Every time I picked this book up to continue it, it was like reuniting with an old friend that I wanted to learn more about, although I wished I never had to put it down. Sitting in the train station, I read the first 86 pages and as I heard the train approaching I quickly planned my next free moment to continue this reading endeavor: I simply couldn’t wait. Trevor Noah is astonishingly brilliant in how he chose to let us in his world and narrate to us a window into his world, complicated by many things from skin color and the poverty that unfortunately went along with it. A world that would have caused many to lose their way, but Trevor was resilient and his mother helped instill good values in him, despite how poorly behaved he often was. In many ways, I feel this book is a love letter. A love letter to Trevor’s mom. A love letter to his friends and mostly, a love letter to all the parts of his childhood that challenged him and helped him thrive during a time when he wasn’t meant to. The apatherid meant he wasn’t supposed to thrive. And as we saw with his “hulk” friend from jail, the end of the apartheid meant disadvantaged people were forced to steal to feed their families. This book really showed me a perspective I haven’t seen before and I was truly lucky that this book was chosen to be read. I was astounded by what I learned about South Africa. It was fascinating but also very sad to hear. The slaughter and mistreatment of people was shocking to me. The comparison made to Hitler and how there weren’t numbers to account for the deaths like there were in the Holocaust brought a chill down my spine. I could jump around from subject to subject trying to explain all the reasons that I loved this book. The biggest reason is I fell in love with the story. Trevor allowed me in. His raw feelings were all brought to the surface, especially his mother being shot at the end. A relationship changes when someone that you care about lets you fully in and lets you get to know them on their terms. And that’s exactly what Trevor did. Trevor Noah let me into his world, sharing with me and all of us about life’s lessons, and how black, white, colored, or whatever we were, we are all human and deserving of love. And deserving of a good life. Trevor taught me that, and by allowing me into his world, introduced me to a way of examining one’s life that I will never forget.
These poems these memories
They boil up with me
Sending me nostalgically
Into what I want to be
Blending words like chemistry
Expressing my life into an expository
Talking about things
Talking about flying with my pair of wings
Talking about new beginnings
The reals and the pretend endings
Talking about acting like yourself
Not like anyone else
I dive off the edge
I smash into the ledge
I brush off the pain
I look for whom to blame
And someone who can tame
The wild within me
Before I turn this into the never-ending story
I’ll sign off, still seeking eternal glory!
Sucked all the life from me
As I die of thirst, quietly
There’s no water to be found
The ground I pound
I let you in
And then the games begin
The mind games
Making a mockery of me
I take your wand
I cast my spell
I fiercely rebel and I win against
Only a Few good days pass
Before I relapse into my other self
Before my body and mind collapse into rage and fear
Before I cannot feel anything
Before my anxiety and paranoia take over
Before I shatter as I hit the abyss
All I can do once I’m at the frigid depth
Is not plunge all the way to the end
Before everything is lost
Before everyone I know leaves me
Because I know I’m a monster
Hiding in the body of a young, vibrant woman
Who loves books, burgers, football, and poetry
Who loves her friends and family with her entire heart
But all my joy was spilled out and ripped apart
Before I become the nothing I feel
I have to swim out of the abyss
And until I’m out of this cycle of pain
All I can do
Is tread water
So I don’t drown
And get swallowed up by the illness that threatens to take everything from me
I have to fight to stay above water
I have to battle
But more importantly
I must not give in
I must destroy what harms me
Only then can I truly defeat the abyss and win back my life
I have personally dealt the with the desperate feeling of facing
the edge of disaster… for help call, Please call 1-800-273-8255
It’s the suicide hotline. Please if you are struggling know that
I love you. That I care if you live.
Because I personally was on the cliff
I felt horribly, and helplessly alone
Not listened to by anyone
I curled up into a ball
Too numb to even omit a sob
Not wanted by a single soul
Crashing into hatred of myself, of everything I have become
Like a complete, utter failure
Like a total loser, no job, no boyfriend, no car, worthless
Pain, horrible devastating pain
That no man wants to kiss and love because of my illness
I felt worthless, cold despair
I wanted my pain to end
I wanted to go away and escape the pain
Somehow I told someone about it
I reached out but it was the hardest thing I ever had to do
The hardest to expose my vulnerability
Tell someone my darkness thoughts
They were pitch black dark thoughts
And worry what they would think of me
I had to tell, I had to realize I was worth something
If you are struggling please know there is help.
People love you.
You are worth loving and living.
You are precious.
You have so much to offer.
You feel helpless and alone.
But Hold on.
Talk to someone you trust.
They won’t judge you because they care.
They love you and want to help
If you feel you have no one like that
Please call 1-800-273-8255
We have lost millions of beautiful souls
No longer glowing
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Please, I know when life feels like it’s not worth living.
Feel your feelings, cry your tears, hell smash a vase if you have to.
Please, hold on. Break the silence. You can do it. I believe in you.
Please listen to Hold on by Derek Hough
Day by day
Is a battle
Is a battle
A fight each day
Will anybody even know
If I’m gone
I can’t take another night alone
And I said
Hold on to me
Hold on to me
With every breath
You did your best
Got nothing left
Will anybody even know
If I’m gone
Cause I can’t take another night like this alone
And I said
Hold on to me
Hold on to me
When you’re falling down
Hold on to me
Hold on to me
When everything comes crashing down
It’s harder when your lies come out
You know that
Hold on to me
Hold on to me
When you’re falling down
Hold on to me
Hold on to me
Hold on to me
I understand the writers madness
It spirals within my very bones
A tall towering tumbling
My mental state is troubling
I’m only human
I push against The force that wants to destroy me
I use the power of pen
Mightier than the sword
I know it is.
It is a part of my heart
It can be joyous
I have experienced the flutter of ecstasy
Right now though, it is most unpleasant
Torture chambers bind my mind
I hack away at the ropes, they regrow
I will continue to battle,
no matter how dark the sky
How deep the water
How cold the room
I will be victorious in finding peace
Even if hell precedes it
I will find my beautiful piece of Heaven
Right here on Earth
And I will tie myself
With a magical ribbon
I will be bound to a better life
Lavender ribbon of calm
Stacks and stacks of fantastic books
Are laying everywhere you look
I simply cannot get enough
Choosing which one to read is tough
Books take me by the hand
Transport me to a magical land
It’s all in the book in joy and in rage
I cannot stop reading
I must turn the page
All types of books pour out of my room
They spill all over the house and they make my mind bloom
Bloom with thoughts and ideas
With emotion and feeling
Sometimes the books send me reeling
But no matter what
No ands, ifs, or buts,
As soon as I have time and I’m prepared
I cannot wait to touch the pages
To be taken to a place
Where there’s a look of awe upon my face
In the midst of daily talks about terror threats in our everyday lives, comes a story about an Iranian woman, Dr. Azar Nafisi, who is the heart of the story Reading Lolita in Tehran. Through an informal, sarcastic tone maintained throughout this book, a series of accounts from her troubled life in the Islamic republic frequently boil to the surface. Although politics is something that Dr. Azar Nafisi herself acknowledged as corrupt, she never seemed prepared for the utter and immediate toll it took upon her friends and people she knew such as her father, who was persecuted under the vindictive regime. Despite refusing to wear the veil that caused her to lose her job, she came in greater contact with her emotions. Using these new unexpected passions Dr. Azar Nafisi formed a secret group of students who were bound together through their vigorous studies of fiction.
In the exuberance of the novel, two types of characters emerge. The characters are those within the book and those fictional characters within the novels. The personalities are as diverse as the four seasons. Nima, Nassrin, Manna, Mahsid, Yassi, Azin, Mitra, and Sanaz are to me like the members of a secret “breakfast club”. They do not meet for breakfast per say but their explosive personalities and comments and well as their beliefs about the regime forever change their teacher (Dr. Azar Nafisi) and themselves. Sanaz has a need for approval. Nima, the sole male, wanting very much to get into the club displays a new way of male behavior. Yassi confesses that an uncle molested her, however Nima seems to be of a different generation; one which respects women. Mahsid does not make it to the end. Each girl had something to bring to their meetings. An experience, a comment, a vision that the others used to get through these hard times.
However it is not their individual personalities but common struggles that unite them as one. Some were jailed for bogus charges like make-up on, running, and some talked of being reprimanded for “eating their apples too seductively”. This novel is another demonstration of the way in which women are oppressed through out history even in the 1980’s and 90’s. Using Lolita, The Great Gatsby, and Jane Austen novels Nafisi teaches the students of Western heroines and how their oppression relates to that of Islamic women. For example the antagonist Humbert brainwashes, kidnaps, and manipulates Lolita to satiate his sick fantasies. This is something that makes the book particularly amazing; that she makes these meetings with her students and the degree that she can relate literature of the Western world to her own world. Gatsby is someone in love with a girl he will always love, but one he can never have. Myrtle the adulterous one is a character questioned in the book. In Pride and Prejudice discussions, it would seem some girls dream to fall in love. For exposing these truths Nafisi should be praised. She is an amazing, eclectic individual who should be celebrated for her stubborn resolve to not allow the government who she is.
Nafisi also has the awful facts that surround her daily life. Daily reminders like bombs in the night. She recalls things, like her mother always being disappointed with her behavior, for Azin recognizes that she never lived up to her mother’s plans. Also, her father was the mayor and he was assassinated. Through her frightening experiences relating to the law (the bombings and constant raids in her daily life), she shares not only a knowledge of facts from being an honored professor, but a solid character of what fiction can be identified with. Her strong beliefs she instilled within her and her comrades evoked this idea of neglecting the grave side of society and focusing on the magnificent parts of life: “… life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction” (Nafisi 3). People in Iran were taught to resent Western culture yet she did not. Nafisi is actually like many of her heroines, courageous beyond belief. Gatsby and Lolita are two quite different perspectives which Nafisi presents in a light of hope. Although in fiction both Gatsby and Lolita suffer unimaginable sorrow, in reality Azar evolves a candle of hope that does not vanish because of obstacles; in fact she becomes more resolute.
If not hope, then an understanding of suffering and unspoken empathy is what Nafisi attempts to project out into the world. Although her “magician” hid in the world, she did not. Sure, she hid in her apartment flat with her students but they were open with one another and shared deep reflections about the troubles they, as women felt and addressed to the professor which bound them closer. By having this almost secret society she grasps the true meanings of fiction. Occasionally, Nafisi diverts many of the problems surrounding the regime into a question of identity; she preached at first unintentionally the more profound ideas that would not soon be forgotten by any of her fellow students. Soon, they all found that they shared the same thoughts about woman’s declining role in society and it sickened them. Setting the stage for many of them would be an event much later in the memoir that left a lasting impression – the author’s moving to America.
Nafisi talks of the enormous changes, of all the things she left in Iran: the danger, the men pursuing her and mostly importantly the veil, which once represented devotion, but now a represented entrapment. She was like the Rosa Lee Parks of Iran saying, No I will not wear the veil. It is what got her fired, but also into that secret class and discovering a life that she had to smuggle. She had to smuggle happiness and her move to the states was a decision that made it seem as though she were abandoning her students.
Betrayal and dismay are two key feelings that many of her students voiced, but mentally Nafisi could not force herself to stay in this unstable lifestyle. Her thorough studies of fiction have led her to discover how beautiful life can be if you only give it a chance. This “chance” simply could not be accomplished if she stayed in a place that did not free her spiritually. As someone who cherished and loved fiction as much as she does, the coming to America was a closure that she recognized would not erase the painful memories she had to bear. The fact that she would no longer allow herself to become immersed in them was something incredible to undertake, something many people today can take with them. Learning of her story can inspire a hope in even the most desperate situations to climb out of your hole of apprehension into exuberance!
This book is truly a gem that sparkles in the night. The brilliant combination of fiction overlapping reality and the compelling stories of the oppression of women really make one think. Our author, a brilliant wonderful teacher annexed from the University of Tehran for not agreeing to wear the veil was a landmark event. It withstands the sands of time and is truly a testimonial to someone who looks fear in the eyes and said, no I am not allowing myself to be the government’s puppet. So to sum it all up, Nafisi never quite lived up to her mother’s expectations; she towered over them. It is fantastic to say that she was brilliant. However it is the girls she taught in secret whose resilience left the reader in shock. For the Middle East and Iran are worlds foreign to us. We, the spoiled, they the suffering, something this book outlines quite well. This book encompasses detail and memories and draws them into a one of a kind story.
I still recall seeing the trailer for this movie and being particularly excited about the concept: Three women of color with brilliant minds overcoming racism to use their brilliant minds to get a man in space at the NASA program. In addition to keeping our rivalry with Russia very clear, the movie Hidden Figures did something I was surprised with because it did a good job focusing on the work lives of the three women. Often, movies with strong women still put emphasis on their family and this movie did a nice job of showing their families in a pleasant way that helped us gain perspective on them as women. However, it was more in the background and their crowning achievements in their careers were celebrated in this movie. Kate was extremely good at math and worked in that department at NASA. She was a widow with three children and she was asked to check the equations of an all white male division of NASA. She had to overcome the adversity of the colors only coffee pot the men installed one day, and the biggest struggle she had to get her work done was the bathroom situation. The colored bathroom was almost a mile away in another building. This becomes a problem because she cannot effectively do her work, with the amount of time spent running to the bathroom.
Kevin Costner had a wonderful role as a mentor of sorts, I thought, being kind to Kate, the mathematician. But, unfortunately, I found out that his character was not part of a true story. He was a “white hero” invented by Hollywood and based on the texts I am read in college, it was particularly difficult to deal with the fact that they couldn’t stay true to the history and create a white hero who knocks down the colored bathrooms sign, but in real life that didn’t even happen. The adversity these three women faced as women of color is clear from the beginning with their car breaking down and the white male police officer demanding respect. Sadly, in a more passive aggressive way, the second brilliant woman is denied a promotion and it is clear the tension between the white and black women in this movie. The third women, who wants to be an engineer has to take courses at what is a segregated high school. So, to achieve her dream of becoming an engineer she must petition the courts to allow her to study at an all white school. Despite all the backlash and struggle, these three women were pioneers of math, computers, and engineering. I only wonder if they weren’t held back so much if they could have achieved even greater things if their race was not in the way.
When a mirror crosses my path I avoid it! I do not own a single mirror. Such a device does not exist in my room. When I look in the mirror, I can pick apart the different layers and see my eyes my mind; it helps me to hide the inner most layers of paint, of lies, I tell myself each day, of hopes and dreams that were happiness, excitement, love, passion, obsession, hope, dreams, loneliness, confusion, curiosity, anger, suppressed fury, and sadness. These layers are my beautiful disasters. They are my breakdowns. When I look long enough in the mirror I want to smash it. Memories of illness that is permanent and the things I can’t change overwhelm me. The worst part is that nothing I can say or do will change it. I don’t want to be that sad girl who is brittle and fragile and clearly not all there. When I look long enough at this wall of truth I see exhaustion, I see the wanting of dreams to come true. I tell lies to myself that what I dream will come into reality.
I see in the mirror what I cannot change. I will always be second best! When I see the silver device again I want to shatter it. Destroy it. Melt it. Shatter it. A mirror has a long list of stereotypes. Be this fake entity. I have to look nice, thin, sexy, porcelain doll perfect. [Insert name here ] is trapped in this idea of me becoming this perfect person. I want to understand how I broke [ ] porcelain image, I actually shattered it – broke out of that stage, I have no long lived in this way , and in return now, I look into the memories, and I see failure, someone struggling to go to bed each night and not hate myself. This sudden knowledge that no one can love me if I don’t love myself first.
When I glance at myself, I’m curious am I that ugly, tired thing? Why should I even care any longer? Everyone expects these things from me when I want to live in a world where none of those frivolous things matter. A mirror is quite a dangerous friend for once you lose sight of what is important you see only skin deep. Now when I look in the mirror, I love my aqua outfit I love my eyelashes, all I wonder how is who will love me back, more specifically will he? Respect me, pile up and pull apart my thick intricate layers. After that you must still love me despite and in spite of myself. That happy girl, content and lovely the one I once was, maybe he can capture and release what he sees – an exquisite, intelligent, ambitious, tender, gentle, wild, unpretentious – the jungle of qualities that make me.
When I look in the mirror for a third time in the band room, I only want to be myself today, tomorrow, forever. When I look in the silver slab of honestly, I remember what someone once told me. Don’t hide and be yourself. Do not care what other people think. Even though the mirror can’t lie, an interpretation is left up to the eye of the beholder. When the mirror and I cross paths, I see that first day at the hospital. Only I see that girl who gets her heart ripped from inside her everyday, that girl who has to pick herself up without aid from anyone and say – you can do it, why care about the past – go out there and show them. Understand. Love. Find the line try never to cross it. Pull yourself together. The only person that “mirrors” my emotions with wise words and a gentle tone – [ ] When I see his face, I don’t need a mirror – I see a smile which I am certain has crept across my face. What I need is already inside me. It is how you use it, that knowledge that makes a world of difference.