Book Review: Tightrope

Official title: Tightrope

Author: Sahar Abdulaziz

Book length: 350 pages

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Djarabi Kitabs Publishing

Year of publication: 2017


Style/Summary: Set in present day America, Tightrope is a thrilling suspense-filled tale of the triumph of good over evil. The author introduces the story with a brief prologue which I almost skipped but it turned out to be very vital in understanding the story. The story’s protagonist, activist and social justice advocate, Nour Ibrahim, while dealing with emails and cryptic messages from an anonymous online racist bully, is secretly struggling with an ugly illness which eventually turns out to be her saving grace. Other characters in the book represent different aspects of the current American socio-political situation. However, they are relatable in so many ways and their feelings, fears, and aspirations can be felt through the author’s brilliant use of language and her general portrayal of these individuals.

Some of the themes explored in this novel include racism, xenophobia, love, family,religion, mental illness and so on. The characters, through their everyday lives, show the importance of unity and solidarity in the face of oppression and prejudice. One of my favourite things about the author’s style is how she dedicates chapters to each character. This gives the reader the chance to understand each character’s point of view without, for lack of a better word, getting interrupted by another character’s voice. Another great thing about the chapters is the length with each chapter being about 3 – 5 pages long. This is perfect for readers who have a short attention span and who are only interested in taking in small amounts of information at a time.

Of all the characters, Maryam’s story is a personal favourite and I’m certain that her life would be relatable to many people, men and women alike, who come into Islam from cultures or countries where Muslims are a minority. Maryam faces rejection from her family and even some part of the Muslim community for her choice to be Muslim. Even when things look bleak, she does not give up.

Overall, each character expresses themselves, both in thought and action, in ways that will either make the reader sigh and nod or cringe in utter disgust. I especially enjoyed reading about the love connections and the eventual death of the antagonist, Russell J. Tetler.

This novel is so relevant at the moment because of the state of politics in America. It highlights the value of safe spaces, the need for a strong support system, the beauty and meaning of family, and the importance of solidarity and unity in the face of injustice. Tightrope shows that beyond the political rhetoric and debates, actual lives are affected by the words spoken and actions taken. The author, like many before her, shows the essence and importance of social justice and political fairness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and even though it started out a little slow, it picked up the pace and had me on the edge of my seat sooner than later. Much praise to the author for her brilliant work.

Rating: 4/5.

Book Review: A Taste of Honey

Official Title: A Taste of Honey – Sexuality and Erotology in Islam

Author: Habeeb Akande

Book Length: 333

Publisher: Rabaah Publishers

Style/Summary: A Taste of Honey explains and showcases the importance of sexual enlightenment in Islam. The title of the book was actually derived from a hadith narrated by A’ishah (R.A.) and it can be found in the first chapter. The book commences with an introduction that focuses on the sharia and sexuality, differences between erotology and sexology, decline of erotology and other matters. It is divided into two main parts and the first part deals with issues such as modesty and prudery, sexual desire in both men and women, beauty, fidelity & infidelity and many more underlying issues of sexual ethics in Islam. The second part delves into much deeper matters such as the art of lovemaking itself, spiritual & psychological benefits of sexual intercourse, desirable traits in men and women, various love-making positions and much more.

Many individuals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have been drawn into this false narrative about Islam being a religion that is practiced by sexually oppressed people as there is no room for honest discussions about sex and related issues. The book essentially tries to dismiss this notion by drawing from the work of early Islamic scholars, stories from individuals around the Prophet (S.A.W), the Quran, contemporary research findings, and hadith narrations. It reminds us that our predecessors lived a full life; sexually, socially, and spiritually. The lives of the early Muslims show that a sexual act, within the bounds of marriage of course, is in fact an act of worship and they revelled in the joy that the pleasure of Allah could be gotten by seeking pleasure with their spouses.

downloadMy favourite part(s) of the book happen to be the opening quote and the conclusion. The conclusion talks about the superiority of the love of Allah by his creatures over all types of love. The author reminds us that while seeking sexual love and pleasure with our partners is essential, love for the creator should be paramount in the heart of every Muslim and this love should be unconditional. The opening is a beautiful quote by Jalal ad-Din As-Suyuti: “This is my faith as well as my ancestors’ and the profession of my father before me – the faith of the lovers and the religion of the beloved”.

Speaking on research however, I found it strange that the author used certain hadith that are considered weak. Even though he stated in the footnotes that the chains of transmission of such narrations were weak, I find that it can still be confusing to the reader such that one is armed with knowledge that is not generally accepted or is straight up wrong. Also, the paperback I purchased had a couple of typographical errors. Hopefully, this is something that the publisher would fix in later editions.

I recommend this book for young people, married or single, and really anyone who is interested in learning about the place of sexuality and sexual enlightenment in Islam. The author also should be applauded for his research efforts as the book definitely touched a lot of areas that other books on Islam and sex skip over.

Overall, A Taste of Honey was a great, informative read and it was definitely worth every minute for me.

Rating: 4/5.


Day 10: Discuss 10 pet peeves you have

1. Squeezing the toothpaste from the middle: I do not understand why anyone thinks it’s cool to squeeze the tube of toothpaste from the middle. Where are your manners? Why do you want an ugly looking toothpaste tube on your bathroom sink?

2. Peeing on the side of the road: As far as I know, I’ve had this pet peeve since I was like 3 years old. Let me tell you a little story about this. According to my mama, when she was pregnant with my brother,  she asked me if I wanted a boy or a girl. I said girl (duh). She asked me why and I said I didn’t want a boy because boys peed all over the place. As I grew older, I saw men casually whip out their dingdongs and do their business in public. I cannot fully describe to you how much I detest this. Women are not exempted from this either. Still can’t understand why a woman with complete lady parts thinks it’s okay to stand in a gutter with her legs apart and pee. In the words of Luvvie Ajayi, I’m judging you.

3. People who fail to show gratitude: Life is hard, I believe we’ve already established this. We’re all battling our various demons and on some days we triumph. Some of us care enough to give our time and resources with friends, family, and even acquaintances. In this hard world we live in, the least you can do when someone extends is say a simple word of gratitude. Thanks. Thank you. I appreciate this. You made my day. Being grateful will not make you lose your edges. This problem of ingratitude, I believe, comes from a place of entitlement. Here’s the thing though, you’re not exactly entitled to anything from anyone. Whether it’s your brother or sister, be grateful.

4. Invading my personal space: Some people can’t help but touch you and whisper really close into your ear and tap you at every chance they get. This is especially weird to me when we don’t even know each other like that. Even when I can’t stand it and I point it out, the person looks at me like I’m crazy. I remember telling someone not to touch me while he was speaking and he got mad. Talking about wetin dey your body. Nothing dey but please don’t touch me. Don’t touch me, don’t share your germs with me, don’t breathe your hot fish laced breath down my neck. Thanks and God bless.

5. People who always have something to say about everything: I can’t be the only one who hates a smart ass. You know, the person who’s willing to tell you how you’re doing everything wrong and why you’re where you are in life and why your parents have problems and why all religion is bad and how heaven is just an illusion. This person will go out of his/her way to make you feel like a simpleton, and he/she will do so with all the condescension of his/her ancestors. If this particular smart ass is a friend, I try to be as nice as possible in telling them off. You don’t know my life and my struggle. You’re not that smart either. Where’s your best seller, or the cure to cancer, or the space ship you sent to Mars, or the complete annihilation of all the world’s cockroaches? Why, pray tell, haven’t you found a means for me to download food online if you’re so smart? Do you boo, and leave me out of your know-it-all-ness.

6. Children who think it’s cute to be rude and badly behaved in public: Okay this totally drives me mad. Who is your momma? Where is your daddy? How dare you think it’s cute to hit your mum in public or use bad words at her? Also, I get we’re trying to do better and not beat kids but I really am tired of seeing these beautiful babies act crazy in public just because they know their parents won’t do anything. They leave their poor mum’s with those smiles of embarrassment and awkwardness. Sometimes I have to breathe and hold my tongue and remind myself that the kid is not mine. There’s nothing cute about a badly behaved kid. Nothing.

7. People who chew with their mouths open: I’m not gonna talk too much about this. I think we can all agree that this is all levels of gross.

8. Kings and Queens of backwash: As with those who chew with their mouths open, do not share drinks with these humans. Repeat, do not share.

9. Name droppers: “Oh you know Tiwa Savage? Yeah. I’m friends with her assistant’s cousin”. Name droppers are the worst. They aim to impress you but in reality all they do is upset you. Half of the time, you’re not even asking a name dropper if they know anyone. However, they are quick to tell you how this senator’s child is their friend and how they sat beside Genevieve Nnaji at an event and now she follows them on twitter. They want you to know how their step mother is friends with this designer or that actress. No one likes a name dropper boo, stop it.

10. Back seat drivers: Lastly, my personal favourite, the backseat driver. My number one backseat driver is my sister. She’s constantly yelling and throwing me off and I end up making mistakes I usually won’t make. If you’re a back seat driver, stop. Just stop. Backseat drivers irk me more when they don’t even know how to drive. Excuse me, where’s your driver’s license and why the hell are you telling me what to do? Spread your seat belt across your mouth and let me drive, biko.

Have any pet peeves you’d like to share?

Day 7: What is your dream job, and why?

When I was younger, I wanted a job as a radio presenter. I thought it was pretty awesome and since the visual aspect was removed, I could be as relaxed as I wanted and still deliver. This was at the point in my life where I always wanted to pick the easy way out. I got to realise that having a successful career in radio isn’t easy; in fact nothing is easy. I had a 6 week programme that I hosted during my internship at a radio station and it really gave me the confidence I knew I had. Sadly, I haven’t been in a radio studio in over 2 years and I feel like I might be as rusty as old pipes. I still hope to work in radio, even if it’s not full time.
Right now, I’m more concerned with doing work in development studies. I recently got a Post Graduate Diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies and I’m going on to get a Masters degree in the same field. Studying this course for one year has opened my eyes to a lot of issues in Nigeria that we need to fix. These issues range from gross disregard for human rights to environmental pollution and overall social responsibility. I hope that as time goes on, I find a place where I too can help my community become a safer, more peaceful place for all.

Also, if I could hold three jobs without one affecting the other, I’d start a career as a baker. I love to try recipes for all sorts of baked goods. I believe that desserts  can change the world and warring nations can and should settle their disputes over tea and sweet cakes 😏😆😢. Jokes apart, baking relaxes me and excites me at the same time. Seeing how excited my friends when they eat my treats makes me really happy. I hope that after I’m done with school, I can find suitable time to perfect to my skills and turn this hobby into an occupation. Who knows, I might even end up owning a beautiful bakery one day. ❤

Day 5: 5 things that make me the happiest right now

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. – Dalai Lama.

1. My family’s happiness: To be honest, I’m most happy when I see that people around me – especially close friends and family – are healthy, happy, and fulfilled. Seeing the people I love making efforts to do better and be better and actually succeeding makes me very thankful and grateful. It gives me even more joy to know that they’re secretly and openly rooting for my success as well. I guess I’m truly happy that I have a great support system from which I draw strength. 

2. Being productive: I get the best feeling when I’m able to tick off all the tasks on my to-do list. There’s nothing better than setting goals and accomplishing them. I think it’s great 

3. Learning new things: I’ve always loved baking and trying out new recipes. After trying in vain to enrol for classes, I eventually decided to teach myself by making YouTube my teacher. Some days, I’m successfully and my treats are bomb AF 😎. Other days, they’re a total disaster. I still hope to take an actual baking class though. 

4. Shopping: It could be for clothes, shoes, books, incense, underwear, or even food. I don’t even know anyone who doesn’t appreciate new things. I especially love it when it’s sales season 💃💃💃. What’s more fun than buying three items for the price of one?

5. Reading: Give me good books and a comfortable bed and I guarantee you won’t see me (Well, except when I get hungry). Books are a source of comfort and entertainment for me. I’m currently reading Efuru by Flora Nwapa. The author’s style is quite different from books I’ve read in recent times but the story is beautiful and very Nigerian. 

Books keep me happy. Period.  

Day 4: List 10 things you would tell your 16 year old self, if you could.

Dear 16 year old Aretha, if there’s ever a time where people can travel through space and time or regenerate, I hope you find my (our) blog and read this.

1. Stop worrying so much about how tall and awkward you are. When you get older, some people are going to think you’re a total babe (and sometimes you don’t even understand why)

2. People are going to misunderstand you and take your kindness for granted often. Be kind anyway.

3. The things you’re most scared about right now don’t even compare to the troubles you’ll face in your 20s. Really.

4. Study harder.

5. Stop being so unsure about everything.

6. Don’t starve yourself to lose weight anymore. Just embrace your double belly and go on occasional health binges.

7. Run away from froggy, shifty boys. You do not, repeat, do not need a boyfriend till… forever. You do not need a boyfriend ever.

8. God. Is. Important. Never forget.

9. Love more. Not just others, but yourself as well. You tend to be less judgemental this way.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Day 2: Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears 

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. – Franklin D. Roosevelt 

We’re all scared of something. Whether it’s snakes or spiders or something a bit more extreme like holes or belly buttons, we all harbour a slight or deep fear for something/someone. Mine change often, and I jubilate when I overcome them. I hope I get to overcome these as well. 

Escalators: Anyone who knows me well or has ever been to the mall with me knows how scared I am of escalators. Hand to God, I’d rather take the stairs to the top of the building than use escalators. Who the fluff invented moving stairs, seriously? It strikes me as something conjured by witches or aliens and is only fit for nightmares. Maybe it’s the bush girl in me; maybe it’s just that I don’t want to die Final Destination style. 

I think I developed this fear from movies or cartoons where people’s dresses get hooked to the moving steps and they just get dragged into the engine and turn into dog mash.

Escalators are the devil. El diablo. 

Failure: Everyone has a fear of failure in my opinion. Everyone. I’m sure that even the world’s greatest geniuses had a hard time with wondering if their craft/work was good enough. I think my fear of failure stems from the fact that I’m really scared to try new things. Even when I try to be more assertive, I get really frightened at the first negative comment/reaction. However, if I don’t take chances, I end up resenting myself and then I spend the rest of the day/week/month asking myself: “Really, what did you have to lose?”

I’m currently working on this fear and I hope that I get to take more chances, be more assertive, and understand that sometimes failure is part of the process.

Death: Truthfully, it’s not the idea of dying that scares me. Everybody dies. Michael Jackson is dead. Death is just like shitting to me. No matter how fly you are, you’ll still shit. You’re never too cute to die either. Death will find you whether you’re Miss Universe or one of the great unknowns in a flooded Lagos street. What scares me about death is the next life: what will I meet in my grave? Did I please God enough before my death? Will I be sentenced to eternal damnation?  The possibilities of what can befall one in the afterlife is what scares me. I hope when the time of my death comes, I would’ve done a few things that would grant me a place among God’s angels.  

Xs and Os