I am a sucker for words, especially well written words. And by well written I don’t mean words that observe grammar, protocol and stuff. Nope. I mean beautifully crafted words that are sometimes deep, sublime, witty, dark, unconventional, and just poetic. I am one of those people who collect words; I am yet to meet other collectors. I have a book of them; from novels, poems, essays and sometimes from films.
That said, I love words in books but also in essays. Sometime back, when I was actively writing flash fiction, I was asked by a writer (and blogger) friend to send him brief words that I wish I had written. If he had asked for essays this is what I would have sent him.
1. Dakar isn’t interested in being Brooklyn. Or Nairobi. Only this is not the title of this beautifully done piece by the acclaimed Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina; I just happen to adore this particular line. It’s only a matter of acceleration now appearing in Chimurenga is an interview that Wainaina does with Youssou N’Dour. It is not only about the interview, but Wainaina manages to get us the story as well as his reflections all weaved together in a pace and style that is one of a kind. You have to read this piece.
2. All your faves are problematic. I recently came across this piece doing the rounds on the interwebs so you have probably seen it. All your faves are problematic: A brief history of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stanning and the trap of #blackgirlmagic is a piece that makes you question. I have been through a process of questioning, unlearning and re-learning in the last two years and this essay by Sisonke Msimang resonated with some of the views I have been examining. I will write about this process later on when I am in a good place to put all of it on paper. It has a lot to do with my grad school supervisor btw. Back to this essay. It is about the people we elevate and look upto and the expectations we have for them. It is also about how these very people shape what is elevated and celebrated. It is also very much about activists, how we advocate for those we choose and how we speak for them or even how the people we elevate represent or speak for them.
3. Talking of Chimamanda, the other essay is not actually an essay but a TED
Talk. The Dangers of a Single Story. Now, if you know Chimamanda, you know how brilliant she is. This talk is an example of her brilliance. In her usual wit she invites us to move beyond a single view point of others. It is about questioning stereotypes and seeking to understand others from their point of view. I never quite grasped the effects of this narrow-mindedness until I left home to Turkey. I have talked a tiny bit about my time in Turkey here and here but I am yet to capture the whole experience especially the instances that were nothing to write home about. What I am saying is, you don’t often get to question or even witness how deep stereotypes are until you are thrust miles away into the unknown. If you haven’t listened to this talk, I highly recommend it.
What are some of your fave essays?