Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review: Dear Ijeawele, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions


With 'adulting' in full swing, it is often very difficult to finish a book in one sitting. In fact, I never do it. So I knew I had a good one when I was able to devour this beautiful piece entitled Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions in a single evening. (That, and the fact that it's quite a short read - eighty pages in total).

Dear Ijeawele, a non-fiction literary piece, written in letter form, is from my all-time favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and proves why she continues to hold that prized spot in my heart. In her introduction, Adichie explains that her childhood friend, Ijeawele, asked her 'how to raise her baby girl a feminist', so she decides 'to write her a letter, which she hope[s] would be honest and practical'. And this sets off the tone for the rest of the book.

Aside from the introductory chapters, every chapter thereafter follows an extended piece of advice, clearly detailed with examples and explanations on how Ijeawele should raise her daughter to be a feminist. The first chapter is labelled 'First Suggestion', the second 'Second Suggestion' and so forth, hence the book's subtitle, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. 

The simple belief which guides this book is that boys and girls, and men and women should be treated equally. So in the same way men are not judged by the way they choose to dress themselves is the very same way women shouldn't be either. By the same merit, the sometimes harsh and overambitious expectations we tend to place on our children by virtue of their gender is wrong. So boys should not be told 'to not cry' simply for being a boy, and girls should not be told 'to act ladylike' simply for being a girl. 

Adichie herself writes to Ijeawele with regards to her daughter, 'do not tell her that she should or should not do something because she is a girl. 'Because you are a girl' is never a reason for anything'. My only concern is how difficult enforcing these ideas might be in a conservative society such as Nigeria. (I assume Ijeawele lives in Nigeria). These wonderful ideas might thrive successfully in the vacuum of Ijeawele's household, but what will happen when her daughter goes out into the world and interacts with a patriarchal and misogynistic society?



What I love the most about this book is the sympathetic way the author writes about both men and women. Contrary to what many may think, feminism is not about male bashing and the never-ending hatred and envy of men. It is simply about equality and the fair treatment of both men and women.

I also loved the way Chimamanda weaves storytelling into the text, although it is an essay. This is something she does so well! As an avid reader of African literature, I much enjoyed the memories she shares with her friend from their former years together in Nigeria (Chimamanda now lives in America). It is a characteristic which adds a layer of warmth to the book. I also enjoyed reading names from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, and of Nigerian places such as Lagos and Enugu. 

I am so glad I downloaded this book, which for me is a natural extension of her first essay, We Should all be Feminists. (Book review here). In her fifteen point manifesto, Adichie deals with many themes, from fashion to sex and parenting and self-image. 

A couple of blog posts ago, I included this book in my "to be read" list, so I am happy to have ticked it off.

If you are looking for an intelligent yet heartwarming piece of writing then this is for you. Purchase your copy here today. 


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12 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing. Chimamanda Adichie is a great writer. I don't mind having all her books the problem is me finding time to read them. I have been reading Americanah for close to a year now.

    About Nigerians being conservative, I agree with you, but then I guess the whole idea as a writer is to correct or point out in her own words and hope that the change comes. Even if it is one home at a time.
    This post just encouraged me to read more.

    www.ijefinelivin.com

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    1. I am just amazed at what she is able to do with words, and how she reasons.

      One year! Please try and finish it, you won't regret it.

      I know what you mean, everyone should use their platform to influence change in the issues that concern them the most but I am thinking about how frustrating it might be for the pioneers of that change who will have to work on the minds of people - but yes, one home at a time! Happy reading!

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  2. Finishing an entire book in one evening is definitely a sure sign it's a good read! The various topics she covers in her manifesto sound so appealing - and diverse! I'm not surprised it held your attention until you finished the last page :)

    aglassofice.com
    x

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    1. It was a very good read. I was actually disappointed that it ended so quickly! Thanks Gabrielle. Have a good weekend. X

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  3. looks like a book I'll definitely like to read!!
    Please visit my Blog!

    http://www.alessabernal.com/
    Alessa Bernal

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    1. Hi Alessa. You'll definitely find it entertaining whether you agree with her points or not.

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  4. I just saw 'Feminist'and it caught my eye to jump in here cos I drafted something on it recently that's been bothering me. Feminism is not what people have turned it to be. So much to say but I don't want to leave such a long comment.lol. I know for a fact, this book will be interesting. One of my biggest weaknesses is reading though.(yeah, a blogger who ain't loving books) I am a more visual person. I even shared it on my blog and gave reasons. For some reasons, I'd finish a motivational book at a sitting but storytelling novels etc, I'd rather watch it. Half of a Yellow Sun, still my favorite and moreso because I stumbled into the movie cast in Calabar while I was working there. Mady, the gods were not kind to me. My phone battery was dead and I've never beaten myself so much over a missed chance of taking a selfie like I did with them.lol.
    www.bubusboulevard.com

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    1. Oh really? I really cannot wait to read your take on the issue. I think many have misunderstood what the term feminism means, however as I do not consider myself to be a true feminist (please do not come for me!) it's not something I could speak so much on.
      Everyone has what they enjoy and what tickles them the most. If it is not books, then it ain't books! I am the opposite though, I am not too good with motivational books, but I could get sunk into a good story.
      I loved HOAYS (the book). It was the first one of her books I read.
      That is so cruel of your phone to die at a crucial moment like that! Perhaps one day, you'll meet the woman behind the book. That would be my dream!

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  5. I love how you mentioned Feminism is not about hating men or male bashing. Great review 👍❤️

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. It's important that we have a proper understanding of feminism so that those who call themselves feminists get it right

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