A documentary review of Taxi Sister (2011)

Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!

Today we have a documentary review/critique on a short documentary about Taxi Sisters in Senegal. It is quite the fascinating topic, and I thought I would take on and write up through a narrower feminist lens on the documentary.

Taxi Sister overall shows scenes that correspond and reinforce feminist ideas to do with gender equality and the meaning of playing gender/social roles in specific social contexts: the brief scenes of Boury facing sexism among her male colleagues, “taxi mans”, are good examples to the strength of the inherent patriarchal values in Senegal, where women are still side-lined and deemed as ‘carers’, ‘mothers’ and ‘weak’, all stereotypical characteristics associated with women (Fine, 2010:XV). This is explained by Firestone (through Marxist theory) by the division of labour created originally due to women being “at the continuous mercy of their biology” as well as through capitalist economic incentives (Firestone, 1979). There are also comments by “taxi mans” on how taxi sisters do not have a certified driving license and are unskilled at driving, a comment which Boury refutes, saying she is more than qualified to drive. Paradoxically, the simple fact that Boury can drive and is standing her ground is a characteristic that opposes the comments from her male colleagues. To him, she is not able to drive and stand her ground and be ‘strong’ because she is a woman – the true irony is that she does all these things and more, something that her male colleague would deem as male characteristics that women are unable to have. Even that there is a divide between calling certain characteristics ‘male’ and ‘female’ puts into question whether there is such a clear cut divide of gender roles – as discussed by Fine on the delusion of gender and the separation, historically by science of the ‘male brain’ and the ‘female brain’ as a useful tool for the successful expression of the patriarchy (Fine, 2010:XVIII-XXII).

Another interesting scene shows Boury telling one of her customers how ‘crazy’ she is because she tends to treat her boyfriend casually, and how despite knowing that men are a supplement to her life she thinks she has a problem. The idea of ‘hysteria’ being a woman’s disease has existed for a very long time, unfortunately further privileging men and marginalizing women. When men acted in a strange manner, it was explainable and there were rational reasons for it, whereas when a woman did so, it was related to a woman’s emotional whims and labelled as ‘hysteria’, defined by Devereux as, “‘evidence’ of both the instability of the female mind and the social function of women defined in relation to their reproductive capacity (their ‘wandering’ wombs)” (Devereux, 2014:20). Boury accepts her ‘hysteria’ as being problematic, as stated by her boyfriend. Instead, some contemporary feminists have been appropriating hysteria: “[understanding hysteria] not as a medical condition but a cultural one, an embodied index of forms of oppression”, and appropriating it as a right to behysterical about the causes they fight for (Devereux, 2014:20). Perhaps this is the filmmaker’s way of pointing out the contrast between the emancipatory aspects shown by Boury’s resistance (when it comes to her as a taxi sister in a job sector dominated by men) versus her lack of resistance and perhaps lack of ideological emancipation (when dealing with men in a romantic context).

These scenes all open discussion to the existence of gender roles/gendered characteristics in Senegal and the problem with the existence of a hierarchy between certain roles and characteristics (Fine, 2010:XXII-XXIII). Boury plays certain social roles as well as adhering to specific gender roles depending on the social context, which reinforces the idea that gender is all but a social construct where we ‘act’ roles out. Like actors on a stage, we choose to identify ourselves in specific ways, depending on whether such identification would give us a more comfortable position/situation. This is much in line with Goffman’s idea of gender as a performance as well as Butler’s idea on discourses creating the whole identity of a person’s gender (Goffman, 1979; Butler, 1990). Boury, at work in her taxi, comments on the horrible driving that the male drivers do and talks about the right for women to work the jobs they want to – she puts on her act, her social role as the ‘female taxi driver’, marginalized yet proud about her career. This contrasts the last scene where Boury is at home and takes care of her siblings, and shares a more emotional scene with the audience (a social role she would probably not portray otherwise), where she discusses the difficulties she feels as a working woman.

The two different roles that Boury plays show an interesting contrast, as Boury faces difficulties both at work and at home. In various families in the 19th century (and still today), men did not do the housework, which lessened the load and pressure that men faced when they came home. The home became an area for relaxation and de-stressing, a contrast to work, which tended to be associated with stress and fatigue. On the other hand, for women, there tended to be more societal pressure related to taking care of children and doing housework when home, which meant that for women, the private and public sphere were not very different; there was no space for relaxation (Fuchs, Thompson, 2005:65-68). This suggests that whereas men’s public and private roles/spheres were very different, for women, their role at work and at home tended to be very similar as society had higher demands for working women than men: working women needed to not only maintain their level of hard work in the public sphere, but also in the private sphere. Even though in our current day this is not always the case, the scenario where both parents work for financial reasons and the mother still acts as the carer for the children/home still happens (Dhanabhakyam, Malarvizhi, 2014:47-48). Boury in that regard faces similar challenges as the new rising working-class women, in that,

“…in the case of employed women, a new additional role is added to her existing role as house wife and mother (…) She is subject to plurality of role expectations, which are mutually incompatible (…) This may lead to role interference, until equilibrium is resorted between different role expectations to which she is subjected (…) Due to this kind of tie-up working women have lot of responsibility to take care of their family members and also participate in family rituals.” (Dhanabhakyam, Malarvizhi, 2014:48).

On the other hand, what the filmmaker does not show in the movie or perhaps, fails to show is important to discuss as well. Although Boury is a working-class woman, oppressed by various intersections, the fact that Boury is able to be a taxi sister and have a cab is a statement. An interesting fact concerning the emergence of taxi sisters was not shown in the movie, discussed by Israel-Trummel: the fact is, taxi sisters were implemented as a government incentive in Senegal to encourage ending poverty and unemployment by providing jobs for women (Israel-Trummel, 2007:10-11). Through advertisement on newspapers, Senegalese women were able to apply for jobs as taxi sisters, and were provided with cabs by the government (in collaboration with Espace Auto, a vehicle company). Although the advertisement did say they would not consider education as criteria for being recruited, the fact that the advertisement was on the newspaper shows that whoever would be able to work the job in the first place would have to be literate (only 29.2% of women in Senegal are literate) and able to read and write French (Israel-Trummel, 2007:25). A driver’s licence was also a prerequisite to recruitment. Israel-Trummel’s research also suggests most of the women recruited had been educated to a certain extent and came from stable backgrounds (Israel-Trummel, 2007:18-21). Whilst taxi sisters might be facing systematic oppression in a job market that is mainly orientated towards men, they nevertheless represent a more advantaged group of people in Senegal. Exemplifying gender issues in Senegal by reference to e.g. taxi sisters could be dangerous as it narrows the scope and disregards the notion of intersectionality with regards to women in Senegal that do not even have access to applying. Nash points out the danger of viewing women that have similar characteristics as a “unitary and monolithic entity” (Nash, 2008:8) – although taxi sisters may be oppressed and treated unequally with regards to gender inequality, whether they have an equally disadvantageous position with regards to class, education, language, age, etc. is an important question to ask (Nash, 2008:9-10).

Taxi Sister makes important points with regards to gender inequality, norms, as well as roles, the patriarchy, the public versus the private spheres and the division of labour through Boury’s everyday experiences as a taxi sister in Senegal. Although these points are well demonstrated, one must not forget that what is shown in the movie or rather, not shown can be a very selective process and miss out on discussions, in this case regarding intersectionality, levels of oppression and group the Senegalese women into a lump as opposed to considering their personal stories, experiences and situations, an important aspect to feminist debates. While the movie did show important debates about feminism, its failure at dealing with intersectionality and Senegal as a whole could be seen as a significant weakness.

Drive on safely and seriously,

Meena.

Sources

  • Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York: Routledge
  • Devereux, C. (2014) ‘Hysteria, Feminism, and Gender Revisited – The Case of the Second Wave’, ESC: English Studies in Canada, 40(1): pp. 19-45
  • Dhanabhakyam, M., Malarvizhi, J. (2014) ‘Work-Family Conflict and Work Stress among Married Working Women In Public and Private Sector Organizations’, International Research Journal of Business and Management, 7(10): pp. 46-52
  • Fine, C. (2010) “Introduction” from Delusions of gender: the real science behind sex differences, London, Icon Books: pp. xv-xxix
  • Firestone, S. (1979) The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Fuchs, R., Thompson, V.E. (2004) “Working for Wages” from Women in Nineteenth-Century Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan: pp. 61-84
  • Goffman, E. (1979) Gender Advertisements, London: HarperCollins
  • Israel-Trummel, M. (2007) ‘Unemployment, Women, and Taxis: A Study of the Taxi-Sister Program in its Test Phase’, Senegal: Arts and Culture, SIT Study Abroad, available at: SIT Digital Collections, Donald B. Watt Library & Information Commons
  • Nash, J.C. (2008) ‘Re-thinking Intersectionality’, Feminist Review, 89: pp. 1-15

Series recommendation #1: ‘Daria’, with feminism, the 90s, high school and Sick Sad World

Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!

Today I would like to talk about one of my all time favourite shows, Daria. For a show that was a relative hit in the United States where it originally aired, Daria was not as popular of a show here in Europe. It aired on some late night MTV slots in the early 2000s, but other than that period of time, I have never been able to find this show on any streaming service. Which, honestly is the saddest thing ever. Daria is an amazing show, with an amazing main character. She’s the badass, unapologetic high school nerd that we have all wanted to be: witty, sarcastic, and smart, she is quite the pioneer for her time (the 90s) and dare I say, a witchy feminist.

Watching Daria as a teenager, I learned that it was okay to be nerdy, and that there was nothing shameful about being smart and outspoken. She gave me the courage and the voice as a woman to read what I wanted to, speak of it, and question out loud the emptiness of popularity and the difficulties tied with personal development and identity at high school. She was also however, a teenager with her own insecurities which also made her incredibly relatable (e.g. all the times she’s shy and embarrassed around Trent, her crush and the times when she questions whether she really is that comfortable in her sarcastic high school hating skin), making her just a really intelligent, resourceful woman, a female character that we rarely saw on screen in the 90s, even in the early 2000s.

Daria really stood out for its time, considering shows like Friends and Seinfeld were being aired in parallel, covering little or none of the rich themes and topics that Daria did. Let’s be real, Chandler would have been an amazing gay man with a fun queer parent if the writers didn’t just leave him to be a straight white man in love with Monica (after they get married that seems to be pretty much all that defines him and that is left of his character development, which is such a bummer) – not to mention the awkwardness of the extremely queerphobic jokes they make about his parent. The 90s really weren’t a great decade for representation on the screen (where was the diversity? Accurate representation?) – and female representation that happened to be on screens was often extremely sexist and stereotyped. Taking this into consideration, watching Daria today, you realise how well the show has aged compared to old hits like Friends.

The best part about Daria is not only the main character, but also the secondary characters that were given a lot more character development and spotlight than secondary characters tend to be given in mainstream media. First, Daria’s best friend Jane, a creative spirit with all the alternative funk you dreamed of seeing in a woman: Jane spends most of her time with Daria making snazzy social commentary on high school life, watching their favourite trashy TV programme ‘Sick Sad World’ and eating copious amounts of pizza. Their friendship involves a good balance of creativity/free spiritedness and cynicism/sarcasm: Jane keeps Daria in check by making sure she’s still having fun and enjoying herself, taking her out to social events and making good chat. Daria keeps Jane thinking and reflecting on particular conversation topics that Daria may have an interesting take on, and more widely on morality and Daria’s notion of what Daria thinks should be. It’s the friendship that we all dream of – in some ways. They give to each other what they lack in themselves/what they seek, which honestly is the basis of any healthy relationship. Their friendship is strongest when they collaborate and mix crazy art with critical thought, something we can see during a few occasions when they collaborate on school projects.

Then there’s Jodie. My there is so much to say about her. And her amazing chemistry with Daria. Jodie represents Black Girl Magic to the max – even before this expression was established! She is one of the smarter students at school, similar to Daria, with an extra layer of intersectional identity which we all love and admire. Fearless, brave and outspoken, Jodie is one of the best characters in the show. On one of her more famous moments (have a look at the screenshot below), she speaks with Daria about the reason for which she keeps her ‘public’ image and attitude a ‘socially acceptable’ level of pleasant, explaining that she not only feels pressure from her parents, but also a generally larger pressure from her peers. She tries her best to maintain her image as Jodie, a role model not only for teenage girls but more specifically for young black women. Her statement is extremely poignant on how WOC (women of colour) constantly feel social pressure to impress, not only because we are women, but also having a racial component added to our identities. WOC are often invisible, not only in mainstream media, but also in the way the world views our societies and construct them – and when we do happen to be visible it is always within the lens of certain racial stereotypes mixed with the stereotypes that exist because we happen to be women. It is a complicated position to maintain, as we do not want to be trapped within that narrow vision and want to show that our identity can exist in many fluid, passionate forms; creating also a certain level of pressure to ‘maintain face’. Any false move, and small mistaken and a tumbling amount of stereotypes and accusations on how we are the way we are because we are women, especially WOC can come so quickly, contrary to all the time and effort it may take to build a positive image. Then on the other hand, no matter how much effort and hard work we put in, we seem to always be seen as the WOC, not simply just another woman. Hence the idea of the ‘token POC’. It’s tough, and is somewhat an eternal struggle – which Jodie in Daria seems to understand, and expresses in her own way throughout the show.

The other characters on the show are also extremely interesting. Many of them may seem empty headed and superficial on the surface (and some of them are) but turn out to have deeper levels in their own ways. Even characters like Daria’s sister Quinn, and her friend, Stacy have moments of self-reflection and revelations on what may be the more critical issues in life – and are shown bonding with other characters that may not belong to their shallow group of friends they initially exclusively stick with. Ultimately the show real puts forward the idea that a character does not have to simply be one side of a coin, one way, and that they are more like prisms perhaps, shining different colours and sides of themselves depending on the situation.

Other than the amazing characters and the themes the show touches upon, Daria holds plenty of references to pop culture, witty social commentary and raises questions not only on high school life but also on adulthood, which we have a peek into with Daria’s parents as well as the adults at Laundale High (the high school Daria and her friends attend). It just is overall a very well rounded show.

If I had to point out one disappointment, it was the last story arc in the series where Daria gets her first boyfriend. I won’t get into too much detail as it may be a spoiler, however, I will always hold the opinion that the way she starts dating him is completely out of character, super unfeminist. They also do not really suit each other in terms of personality and mentality, but well, that’s just my two cents. Perhaps I am just disappointed that such a badass female would fall for someone so… Plain and boring. Especially after her crush on free spirited Trent (ooh shade). I guess the writers of the show are the only ones that would be able to explain this decision – however, whatever the case, Daria will always be Daria in my heart.

For satire, dark humour, clever social commentary and more, go watch Daria, now!

“Only today, on ‘Sick Sad World’.”

Na na naaaaa na na,

Meena.

Information on our posting schedule and our types of monthly recurring posts

Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!

Just here today writing up a quick news update on our posting schedule here on the Talking Egg. You’ll find this in our ‘What is the Talking Egg?’ segment as well, however it is always handy to make an official announcement for these things. As mentioned in our first post, we post every week on Sundays, CEST. However, we did not mention the different types of monthly recurring posts, i.e. types of posts that you can look forward to every month! One has already been out and hot on our blog, and that is our monthly Intersectional book club with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Without further ado, here is a list of the monthly recurring posts that all of you will be able to look forward to:

Intersectional book club: as its name indicates, with this book club, we intend to introduce authors that are from countries that are heard very little from, that have identities that may be intersectional and fascinating, that touch upon topics that are not necessarily considered mainstream. This of course does not mean that we won’t mention the occasional, popular, classic favourite if they deserve a shoutout that month, with an amazing bestseller that deserves reviewing. It just means that our main goal is to give a shoutout to authors that may not be as known as your average Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling.

Poetry spotlight: with this, a new poem will be introduced monthly, that is by a non English-speaking author. We hope to spread wonderful poetry that has yet to be translated (or does not have many different translations), by introducing you to the poem, its translation (that we will be doing), the author and a short analysis on what we think of the poem. Let’s give these amazing poets the publicity they deserve, and let their work be understood and enjoyed outside of their own country!

Movie/series recommendation: as the title indicates, a classic form of recommendation, either of a movie or a series. Knowing what the Talking Egg is like, however, you can probably anticipate that it’ll be recommendations that go along the lines of feminism, LGBTQ+ themes, sometimes out of the box of Western normative productions (e.g. next month’s might just be on an Iranian movie).

Other monthly and possibly weekly recurring post formats and types will eventually come, as you can guess with our multiple ‘coming soon’ themes in our blog posts segment – but do not worry, everything will be revealed and come about with time. And of course, we will keep you up to date with another news post when there are new updates!

Love and moon prism power,

Meena.

Our first post! Welcome to the Talking Egg.

Hello earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!

This is Meena, writing our first ever post on the blog. And yes, the Talking Egg involves two of us! That’s myself, Meena and my co-writer, co-founder and close friend, Lena. We will be the main writers you will see writing on this very website, however there will also be other writers that will share their fun stories.

Now, most of you must be confused and wondering, ‘what in the world is this random blog that is pretending that we have been friends for decades?’ My answer to that (standoffish) question is, if you do continue to follow the blog and enjoy what we have to write, we will be friends, so do not be a stranger! The internet is a fun playground for all of us, and the more the merrier.

Without further ado (and as a way to break the ice), let me introduce you to us, the project and its goals ahead.

Who are we?

We are two girls. That love writing. And reading. Check out ‘About us’ for more details on what we love… However, we will keep it on the low on who we really are. Makes things more interesting.

So what is the Talking Egg?

Now, you will see there is a segment in our blog that will explain this as well, but we will also be saying it again here, as it is our first post, and it is always pleasant to get off on the right foot with these things. The Talking Egg is a collaboration between Lena and myself (Meena), two strong writers and academic nerds at heart. The project came to be when we were talking on the phone (long distance friendships, am I right?) and discussing how there seem to be numerous platforms with many followers that do not seem to really discuss what we consider intellectually interesting. There are of course, also plenty of resources on the internet that we follow and enjoy learning from, however those just do not seem to be getting the spotlight and attention they deserve. Feeling a bit down about the status quo, we thought, ‘why not create that space ourselves?’ A space where we can be smart, proud and loud women, feminists, WOC (women of colour for those that do not know) and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Other stories of course emerge from having such a mixed intersectional identity, such as stories of immigration, class struggles, questions on sexuality, our relationship to the world… As well as simpler stories on what it is to be who one is. Regardless of the background from which one comes from. Simply, me.

We all know sometimes our given identities can overshadow other aspects of ourselves, sides we would like to show the world. That is what the Talking Egg strives towards. Giving people a space to share a slice of themselves, without being ashamed of who they are, what they believe in, or what they want to become. In this manner, the Talking Egg strives to become a platform as well as a safe place, not just for us but also for other similar (academic) nerds that have a strong calling for expressing their own interests and views, whether it be about cultural things such as books and cinema, or opinion pieces on the current state of our political and social structures.

You have probably already guessed, but this means it will not just be Lena and myself writing, but other guest writers! Friends, family, community members, sometimes, even strangers that we relate to. All sorts of identities and stories mixed into the melting pot that is the Talking Egg. Doesn’t that sound like good fun?

Now last thing, as I’m sure you are tired of ‘reading’ from me. We will be posting weekly, updates on Sunday CEST as we are based in Europe (try to guess where we are both at), a post from myself and a post from my dearest Lena.

I promise it’ll be all fun, if not fun, interesting for sure. And it does not hurt anyone to follow us, just click on the ‘subscribe’ button below to get our updates. If you want to support our project and are interested, follow us on our social media handles (Twitter, Instagram, Medium, Reddit), we post every once in a while, and again, I promise there will only be fun, if not fun, interesting things to see.

And of course, if you have any suggestions on what you would want us to write about/who we could invite to write here, no problem, give us a small email or write us a comment down below.

Love,

Meena (and Lena!)

Intersectional book club #1: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive. And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.”

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!

Our first monthly intersectional book club recommendation is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a book I recommended Lena years ago and bonded over with her on. It is a book I think connected for both of us on many levels, and now Lena is a bigger fan of Adichie than I am, having now read more of her works than I have!

Americanah is originally a book I found out about after reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, a masterpiece in its own right (definitely worth checking out as well!) Finding out that among Achebe’s fellow Nigerian authors was Adichie, and that she was a female Nigerian author, I felt compelled to read her works; and the first one I laid my hands on was this gem. Great thanks to whatever deity out there, because it really deserves to be read inside out.

The book follows the stories of two people, Ifemelu and Obinze, young Nigerians that meet in high school and date throughout their high school years. After finishing school, both Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s paths lead to immigration to the West: Ifemelu to the United States, and Obinze to the United Kingdom. Stories unfold on how they manage to integrate (and how they do not manage to do so), on the challenges they face in these countries as Nigerians with little means.

Americanah is however, not only a story of the experiences of a black woman in the United States and a black man in the United Kingdom, but also more concretely, a story of immigration and a vision of the problems underlying both countries’ reluctance towards it. For example, Ifemelu constantly distinguishes herself from her African American counterparts, that share the same skin colour as her, that however, have a different ancestral history and vision of identity (also known as the difference between an African American and an American African). She then goes on to clarify that white Americans do not see the difference between these two identities.

“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”

We can understand Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s challenges not only as those linked to their skin colour (issues of racism, systemic discrimination, difficulty of telling POC apart) but also as those linked to where they come from. Issues of immigration within the United States and the United Kingdom, such as paperwork, financial trouble, lack of stability hit them hard, but also simply, homesickness and lack of relatability in their new surroundings. Although not always, at times, both Ifemelu and Obinze miss being from a country where everyone else looks like them and speaks like them, where food is familiar and the neighbourhoods too. It is the intersection of the issues of skin colour but also of legal status in the new country. Not the best of both worlds.

Not only does Adichie cover their experiences in the West, she turns the story on its head to show another perspective, by having them return to their motherland, Nigeria. Their experiences in Nigeria then, become those of a returning national, which also contains its own set of issues: family pressures, cultural pressures, as well as generational gaps really become a story in itself.

As an immigrant living in the West myself, I empathised strongly with Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s experiences in the West as well as their experiences as a returning national. Living in the West, you are never really considered an individual. You transform into what seems to be another drop in a massive ocean that is your skin colour – which is terribly ironic, because the West in so many ways has abandoned community living for individualism (more on this in a different blog post). Individualism only applies of course, to those with white skin that are considered ‘real locals’. It does not matter how or when you became a person that exists in the West. Whether it be that you are a third-generation local with non-white skin, or if you’ve recently immigrated with non-white skin, as long as you both seem to be ethnically similar, you are the same. Suddenly massive continents like Africa and Asia just become blurry places where everyone has more or less similar backwards cultures with some ‘interesting spiritual stuff’. Speaking various languages becomes something that is fascinating (‘I love Asian languages’, ‘I’ve watched so much anime, love Japanese culture… Are you Japanese too?’), but strangely, not very appealing to recruiters because it happens to be that you’re expected to speak many languages as a foreigner (‘you don’t speak other European languages? Pity’). Those that make it get to have an individual position in society, however, only because they were chosen to be there, and allowed to be there. They become the token, ‘we have diversity, we have person X that does this in our society’, person. It’s a story all too familiar and disconcerting, reminding us of the invisible realities of many invisible people that only become visible at the most inconvenient times (‘all Middle-Eastern people are terrorists’, ‘black men are drug dealers’).

“You read American fiction to learn about dysfunctional white folk doing things that are weird to normal white folks.”

As for the experience of being a returning national, the experiences that echoed the most for me were the gaps between the older and newer generations, the misunderstandings that continue between those two sides as well as the feeling of somehow ‘owing’ something to one’s (immigrant) parents (back home) for any personal successes. Not to mention the constant inner negotiation between your identity as a permanent immigrant in the West and a visitor in your own country. Having left for a long time, you no longer see things the same way people in your country do. Nor do you experience them in the same way. Suddenly things that were so normal seem questionable, and family that you missed quickly become your source of stress (‘when will you get married?’). All these things hit me quite deeply on a personal level.

“Those plates, with their amateur finishing, the slight lumpiness of the edges, would never be shown in the presence of guests in Nigeria. He still was not sure whether Emenike had become a person who believed that something was beautiful because it was handmade by poor people in a foreign country, or whether he had simply learned to pretend so.”

And that was my two cents on Americanah.

Have I convinced you? Do you want to read about Ifemelu and Obinze?

You now have a month to get this book and read it, it is available on Kindle as well for those who want to save a few coins and trees. See you next month for the next intersectional book club meeting!

Read on,

Meena.