The Chibok Girls – Book Review

On April 14 of 2014, 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria where taken by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram. The Chibok Girls (2017) by Helon Habila is an account of what happened that night and the backdrop of this horrible event. Habila is a Nigerian author and associate professor of creative writing at George Mason University in the US. His works include “Waiting for an Angel” and “Oil on Water”. The fact that the author is Nigerian, who wrote the book whilst/after travelling Nigeria, made the book more credible in my eyes.   

Michelle Obama
Former First Lady of the United States

This book explains the rise of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (The People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) commonly known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram translates to “Western education is abhorrent”. Nigeria is a vast country with a population of about 200 million. The north of Nigeria is majoritarily Muslim whereas the south is predominantly Christian. One of the aims of Boko Haram is to trigger a war between these two religions in Nigeria, as they believe in Jihad, a holy war. Boko Haram believe they are carrying out Gods will, and they seek to establish a Caliphate in Africa. This is an Islamic state and they advocate for a harsher version of Sharia Law. As, I was surprised to find out that “by 2012, all twelve northern states including Kaduna, Niger, and Gombe, all of which have significant Christian populations had declared Sharia as the official state law… Christians were assured that Sharia was just optional and applied only to Muslims.” Therefore, Boko Haram are Islamic fundamentalists with links to Al-Qaeda and ISIS. They have been known to blow up churches and mosques. For them it is not enough to be Muslim, you must be their version of Muslim to be safe from their persecution.                                                                       

Malala Yousafzai, female education activist

In Boko Haram’s rhetoric, there is an element of religious decoloniality. They believe that “whatever came from the West must have Judeo-Christian provenance and so must be rejected in favour of Sharia.” Sharia is the laws stipulated from the Quran, and it is believed that this is how Allah intends his people to live. Therefore, Boko Haram believe that western education and democracy is sinful and blasphemous. To them, “true Islamic reform would require an overturning and overhauling of all institutions of British inspired government.” They particularly hate, the education of girls. As, it is said; “if you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”- African Proverb.

Photo by Andre Hunter

Chibok is a Christian town in a Muslim state of Nigeria, many of the school girls kidnapped are Christian but some were Muslim. When interviewing one of the girls who escaped Boko Haram that night, she says “They called us kafirai [infidels] and said we ought to be married.” I found it so interesting that the terrorist organisation called the girls kafirai, which in South African history is the derogatory word white settlers called Africans, Kafir (non-believers). It’s fascinating how people do horrible things in the name of God.

Personally, I don’t think God cares whether you believe in them or not. If you do believe in God, I think that pleases God but if you don’t, I don’t think that offends God. God is Great, all the time, and doesn’t need our human validation to be satisfied. God isn’t rejoicing that more people have been oppressively converted to worship God through a specific religion.

The kidnapping and raping of young girls is never righteous. And real talk, Boko Haram’s insurgency has nothing to do with God. I think the stealing of the Chibok girls was more of a military tactic than a religious proclamation. In order to declare an Islamic state, separate from the Nigerian State but on Nigerian territory, Boko Haram need a population to occupy that land and fight for their cause, long after its current leaders are dead. I can imagine terrorism doesn’t have a long-life expectancy.

Forcibly taking girls as ‘wives’ is not to please God, but rather to have sex slaves that are easy to control because they are young and will unwillingly bare children of Boko Haram fighters. Some girls escaped, they’re even some who where released due to negotiation with the Nigerian Government but as of today 112 girls remain missing. Some of their parents have had funerals and have asked the government to declare their girl child dead. Some parents have “died of stress-related illnesses like heart failure, stomach ulcers and hypertension.” There is a father who lost his mind, and calls out his daughter’s name convinced she can hear him. Boko Haram have caused so much pain in their campaign for power.

When reading The Chibok Girls, I understood why avid readers say their favourite pastime is to be curled up with a good book. If you enjoy history and politics, you will like this work of non-fiction. Although the subject of this book is heart breaking as we’ll never know if these girls will be found. There is a sense of justice as I felt, now I know a part their story and they won’t be forgotten. By writing this book, Habila immortalises the Chibok girls. Hopefully girls in the liberated future free from toxic masculinity, will read of the Chibok Girls story, as a relic of the oppressive past.    

Girl Boss rating: 4/5

Photo by Iiona Virgin

Children of Blood and Bone (Book Review)

Now, I love books but film is where my heart is really at and I absolutely cannot wait to see the visual re-imagining of this book. The story and the magic therein is so complex and vast that it inspires the most vivid and large-scale images possible. This movie will be the biggest opportunity for Hollywood to search for African talent to cast in a major blockbuster since Black Panther. I mean, the book got a movie deal before it was even published! So you know it’s going to be epic.

This West African story by Tomi Adeyemi follows a young lady named Zelie as she tries to restore magic to her country after the King Saran kills off most of her tribe and bans them from praying to any gods in which he does not believe. Zelie is a diviner (a person of magic ability) and learns to discover what she is truly capable of throughout this journey. She joins efforts with some interesting characters, including her brother Tzain and thePrincess of Orisha, Amari.

Zelie’s memories of the years before King Saran’s genocide of her people describe the beauty of the country before diviners, people of magic ability and believers of the older ways were stripped of their dignity.In the story’s current time they are not only banned from all magical practice but are also seen as second class citizens and discriminated against.

I glanced at the first page of this book before bed, just to get a taste of the writing style and prepare myself to read it gradually thoughout the week. Big mistake. I got no sleep that night because once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. It doesn’t take long to get into the story and it is incredibly fast-paced so its very easy to immediately get hooked. I don’t know if its my love for the fantasy fiction genre or my curiosity about how this fantasy set in Africa was going to unfold, but I could not put this book down.

There’s nothing that makes more sense than this narrative.If there’s any place in the world that’s going to be depicted as a place of ancient wisdom, mystery and magic, it has to be Africa. The deep history of this continent, before its colonial interruption, is filled with stories of higher spirituality, magic and a very direct connection with God that allowed us to heal ourselves with the natural elements around us. This story captures the essence of the untold African narrative that highlights the spirit of a continent who’s magic has been stripped away from its people and it gives life to the voice of the people who want to bring it back.

My favourite character may not be a popular choice but I actually really enjoyed reading Prince Inan’s story because he is the most conflicted character in the book and he is a perfect reflection of the conflict that is taking place in the country. The most inspiring character, though, has to be Princess Amari. We get to see her grow from a very sheltered naïve character into someone who learns to truly believe in herself and her divine purpose. The sibling relationships in this story are so beautiful that I couldn’t help giving my own brother several hugs after reading it.

The plot is very complex and dynamic, with many several stories intertwining with each other, making it an interesting read as you get a chance to see different perspectives of everything that is happening. The main character, Zelie, is an extreme Girl Boss. She is proud of what she is and fights very hard for what she believes in. She strives to protect her family and her people by any means necessary. There is so much love in this story and it really stays with you long after the last page – it made me want more. I’m already very excited for the sequel.

Girl Boss rating: 9/10

BECOMING MICHELLE OBAMA – BOOK REVIEW

by Lebogang Mashasha

Michelle Robinson takes the reader into the intimate walls of her home, Southside of Chicago…all the way to the grand foyer and oval office of the White House, where she; Michelle Obama, served for 8years as the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Not only that, but as the first black lady of the United States.

Becoming is a memoir that feels more like a conversation with Michelle. At times, it felt as though I (the reader) was physically there with her in Euclid Avenue taking piano lessons from Aunt Robbie, juggling student life at Princeton, climbing the corporate ladder as an attorney at or even trying to live a “normal life” with the secret service monitoring her every move in the white house.

I found myself sympathising with her for somewhat feeling guilty for exposing her young daughters to a life of scrutiny they didn’t sign up for. Her dedication to her work, the well-being of her children and husband’s endeavours is worthy of praise. Throughout Becoming, she makes it clear that she was raising her daughters to be strong independent women who would grow up to be self-sufficient.

Since being first lady didn’t carry any“official work requirements” she moulded that position to best suit her. She wanted to actively bring about positive change to others while being FLOTUS.This seen by the various initiatives she started targeted at child nutrition, education and military families. These initiatives were not just hobbies for her and yielded some remarkable results. Through Let’s Move; 11 million learners were becoming physically active in school. 1.5 million jobs were created military members and their families through her partnership with Jill Biden on JoiningForces. Her and Barack’s dedication to educating girls has led them to source billions of dollars to assist in getting girls education.

Becoming is a story of trails and triumphs, fear and faith, adversity and hope all tide beautifully together and presented to us in an honest manner with enough humour to carry the reader through the difficult times in her life. She spoke openly about their struggles to conceive and her miscarriage; as a way to show other women that miscarriages can and do happen to anyone.

What I enjoyed most about Becoming is the reflection of myself I saw in some stages of Michelle’s life. From the girl who didn’t felt out of place in college, to the young adult trying to figure out what her life purpose is. It also gave me a glimpse of life in the white house from the perspective of someone who hated politics but loved her husband enough to endure all that came with the job. Not only that; Becoming shifted my perception about the first family and how “easy” I thought they had it. I treasure my privacy and ability to move about without anyone’s consent even more now. She didn’t remain in the shadows of Barack’s position, but continued working to better the lives of others like she has before; only with a larger audience now.

Her story will resonate with so many people because it is told from a place of honesty. She is inspirational without being preachy in her approach. It is encouraging to read about the story of a strong black woman, told by that very strong black woman. Using her voice and status as an advocate for positive change in the world is a lesson many people in influential positions can learn from. She has given so much of herself to her country and the world, and Becoming is yet another generous offering to us. It makes for a compelling read, with so many gems, that one could read it several times and come out with a new revelation every time.

The title Becoming; is a word in the present, continuous tense which I think was deliberate…becoming is something you are currently doing and will continue to do; it is a journey which has no clearly defined destination.

Michelle, like many of us is still becoming…