Book of the Month: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Hello folks and welcome to another juicy book of the month post. Let me start by saying I loooveeee this book. It's so rare for something to live up to its hype the way this book does. 





His Only Wife, a debut novel by Peace Adzo Medie, is about a young seamstress, Afi, in Ghana who has been convinced by  her mother to marry a man she does not know. Except it's Elikem Ganyo, a wealthy businessman whose equally wealthy mother chose Afi for him as a wife in the hopes that she distracts him from his relationship with another woman who his family claims is inappropriate. Afi's marriage takes her from her village (town?) of Ho to Accra, Ghana's capital with all the wealth and sophistication Afi never even dared dream of. On the very first page, we learn that the man Afi has married did not show up for the wedding. Bloop bloop.  


And so we journey alongside Afi and her mother as they experience this new modern life with all that come with it. We grow with Afi and evolve with her and watch her be brave, daring, inspiring assertive in all the ways neither we nor all the people around her could imagine. This book is fun, gripping, entertaining, and extremely authentic. What makes this a marvel is that you could never have guessed how it would end. 


I have said this about a lot of Books of the Month (and I always mean it!): this was not a book I wanted to put down. I did not want it to end. This is definitely a must-read in a lot of ways. Every single character in this book is strong, and well developed, and well thought out. It's why you feel them through the pages of this book. It was no surprise at all to learn that this book has been optioned as a movie. If I had to use just one word to describe this book, it would be entertaining. 


It's so good that I am going to actually purchase it even though I made a rule to stop buying books and to only borrow from the library. I do think this book is worth breaking that rule. The only other one worthy was the last book of the month.  


I wrote on Instagram that in so many ways, for us, for our daughters, this book is a reminder that we always, always deserve the best and should never settle for someone's second choice. I can't wait to see the movie. The book depicts what it means to be a woman in this world we inhabit. Although you and I may not be subject to some of the same ordeal Afi was because of our privilege as educated,  modern women in perhaps more enlightened communities; underneath all that, we really all experience very similar  BS as women in today's society. It's a beautiful sociological perspective of women, of family, of marriage, of the intersection of all that in Africa, but more importantly, how women almost always fall on the short end of that stick whether they are Muna or Afi or Evelyn. My favorite description of this phenomenon comes from TwoNightStands:


"Some women end up being the pillars of the patriarchal society that has oppressed them, some women discover that they can rise above it and define their own paths and some decide to just go with the flow and take the little wins wherever they can get them.


This book explores themes of class, gender, love, black tax (all very serious issues) in a way that is not too overpowering or obnoxious. A gem of a debut, indeed. All of this plus the author is an academic? Color me impressed!  I don't know why the publisher or Americans would describe this as the "Crazy Rich Asians" for Africa because it's not really. I think that's falling prey to the idea that everything has to be couched in a way certain audiences (cough Americans cough) understand. Africa's Beyonce; Nigeria's Hollywood yen yen yen. Sometimes, things are just that and don't have to be morphed into something else to be understood. 


I found myself learning a lot from Afi; learning to defeat fear; learning to stick to my guns when I know what's right for me; and of course confirming what I have always said, that in this life, if you are silent about your pain, if you bend your back and allow people to continue to oppress you, they will not only destroy you, they will say you enjoyed it. It reminds me of this famous quote by Zora Neale Hurston:


If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”


I learned more about fear, which can be quite an interesting thing. The minute you decide to stop being so afraid of things, people, so much can open up. So so much. In some sense, this book was in fact a story of grit, hard-work, and perseverance. 


Have I mentioned the authenticity? I'm not even Ghanian but the way she describes the aunties, the uncles, family dynamics, was so real. I recognized Toga Pious, Aunty G, Aunty Sarah, Yaya. This is not knowledge you dream up or imagine, it's intrinsic. It's also knowledge you have to be willing to wield to get right; you have to not bother about neatly couching it for a particular audience to understand. 


In the manner of critiques, I don't have much. I will say I have read online about some people critiquing some of the sub plot because it led to nowhere. I think that's the beauty of storytelling and art. Everything does not have to be beautifully wrapped up in a bow. Speaking of storytelling, the art of the craft is on full display in this book.


All of this to say you must/should absolutely read this book because I know you'll love it or at the very least enjoy it.


That's it folks. See you next month.


Love,


I

Friday Reflections

 1.) Hello and welcome, welcome, welcome.







2.) People keep flocking to this blog for two reasons: this post about Kofi Awoonor from 8(!) years ago and this post about lessons on life and grief from Grey's Anatomy, of all things. It is very interesting because they are so old but also my writing style and topic have evolved significantly from that (or okay, just from the former. I still write things like the latter pretty frequently). What to do about it?


3) That's bound to happen if you've been blogging for so long. 


4.) There is a Medium page for the blog, which is admittedly not too far off from the blog. But hey, it's a writing platform. And I write.


5.) From Prison to Ph.D: the fascinating story of a woman determined to change her life even though society is not willing to let her. That's an old story that I'm bumping up because I recently attended a small event she was invited to speak. This is one of those complexities that require nuance so let me know what you think. 


6.) In thinking about two women who have had to grief publicly, Lauren London and Vanessa Bryant, this brilliant piece explains why their worth should not be determined by their proximity to the incredibly famous men they were partnered with—Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant; two giants whose untimely deaths continue to be tragic. 


7.) I just found out the legendary Jane Fonda has a Blog (!!!!) anyway, here's an old post about her post-election thoughts.


8.) Scott Galloway, on recasting American individualism and institutions. Americans are among the most selfish people on this planet and this pandemic continues to reinforce that. But then again, there might be some foreign place with even more selfish people. 


9.) The three biggest  regrets people have at the end of their lives. 


10.) Juicy, meaty topics today, huh? Have a great weekend and watch out next week for either a post on food or book of the month. Heyy, look, we are getting fed one way or another haha.





International Women's Day 2021

I recently [virtually] attended an event where Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Julia Gillard had spoken. They wrote a book about women leaders all over the world and what is different for them. Fantastic idea behind the book. But anyway, they both emphasized the double standards women are often held up to and judged by. Particularly important is women’s appearance, both literally and figuratively. Literally, as in, what are we wearing? Is our hair too big? Do we have make up? Do we not? Also figuratively,  as in are we smiling enough? Are we likable? Are we warm? Are we nasty? Are we too emotional? Or too stern? Are we maternal? Or too independent?






I don’t know the solution to solving gender inequality. I do know though that every single one of us has a role to play in this fight. The world is better when both men and women participate in a world that both men and women inhabit. And such a fight must be inclusive; it must be intersectional; it must understand that although to be a woman is challenging in this world, to be a black woman is even more challenging. To be a black woman is to be termed aggressive when you dare speak up for yourself. To be a black woman is to have the media of an entire country including the twerp that is piers morgan harass you consistently for years and be expected to take it all in good grace. To be a black woman is to be called nasty. Yet, to be a black woman is to be expected to be everyone’s savior. It’s exhausting.



What is also exhausting in slow progress in this regard. I think it’s why more than ever when on just one day of the year—March 8—I see all these platitudes, I find myself getting irritated. Everyone is affirming nice things about women today but what happens tomorrow? What happens when you walk into your boardroom or executive meetings, and there is not a single woman? What happens when you silence and visibly disrespect the voice of women on your team? What happens when you as a doctor continue to gaslight and ignore your women patients and their accompanying pain? What happens when you see a woman being consistently harassed whether at work or all over social media and you choose to willingly ignore? What happens when you lowball a woman and pay her less than her counterparts even when she deserves more? What happens when women run for office and are called shrill, nasty, unlikeable? What happens when women are termed hysterical?


I leave you with these important questions to ponder. This year, #choosetochallenge yourself to do better by women in your life, at work, and in every space your occupy. Institutions need to be reformed but more often than not, there’s work to be done in the hearts of people. I continue to, on this blog and where I can, challenge tropes that have wielded the bible as their weapon to oppress them. 


Let me be clear, IWD is not about being nice to women or remind us how “strong we are”; or how we should be “revered”; or about emphasizing all the super accomplished women leaders championing important causes; or the few that are Fortune 500 CEOs. Please. It’s not that those things are not nice. But even women who are not badass prime ministers or superstar creatives  deserve worth and value. Ordinary, everyday women deserve worth and value. 



In fact, your favorite bad ass “girl boss” who crawled her way to the boardroom of a fortune 500 company might have internalized misogyny so much she thinks there is only room for one of her and therefore becomes openly hostile to other women. We must call out such vitriol. That's why I don’t believe in the feminism that says women must be nice to all women. I don’t owe all women my niceness. As a matter of fact, I despise some women and there's nothing you can do about it. I still think they should be treated equally as men. I just hate how they contribute to misogyny and how they deliberately hinder other women from greatness. This is also why more than filling your office spaces with the XX chromosome, enact policies that benefit women: have good healthcare; fund scientific research that reduce the occurrence of female cancers or just I don't know figure out basic ish that cripple women?; have generous maternity leave policies that allow women to progress at work while doing the noble job of populating our society (through childbirth); establish transparent pay practices; protect women from sexual harassment, and when there are allegations, don’t gaslight them into silence.


Paving to road to more equality is not rocket science. Some oppressors just have a vested interest in the status quo. This year #choosetochallenge them.


I will leave you with IWD posts from previous years: 2020. 2019. 2018. 2017. 2016. 2015.


Selah.


And yes, yes, it was my birthday yesterday. It was great in so many ways.  And I'm really happy to be a year older.  



Love,



I



Demanding Accountability From Pastors and ... Tackling Greed

I promised a second part to this post and here I am fulfilling that promise.


Greed.


This component will focus mainly on greed. For a vice as destructive as greed, it, quite interestingly, does not seem to garner much attention. But if you evaluate the root of a lot of issues in the Church, in our society, you can trace it back to greed. Or quite simply, the ardent desire for more and more, for excessiveness, for gain, for obscene wealth. It is why we have societies that continue to exploit the poor so that a few rich can continue to amass wealth they have no use of. It is why men in political offices refuse to stand for principles and values because they crave political power and would rather cower and retain that power than speak truth to power and lose it. 





In the last post, I hinted about the allegations against the Lindseys. I want to reiterate that this is not about any one pastor or any one couple. It is about the body of Christ and our responsibility while here on earth. It is about our role as ambassadors of Christ if that's what we claim we are. It is why I want to draw specifically on the excessiveness among Christians. There is too much obsession with materialism and fame. One of the people I have talked about throughout this series for instance would post vague things on Instagram, deliberately disguising the fact that they were paid to advertise that product. Isn't that unethical? But that's just the beginning.


To be more specific, ask yourself this very important question. Why do pastors own private jets? I don't get angry easily. Okay, that's a lie. I do. But few things anger me as much as pastors owning private jet. NO NO NO NO NO NO. Why? Forget the debilitating harm it causes the environment, you would never be able to justify that manner of excessiveness to me. Closely related to that, I have heard people complain about pastors wearing watches that cost tens of thousands of dollars.  It is a complicated conversation for sure. Because I don't want us to police what people wear. I will say though that I am strongly averse to greed. And there is no way to convince me that materialism has no correlation with greed. By themselves, these things have no moral value—they are not inherently good or bad. I don't even think owning things make pastors terrible people. But it speaks to their character. If the "stuff"; the blings, jets, fast lifestyle matter to you as much as the word of God, something is wrong. 


Even as a regular person who is not in any way a Christian leader or pastor or anything like that, I think we should all be averse to getting stuff just because; just as a status symbol; just to acquire meaningless things every single day. It is why I expect that as someone with any modicum of anointing, you should be called or you should assume a bigger responsibility of decency. Because decency is not about the hypocrisy of not wearing short skirts but about character and good deeds. I am worried about a need to just continue to acquire more and more and more and more. 


Nothing people in these positions love more than using the Bible to tell you why you should mInD yOuR bUsInEsS [when you demand accountability!] or why fEmInIsM iS eViL [it's not!] or why you should not wear short skirts [wear what you want! No, really.]  or why the man is tHe HeAd Of ThE hOuSe [ridiculous, I call BS!] or why certain people will go to hell fire [some probably won't or maybe they will, who even really knows?!], so let's also take a good look at what that same bible says about greed.  Christ admonished the Pharisees and teachers of the law as filthy, not literally unclean but filled with greed and self-indulgence [Matthew 23: 25]. To be greedy, to be so self-indulgent [synonyms: luxurious, excessive, extravagant] was to be filthy according to Christ. He wasn't even saying this about the regular joes, he was saying it about the leaders, those who held (or who should have held) themselves to higher standards. 


In Micah 6 (10-16), when God was laying out the accusations against Israelites, you know what he mentioned? The "obscene wealth they have piled up by cheating and fraud". Unlike your faves, I will not take this verses out of context. So let's do context. The running theme across the Matthew 23 chapter and Micah 6 is justice, compassion, matters of the heart.  God continued in Micah 6 with, "No matter how much you get, it will never be enough—hollow  stomachs, empty hearts". In Ephesians 5:5, Paul wrote that we can be sure no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the  Kingdom of God because, he continues, placing emphasis on the greedy part, a greedy person is an idolater who worships the things of the world. It is that simple. 


To be fair, even apart from greedy pastors who want the fanciest cars and most lavish houses, I am getting increasingly uncomfortable with the greed that remains pervasive in our culture. This is not the model Jesus or any of his disciples or Paul left for us. Why do we never know when to say enough? Why must we keep acquiring more and more. We want more money. We want private jets. We want obscene wealth. And frankly, on some level, this signifies a lack of trust in God. 


I remember listening to Chelsea Fagan, who definitely isn't a Christian, but she once said the opportunity to increase her salary (she is the CEO and co-founder of a personal finance company, The Financial Diet) came up and she declined because well, she just had enough. She said she would rather have other members of staff and maybe even the company receive the money or grow or whatever. I thought, how many people can ever have this level of contentment? How many? It is almost impossible to see this sort of contentment among Christians.  Now granted, Chelsea’s husband earns pretty well too and maybe that’s part of the equation. I don’t know. But I aspire to that level of contentment, where I can truly say "enough", and give to someone else. I need Christian leaders to model this level of contentment and modesty. 


I remember John Gray and his recent headline from a year or two ago where he bought this lavish car or something, and there was backlash. His response was he did not use the church's money to buy this six-figure value car. That's all good and dandy but it's not about that. It's about more than that. I really think (and I am open to counterarguments) that as a pastor, it is your responsibility to model modesty—again  not the type of modesty obsessed with women's bodies and what they wear—but the type that is focused on shunning materialism and showing off. 


What Christ wants for us, is to invest in the kingdom of heaven; is to not be so obsessed with money or fame or material things.  Don't get me wrong: wealth, money, those things are not inherently bad.  Let me repeat for y'all at the back: money is NOT inherently bad. Being financially and materially successful is not necessarily always a bad thing. After all, even John prayed that we  proper in all things and be in health just as our soul prospers (3 John 1:2).  There is so much good you can do with it: such as taking care of your family, friends, strangers, or I don't know, just living fully.  But we have to remember to question our desires, our wants,  and we must search our hearts. This is not just about money even; it's about things, fame, attention, pride, showing off, arrogance. It's about our hearts. And yes, I still think there is such a thing as too much money. I really do.  The weird part is, while more money can make us happy, there is a plateau where any more than that and it doesn't really matter anymore. And TRUST me, that figure is NOT as much as you think. In fact, you get to a particular figure and happiness begins to decrease. I am in fact quoting scientific studies


I don't want to be so smug as to claim I don't deal with my own share of greed or that I don't like the finer things of live; oh you bet I do. But that's the difference, I recognize our collective problem and everyday try to deal with it. And more importantly, I want our Christian leaders to deal with it. I want them to model something better for the rest of us. I want them to do better. 


I want Christians to be open to more accountability, transparency, and oversight. There is nothing like Christian leaders and defensiveness when accused of something. Instead, that is exactly the time to model Christ. To be gentle, patient, humble, and quite frankly filled with repentance. 


There is a phenomenal prayer in Proverbs (30:7-9) that I think pastors (we all, really) need to constantly remember:


O God, I beg two favors from you;


Let me have them before I die.


First, help me never to tell a lie


Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!


Give me just enough to satisfy my needs


For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say


'Who is the Lord?'


And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God's holy name. 



JUST ENOUGH. 


Love,

I