[VIDEO] Book Review | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Today I review Junot Diaz’s masterpiece, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

“The book chronicles both the life of Oscar Wao, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels and with falling in love, as well as the curse that has plagued his family for generations.
The middle sections of the novel center on the lives of Oscar’s runaway sister, Lola; his mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral; and his grandfather, Abelard. Rife with footnotes, science fiction and fantasy references, comic book analogies, and various Spanish dialects, the novel is also a meditation on story-telling, the Dominican diaspora and identity, masculinity, and oppression.” (Wikipedia.com)

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Open Letter to the African President

Your Highness

I know you may be wondering why a mere peasant dares to write you a letter—and an open one at that. I imagine you’re having one of your aides read this out loud to you while you stare out of the window in absolute repulsion at my gall. I apologise in advance for upsetting your day. Please bear with me.

It is officially 2014 now, and I’m sure you welcomed the New Year in a most majestic way—clinking glasses with your fellow oligarchs and marvelling at the sheer magnitude of wealth you all will be amassing in the new year. I truly hope you enjoyed the time you spent with your family and friends this holiday. Did you get something lovely from the Chinese Government for Christmas this year? I’m sure you did—and as usual, I’m sure you dared not insult their president by questioning the quality of whatever gift you received. You are above all, a man of great tact.

That’s what makes you such an amazing leader.

Now, you may be wondering why a 20-year-old girl from some dusty village had the audacity to not only address you so directly, but to do it so publicly. I am sure you are tired of the sheer clumsiness of the Open Letter and if you were like the majority of your constituents who don’t have the luxury of a lifetime supply of 4-ply toilet paper, you may view this piece as nothing more than a scrap to wipe your royal bum with. Once more I apologise.

In any case, this piece serves as a request. As a temporary representative of the young African—the future leaders of this beautiful continent—I come to you with one simple appeal: could you maybe, perhaps, a little bit, just maybe listen to us? This year (just for one year) can we have actual platforms for political discourse? Can you, perhaps, make us feel like the future leaders of this great place? Could we maybe, for a short while, have actually effective programs whose purpose is to groom innovative and strong leaders who will one day (soon – not in fifty years) make this place what our forefathers dreamt it would be? Can we get a real shot at political innovation; at democratic effectiveness?

Perhaps I am asking for too much. And I can understand if at this point you have slapped the aide reading this letter aloud to you, for his sheer foolishness in, what I imagine you view as, allowing me to waste your time. Once more, I have to apologise.

But let this letter be a very polite precursor to what this year will truly be in your land—a historical year of great change. Simply put, I’m giving you a chance to make it a simple process—for very soon, we will rise up and we will take this place where it needs to go.

But for now, please enjoy the tea your aide will bring you to soothe your aching head from reading (heading) this letter.

I wish you a happy new year, sweet President. And I thank you for your time.

Yours Truly,

The African Student

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 20 year-old mathematics major at the University of Botswana. Contact her at siyandawrites[at]gmail.com for inquiries or something.

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5 things NOT to say when trying to seduce an Afrikaner

This weekend my cousin invited me to her place for drinks. I anticipated nothing more than a night of heavy drinking (punctuated by an increasing number of slurred proclamations starting with the words “in life…”), followed by a morning of deep regret.

However, before I could get to my second drink and un-buckle my “drinking jeans”, the loud engine of a work-van parking in the guest-house garage  brought my attention to the finest product of South Africa I’d ever laid my eyes on. My jaw dropped (but not my drink…never my drink) as I watched a man so gorgeous that his muddy jeans and rolled up sleeves looked like they’d accompanied him straight out of a 1970’s romance novel titled “[the afrikaans version of] The year Hans, the tractor-mechanic re-awakened my desires” (or something), walk out of the van. His piercing eyes and confusingly arousing uni-brow shot sparks through my body and I immediately decided to seduce this man even if it meant my advances would have to be lubricated by the tears of my ancestors.

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The Dangers of Thinking Like An African

Last night the president of South Africa told a roomful of students, academics and businesspeople at Wits University in Johannesburg, in a ANC manifesto forum, to “not think like Africans.” Discussing the need for Gauteng residents to pay e-tolls, Zuma remarked: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally, we’re in Johannesburg.”

Now, when I first got wind of this my first reaction was of course, anger. As a full-time African (except when there’s a World Cup Final and it pays to be Brazilian); I found myself wondering why he believed that my manner of thinking would destroy his beloved city, if its residents were to adopt it.

But when he said that the freeway between Johannesburg and Pretoria was “not some national road in Malawi”, a light bulb went on in my head and I finally understood exactly what he meant.

But not only do I understand, I wholeheartedly agree! We really cannot afford to allow African Thinking to destroy Joburg like it has the rest of the continent. I mean, think about it – when has thinking like an African ever solved anything?

That’s when I realized that thinking like an African is what had stopped me from excelling during my university career. All the times I thought I was struggling with Abstract Algebra because it is a difficult subject, it was actually my African-ness that was preventing me from “getting it”!

Jacob Zuma has released me from the shackles of African thought patterns, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude. Now when I encounter a problem, my first thought is “Don’t Think Like an African!” and the solution comes to me as fast as white women to professional athletes! My life has changed.

Of course, people may wonder what exactly is African thinking – but the very thought pattern that leads anyone to ask that question is the biggest symptom of African thinking! Liberate yourself!
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Instead, think like a coffee-table and under-stand. That’s what I do every time I feel that nagging African in my mind imploring me to think in my native language. I think like anything else but an African.

Sometimes I think like a train when crossing the road. Other times I think like a carpet when I’m lying down. Most of the time I think like a t-shirt and just be. That’s what I figured out: in order to stop African Thinking, an African typically has to stop thinking completely. And it is clear Zuma has been doing it the best for years!

I mean the problem with African Thinking, is it requires an African to think. And that’s the last thing Zuma or any African president needs: thinking Africans. So we have to work together to combat this problem.

Please share this article to raise awareness about African Thinking, and save your own country from the dangers of contemplation.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 20-year-old mathematics major at the University of Botswana. Contact her at: siyandawrites[at]gmail.com

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Its not about men | Why ‘stealing’ another woman’s man is not anti-feminist

I don’t know when I fell asleep and missed out on a new wave of feminism that prides itself on judging a woman’s politics by her behaviour in the romantic sphere. But clearly it happened sometime this year, and the comments section on this article was born.
Directed to it by its author I found myself flung into a dimension in which a question like “Is it anti-feminist to sleep with another woman’s man?” was not only considered – but was debated, quite heatedly, by a group of very diverse and seemingly intelligent women.
Needless to say – I was furious.
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#WhiteGenocide – How I Single-Handedly Caused Racism in South Africa

So this month I single-handedly created racism in South Africa. I know, I know – you’re probably wondering: “How on Earth did a twenty-year-old girl that lives in neither South Africa nor Cape Town, create racism here?” (and if you’re not wondering that, at least you should be wondering what you did with your weekend while some of us created identity-crises in an entire population. I mean, it’s starting to look like a ‘lazy weekend’ is code for chronic underachievement for you here, pal)

In the spirit of political satire I started a twitter-hashtag named “#whitegenocide” in which I sort to a) poke fun at whites that fear the onset of white genocide in South Africa upon Nelson Mandela’s death b) entertain myself because being a young person, I get bored quite easily.

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Speak Like Xulu

This Sunday Mlungisi Xulu took it upon himself to respond to the open letter to ANC President, Jacob Zuma that was penned by self-proclaimed “Sushi King” of South Africa, Kenny Kunene.

Kenny, who I can only describe as the sort of middle-aged fellow that has absolutely no qualms referring to himself as a ‘socialite’—thus conjuring up images of him out on the town in a mini-skirt of the Paris Hilton variety—had written a scathing letter to South Africa’s commander-in-chief to outline how disappointed he is in the ANC. (Because, who didn’t expect Kenny to use his years of experience as a nightclub owner as the podium for political change they are?)

Now, I’m all for open letters; so much so that I have not taken it personally that my own open letter to Kenny has been all but ignored by his people—not personally at all (you can tell that fatty yourself! [sobbing]) But Mlungisi Xulu’s letter left me positively fuming. It was not the letter itself, but the response to it on Twitter.

The letter was met with nothing but flabbergasted laughter. It began with the following excerpt:

Well, let me pervade you of the titillation, embedded in the eventual state of being a paragon of perfection in the ardent utmost utilization of logic, as an ANC inclined political activist. In idling times, one ought to augment the incessant purportion of being abreast, beauty par excellence, with the intellectual regime, and resist desolation yielding petulance, which fuels obliterated recusance, immiserating from expertise, lack thereof.

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On Africa Day | 11 Great Quotes From 10 Great Africans

Because today is Africa Day I let the giants speak for me. I hope these quotes from the people that were there when great change was made on the continent can remind us of the task at hand. And perhaps some of the themes in these quotes can be discussed wholeheartedly today. 

KWAME NKRUMAH: Something in the nature of an economic revolution is required. Our development has been held back for too long by the colonial-type economy. We need to reorganize entirely, so that each country can specialize in producing the goods and crops for which it is best suited. (Neocolonialism The Last Stage of Imperialism)

CHINUA ACHEBE: Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.

PATRICE LUMUMBA: You must energetically combat tribalism, which is a poison, a social scourge that is the country’s misfortune today. You must combat all the separatist manoeuvres, which some of the preachers of the policy of division are trying to pass off to young and inexperienced people under the name of federalism, federation or confederation. In reality, young people, these names are only a new vocabulary brought by the imperialists to divide us in order the better and more conveniently to exploit us. Your entire future will be threatened if you do not oppose these manoeuvres, this new, disguised colonisation. – Address to Congolese Youth (August, 1960)

HAILE SELASSIE I: Africans are in bondage today because they approach spirituality through religion provided by foreign invaders and conquerors. We must stop confusing religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of rules, regulations and rituals created by humans, which was suppose to help people grow spiritually. Due to human imperfection religion has become corrupt, political, divisive and a tool for power struggle. Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other…”

JULIUS NYERERE: Having come into contact with a civilization which has over-emphasized the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society — benefits that have been brought about by an organization based upon the individual — and yet retain African’s own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship. In the New York Times Magazine on 27 March 1960.

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You don’t know my struggles – Cheetah X

Last week the web was filled with reports of the incident in which Ian Khama was attacked by a Cheetah at the army barracks. Many people wondered why. And today I bring to you–the cheetah’s side of the story.

It was a full moon the night I was born. At least that’s what my mother always told me. There had been two of us at the time – she used to say – a girl cub and I. But only I survived.

She always used to get quite distraught when she described the night they took her away. And even thinking about it now takes me back to the night when she told me about it.

I must have been about six or so months because I’d been working on the same piece of gazelle meat for hours. I think my teeth weren’t fully formed yet.

I remember that the planes were lit by a big orange moon. The dew on the tall grass sparkled so brightly it looked like the stars had fallen from the sky and taken permanent residence in the Kalahari.

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