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Bittersweet; the pain and joy of being ~ Elizabeth Orchadson Mazrui

This will undoubtedly be the book I took longest to ever finish. Almost two years to be exact. Then again you cannot read poetry like you read prose, you need each poem to sink in, bed time is a good time or early morning. I prefer reading in the morning in the evening I tend to zone out quickly and start dozing.

So the book, yes, I have a couple of posts excerpts derived from it, here and here.

The pain and joy of being, it brings to mind two conflicting notions in your head like the yin and yang. But isn’t life so? A wandering journey through many unlike and unexpected things?

Elizabeth an art professor at Kenyatta University has a simple way of bringing across the message. Which makes the reading all the more enjoyable, yes there is the literal and figurative messages, but even with those ones you don’t need to knock your head as you try to crack the message.

Elizabeth talks about Love, Affairs, Loving the unavailable one, Heartbreaks, Nature, Africa, Motherhood, Womanhood. I think I loved the book all the more because I find it easy to identify with the themes brought in the book, well except womanhood haha (but you don’t have to be something to identify with it ey).

When I say I identify here is a verse in the pursuing the unavailable person No You have turned me Into a beggar of emotions Begging for your time Begging for your love Unreciprocated time after time If you have been in such a situation like I have, you read that verse and think, “damn Elizabeth do you read peoples lives?”. I will bet you if you get a copy you will find so many “that is me” situations throughout the book.

The book is available on the university of Nairobi bookshop UNES. I could not find a copy on either  bookpoint or textbook centre. It will prove a good leisure read if you do love poetry and the way it paints the world in words. See what I did there :roll:.


Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Books, Review, Stories


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“You know some people collect pebbles leaving out diamonds and they believe their pebbles are more valuable than diamond!” said Mukuna. We had been talking about books we were reading when she called my book a pebble and hers a diamond, I was determined to prove her otherwise or not.

 If you know me well, you’d know I am a sucker at dares, if you want me to do something I am normally likely to refuse you can phrase as a dare or challenge! The easiest way to get me into doing something is to tell me I can’t do it, it will nag me till I do it just to prove I can! No it’s not OCD and don’t try “Mackel you can’t buy me this” that is out. That pebble and diamond statement during my call with Mukuna made me ask my friend Chiry to lend me her copy of Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and see this “diamond”, apparently the books I was reading were brushed off as pebbles.  Well the Barney in me decided “challenge accepted” I put a bookmark on my pebbles and started reading this book Americanah.

After reading the book like I was going to do an exam on the same, I do agree it is quite something, and I’m not admitting my current reading list is pebbles, no! Since there are many reviews on the book, I will give you more of a synopsis of the book, which weirdly enough I could relate to some extend.


The books mainly revolves among two main characters; Ifemelu (Ifem) and Obinze who meet at a party at their mutual friend during their secondary school years. Obinze was supposed to be setup with Ifemelu’s friend Ginika but he is interested in Ifem. As the party goes late in the night Ifem shocks Obinze when she ask’s him “aren’t we going to kiss?” She is too forthright which would get her in trouble at times; Obinze on the other hand is the calm collected guy is hard to read.


Americanah delves on the relationships Ifem, Obinze and other characters develop. There appears to be true love, fake love and all sorts of love:

For instance in the beginning Ifem remembers of her relationship with Obinze and describes it thus; When you need what she’s unable to give and she needs what you are unable to give, it becomes the loss of what could have been! You spend too much time mourning what could have been and questioning what should be.

She wanted to give the relationship all that she had even in the small acts like holding hands, she held hands with him till her hands became gummy with sweat, “Just in case this is the last time we hold, let’s really hold hands”.

When Ifemelu met Obinze, she told aunt Uju that she had met the love of her life, and aunt Uju told her to let her to let him kiss and touch but not to let him put it inside.

Then I was really excited to learn that the love of ass is universal 🙂 “Sometimes she would dance in her underwear, wiggling her hips, while he teased her about having a small bottom: ‘I was going to say shake it, but there’s nothing to shake.’” When Ifem had gone to America and grown her lady bits she describes them thus, “She has soft round parts that shake when she moves” She teases Obinze when she returns to Nigeria about how show now has that ass he used to tease her of lacking back in the university days.

Ifem was too forthright, the honesty that scared her boyfriends, one day Obinze confronts her about another student in university to which she replies “I’m just curious about him. Nothing is ever going to happen. But I am curious. You get curious about other girls, don’t you?” Obinze is too shocked by the response he says no and stops talking to her for a while.


Due to the frequent strikes by university lecturers, Ifemelu is forced to stay at home. Her friend, Ginika talks of applying for her in schools in Philadelphia as though Ifemelu knew where Philadelphia was. To her, America was America. She gets a scholarship and lands a visa to go to America.

She goes to stay with her Aunt, Uju. She is shocked on her first night in America to find bugs existed there, “If she had been in their Lagos kitchen, she would have found a broom and killed it, but she left the American cockroach alone…”

People tended to treat her different because she was from Africa, they expect even things she never thought about like her name to have some form of significance than just a form of identification. When she share this with Ginika, she replies, “You could have just said Ngozi is your tribal name and Ifemelu is your jungle name and throw in one more as your spiritual name. They’ll believe all kinds of shit about Africa.”

Sexual exploitation

Ifem becomes desperate after a long search of work with no success and with rent, bills and books to pay for, she is pushed to the bottom of the bottoms, she decides to work for a tennis coach “What would happen with the tennis coach? He had said ‘massage’, but his manner, his tone, had dripped suggestion. Perhaps he was one of those white men she had read about, with strange tastes, who wanted women to drag a feather over their back or urinate on them. She could certainly do that, urinate on a man for a hundred dollars.”

She agrees to a sexual exploit that messes her esteem and drives her to depression, “She had lain on his bed, and when he placed her hand between his legs, she had curled and moved her fingers. Now even after she washed her hands, holding the crisp, slender hundred-dollar bill he had given her, her fingers still felt sticky; they no longer belonged to her. He lived alone, he probably had other women coming to his room to spread their legs for his stubby finger with its bitten back nail.”


I am disappointed by the ending though. Not every story ends with a happily every after, but what do I know? Obinze leaves his extremely attractive wife and child to go and start a fresh with Ifem when she returns to Nigeria, which to me appears to be forced to fit a happy ending.

You can grab your copy of Americanah at Bookpoint at KES 1550, you will not regret it.

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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Books, Review


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