Tag Archive: Violence Against Women


As a full time student and constant seeker of summer jobs, I have been neglecting my blog for quite awhile. I will try to change this right now, starting with a short post following a tag which many a book vlogger and blogger are sharing at the moment. It was created by Thebookarcher; you can visit her YouTube page here. Despite blogging about a lot of movies, cartoons and occasional political comment, (and despite that I wasn´t tagged by anyone to do this) but having written many a book review, I was quite eager to consider and reflect on these questions. Hopefully those that started the tag will not find it remiss that I write these questions in this post.
The tag consists of nine questions which I will list one at a time and proceed to answer. Unfortunately I will have to mention a lot of Swedish authors at times, since, due to living in Stockholm, I am exposed to lots of Swedish literature. It is also crucial to remember that these are just my opinions, and everyone is free to enjoy which ever books they enjoy.
1. A popular book or series that you didn´t like:

There´s actually many best sellers I just didn´t like at all, so I will mention just a few that I really, really didn´t like at all: “The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz was boring, way too long and its main character – Oscar – was much too self-involved and reckless to be likeable. The narrator, and narrative voice, is a single tone of an obnoxious womanizer, and worst of all the political oppression that is present in the book (specifically, the atrocities committed by former Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo) takes a back seat so that men can either brag or complain about their sex lives. “Fight club” by Chuck Palahniuk was well-written, but the plot was ridiculous and the plot twist made no sense. “Allt” by Martina Lowden is an 800-page book where the author whines about bus stops, postmodernism and tends to lists of all the books she reads akin to a casual grocery shop list – really not my thing.

Other books far from my favor: “Svinalängorna” by Susanna Alakoski (a black-and-white portrayal of Sweden Finns, where this group is heavily demonized), “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe (found it impossible to care about the protagonist), “The Great Gatsby”, “Kalla det vad fan ni vill” by Marjane Bakhtiari, “My friend Percy´s magical shoes” by Ulf Stark, “It´s just a little AIDS” by Sara Graner (I didn´t find it funny), “Willful Disregard” by Lena Anderson (a novel about a older man, younger woman cis, straight, white-Swedish, economically stable couple in which the man emotionally abuses the woman. The book, in its unreflective stance to the abuse, misguidingly thinks it´s saying something profound about love. The novel also lacks any character growth) and “The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Goethe (lots of people find this book romantic; I found it creepy).

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2. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love:

Without a doubt, the novels of Nobel Prize winning Elfriede Jelinek for this one (maybe not popular, but most certainly infamous). She´s often accused of Misandry and writing grotesque pornography, but to be frank those accusations are entirely, and undoubtedly, unfair. Jelinek´s books tend towards the misanthropic if anything, but the misanthropy is not in vain. Jelinek´s prose is elegant, her sentences literary punches and the themes of her books are as relevant as they are universal: totalitarianism, fascism, and violence towards women to name a few. For a more in-depth view into my opinion on her work, go here.

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3. A love-triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with OR an OTP that you don´t like:

I will give one example from both of those questions. The love-triangle where the girl ended up with the wrong guy in my opinion is from Guus Kuijer´s children´s book series “Polleke”, about a young Dutch girl and her life. The books tackle and discuss subjects such as arrange marriages, racism, drug addiction, child abduction and First native rights. (Spoiler): the protagonist Polleke ends up with her classmate Mimoun who´s she´s dated since the first book. However Mimoun is not a very supportive or particularly nice boyfriend; he yells at Polleke for kissing him (she´s not allowed to because she´s a girl) and cheats on her with her best friend. To be fair he was a likeable boy in the series first book, but becomes quite unintentionally cruel as the series progress. Polleke flirts with a farm boy who lives near her farming grandparents, but I didn´t really care for him either. Honestly the love triangle should have perhaps ended with Polleke becoming single since both of her love interests were kind of useless characters. An OTP I didn´t like was Harry and Ginny from the “Harry Potter”-books, which was a very rushed romance with clumsy build up and had a lack of chemistry.

The covers for th

The covers for the “Polleke”-series

4. A Popular Genre you hardly reach for:

Fantasy, Detective novels, and Romance. Just don´t read much genre literature at all, really.

Dragons are awesome, however

Dragons are awesome, however

5. A popular or beloved character that you don´t like:

Fred and George from the “Harry Potter”-series. Out of all the colorful, imaginative characters I found these two to be extremely one-note, lazy (they don´t even try to get good grades!), bullish and slimy. They also are basically copies of one another; no distinctive trait that marks them from each other. Another beloved character I don´t care for is Puck from Shakespeare’s “A midsummer night’s dream” – all the messes could be avoided if it weren´t for him!

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6. A popular writer that you just can´t get into:

Again, I have quite a few. I can´t really get into the Nobel Prize winning Japanese writer Yasunara Kawabata – he´s a fantastic writer no doubt, but his works don´t really ever seem to coalesce into a plot, making the narrative line meander about for no reason. The characters rarely do anything of importance and once more the reader can find no line of thinking for this emptiness. For some these absences don’t matter, but I am continually frustrated by the question of what do these lacks mean. Another writer I just couldn’t ever get into was Yoshimoto Banana. I read two of her books, “Kitchen” and “Hardboiled & Hard luck” which were dull. Her plots are all over the place. The books also contained a lot of Heteronormativity. For instance in “Kitchen” the romantic leads continually misgenders the hero´s transgender mum. As a final note, her writing might improve if she would use the “Show, don´t tell”-technique more in her books.

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Per Nilsson, a Swedish young adult writer, also makes the list of writers I can´t quite stand; he romanticizes things such as stalking in his books, does a hand-wave towards anti-immigration and racism and honestly in my opinion doesn´t write women very well. With Nobel Prize winning writer Mo Yan, I also have issues with for his normalization of violence towards women and demonization of disabled people. In “Big breast and wide hips” the protagonist´s mother is repeatedly raped with it never really affecting her or the plot of the novel at all (in fact rape seems to be used just to victimize the mother). The writer Yiyun Li actually points out many of my issues with Mo Yan; go see a review where she points the problems out here. So yes, unfortunately Mr. Mo´s and Mr. Nilsson´s books are really not for me at all, to be honest I think there both pretty terrible writers.

I have this on my bookself, but I doubt it will ever be read...

I have this on my bookself, but I doubt it will ever be read…

7. A popular common trope that you´re tired of seeing:

My biggest complaint with books I dislike is often romanticized abuse. It´s exhausting to read books that have men who abuse women and children (and sometimes the protagonists male friends get into the abusive act as well) with the writers of these tales horrifically using the trope to either showcase their male protagonist as “real” tough men, or to position male possessiveness and entitlement as something to admire. Needless to say, I have no patience with such writing.

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8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading:

Quite a few actually. The “Divergent” series isn´t appealing to me, mostly because of it seems oddly anti-intellectual. I never had any interest reading the “Twilight Saga” (“Twilight” is one of the few books I never finished). Same goes for the “Fifty Shades”-trilogy. I also have avoided Stieg Larssons “Millennium”-trilogy like the plague since the things it was praised for you can find a ton of in Japanese and Finnish fiction (that were published before Larsson´s books), as well as some blatant male fantasy stuff. I am also avoiding the “My struggle” book series because those books are way too long (I am a university student, and there is homework!) as well as the writer Karl Ove Knausgård coming off as fairly arrogant and obnoxious (this usually wouldn’t matter, but the books are about himself, and his “Fight”…. so). While not a series per se, I am also not interested in Harukumi Murasaki. None of the praise has gotten me curious, unfortunately.

Hoever, the english tranlations do have much more creative titles than the original titles

However, the english tranlations do have much more creative titles than the original titles

9. The saying goes that “The book is always better than the movie”. But which movie adaption did you prefer to the book?

“Carrie” directed by Brian De Palma. While the novel is very good, the movie was able to build up the suspense better.

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(This is a guest post written by Shujie, a Chinese political activist, torture survivor and refugee. Shujie is a proud socialist and pro-feminist, fighting for democracy, worker´s rights and women´s rigths. He has worked on articles about enviremental issues andhas done many translations of political articles. He currently lives in Sweden after fleeing China due to political issues).

“The state-sponsored media campaign about ´leftover´ women is part of a broad resurgence of gender inequality in post-socialist China, particularly over the past decade and a half of market reforms.” – Leta Hong Fincher

Leta Hong Fincher grew up in a bilingual envirement, learning both English and Mandarin in the US. The family visited China frequently throughout her childhood summers from the years 1970-1980. Starting from the end of the ´90s, Ms. Fincher worked as a China-based journalist for several American news agencies until 2003.

Her acclaid book, “Leftover Women: The Resurgence Of Gender Inequality In China”, is the result of two and half years of dedicated research, which Ms. Fincher started upon in 2010 along with her final studies in sociology at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Book cover for "Leftover Women"

Book cover for “Leftover Women”

Hong Fincher had began to take notice of the so-called “Leftover women” phenomenon in China. Growing both curious and concerned to what this meant for the women of China, she began to investigate. Following her research, she interviewed many high-educated women in the end of their 20s, who described themselves as in a hurry to get married, even though they considered their fiancés very lacking of any positive traits. As a result of becoming a wife, many previously economically stable, independent women were drained of economical and financial independence after they made their marital promises.

Hong Fincher discovered that despite having no interest in their fiancée and rightfully worrying what marriage would do to their economy, many women still reluctantly married to escape the stigma of being a “leftover-woman”, a term which is has been prevalent in Chinese media since 2007. According to Hong Fincher, the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) claimed feminist-based “All-China Women Federation” defined the term “leftover” women as a single, unmarried woman older than 27. This term is sometimes also branded on women as young as 25.

One article that was published on many Chinese sites and newspapers, including “All-China Women Federation” website, claimed that numerous women were overly critical of their partners, and when they finally express interest in marriage, the men who are of similar age and have similar education are no longer available.

Ms. Leta Hong Fincher

Ms. Leta Hong Fincher

In response to this accusation, Hong Fincher points out that the country’s gender imbalance can be seen in the birth ratios: in 2008 121 boys were born and only 100 girls were born, which is a mark of the results from the countries one-child policy. In the Chinese culture it is tradition to prefer a son instead of a daughter. This leads to many women being forced to abort girl-fetuses. Or that, in some extreme causes, parents outright abandone new-born baby girls (causing them to die of hunger or lack of warmth).

Hong Fincher revealed that the motivation behind the “leftover” women media campaign was to motivate marriage to keep a social stability. The government believes too many unmarried men is a threat to stability. (Here it can be pointed out that the Government sees the men´s need for a wife as more important over women´s reproductive rights).

Another reason that Hong Fincher could see as an explanation for the sexist campaigns is that the lack of marriage was, to the government’s anxiety, supposedly effecting the countries population planning policy. This policy was designed for not only to control the quantity but also the quality of the Chinese population. Therefore the regime wanted the “high quality” women to get married and birth out “the best” children for the state.

One of the many propaganda posters used for the "Leftover women" campaign

One of the many propaganda posters used for the “Leftover women” campaign

One myth that is wide spread among Chinese people is that babies will be born with more disabilities and defects if the mother is over the age of 28, although no scientific research supports this belief. Many women that were interviewed by Hong Fincher were warned by their doctors not to have children “too late” since their baby would be “less than perfect” if they chose to give birth at the ages 28 and older. (The Chinese society has, as many cultures do, deep-seated ableist prejudices)
Furthermore Ms. Hong Fincher shows the mechanism between the housing market and the promotion of marriage between 20-30s male and female: “According to sales professionals, gang xu demand[rigid demand] comes largely from urban consumers experiencing the following life events: (1) marriage; (2) pregnancy and birth of the first child; (3) a child starting school.”

The idea of a rigid demand (gang xu) is constructed by the state so that they may control the property market; “it won’t become too hot or too cold”, as Ms. Hong Fincher writes.

According to Hong Fincher, the demand for residential real estate is kept high in these ways:
at one side, if I may quote her once again: “state-owned property development companies do not lower their prices significantly”. The new house buying policies in cities are often biased. For instance in big cities such as Shanghai, the real estate sellers discriminate against unmarried home buyers . On the other hand, as Ms. Fincher writes once more: “ property development companies collaborate with state media and matchmaking industries to reinforce the norm that couples need to buy a home when they get married…state media and real-estate advertisements perpetuate the myth that Chinese women will refuse to marry a man unless he owns a home”.

Hong Fincher also notes that the government probably wants to maintain high housing prices, so most of the middle-class home buyers must work under inhuman and overly-consuming conditions just to earn money for basic living. This results in the Chinese population having no time to reflect on their political and social situation and rights, especially the younger generation that are pressured into marriage and to buy a home the same minute they finish their university studies. A subtle and devious way to keep people under control.

“Angel No. 4”, 2006, by Cui Xiuwen

“Angel No. 4”, 2006, by Cui Xiuwen

Hong Fincher points out that middle-class activism tend to resolve around “NIMBY”, which stands for “not-in-my-back-yard” environmental concerns, such as to protest the construction of a chemical plantation that might pollute the neighborhood. However middle-class activisms among homeowners have not yet shown any serious potential for collective action that challenges the central government’s totalitarian rule. These activists are not concerned, for instance, with the lands poor or the lands oppressed minorities (such as the Tibetans or Uigur).

The world famous Sociologist Jean-Louis Rocca explains that homeowners in cities tend to support the one-party state and usually believe that engaging into politics is dangerous both to themselves and the Chinese society. Their motto tends to be: “China does not need a change in political regime. It needs stability.” Moreover, Hong Fincher says that aspiring home buyers in their twenties and early thirties tend not to show opposition to the state because of the “pursuit of money for a deposit on a new home saps much of their time and energy”. (It should be noted here that other journalist have stated that the Chinese do infact show a sense of dislike and distrust with their government, but accept it out of fear and the despairing idea that no other type of rule is possible.)

Ms. Hong Fincher elaborates: “Rather than causing political instability, high property prices and the norm of middle-class home ownership(home ownership is at 85% in China) might actually promote social stability by forcing young Chinese to focus on saving money to buy into the propertied class rather than agitating for social change.”

"Tattoo II", by Qiu Zhijie

“Tattoo II”, by Qiu Zhijie

Ms. Hong Fincher reports that the status of women in China has gotten horrible worse over the years and wealth inequality between men and women is the biggest form of wealth inequality that exist in todays China.

Most of the homes are owned only by the husband even though most of the women also have contributed to the home in different ways, Hong Fincher states. According to the nationwide “Third Survey” on the Situation of women, 51.7% married men are the sole owner of the home.

The problem lies in that when a women wants a divorce, she is at high risk at losing her entire apartment. According to a new interpretation of the Chinese martial law since 2011, it is stated that if the marital home is only written in the man’s name, the man gets everything automatically once a divorce is settled. Although many women contribute to housing in different ways, such as paying a part of the down payment or mortgage, they usually lack the documents to show their involvement. The Situation is even worse for housewives and stay-at-home moms who do unpaid housework.

Therefore, many women have difficulty to escape from their unhappy marriages, even in cases such as domestic violence. Many women are worried about losing child custody to the abusive husband and afraid that they will have nowhere to live if they end the marriage. In sort: abused women are forced to stay with their abuser to avoid homelessness.

A particularly heartbreaking example is when a woman was murdered by her husband in 2009. The woman had previously reported her husband’s behavior to the police eight times. The man was convicted only six and half years in prison for the abuse of his spouse. Women who report abuse to policemen are often ignored and left into the hands of their abusers.

Hong Fincher also describes women who resist the authoritarian state, at both collective and individual level.

One person Hong Fincher interviewed was Li Maizi, who was 24-year-old when the book was being written. Ms. Li is a feminist activist and openly lesbian. In the small space for activism in China her group organized many public activities such as “performance art” to protest gender discrimination. For example, they organised the famous “Occupy Men’s Toilets” campaign in Guangdong in 2011, where they were calling on local governments to provide more public toilets for women and in the same year she and other young women dressed in white wedding gowns splattered with red, blood-like paint to highlight the domestic violence issue.

Another famous activist is Ye Haiyan, whose blogger name is “Hooligan Sparrow”. She is a long time campaigner for women’s rights, especially in high-lighting issues around sex workers. After she protested against the cover ups of a officials and headmasters history of sexual abuse towards young girls, she was arrested and made homeless.

Ms. Fincher explains that since there is almost no space for independent women’s movements, many activist work in some NGOs registered by the government and work with agencies such as the All-China Women’s Federation. Many such NGOs are lobbying for legislation for domestic violence, according to her.

However, Hong Fincher observed that Li Maizi and many other radical feminists choose to work outside of the system.

In addition, Hong Fincher describes many women who struggle individually. For example, Hong Fincher interviewed a domestic violence survivor Kim Lee who immigrated from the states and married a famous entrepreneur, Li Yang. Even though she is an American, she still had to fight for several years before she got a result from the court. She received support and thanks from many anonymous Chinese women who live with domestic violence, which gave her the strength to continue, despite the constant threats by many other people, including a incident where a man walked up to her in the subway, spat in her face and screamed: “American bitch! Hope he beats you to death next time!”.

Interestingly, Hong Fincher sees many simularities between feminists and Chinese revolutions. During the bourgeois revolution in China which overthrow the Chinese empire in 1911, the famous feminist revolutionary Qiu Jin advocated for gender equality. In the May Fourth Movement, the women’s emancipation became one of the goals for the revolution. After the CCP gained power, the women’s position had been promoted considerably. But unfortunately these promotions have become merely lip service.

Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin

For instance many of these statements are mere mansplaining, i.e. they are often done without taking into consideration what the women of China are asking for. One problem that Ms. Hong Fincher forgets to mention is that these male bourgeois revolutionaries usually stand at a nationalist point of view, meaning that they merely see that China “needs” modern women to improve Chinese population’s qualities, which were inherited by the CCP. Ever since the CCP came into power, they also wanted to free women’s labour force. Hong Fincher describes how the women are ordered to work equally as men in the Great Leap Forward in spite of the fact that women still had to take care of the family and do all of the housework. Many women were forced to leave their infants at home when they went to work, which gave them lifetime traumas.

Chinese University students dressed as battered wives hold banners in front of an office of China’s Civil Affairs department, where local people register for marriage, in protest of domestic violence.

Chinese University students dressed as battered wives hold banners in front of an office of China’s Civil Affairs department, where local people register for marriage, in protest of domestic violence.

But that is not all. Ms. Hong Fincher also illustrates a vivid image the situation and struggles for the LGBTQ community in China and the transformation of the woman’s status since 1000 years ago.

It is an extremely well-detailed, layered and thought-provoking book. It gives a much needed insight into the lives of Chinese women, letting their voices be heard and their woes be expressed. It pulls at the readers heartstrings and educates the readers mind, and should absolutely be read by anyone interested in the situation for today´s women of China. I applaud Ms. Hong Fincher and her fine book!

It must be agreed with her that the women of China, as all other women of the world, must continue their long and hard battle to equality and emancipation. This fight must be fought by the Chinese women themselves; male allies in China must show solidarity to the brave women’s work. It would also help to use a certain intersectional view within the Chinese feminist movement, one that includes also highlighting the poor women’s, the jailed female political activist, the minorities and also the Tibetan women´s issues as well. At the same time others social justice, human rights and democratic movements should also take part in the feminist movement and take a stand against sexism including sexism within these movements. An economic Social transformation is also needed to provide the foundation of the woman’s liberation such as free public day care and fair, humane jobs for both men and women. To me, there is no feminism without socialism. And there is no socialism without feminism. Will Chinese feminist activists reach their goal of overcoming the oppression of the authoritarian government in China? We’ll see.

(Trigger Warning for discussions of violence against women and torture)
This is the third part in my “Torutre Awareness Moth”-series

Edwidge Danticat is a writer who, according to such bookshops as Strand, is “the number one writer you should be reading right now”. She was born in Haiti in 1969 in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. While born in Haiti, she moved to Brooklyn, New York City at 12. She started writing at the early age of nine, and published her first novel “Breath Eyes Memory” in 1994. Ms. Dandicats early education was in French, but she spoke Creole at home while today she writes in English. Ms. Danticat has claimed that, having she felt herself othered and alienated in the States, she turned to resolve and distraction of writing for comfort. Nearly all of her works deal with Haiti in various ways; she has written novels for adults, short story collections and even one Young Adult novel.

Ms. Edwidge Danticat

Ms. Edwidge Danticat

“The Dew Breaker” deals with Haitian modern history by examining the life of one prison guard and torturer. The book is a mixture between a novel and a collection of short stories (novel-in-stories as it´s called), with each chapter being told from divergent perspectives though each are connected to the torturer. The structure of the tale, though radiating from the hub of the torturer, follows ideas, themes and textures in a unbound timeline drifting about over the composition of the tone and text and we find that many of the stories deal with Haitians who have emigrated to the US.* The first chapter, “The Book of the Dead” was first published in 1999 in “The New Yorker” as a short story before becoming a part of “The Dew Breaker” in 2004. It´s a very experimental work of fiction which is written in a picaresque style while detailing a complex past. “The Dew Breaker” as a book is unimaginably brilliant.

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The stories start with the torturer´s daughter, Ka. Ka was born in the states, but her parents are Haitian. She admires her father to the point that she makes a statue in his honor. However her father feels that he doesn´t deserve this honor and throws the statue into a river. When Ka expresses hurt over this, her father begins to explain how he feels unworthy of the statue. He then explains that while for years Ka has believed that her father was one of the victims of the former brutal dictatorship in Haiti, he was in reality a torturer and executioner. The scar that he has across his face wasn´t a scar inflicted by a guard, but by a prisoner. He says that he killed the man who inflicted the scar. This news comes as a horrible blow to Ka, who after her whole life trying to connect to her parents switches over to disgust for them and wishes she wouldn´t actually know about their past. She is baffled her mother could love her father. Ka is forced to re-value her whole assumption about her parents, and starts to conclude that in a way her father has always used her and her mother as a way to bury the past. The pathos and melancholy that echoes in the first chapter is the reoccurring murmur throughout “The Dew Breaker”.

"Ain´t Joking" by Carrie Mae Weems

“Woman with chicken”, from the series “Anin´t joking” by Carrie Mae Weems, 1987-1988

Not all the chapters are equally good. The chapters “Water Child” (that tells the story of a Haitian nurse working in the US) and “Seven” (which is about a couple uniting after seven years of separation) are not very captivating, and it is confusing to see how they connect with the other stories, but the rest of the book holds its own in the depth of the concern.

dewbreaker

The chapter “The Book of Miracles” is from the torturer´s wife´s, Anne’s, point of view, where we are taken back to when Ka didn´t know about her father’s past. From Anne´s point of view the reader learns that in Anne’s mind, her husband is no longer the same person he was when he was a torturer. To her, she has created a miracle where a man who used to hurt others no longer does so. She believes he has change utterly and therefore doesn´t wish for him to be discovered. Danticat illustrates for us in Anne the peculiar distortions of rationalization and paper thin morality of excuses that Anne dwells in. She honestly loves her family, but seems to also naively believe that her love makes it okay to prevent the man who´s committed atrocities from facing justice. When the family goes to church and Ka thinks she sees a man who the Haitian community is looking for due to “committing crimes against humanity” (rape, murder and tortures of millions) Anne grows panicked that her husband will be found as well if this man is found. Even in this midst of our acknowledgement of Anne’s bizarre ethics we cannot help but find sympathy with Anne in the trajectory of her story and of the writing. The Moral High Point of the reader is disengaged in understanding even if Anne’s determination to bury the past seems reprehensible.

"Murder at Sharperville" by Godfrey Rubens, 1960

“Murder at Sharperville” by Godfrey Rubens, 1960

In “The Night Talkers” a young man named Dany is visiting his elderly aunt, who raised him after his parents were murdered. In this story Danticat illustrates a beautiful bound between the aunt and Dany, who loves her like a mother. Dany´s description of his aunt is filled with warmth, which contradicts the rest of the harshness in this novel. Dany is visiting his aunt to tell her he has found the man who killed his parents and burned down their house. The reader understands quickly that the man he´s talking about is Ka´s father, and this is the first time the reader gets to know about what crimes he has committed. Dany is conflicted in what to do now that he has found the man; he would like to seek revenge and kill his parent’s murderer. However his worry that he might be mistaken prevents him from doing so. At the same time while trying to tell his aunt about his discovery, Dany is asked to keep company for Claude, a young man recently released from prison.

"Untitled", by Carrie Mae Weems, part of her "Kitchen Table series", completed in 1990

“Untitled”, by Carrie Mae Weems, part of her “Kitchen Table series”, completed in 1990

“The Bridal Seamstress” switches the perspective to one of the torture survivors. Aline, a journalist, goes to interview a Haitian woman who’s made a career out of making wedding dresses. The woman’s name is Beatrice, who Aline remarks, is a bit odd but friendly. Beatrice talks Aline into taking a walk, and while describing her neighborhood, Beatrice mentions that one of her neighbors was a prison guard in Haiti. Aline asked if Beatrice and the prison guard were friends, which Beatrice scuffles at. Later she tells Aline that men like that would abduct people in the night. Beatrice explains that when she was younger, the prison guard (Ka´s Father) asked her to go dancing with him. She said no, and was that night kidnapped by the guard. Beatrice was tied to a rack, and her feet whipped until they bled. The Prison Guard then forced her to walk home on the tar road. Aline asks Beatrice how she can be sure her neighbor is this same guard, to which Beatrice says: “You never look at anyone the way you do someone like this…No one will ever have that much of your attention. No matter how much he´s changed, I would know him anywhere”. Beatrice later on explains that she feels like this man has always followed her after they both moved to the states. Since she works at home and advertised her work in papers and through all her customers, he was according to Beatrice always able to find her.

 

"Self-portrait exaggerating my negroid features", Adrien Piper (1981)

“Self-portrait exaggerating my negroid features”, Adrien Piper (1981)

 

“The Bridal Seamstress” is the second best chapter in “The Dew Breaker” after “The Book of the dead”. In Beatrice the reader gets to see a realistic torture survivor: one who has been able to move on, but can never truly forget. She is confident in her job and chatters politely with Aline, but lives in fear of Ka´s father hurting her again. In “The Night Talkers” it´s implied Danys parents were killed because they were mistaken for someone else. With Beatrice Danticat, in her sharp tale, shows us the true façade of the torture victim, as opposed to being about guilt or crime is about the abuse and power, therefore it can be shown as attacking the weak and the other as with a woman who has angered the wrong person. There are an alarming amount of cases where men commit acts of violence against women who reject their sexual advances, and in “The Bridal Seamtress” Danticat depict one where the woman who won´t dance with the prison guard is tortured for it. Beatrice´s story tackles abuse of power and violence against women, and simultaneously also manages to fully capture the emotions of a torture survivor.

"Study for Portrait of Oppression (Homage to Black South Africans)", by Benny Andrews (1985)

“Study for Portrait of Oppression (Homage to Black South Africans)”, by Benny Andrews (1985)

In the chapter “Monkey Tails” Danticat portrays Haiti in the midst of a revolution. The revolution is brutal and harsh, and where once the former torturers who had the upper hand are now sought and painfully killed. The tale is set in the year 1986 and the turmoil of the time sends many fleeing the country. The Story follows the sights of one small boy as he recounts and witnesses the bloody revolution and while also telling of his struggles living with a single mother during the times. In the chapter “The Funeral Singer” the reader gets to know a woman whose father was first tortured by having all his teeth removed and later disappeared. While learning English in the states, she dreams of going and fighting in a revolution. These two stories show two sides of the revolution; the ideal and the brutal reality. They fit together as stories perfectly.

Untitled painting by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, From Here Until Never, 2011

The final chapter, which shares the book’s title, is told mainly from Ka´s father’s point of view, where we see him as the brutal guard who ends up meeting Anne and falling in love. It is in this final chapter we see that Anne´s actions and views were much romanticized in previous chapters. This prison guard, who later becomes Ka´s father, is ruthless and unreflective. It is in this chapter where the reader is confronted with the fact that while portrayed sympathetically in the first story, it has become clear from all the other chapters that Ka´s father wasn´t a likeable person in anyway. What the man has done will always linger in many people’s lives, and there is no happy ending for his situation. The love story of Ka´s parents is also deconstructed when the reader learns who exactly gave Ka´s father his scar. The novel ends with a sense of enduring melancholia, a brokenness that is unspeakable. “The Dew Breaker” is a meander through space and time, through sentence and story, and one which remains at the last, gritty and truthful.

"There must be a heaven", by Andrew Study

“There Must Be a Heaven” Benny Andrews 1966

* Other writers who have done similar works are the Nobel Prize winning Alice Munro (who did this in “The Beggar maid” where all stories are focused on a woman named Rose) and the successful debut writer Ayana Mathis (whose novel “The Twelve tribes of Hattie” were told from different perspective in one family).

(Trigger warning for brief discussions of sexual abuse)

Kopano Matlwa is known as one of South Africa’s most exciting young writers. She has a degree in Medicine, which makes her both a writer and a doctor. In fact, while studying to get her degree, Ms. Matlwa simultaneously wrote “Coconut”. Her debut won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literary in Africa in 2008, sharing the prize with “I Do Not Come To You By Chance” by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and “Tenants of The House” by Wale Okediran. Ms. Matlwa has also written “Split Milk”, which appeared in 2010. Both novels describe racial relations in South Africa.

Kopano Matlwa

“Coconut” tells the story of two very different young black girls living in modern-day Johannesburg. The novel is written in two parts, the first part focusing on the rich Ofilwe and the second part focusing on the poverty stricken Fikile. Through depicting these two girls’ lives, “Coconut” addresses racism, the lost of one’s own culture and identity, sexual abuse and colonized consciousness.

Ofilwe is shown being a girl who takes her family’s wealth for granted. She lives a pampered life, but faces racism from her white school mates and authorities. Ofilwe lives her first years in blissful blindness to the prejudices around her, but as Ofilwe gets older, she realizes more and more how much racism she has faced in her early years. This racism runs from open disgust to her “dark lips” and refusal of the “racial contamination” of the kiss, or when her classmates decide her ethnic characteristics innately imply that she could only be born in a “stink-hole”. She also realizes with help from her brother, Tsempo, how much of her own culture, identity and history (through the mechanisms of the oppressive former apartheid system) she (as many black South Africans) has lost.

In one of the first paragraphs of “Coconut” illustrates the lost of the cultural field by means of racism when we are lead through Ofilwe and Tsempo arguing over religion. Tsempo argues that being Christian goes against their black identity, since they were forcefully converted by whites. He points out that the original beliefs of the Africans were quite different. Ofilwe can barely stand hearing this, since she’s a devoted Christian. In this sequence Matlwa confronts the fact that when Christianity (as other abrahamic religions) was spread, the black South Africans lost a part of their culture. This is an interesting fact which is rarely pointed out, despite these violent conversions causing many African and many non-African people to lose parts of their own culture*.

Another example of lost heritage and discrimination is the use of language and presumptions of inclusion and exclusions founded on the identifier of people’s linguistic talents. Ofilwe is first proud of the fact that her family speaks English at home. However, due to her skin color, no one believes this to be the case; when a few men come to her classroom to collect data on the different mother tongues among children, the men refuse to believe her when she states she speaks English at home. Her teacher even punishes her for lying to the men. After some discoveries about her parent’s backgrounds, Ofilwe then realizes that her parents purposely didn’t speak their mother tongue to her, thus leaving Ofilwe to try and learn this language by memorizing words she overhears during her parents arguments. Matlwa beautifully captures the struggles of a person longing to learn about her roots and culture while simultaneously being denied proper information about it.

Old statistics chart of linguistics in South Africa

Ofilwe suffers a crisis, since she is forced to confront that despite being economically privileged, she is unfortunately marginalized due to her skin color. Ofilwe as a character is shown as pampered, but the reader still sympathizes with her and her situation.

Johannesburg (City Skyline)

In the second part, the reader is introduced to Fikile, a poor young woman from a slum. She lives with her uncle since her mentally unstable mother rejected her when she was extremely young. Fikile in her first depiction is shown having an intense revulsion for her uncle. The reader later learns that this hatred is justified (as more is revealed about Fikiles life) as the reader comes to understand that Fikile while a child was repeatedly molested by her uncle. Fikile did not at first understand what her uncle was doing to her, but after learning about rape and sexual assault at school through an awareness presentation, Fikile at once recognized the actions as similar to the ones her uncle committed, and comes to the revelation that she herself has been a victim of sexual abuse. One of the finest details Matlwa gives in “Coconut” is how strong this shocking revelation is to Fikile, as Matlwa has her protagonist, forced to this realization of abuse, is convulsed by vomiting in the class room as the presentation is being held. It’s an honest portrayal of a young girl suddenly understanding that she has been severely abused.

As the novel continues, Fikile starts to express strong troubling comments regarding blacks. She states that they are lazy and blame whites for everything to cover up for their irresponsibility. She recalls telling her school teacher that she wants to be white when she grows up. While referring to the customers she waits on at her job at a fancy restaurant/café, Fikile says that they represent everything she wants to be:“rich and white”. In contrast to everything she does not want to be: “black and poor”. Fikile buys into the myths of the poor and black being to blame for their misfortunes and believes that she will one day be rich as well. This resembles the divergent and ubiquitous mentalities of a colonized consciousness among a deceived lower classes all over the world. The American author John Steinbeck for instance lampshaded this mentality by stating: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Fikile has a noticeably similar way of viewing her situation. She believes that she will be able to escape all her problems if she just adapts to behavior of the white upper class and totally hates her black heritage.

Fikile has developed a colonized consciousness, meaning that she has adapted and identifies (takes the values of the oppressing class as her own) with a white supremacist way of looking at people of color. She refuses to see the faults in any whites she encounters, but is quick to give many irredeemable (and made up) flaws to all blacks she meets. Fikile faces racism herself, but fails to see it; she has adapted the beliefs of the oppressors and therefore demonizes blacks. This phenomenon happens among all sorts of oppressed and marginalized groups. Like Steinbeck commented on colonized consciousness being the ideological means for the capitalist upper class for stopping socialism making a root in the US, colonized consciousness prevents people from being aware of their situation and fighting for more rights. Fikile does not see that her opportunities are limited and through her hate actually adds limitations for herself and other people of color in South Africa.

Desperation for a better life and the environment around her play an important factor to her mentality, but Fikile’s intense dislike for other blacks may also be a result of the trauma from being abused as a child. Fikile at some point decides at once that a black man talking to her is a probable rapist. Due to her relationship to her uncle, this comment does raise the question of her idea of blacks being lazy, and good for nothing, as being inexorably linked to her horrific childhood memories of her uncle. Are Fikile prejudices because she has bad experiences, because she’s too desperate too see straight, or just the simple, but inevitable, brainwashing by society ruled through prejudice? Or are all three symptoms equally to blame for the disjunction of class, ethnicity and identity and the upended consciousness of Fikile?

Luckily, “Coconut” is a coming-of-age tale alongside a depiction of modern day South Africa, so Fikile’s world view is challenged as the novel proceeds.

Kopano Maltwa being congratulated by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka

“Coconut” is a highly impressive novel which deals with many important issues. It highlights topics that are necessary to talk about. It’s also a captivating tale about identity and growing up.

South Africa’s flag

*As a half Finn, I can mention that for instance the Finnish people originally had pagan-like beliefs. This changed through the conversion and influence from the Swedes. In fact, at some point Birger Jarl thought the Finnish weren’t becoming Christian quick enough, and sent a small crusade to Finland (which was at the time just another part of Sweden).

Todd In The Shadows is the pen name for the otherwise anonymous internet reviewer of pop music at the comedy site “That Guy With The Glasses”. His gimmicks run on hilarious snarks at hit singles, combining legitimate complaints with humorous observations.

I’ve been following Todd In The Shadows recently, since I find his work pretty entertaining. I was delighted to see that two days ago he started a Tumblr blog called “Trolling Chris Brown”, featuring tweets of funny come backs at the musician Chris Brown, who is not only a former domestic abuser, but also has never really shown any sings of truly regretting his despicable crime. Todd In The Shadows stated that he started this blog not only because of Browns terrible behavior, but also (and mostly) as a protest against fans who defend Brown by saying the woman, Rihanna, he beat up “provoked him”, i.e. “was asking for it”.

Go here for the blog. And for the video where Todd In The Shadows illustrates why he started the blog, go here.

Bless you, Todd In The Shadows! Your critique against people defending violence is refreshing and awesome to see. It’s important to protest when people start giving excuses for domestic abuse while simultaneously blaming the victim.

Now if only there was a similar tumblr blog dedicated to hating Charlie Sheen’s tweets. For those who don’t know, he’s also a former domestic abuser who has never regretted his violence against women, plus many seem to absurdly ignore the abuse he’s inflicted upon women.

Or a tumblr in protest of Roman Polanski defenders?

I can’t high light enough why it’s important to not be too forgiving towards men when they assault women. Violence against women is a huge problem world wide. When people idolize abusive men, they send out the message that men can be violent towards women as much as they like if they are “great enough”. But if we are to move towards a world free of violence, we must stop forgiving those who commit crimes of violence with little or no remorse. And we can’t give them excuses for what they did or do either.

“Valentine’s Day is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap” – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Ah, the 14th of February! The day is slowly, but surely, coming upon us with all that it entails with its meanderings and commercially tinted vocabulary of love. Usually we are fed the most mundane and conservative of loves: predominately focused on the heterosexual, circulating around the material gift as its expression, and, usually, one sex seen as passively accepting the honors of the day. Not to mention the holiday’s neglect of love that isn’t “successful”; i.e. the holiday’s depiction of romance that is blissfully ignorant of the times when love falls far short of happy endings. Valentine’s Day uplifts the beautiful, harmonic side of love, which no doubt is important. On the other hand, the sad and dark parts of love are a major part of romance and relationships. Therefore, it is my pleasure to contemplate those most unhappy of love tales which I invite the curious reader of this post to watch, read, or listen to on Valentine’s Day.
(Note: I will talk about the tragic parts of the tales and stories of love and betrayal, so this post will harbor the most conclusive of spoilers).

The series “Powerpuff Girls” was a children’s cartoon about three kinder garden aged girls with superpowers which ran for six seasons from the years 1998 to 2004. The episodes were filled with irony and amusing reconstructions on the superhero and the story-telling around them. The series was also a delightful blending of action and cuteness, featuring very bold and strong heroines who never drifted far from their adventurous and comical personalities: Blossom-the intelligent, but slightly vain leader, Bubbles-who’s naïve and passive-aggressive, and Buttercup-the rough and tumble tomboy (who despite being a tomboy always wears a dress). Most of the episodes concentrated on the girls solving the mysteries, and actively fighting crime and the criminal. Still the episode “Buttercrush” which aired on season one as its fourth episode, found the tough and unsentimental Buttercup embroiled in her first crush. She falls for Ace, a bully and mean leader of a criminal gang, who manipulates Buttercup by sweet-talking himself and his gang out of trouble. After successfully getting Buttercup to believe he returns her affections, Ace sets out a plan to use the situation as a chance to kill off Blossom and Bubbles. However, Buttercup finds out about Ace’s plan and doesn’t take to the attempted murder of her sisters kindly.

“Buttercrush” portrays two different types of love. Firstly we are presented with Buttercup’s blind infatuation with the bad guy Ace, which is exploitive and manipulative. This theme is extremely universal, for haven’t we all sometimes been taken advantaged of due to our emotions blinding us? The second form of love is that which we find between siblings. This love is demonstrated by Buttercups ultimate loyalty to her sisters and her sisters understanding and forgiveness to their sister’s misguided crush. The girls share an unconditional love to each other, which strength saves Buttercup from the deceitful Ace. Even if it is sad to see Buttercup get her heart shattered, it is still extremely touching to see how important the bond with her sisters is to Buttercup. Bad love and good love, both demonstrated in this fine episode!

Greek Mythology is known and regarded for its near soap-opera like tales of the gods and god-like creatures. When I was young, I read all the myths I could come across, and at the age of ten I read the myth of “Apollo and Daphne”, which details Apollo’s first love. Humorously, it was the first love story I enjoyed (and the only one I would enjoy till recent years), so much that I read it out loud to the grownups around me. In the legend, Apollo enrages Eros by claiming he’s too much of a boy to handle his arrows. Eros decides to prove Apollo wrong, so he shoots one golden arrow into Apollo and one blunt dart into the nymph Daphne. Thus Apollo falls violently in love with Daphne despite Daphne not wanting anything to do with Apollo. This leads to Apollo obsessively chasing Daphne, begging her to marry him. While Daphne sees Apollo as an ultimate terror, Apollo can’t stop thinking about how wonderful Daphne is, even when she runs from him. The nymph tries to escape Apollo multiple times, and in her most desperate hour pleads the earth goddess Gaea to destroy her beauty. She is then transformed into a tree. However, Apollo loves Daphne even in this form, and concludes: “Since you cannot be my wife, you shall become my tree”. The love sick god takes the tree to his heavenly garden where he intends to keep it eternally. After his last soliloquy of love he embraces the plant.

“Apollo and Daphne”, famous statue by Bernini

This legend is an intense take on obsession, unrequited love and despair. Daphne is a woman who can’t escape her stalker and not even as a tree finds freedom. Apollo is a lost, immature man struck with feelings he can’t handle. The ending is bittersweet in the realization that Apollo didn’t love Daphne for her looks, but for who she was and how she expressed her being. Daphne having her beauty destroyed couldn’t alter the feelings which Apollo felt for her. Even though we find the stalker Apollo as unsettling in the extreme in this story, we still find ourselves oddly moved by the tragedy which unfolds. Apollo, as immature in his emotions, doesn’t have the means to handle unrequited love and reacts to it as a child would, making his actions sympathetically tragic in hindsight, while still overdone and horrific in his refusal to accept her wishes (no means no). In short this could also be a cautionary tale of what happens when you refuse to take no for an answer. If you can get your hands on a collection of Ancient Greek legends, make sure to read this tale of woe.

“Futurama” is an animated series created by Matt Groening. The series centers on Philip J. Fry, a delivery boy who is accidently frozen in 1999 and thawed out in the year 2999. There he befriends a scoundrel robot named Bender, a warrior-spirited Cyclops named Leela and starts working for an absent minded professor Farnsworth, who is Fry’s last living relative. Due to Fry’s situation, many episodes explored the things Fry had left behind back in his 1999. The most famous, or infamous as some would say, was “Jurassic Bark” (season four, episode seven). Fry uncovers the remains of his late dog and learns that 29th century science will be able to resurrect his beloved pet, Seymour. Fry is thrilled, but his best friend Bender grows painfully jealous, disliking the fact that Fry is paying more attention to Seymour’s remains then he is to their mutual friendship. The plot portrays Bender’s jealousy leading to near disaster, but Bender redeems himself in the end, learning to sympathize with Fry’s wishes. The episode at that point seems upbeat and will end happily, until Fry learns that his dog died at the age of fifteen. He then decides not to resurrect Seymour. The last scene takes the viewers back to the 21th century. Seymour is shown patiently waiting for Fry, year after year, in summer sun and in pouring rain. He dies of old age while still contemplating the return of his human friend Fry. Fry’s decision to leave the past as it is and not resurrect the long dead friend makes the episode a complete downer, since Seymour will now never get to be with Fry again.

“Jurassic Bark” is perhaps the saddest episode from “Futurama”, and as one of the most powerful and touching one we find in the series. Bender learns to become a better friend to Fry, which is an uplifting plot point. However Seymour’s love for Fry is devastating, and he uncompromisingly waits for his owner to return to him in a past without mercy. Fry will never return, and love and loyalty is depicted in a dark, bitter light. This episode is a must see. However, a fair warning is that you should have many boxes of tissues beside you while watching this utterly depressing, striking episode.

“Pokémon” is a Japanese children’s Anime show which takes place in a world filled with so-called pocket monsters. People in this world collect these creatures by “catching them”, maintaining them in small magical globes and then training them to fight each other (i.e. this world is a member’s of PETA worst nightmare). Ash, the show’s star, is a young boy who travels this world finding and pursuing a multitude of adventures with his favorite Pokémon, Pikachu, and his two friends, the feisty Misty and the caring Brock. The team of friends is constantly chased by Team Rocket, a criminal trio who steal Pokémon’s from others. The members are Jesse and James, and the talking Pokémon Meowth. Meowth is a cat-like creature, who is the only one of his species who can speak and walks on two feet. This is a mystery many characters in the show ponder about aloud, but it’s not until the seventy-second episode, “Go West, Young Meowth!” that an explanation for this phenomena is given. Team Rocket decides to go to Hollywood, which awakens painful memories in Meowth, causing him to reveal his past to the viewers. Turns out Meowth started out as a hungry homeless Pokémon, who couldn’t talk and walked on four paws. After seeing a block-buster film, Meowth decides to traveled to Hollywood in search of glamorous food, ending up in a thieving league of other Meowths and a Persian (another cat-like Pokémon). Finally having and abundance and grand access to food, he comes to longed for love as well. His craving for love is fulfilled in his becoming smitten with Meowsie, a female version of a Meowth. His love will never be returned since, as she is more than boldly willing to tell him, she is rich and he is not, and she values beyond measure her rich owner who will give her constant love in the guise of expensive gifts. Meowth becomes determined to win the love of his heart through making himself as human-like as possible to emulate the owner and master of Meowsie. Throughout a torturous process, Meowth learns to talk and walk like a human. Yet, Despite this massive effort, Meowsie still turns him down, telling him, in no uncertain terms, that though he has achieved these behaviors, he is a street-cat. Meowth leaves the pain of unreturned love to seek out riches, hoping he then would finally win Meowsies heart. After this past is revealed in the story, Meowth finds himself returning to Hollywood with Team Rocket, where he meets his lost love Meowsie again, only to find that his ex-love has been abandoned by her owner and need to be with Meowht’s old criminal gang to survive. Meowht promises Meowsie to help her leave the gang and he fights in order to gain her freedom from the gang, only to have Meowsie reject him again and stay with Persian. Meowth, at last, realizes he’ll never win Meowsie’s heart and is shown at the end of the episode devastated.

This episode is the only Pokémon episode I’ve re-watched since my early childhood, and it made a bigger impact on me now than when I was seven. The episode brings up a painful, yet solid truth about love: sometimes you will make great sacrifices and deeds for the one you love; only to find rejection and denial. All the pain and forfeit will be for nothing. This happens to everyone at least once in their lifetime. It’s nearly shocking how honestly Pokémon is able to portray this fact, considering the love martyr being a talking cat-like creature. The issue of class is also brought up nicely. A strong recommendation for anyone who has sometimes felt used!

Ang Lee is a Taiwanese-born director who has made a number of great films, many which have love as a major theme. He’s two most famous films are “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). The Latter is an adaption of the short story written by Annie Proulx, and follows the literary works plot to the letter. The film stars Health Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who do stunning portrayals of star-crossed lovers in the 60’s Wyoming, capturing all the heartfelt wonder of two guys who, despite loving each other, never really get to be together. The film is beautifully shot, the characters are complex and the ending brutal. Few romantic films are this well done. Proulx’s short story is also a great read for those who haven’t examined it yet, too.

Nancy Sinatra’s song “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” is a beautiful song about falling for your friend in early childhood, only to be horribly abused and abandoned by that friend once you’ve grown up. Listen to the song below. (The Clip features the lyrics!).

Kraftwerk’s song “Sexobject” deals with feeling emotionally neglected and used. View video below.

Jack Off Jill’s song “Vivica” depicts friendship, abuse and repressed feelings. Lyrics and song exist below.

These sagas of woe and misfortune all depict harsh realities that come with loving another person, despite the stories varying from cartoons to mythology to grittier down-to earth films and songs. All of these tales are exquisitely interesting takes on love, friendship and devotion, and all are handled with care and marvel.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Take Care/ Maaretta

Happy Birthday, “Catch-22”!

Today is Joseph Heller’s great and most famous novels birthday. Published in 1961, “Catch 22” tells the equally tragic as hilarious story of Yossarian, an American captain during the Second World War, and his friends. The novel is mostly known and appreciated for its anti-war themes, but Heller explores in his novel many other themes.

In “Catch-22”, corruption and capitalism at its most extreme is portrayed and explored, especially trough the character of Milo, one of the most unlikeable characters. Milo is desperate to make profit, doing all sorts of irrational schemes to make money. As the book nears its end, Milo springs – as often during extreme capitalism – out of control, caring more and more about profit instead of people. The results are horrendous, as Heller masterfully describes in this passage: “This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and it looked like the end for him. … Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made” (chapter 24, page 269).

The novel also centers one of the most iconic atheists. Yossarian, a young man full of idealism, sees the horrors of war and comes to the conclusion that no god can exist in such a world. He’s reasoning is touching and relatable, one of the more truly honest depictions of a person’s lost of faith. I myself can identify with Yossarian on this point, since I became an atheist after hearing my teacher give the numbers of dead men (as well as women and children) during the second world war.

There is also a chapter (no spoilers!) depicting violence towards a woman, and there Heller raises the problem of how societies used to not care at all about such problems – and makes one think if more could still be done.

“Catch- 22” is rich with lively and complex characters. They are wacky characters, sympathetic characters, tragic characters and bizarre and evil characters. I could go on and on about all of the themes and characters explored in “Catch- 22”. There was a film adaption from 1970, which in no way is as good as the book, but has its moments. To end this post, here’s a clip of one of the most funny scenes from the film (you might want to make it full screen):

The bands name is “Scarling”. There are a lot of songs that deal with this issue, but very few have the same raw and realistic tone that “Alexander The Burn Victim” has. The lyrics are written by Jessica Addams, the lead singer and song-writer of the band.

Buchi Emecheta is a Nigerian born writer living in London. She was born in Lagos to Igbo-parents (a minority in Nigeria). Emecheta was married at the tender age of sixteen and moved to London with her husband. After six years of marriage, they separated. She took an honors degree in sociology while supporting her five children all by herself. Her first book, “In the ditch” was published in 1972; it was a short story collection about her experiences as a poor single mother in London. After that she has published several works, including the highly-praised “The Joys of motherhood” and “Second-class Citizen”.

“Second-class citizen” tells the story of Adah, whose life events are similar to Emechetas. The novel starts by telling about Adah’s childhood. She is lucky enough to go to school, to only be promised as a wife to a man she’s never met. When she has her 16th birthday, Adah moves to London to live with her student husband, with home she has two children with. Her husband, Francis, takes his time with his studies, while Adah struggles along to try and feed the whole family. As time goes on, Francis becomes less and less interested in his studies, while bullying Adah to bend to his will. Adah also realizes that the Londoners don’t like blacks very much.
Adah suffers racial discrimination out in the world and gender discrimination at home. She realizes that since she is a black woman; she will be viewed by society as a second-class citizen.


Nigeria’s Flag

Emecheta’s language is gentle and frank. Emecheta looks at Adah’s situation with sharp eyes: she critics Francis and other African men for being male chauvinist and patriarchal, but she also critics the Londoners and other Europeans for being racist and not very understanding towards African immigrants. Adah is shown as a typical Nigerian woman: her value is measured by the number of sons she gives birth to. Adah’s hard work is being taking for granted; when she voices her opinion she is met by anger. She does what she can to help her children, knowing that she is the only one they can rely on.

Emecheta gives a pretty hopeless image of the role women have in the Nigerian society. At the very first page of the book it is told that Adah’s parents didn’t even bother to record her birth since “She was such a disappointment to her parents” that were expecting a boy. When Adah has her first child, Francis’ parents become deeply disappointed and angry that their first grandchild is a girl. Emecheta makes it clear to the viewer that Adah has to deal with people that don’t even consider girls to be worth giving birth to. Adah also gets to start school later than her brother Boy. Unlike Boy, she must give up her studies for the family. Her job is to make her husband look good and fortunate. Adah is also just people always blaming women when things don’t work out. There’s a scene where, after fighting with her husband and being beaten by him, she goes to a church to pray. There she meets another Igbo person, a man, who is able to guess that she has had a fight with her husband. The man then offers Adah that they can pray together, asking God to get her husband to forgive her. Adah then thinks to herself: “Typical Igbo way of thinking. It is always the woman’s fault if there’s been a fight between a husband and his wife”.

Violence is also a subject that is explored in this novel. It is not graphic or a major part of the book, but it’s still a powerful subplot. Francis occasionally beats Adah when he thinks she’s not being obedient enough. Adah just lets it happen, until she decides that she’s had enough. After a while, she starts to defend herself by hitting him back. Showing him that she won’t be intimidated by his fist.
Adah’s ideas and own wishes also collide with the English society. She is unable to get help when she needs it because of cultural misunderstandings and prejudices. She can feel the hostility from whites as she walks down the street.

“Second-class citizen” is a book that deals with the subject of oppression in a realistic, touching way. Emecheta’s prose is easy to read and truly gives an insight to what it’s like to be a Nigerian woman.