The lives of Ugandan women: Crossroads – By christopher Conte

Non-Fiction

I don’t usually read books like this, and when it was sent to me, I was wary about what it would be like. However, despite my reservations, I decided to read it, and I’m glad I did.

Crossroads is a collection of autobiographical essays written by Ugandan women, describing their lives and the difficulties they have encountered. The selection of topics discussed is broad, relating to both ‘Ugandan’ issues and universal ones – from sex, sexuality and gender roles to NGOs, torture and corporal punishment. The women, living in modern Uganda, insightfully describe Western influences versus traditional customs, exploring their benefits and drawbacks.

The authors of Crossroads, writing passionately yet with measure and control, explore the nuanced reality of living as modern, Ugandan women.  The book’s brevity is powerful, because none of the stories are boring or drawn-out; the purpose of the collection is to highlight impactful parts of the women’s lives, relating to a theme. This focus ensures that the reader is not overwhelmed by an excess of information, and can freely come to their own conclusion about the importance of western values in traditional societies like Uganda.

My favourite of the stories is ‘No time for pain’, which is written in the second person; it describes a woman’s isolation as she struggles to live a normal life with the memory of her war-torn childhood. Her account of grief and detachment is well-written and easy to relate to, and is complimented by her well-considered commentary on the long-term effects of war and refugee camps on the society she lives in.

I urge you to read Crossroads if you are interested in Ugandan life and stories about women’s coming-of-age. This collection of essays is readable and fairly short; it is appropriate for mid-teenagers and older.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAAA

Writing: AAAAAAA

Pace: Medium

Buy on Amazon

Buy at Barnes & Noble (US)

Thanks to Christopher Conte for providing me with a digital copy of this fascinating collection of essays for review.

 

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Only Ever Yours – by Louise O’Neill

Dystopian

Only Ever Yours is a dystopian book about a world in which women, called ‘eves’, are designed and synthetically produced (instead of being born naturally), their sole purpose being to satisfy the needs of men. Eves are brought up in schools by strict teachers, called ‘Chastities’, who train them in the arts of pleasing men. At graduation, the most highly ranked eves are made ‘companions’, living with their husbands and breeding sons until no longer useful. The narrator, freida, (the eves’ names are not capitalized, highlighting their irrelevance in the society) has been best friends with isabel since her design, but as the pressure to be perfect mounts up, isabel starts to seemingly give up, gaining weight, and the girls who were once so close rapidly drift apart. freida, determined to remain popular, betrays her only true friend.

The world in which Only Ever Yours is set is an interesting and insightful exaggeration of our culture today; it warns us of what is to come if we don’t change our ways. After reading the blurb and the first couple pages, I had high hopes and an already strong interest in the book’s plot and characters. However, by its middle, my hopes remained unfulfilled: the characters lacked dimension, and the plot was repetitive and slow-paced. Overall, the book left me underwhelmed: characters needed more depth, particularly isabel, who was not as intriguing and intelligent as she evidently was intended to be. The icing on the cake for me was the irritatingly inconclusive ending: after suffering through 380 depressing pages, I was offered no mercy or closure. Perhaps it was for ‘effect’; I think, however, it was simply a cop-out. The book had great potential to be heart-wrenching and thought-provoking, but was unfortunately badly executed.

Despite this somewhat negative review, I think you might enjoy this if you like YA books, particularly those about women’s position in society. It’s quite slow-placed at times, so I definitely would not recommend this book for people who prefer fast-paced books.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAA

Writing: AAAAAA

Pace: Slow/Medium 

Malala, The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Changed the World – By Malala Yousafzai

Non-Fiction

This book, a fascinating and inspiring memoir written by activist Yousafzai depicts her brave actions to rescue education in Pakistan under the Taliban. Her father ran the local girls’ school, so growing up, she had always been an eager student, and aspired to be like the older girls in the classes above her. As the Taliban gained influence in the Swat Valley and Pakistan as a whole, she increasingly became an international spokeswoman for girls’ rights to learn. Unlike many men in Pakistan, her father encouraged her wholeheartedly, despite fearing her safety all the time.

I found this book completely and utterly inspiring; after reading it, things were put into perspective for me. Suddenly, instead of constantly thinking about myself, I reflected on how brave Malala is; how she showed to the world that standing up for what you believe in is essential in changing things for the better. Additionally, I found this book to be incredibly readable, despite how unbelievable her bravery is; perhaps it was because throughout the book Malala grounded her story by reminding the reader that she squabbled with her brothers all the time, or that she was desperate to get the top mark in a test. This made me love the book even more. It really is an amazing feat to be able to make such an other-worldly story so relatable.

I would highly recommend this book to people who are interested in Malala’s story and what’s happening with the Taliban in Pakistan now. I wouldn’t recommend this book to people who would like to read a book that goes into great detail about the Politics and current affairs in Pakistan right now. After all, it is the children’s version, and so I would recommend this book to people aged 10 and up.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAAAA

Writing: AAAAAAA

Pace: Slow/Medium