there’s not even 200 pages to this book but it literally took me two whole weeks to finish! How does that even compute?

I can’t quite put my finger on what about this book I didn’t like. The writing style was impersonal and distant. Whenever I could bring myself to read this, I found my mind wandering and having to reread whole paragraphs. There was nothing compelling to keep my attention on the story.

Which is another thing that irritated me. This whole drama plays off in ONE DAY!!! I mean I get that kids can be dramatic and whatever, but are you kidding me? And especially considering that everything that the “good guys” do is so out of character, there’s no build-up at all! No slow decent into fiery rage, no carefully tended plans and scheming. Just wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. Even allowing for the fact that this is fiction, it’s just hard to believe realistically.

The characters were supposed to be 12, but acted like 30 year olds, and not a single one of them felt even remotely real. Everyone was one-dimentional and superficial, even Ian who’s supposed to be the big baddie. O’s sudden snap is so sudden that it feels like two different characters, and Ian’s reasons for doing what he does is the stupidest of all and feels like it was just thrown in because… well because we need an Ian.

There was some definitely sloppy tackling of racism that felt completely out of sync with the rest of the book and like it was being forced down your throat. I get that the book is set in a time when race issues were on a tightrope, and I know that Othello (which I absolutely loved and of which this book is a retelling of) had it’s own share of race issues, and I know the author probably tried to make it relevant to today’s issues as well… but it just wasn’t done very well at all.

I read Othello in school and can’t quite remember any of the nitty-gritty specifics, but the story has stayed with me ever since, and I’m just really disappointed right now. I’m most upset by Ian, because Iago is probably one of my all-time-favorite villains, and compared to him Ian didn’t even make the radar. Maybe if we hadn’t been dealing with 12 year olds and there had been a couple more pages, it could have been better, but as a retelling this book just really didn’t do the original justice at all.

If you haven’t read Othello and don’t know what the story is about, I still don’t think this is a great read. Even trying to be objective and unbiased, I can’t find anything good to say here… which I’m really sorry about because I soooo wanted to love this book! I wonder if there are other retellings out there that can hold a candle to the original…

New Boy is available from Amazon on pre-order

Book Review

Book Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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★★★★★

I often struggle to figure out my role as an ally, to figure out if I’m supposed to be doing something or if I’m not doing something I should. I’ll be the first to admit that I am ignorant about a lot of things… unfortunately social justice isn’t something that’s taught in school. It’s left up to your parents or peers to instruct you in the way of being a decent human being, something that not all parents are inclined to be or teach.

Strange enough, I identified with Turk in this book. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, please let me explain. My family is perhaps not as vocal as these white supremacists in America, but I immediately found their behaviour familiar. My dad is the perfect Aryan, and I grew up listening to how black people were hardly better than baboons. It would have been so easy for me to buy into what I was taught from as young as I could remember… and indeed my sisters are happily racist today. But unfortunately for my family, I was a rebellious teenager (shocker). When I was forbidden to have black friends, I specifically sought out the only black girl in my class and befriended her. That may still sound horribly racist to many people, but it was a first step to my own awakening.

I am a product of my upbringing, and I still have a lot to learn, but I have spent most of my life questioning what my parents and others would have taught me, and I have worked hard to break away from their mentality of hate. This book called me out on a lot of my own bullshit, though. Like the fact that I don’t “see color” or am in the slightest bit racist. Sure, that’s what I tell myself and that I’d like to believe, but just like Kennedy, am I maybe trying too hard? Isn’t that it’s own brand of racism? And I guess, just like Kennedy, I’m making this review about me… Like I said, I still have a lot to learn.

In the author’s note at the back of this book, Jodi Picoult explained why she wrote the book and said that she expects push-back from it. I know this book wasn’t perfect, but I hope she didn’t get too much smack, because I needed this book and I really think she did a good job of providing a platform, and giving a voice to what black people still experience today. She definitely did a pretty good job of identifying white privilege and implicit racism.

“When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits.” – Jodi Picoult

Some of the things that happened to Ruth and the other black people in this book really breaks my heart, because even though I live in South Africa and it’s predominantly black, I know for a fact that SA is not that different from America. I have friends who are followed at the store to make sure that they don’t steal, whereas I am not. I have friends who are criticized for wearing their hair naturally curly. I have friends who are stared at in the street when their loved one’s skin tone doesn’t match their own. I have a father who scorned my sister-in-law’s new born baby because he was half black, and that “poor child”…

This was a difficult book to read, and I’m guessing a lot of people won’t like it. Most will be legitimate reasons like not liking the writing style or various other reasons people don’t like other books. But I think there will also be people who will not be able to accept this message as true, people who will resent the agenda. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so for those people, I hope a seed will have been planted. A seed is all that’s necessary to start a garden…

The end of this story was perhaps a little whimsical and too idealistic, but it resonated with me because at the end of the day, there is always hope. Hope that people can be better, that humanity can be better… It’s unlikely, but if you don’t have hope, then what is the point of even trying?

“People must learn to hate, and if the can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” – Nelson Mandela