A House Without Windows By: Nadia Hashimi | Review

A House Without Windows
By: Nadia Hashimi
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Culture, Mystery, Family, Friendship
Rating: 4 stars
Reprint release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks/ Harper Collins

Synopsis:

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

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Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me by: Nnanna Ikpo | Review (+Author Interview)

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me
By: Nnanna Ikpo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT, Human Rights, Cultural
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 20,2017
Publisher: Team Angelica
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis:

Olawale and Oluwole are dreadlocked Yoruba lawyers, minority human rights activists fighting for a better Nigeria. Bisexual and closeted, Olawale has spent his adult life protecting and defending his charismatic, more evidently homosexual twin; but when the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act becomes law, they, their family, and the women who love them are caught in a savage spotlight that threatens to wreck all their lives. In the midst of this Wole and Wale must deal with an estranged convict father whose unexpected reappearance brings dark and troubling family secrets to light.

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever celebrates the enduring power of love, desire, faith, patriotism and human rights struggle in the face of political oppression and religious prejudice in Nigeria today. It extends the literary conversation begun by Jude Dibia and continued by Chinelo Okparanta.

 

Book Review:

This book was incredible. Although largely aimed at an African audience, I recommend this book for the LGBTQI+ community; its supporters, human rights activists, and readers who enjoy moving, compelling, and resonating narratives that leave inspired conversation. The content in this book covers strong political, social, cultural, and religious oppression and life-threatening situations that contradict the early to late 2000s following the pass of the SSMPA (Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act) in 2014 time frame that the book covers.

It is impossible to fathom some of the information the author reveals about the treatment of members, supporters and suspected LGBT individuals in Nigeria, but the accounts are real. Yet, so intricately woven in between these scenes are Wole and Wale, two queer brothers who actively use their skills and connections to push a wave of hope and peace to the otherwise vastly secretive gay community that is forced even further into hiding following SSMPA.

I have mentioned before how first person narration was not always my favorite to read, but with some of the books I have read recently, I am beginning to believe that it is not exactly true. Just with the prologue discussing the attack on a gay club in Nigeria and the criminalization of the victims, the reader is given a small glimpse of how regressive, from a Western point of view; a majority of the country is still today.

With that said, it is important to note how well the author delivers not only the political and religious perspectives of ‘traditional’ Nigeria, but also the progressive, forward thinking and widely read opinions of the population. The author does not offer the stereotypical narrative of closeted homosexuals or queer men who are constantly afraid of speaking out, pushing back or fighting for what is right.

Even with the threat of danger ever present in this book from beginning to end, Nnanna Ikpo presents his readers with the most realistic and relatable account of contemporary, queer Nigerian men doing what they can to make a difference for their community in the best way they know how.

Told mainly through Wale’s eyes, the reader experiences a strong complexity when it comes to the gay community because his character is bisexual. Wale stands behind his and his brother’s cause and work, but seems to often find himself struggling with his sexuality because on a deeper level he feels he’s a hypocrite. While at the same time knows that if he does not play the role of the heterosexual male just fighting for human rights of Nigeria’s minorities, real change may never come.

It is also clear that Wale is motivated by his love for his twin brother, Wole. Though focused on Wale, the author does a wonderful job of painting the clear lines that distinguish the two brothers, regardless of how forward thinking and similar they both are.

Wale seems to have a stronger resolve throughout the narrative than Wole about their decision to keep their sexuality a secret, but at times the author gives the reader a small glimpse of the sadness that lies just beneath Wole’s upbeat and outgoing personality that Wale is always attuned to. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave It To Me, presents a story about love, family, life, hope, equality, community, politics, religion and culture that is so immaculately structured it was difficult to put it down.

One of the moving things about this book, and I could have interpreted it wrong, was there seemed to be a theme of forgiveness with this sense of determination to keeping forward projected with Wale’s perspective. Almost an ambiguous way of expressing that love and perseverance will eventually win-out over hate.

Each chapter opens and closes with a letter or an email and closed with a poem that signifies this ever-continuous foreboding sense of optimistic love and loss that pulls the reader into the chapter.

Like me, I think readers will fall in love with the way Nnanna Ikpo keeps the discussion on human rights consistent and open throughout this book. Connected to Wale’s deep love and pride for being Nigerian, a Christian, and a bisexual man who even, in the end, holds on to the possibility of a better future where there will be change leaves us all hopeful.

 

 

Author Interview:

First off, thank you so much for allowing this brief Q&A. I deeply appreciate it. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever is a truly wonderful book.

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the title itself, Fimí sílẹ̀, which is referenced in the book, roughly translated from Yoruba means “leave me alone.” What was your inspiration behind the title?

Your translation is in order. The first inspiration for the title was the popular hit track ‘Olufunmi’ by my all-time favourite boy-band Styl-plus, and reflects a longing to explore my Yoruba roots.

I guess my next question counts as a broad, creative writing process question in regards to the book. One of the key shifting points in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was the passing of the SSMPA in early 2014, so was that when the concept for the story came to life or were you already writing the book? If so, how long did completing the book take?

The basic premise of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever came early in 2013. In my initial thoughts, the story would, among other things, be written predictively to show how ugly things could get if the bill became law. Months into writing the first draft, SSMPA was enacted. My anger at this hugely affected the rest of the writing and rewriting process. Our final draft of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever emerged in December 2016. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever took roughly four years.

How were the poems at the end of each chapter inspired?

While pieces like ‘Eka aro my love’, ‘Beni Perhaps’ and ‘Oremi Alhaji’ were inspired by personal experiences of real people and places, occasionally even scenarios from Nollywood films, others arose from the independent evolution of the plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever and their interaction with each other.

Do you have a favorite character or scene from this book? Or a least favorite?

This is a difficult question. The plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever were carefully crafted to capture and evoke multiple symbols, ideas, thoughts, dreams and places both real and imagined. All the characters have their merits (and demerits) and are not in competition with each other – and should never be made to be so. Every part of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was thought out and deliberated upon by me and informed by others, some of whom were unconsciously part of the creative process. As such I do not have a favourite character, scene, or least favourite one. They are all important parts of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever’s big picture, and I think necessary.

The book is so rich with character depth and complex narrative layers that keep the reader emerged in the story as the layers slowly unravel. Therefore, I was curious about how much inspiration you took from real life for some of the characters and the strong discussions that take place in this book, i.e. the discussion that takes place at K.U. between the faculty members and Wale and his students for example.

Thank you! Real people and their dynamics in learning and working spaces may differ in form but are substantially similar everywhere, so in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever, I simply dragged all these people from the several real spaces I have had access to, dropped them into fictitious classrooms and offices and let them deal with each other. Creativity, imagination, editing and rewriting helped me to layer and colour debates.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring Nigerian writers or just writers of the LGBT community who might want to share their stories and continue to bring awareness to the rigid system struggle they are battling?

It is often tricky to advise other writers, even when our primary aim is the same or similar. We have our varying methods, contexts and journeys, and often are strangers to each other. What I have is not so much advice but a salutation, and cognisance of the fact that our work is important and more than that, necessary. And because our art is mostly ‘queer’ and therefore subversive, it may attract more hostility than acclaim. It may not change the world – at least not hugely – but it will not leave it the same, inshallah.

 

Nnanna also runs a personal blog, Letters To My Africa here and you can also follow him on twitter.

This book was truly amazing and even with this review, I do not think I give it enough justice. It is highly recommended. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review for  Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me.

Until the next post,

 

Gia.
Other piece(s) to check out I found that related to some of the perspectives in the book: Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe

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Audiobook Review: In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided
By: Diane Guerrero
Narrator(s): Diane Guerrero
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Autobiography,  Politics, Immigration, Social Injustice
Rating: 3.5 stars
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 9 Hrs and 10 Min
Type: Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
Synopsis:
Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family.
In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country.
There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told. Written with Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families likes the author’s and on a system that fails them over and over.

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Book Review: For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu

For Today I Am A Boy
By: Kim Fu
Genre: GLBTQ+, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, YA Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Mariner Books
Synopsis:
At birth, Peter Huang is given the Chinese name Juan Chaun, “powerful king.” To his parents, newly settled in small-town Ontario, he is the exalted only son in a sea of daughters, the one who will finally fulfill his immigrant father’s dreams of Western masculinity. Peter and his sisters grow up in an airless house of order and obligation, though secrets and half-truths simmer beneath the surface. At the first opportunity, each of the girls lights out on her own. But for Peter, escape is not as simple as fleeing his parents’ home. Though his father crowned him “powerful king,” Peter knows otherwise. He knows he is really a girl. With the help of his far-flung sisters and the sympathetic souls he finds along the way, Peter inches ever closer to his own life, his own skin, in this darkly funny, emotionally acute, stunningly powerful debut.

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Book Review: The Unforgettables by: GL Tomas

The Unforgettables
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Interracial Romance, Learning Disability
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: September 12 2016
Publisher: Rebellious Valkyrie Press

Received An Advanced Reader Copy in Exchange for An Honest Review.

Synopsis:

Neighbors and best friends Paul and Felicia hoped they’d be friends forever. But as they change, so does their friendship. She shouldn’t have kissed her…He shouldn’t have liked it. Starting school changed everything.

Book Review:

I am always excited for the new mix of characters and stories GL Tomas graciously share with us with their books because I genuinely feel like I’m glancing in at the lives of real people who you can connect with each and every time. Paul and Felicia from The Unforgettables were no exception to the rule.

Whatsmore, reading anything by them always sparks inspiration in me to dive into another new world. Particularly when I’m in a reading slump. So, when I heard about their newest book about two superhero/comic booking loving friends who decided to give themselves alter egos and pair up as a formidable duo, naturally I jumped and squealed at the chance like any normal person would. What I loved so much about this book was the fact that the main characters Felicia and Paul were nearly polar opposites. Aside from their mutual love for comics and superheroes’, they weren’t that similar, but I feel like that is what made them work.

Paul—the social butterfly, who thrived on crowds and at social events, and Felicia—the quiet, smart and observant killer soccer player, who was completely content to forever walk the line of solidarity for the rest of her life (or at least until she finished high school). The two came together in such a beautiful, awkward teenage shuffle.

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Book Review: The Ballad Of Black Tom by: Victor LaValle

By: Victor LaValle
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Short Story
Rating: 3.5 stars
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 16 2016
“Don’t you mind people grinning in your face. Bare this in mind, a true friend is hard to find. Don’t you mind people grinning in your face…”
Synopsis:

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

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Book Review: If You Could Be Mine by: Sara Farizan

If You Could Be Mine
Rating: 3.8./4 stars
Genre:
YA, Romance, GLBTQ, Contemporary,Culture, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Released Date: August 20th 2013

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

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Read Diverse Books Year-Round & Diversity On The Shelf 2016 Book Reading Challenges

Hiya, Guys:

So, I realize that I’m a little late to the Diversity On The Shelf 2016 book challenge here, but I’m not new to the game ;).

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I’ve already read about 12 or 13 diverse books this year (by authors of color), so I’m aim for the 4th Shelf: 19-24 books to complete this year. And based on the bit of research I’ve done so far, I’m going to have to list a few books I know I can get my hands on ie: Audiobooks and Physical copies from Amazon, thriftbooks and the library as my tablet (where I read most, if not all of my ebooks) has almost officially broken up with me and refuses to allow me access to all of the ebooks it’s holding captive -___- The rules for this challenge are simple: read books by and/or about people of color throughout the year to encourage other readers to have a more diverse reading experience and to support diversity in the publishing industry. Quoting challenge creator Akilah, over at The Englishist

And for the Read Diverse Books Year-Round, (which just started this month and is a variation of the first challenge), I’ve made a list of ten options that are subsidiaries of this particular challenge just below. And while these two reading challenges go hand-in-hand, the books of this #readdiversebooks2016  will have a few cross overs, but my ultimate goal is to stick to and only count books that have been written by/are about people of color, QPOC/LGBT characters books and characters with disabilities.

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