“Read. Read. Read. Just don’t read one type of book. Read different books by various authors so that you develop different style.”
― R.L. Stine
I very much enjoyed the different types of books that we read in class. In literature we most often read literature from White authors. It was refreshing to read about Mexican authors but most importantly African authors. I had never been exposed to the works of African authors and it was interesting to see their take on literature rather than hearing a story from the same old White man perspective. I was introduced to African authors who wrote about their home countries such as “Tram 83”. I was introduced to new terms/ideas such as belly politics which is something I had never heard of before. It was interesting to delve deeper into the novels and really get into connecting the books to outside issues rather than just discussing the novels themselves. In most literature classes I feel like we focus on dissecting the text rather than finding so many different outside topics that relate to the text like we did in class. Rather than hearing the same narrative we got to hear a different narrative of the DRC which I enjoyed very much. Before the class I had never thought about novels being translated. Though I knew that there were books that were translated I never knew the key elements that go into the translation of books. Translation can be defined as an art since it requires authors to create their own masterpiece through the work of a different author. I learned how difficult translation must be but the novels we read offered great translations of the novels themselves. The class showed me the importance of translation and how meaningful translation can be. Without books being translated people like us, would not be able to read novels like we have. I would love to read books that have been translated since they are much more of a difficult read in some cases, which I think would help me evolve as a writer.
In Baho! by Roland Rugero, translated by Christopher Schaefer the author sets the story in Burundi. The story centers Nyamuragi, an adolescent mute who attempts to ask a young girl where he can find the bathroom. Since he is mute it is difficult to understand him and his gestures end up being mistaken for premeditated rape. The story then centers around the corruption in Burundi and the lack of respect that the women in Burundi have.
“In two months, six girls have been raped: two on the hill and four nearby. In two months, the rage of Hariho has simmered against potential rapists. Three men were detained, swiftly taken in as suspects. Eleven days passed before they saw freedom again. Two skipped town to Bu- jumbura. One stayed, and he is not in hiding. Perhaps he feels protected. The rapes come as no surprise, for there are still those who believe that young flesh cures AIDS” (24)
It is safe to say that the women in Burundi are treated as sexual objects rather than actual human beings. The high rates of rape show that the women in Burundi arent safe or respected. It is a very much male dominated culture where women are at mens dispoal without having a choice. The issue at hand is that there is never justice for the victims. Men are taken in and later are let go and are left to wander around town. Women are walking amongst their rapists which then gives men in Burundi the idea that there is nothing wrong with raping a woman beacause there is not repercutions to be dealt with. Rape is then normalized and women have to cope with their own traumas in Burundi.
In the same crowd, there is a woman who measures almost six feet two inches. She was run out of the house by her husband for being too tall. The strict man of the house preferred to bring another, shorter woman (that is to say, more pliable) under his roof. In the meantime, the unfortunate first wife got her share of blows and insults. She had an infinitely more galling fault: She was too old” (33).
The women in Burundi are also often left by their husbands for “better women” there are constant stories of women having to deal with a man’s abuse when he eventually ends up leaving her anyways. The idea that women have to put up with the abuse is detrimental in Burundi as women are left to pick up the pieces of their own trauma. Ultimately the women in Burundi must console each other and find ways to cope in Burundi because the men are not understanding of what they are going through. The corruption and lack of respect for women are what keep women at the bottom in Burundi as they are not taken seriously and are not seen as human beings.
In Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, the author writes a story about the DRC located in central Africa. The author discusses major issues in the book such as the government corruption and poverty that affects the lives of those who live in the DRC daily.
“The court, which was corrupt to the core, had found a cash cow” (p. 102).
In the book the government is extremely corrupt. The wealthy are the ones who are in control of the money and they are basically the government. Any sort of influx of money that comes into the DRC are by tourists. The people who live in the DRC must work everyday and try to milk as much money as they can out of the tourists since really, that is one of the only ways to make money. Even when the money is made the government finds a way to take it away from the people. The government governs for their own needs rather than governing for the good of the people.
The DRC continues to be corrupt like the book constantly states. In an article titled Congo’s Colonial Ghost by Khaled Diab. The article discusses how colonialism has affected the DRC which caused a lot of corruption in the DRC including, government corruption which is a prevalent theme in Tram 83. In an interview with Joseph Nzau, he states that the DRC government does not have the common good in mind “They want to enrich themselves first and their clans second”. The government is often criticized to be corrupt in the novel and by people in the DRC but in fact governing proves to be difficult in the DRC due to factors such as low population density and poor infrastructure. Though it is easy to blame infrastructures and lack of resources really it is colonialism that left its mark in the Congo that is affecting the DRC to this day. It is sad to note that the DRC was never really able to pick themselves up (understandingly so) after colonization. Once a land is stripped of all their resources and the people are enslaved, the effects of emotional and monetary colonialism stay in tact One can teeter back and forth on who is to blame for the corruption in the DRC. It is important to remember that no government is perfect and while yes the DRC needs to do more for their people, they are one of the poorest countries in the world, making it difficult to give the people of the DRC a better life.
Sources:Diab, Khaled. “Congo’s colonial ghost | Khaled Diab.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Apr. 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/apr/21/congos-colonial-ghost
Picture: The Ultimate History Project, chained congolese slaves, November 7 2017
In “Signs Preceding The End Of The World” by Yuri Herrera, the story follows a young woman who makes her journey from Mexico to the United States. She also battles with her own internal struggles trying to find her way and her identity in a country where migrant workers are shunned.
I really liked this story because this shows the point of view of a young woman crossing the border and the struggles that she faces as a Latina woman. Typically, these stories follow young men who are painted as heroic. In Mexican culture the man is seen as strong and heroic and most often, women are not portrayed in the same way. This story offers a strong brown* female lead which makes me able to connect to her in some way. Personally, I have not read many books where there is a strong Mexican female lead which is why I love the way that the books portrays her. She speaks her mind and isn’t scared of what others say, for example when she is talking to the cops she says “We are to blame for this destruction, we who don’t speak your tongue and don’t know how to keep quiet either. We who didn’t come by boat, who dirty up your doorsteps with our dust, who break your barbed wire. We who came to take your jobs, who dream of wiping your shit, who long to work all hours. Rather than taking a typical approach of a weak docile woman, the author surprises us by creating this badass female lead.
Along with having a strong female lead, the story touches base upon her journey coming to the United States. With what is going on now, this book is highly relatable. Having parents that immigrated from Mexico, I can sort of understand what she is going through (having seen what my parents have gone through). We all know about the negative views towards immigrants and this book highlights those issues rather than hiding them, making readers like me, able to relate.
Citation for image:
“International Women’s Day – WILD WOMEN.” Loca Luna, http://www.localunajewelry.com/journal/2017/3/8/international-womens-day-wild-women.
Utopia by Ahmed Khaled is a story set in 2023. The book offers an interesting plot due to the fact that there is a wall between two distinct groups of people. The Utopians are the rich people who live these lavish lives yet are stricken by boredom on a daily basis. Then we have the “others” who are poor and have to fend for themselves. The dynamics of between both groups of peopleis very interesting due to the fact that the “others” are often seen as animalistic and are dehumanized throughout the entire book
To me, the main character is very bizarre. From the beginning we have the main character who dresses up and puts on white contact lenses and fake wounds to impress the ladies. He is living this lavish lifestyle but yet he is still miserable on the inside. He is not my favorite character due to the fact that he is spoiled rotten, has no value for his own life and is quite frankly an asshole. When he wakes up he talks about how he follows this monotonous routine Ahmed writes “”Eat some more. In one hour, I’ve done everything, and there’s nothing left in life that interests me or that I want” (Khaled). He is ungrateful about the fact that he has access to food unlike the “others” who are literally starving to death. He does whatever he wants and has no regard for others. He has no respect for women and often says disgusting things about them. On page 41 he talks about his encounter with a prostitute, Ahmed writes “She was a hideous girl the only thing that separated her from a man were trivial anatomical difference:wide haunches and big bones” (41). He then proceeds to insult her (in his head) yet still buys her services.
One theme that I found interesting was the idea of death. Suicide is made lightly and the idea of death is romanticized when it is quite the opposite. The self destructive behavior that he exhibits is also concerning. He tries different drugs knowing that drugs are potentially lethal “I’ve tried lots of drugs… but the problem with drugs is that they lose their excitement when they become readily available. An important part of the game is that they should be forbidden and hard to get a hold of” (8). He has no regard for the value of human life let alone his own. What is frustrating to me is that due to the fact that he does not value his own life let alone other peoples lives, he does not have the emotional ability to help the “others” instead he puts them down and describes them as cockroaches. I am interested to see how he progresses throughout the novel and I hope to see his character progress.