Return of the Birds

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Too many bird in Hyde Park, London. Photo taken by me.

We have been on bad terms since that morning my dad took me and my sister to Trafalgar Square. If it was not for my sister’s unreasonable love for the outdoors and my dad’s urge to please her, I would not have been there among conspiring pigeons and seagulls. Damn you. I held an ice cream swirl (magnificent it was, vanilla flavor with an extra helping of sprinkles and a chocolate flake I always saved for last) on the cusp of my lips. I could just about taste it’s sweetness and god was it good, the best sex a child could ever know – then you swept in to take it from me. Vile thing, weren’t those pellets in my chubby cupped hand enough?
I’ll admit, I hated you back then. I did not see you for what you were; a creature that hungered for more (and you would get it). One that strived for the sweet stuff, not the stale pellets we wanted to feed you. I suppose we’re alike in that way.
I will continue to run away unabashed when I catch you looking at me sidelong ready to snatch the next treat out of my hand. But, I can appreciate that we all need a dose of the sweeter things in life.

Learning Curve

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Neon lights in the desert. Joshua Tree, California.

My mum stood in the kitchen like she often did and asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. Being from a second generation Nigerian and Congolese household I knew this was a loaded question. Feet barely touching the ground, my seven year old self sat in a chair with a mouth lacking teeth but full of cheerios, my hair struggling to stay bound in a pony tail. “A farmer!” I said, the idea had been brewing in my mind for some time now and the words were enough to make me beam a toothless smile. But “farmer” was not the correct answer – who knew that when it came to choosing a career profit is more desirable than happiness. “Farmers have to clean up animal poop all day – think of something else.” she said. These harmlessly destructive words left me questioning what that “something else” might be.

I have been in school for years trying to find this out, and finally I have learned that my happiness does not look like large pay checks coupled with even larger student loans. It looks like pen to paper, writer to reader, joint to mouth.

That day in the kitchen was the last time I made a choice based purely out of love; all I knew was animals were great and that was enough. Today I make that choice again, to do what I love despite doubt and overwhelming fear.
So now when I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up I respond, this time with a mouth full of smoke, whatever the fuck I want to be.

Currently Reading: Feminist Essays, Moral Narrative, and Peculiar Classics

It has been two weeks since I moved into my new apartment and I’m still hauling books in and discovering ones I forgot I owned. It feels like Christmas all too often! I have two copies of Rendezvous With Rama and I don’t feel bad about it. I have accumulated a ridiculous amount of John Grisham books from used bookstores that they are all too common in. I have only half read one of his books before losing it and not bothering to buy another copy, yet my bookshelf looks like I am his number one fan. Having my fill of legal thrillers I removed him and all other used bookstore staples (Sidney Sheldon, Jodi Picoult, etc) that cluttered my bookshelf and went on a search for new reads. With suggestions from The Millions Most Anticipated 2014 list and a deliciously long list my creative writing professor handed out (my mouth bursts into spontaneous salivation every time I look at it) I searched for books that interested me and decided to get fiction, nonfiction, and classic literature.

I have been on a Chimamanda Adichie binge lately after my mother in law forwarded her Single Story TED Talk. After adding Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun to my goodreads ‘to read’ list I went on a hunt for more recent feminist literature. There was something curious about the search, nonfiction and female authors are far and few between on my shelf so after coming across Bad Feminist and having an all too real connection with the title I hit “add to cart” and wondered how amazon could expect any reasonable human being to wait 48 hours for such a good book. Then I was prompted by a “start reading now” button…

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay 

Within the first twenty pages of these essays I had to put the book down and find out more about Roxane Gay- I looked for her blog, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and interviews. She lives, breathes, and writes too much truth. As a woman. A black woman. A black woman with parents born in a third world country. And, of course, as a writer. She does not strive to fall within societal lines and simply put, she kicks ass because of it. These essays use humor to boldly address topics people sidestep: feminism, privilege (the fact that we all possess some form of it), and politics. She also talks about being an unconventional professor and the awkwardness that ensues when her students come to talk to her about her mostly sexual writing. In these essays Roxane takes an in depth look at how the things we consume greatly effect our culture and the rest of the world. All with a voice of wit and “I’m not entirely sure what I am doing here.”

And she has fiction too!

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. This was my pick for a classic read, suggested by my professor and good god was I not ready for it. Most are familiar with the story even if they have never read it: A man named Humbert spends the pages obsessing over twelve year old Lolita, and after he marries her mother to get closer to her he and Lolita become sexually involved.

Yes, almost every page goes by and you think “No… this couldn’t possibly. Is this really what the story is about?“, but it is and you keep on reading. And you read and read and hate yourself for enjoying the book so much despite it’s horrific subject matter and narrator. I love the narrator because he is hilarious and unreliable, I hate him because of everything else. Recently I have been learning that good literature is supposed to make you uncomfortable. So I take that to mean that as a writer I cannot afford to be afraid of feeling discomfort or causing that feeling with my writing, especially when what a lot of us write about are real emotions and people. Sometimes hilariously shitty ones.

The Children Act, Ian McEwan

Named after the Children Act of 1989 this book centers on Fiona Maye, a high court judge who is pulled in to rule on a controversial case. Seventeen year old Adam refuses to get life saving treatment to fight leukemia because of religious reasons and his parents believe the same. Weighed down by a haggard marriage and personal strife Fiona speaks to Adam and makes a choice that will change both of their lives. I had a particular interest in this book because I work in a setting where I often have to deal with requests that border on ridiculous/dangerous because of personal beliefs or preference (or ignorance), so I was curious to read what take this book has on the matter.

Have you ever seen a grown woman run to the mail box first thing on a Tuesday morning, unbathed and ravenously opening a parcel of books from Amazon?

I’m really looking forward to finishing these books, so far I have not been disappointed. Have you read any of these, what did you think?