Book Review: ‘Under The Wig’ by William Clegg QC

I thought this book ‘Under The Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence’ by William Clegg QC was really good (and I was impressed at how a lawyer can write so well and in such an engaging manner) till I got to the Acknowledgements at the back where, on page 278, William Clegg acknowledges his “ghost writer” – a John Troup a.k.a “Troupy”. Wait… whatttt? I do think that Troupy should be acknowledged on the cover of the book or at least within the pages immediately after. (@_@) It could have been stated “William Clegg QC with John Troup”, right?

In any case, like I’ve said, it’s a really good read. Besides being written for the average layperson, barristers themselves will enjoy chapters such as “How to Become a QC”, “Winning the Trust of a Judge”, “How to Appeal to a Jury”, etc. The case studies are illuminating and certainly eye-opening. There are some things I’ve never heard of before, such as earprints being admitted as evidence. I know of fingerprints, but earprints? Seriously?

And here is one lawyer, a QC or Queen’s Counsel no less, who thinks the wig is “ridiculous”. Yes! I think so too! πŸ˜€

Things we may not agree on would be ones such as the death penalty – his argument about miscarriages of justice is valid but still… is it even possible to keep everyone imprisoned until such time that technological advances allow us to prove beyond any and all reasonable doubt that the person is either 100% guilty or 100% innocent? If there is sufficient evidence, and the jury concurs, then why not proceed with the death penalty like in SG (we don’t have a jury, I know that)? If the argument is that every life is precious and the law cannot, and must never(!), allow for an innocent person to be hanged after being erroneously found guilty, then…

Stop complaining about the budget for legal aid cases. Why would you not take up a case simply because it doesn’t pay as well as your regular cases / commercial clients? In the book, the author claims it is because the other experts whom he has to rope in to assist on the case would need to be paid their fees as well. O…K. But if every life is so precious, and you’re going to wax lyrical about how miscarriages of justice persist till this very day, then try not to sound hypocritical when you confess you don’t take as many legal aid cases anymore ‘cos the budget’s been on a decline and you wish it’s back to what it was a decade ago. I’m not asking lawyers to work pro bono all the time (need to eat, right?), but if they claim to be in this profession because of some noble reasons then hey, do what you can whenever you can, ok? If you keep wanting to compare your salaries with that of other professions, then go join those, seriously.

~

At the end of the day, I don’t know if William Clegg QC can call himself an author. If the book was written by someone else, even if it is about this QC’s life and career, it would fall into the category of being a biography, no? But if you’re simply looking for a good read, then we won’t have to quibble over who actually wrote this book. #justsaying

Book Review: ‘Circumstance’ by Rosie Milne

circumstance by rosie milne

This book has all of 464 pages and I was initially a bit intimidated by the length of the novel. Thank God for speed-reading! It’s basically about British-ruled Malaya and how the colonial administrator, Frank, takes a new English bride (Rose) but ‘neglects’ to tell her that he already has a native mistress, Nony, whom he has lived with for 10 years and had 4 children with. Frank, who wasn’t being quite frank, had thought he’d be posted elsewhere so neither of the women would know about each other. As luck would have it, he’s sent back to the same post, with his new bride. And the two women end up meeting.

I’d expected a story full of twists and turns. Would Nony somehow wrestle the title of ‘missus’ back? Would Rose somehow be able to accept the mistress who, after all, had already given Frank three sons and a daughter?

Nony ends up blackmailing Frank because he didn’t have the balls to tell Rose about Nony’s existence. That plan backfired because he eventually caved in and let the secret out. Rose ends up getting pregnant (her baby will be called Grace… wahahaa) and it is super strange how this pregnant woman can decide to kill her husband.

And that’s basically it.

The book’s a bit of a letdown. I was hoping to read about how the women would fight for Frank’s attention but it seems Rose only wanted Frank dead and Nony only wanted his money.

I guess the main takeaway from this book would be that it’s best not to have secrets regarding past relationships. Your spouse deserves to know. If she finds out (too late), and she cannot deal with the truth, then you might just end up with a hammer to the back of your head. You won’t even know what hit you.

Book Review: ‘Freedom Fighter’ by Joanna Palani

freedom fighter book by joanna palani

This is one book I’d recommend if you want to know more about the individuals who go and join the war against ISIS. ‘Freedom Fighter: My War Against ISIS on the Frontlines of Syria’ is the true story of Joanna Palani and how she left Denmark to travel to the Middle East and joined the YPJ – the all-female brigade of the Kurdish militia in Syria. You know how we’re often told not to judge books by their covers? I took one look at this cover, saw how attractive this lady is and knew that some part of this book would involve romance (how could it not?) What I couldn’t have known was that she has also gotten special-forces training, and is a saboteur and sniper. How cool is that? Upon returning to Denmark, though, she ended up in jail because of laws which supposedly were for stopping citizens from joining ISIS. (She’d been fighting against ISIS)

This book is an exceedingly good read – I had someone chanting “unputdownable” near me all the time ‘cos I was engrossed in reading this. πŸ˜€ I believe a lot of the credit has to go to co-writer, Lara Whyte. Though Joanna doesn’t go into great detail about the training, strategies employed and plans of the organizations she has worked with (for obvious reasons), there’s still enough excitement and even gore. Within the first chapter alone, you’ll read about how her comrade put a grenade in his own mouth and blew his head off, just to save the group by sacrificing himself during an attack by Daesh.

Joanna also shares about her difficult childhood. I really think her father’s quite an a**hole. The ‘ultimate’ a**hole deed was what happened after Joanna’s uncle died –Β her father ‘forced’ his sister-in-law to become his second wife. He told her that if she refused, she can find another husband but she’ll lose her children. So of course she had to agree for the sake of her kids. And when he moved in with his second wife, it was obvious he never spared a thought for his first wife.

~

“The worst place in the world to be a woman is the Middle East. The worst places to be born as a woman are Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and northern Iraq.”

“I believe that an educated mind is the best weapon a woman can have against men.”

~

Towards the end of the book, Joanna also shares about a family she stayed with – in a sort of safe house. The head of the household, Shorash, kept molesting her at home, in the car, when she was asleep, etc. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she would not just rip him apart. Here’s a woman who can make as well as defuse bombs, killed maybe a hundred Daesh fighters, and she’s tolerating the sexual abuse? Is it because you can’t kill someone who’s supposedly part of your movement, or that the guy has young children aged 4, 10 and 16 and can’t afford to lose their father? Is it because males have ‘authority’ and can do whatever they like? I think, at the very least, she should have chopped off one of his fingers as a warning? πŸ˜›

~

“I always find it difficult when anyone asks me why I went to join the war, and I have decided there is no easy answer – or at least not one that seems to satisfy. In some ways going to war was just natural for me, in the way that it is completely unnatural for others. When people ask me why I went, I always want to ask them, ‘What made you stay behind and watch all this suffering on your television, and do absolutely nothing about it?’ I really think that’s the bigger question, actually.”

~

I think it’s easier to run off and join the fight when there’s tension at home, when you’re fighting so much with family members that you might as well go and kill a few of the enemies outside. When there’s a lot at stake, however, I guess most people can’t help but stay by their television sets with a bucket of popcorn. While I’m happy people like Joanna Palani are doing their part in fighting against ISIS, I’d say it’s not quite easy for women to follow in her footsteps because there’s the enemy outside, yes, but there’s also the enemy within – the men who are happy to taunt, belittle and even abuse the female fighters.

Book Review: ‘Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers’ by Paige Parker

Don't Call Me Mrs Rogers by Paige Parker

When I first found out about this new release, I was tempted to get it straight from the bookstores. It seems to promise tales of adventures, epic fights (it does say “loathing” on the cover) and invaluable insights into the relationship between investment guru Jim Rogers and his less-famous (but no less awesome) wife. The book ‘Small Fry‘ by Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa, really helped satisfy my curiosity about Steve. I was hoping this book would do the same. What I neglected, though, was the fact that Steve’s no longer around while Jim still is, and the couple also have two daughters who would definitely be reading this book. So, it’s either restraint I detect or an overwhelming saint-like ability to forgive and forget. Most women (or perhaps I can only speak for myself) get better at describing an unpleasant situation (such as a fight with a spouse) with each retelling of the same story. Paige’s account lacks that added punch of emotion. After all, if my guy calls me a “Stupid bitch!”, my account would be as fiery, if not more.

Reading this book is like watching a long documentary. It’s not reality TV and you don’t really feel the need to tell anyone else they should read the book too. I was initially a bit puzzled as to how Paige can remember details of this 3-year round-the-world journey with Jim. Was she using her imagination to fill in the gaps in memory or does she simply have a fantastic memory? Later on in the book,Β  they were fighting over a laptop and it appears she does her ‘writing’ on it. In which case, I think a ‘diary’ format would be much better. With dates and places stated clearly before each chapter. Otherwise the book always seems to be in that strange zone between fiction and non-fiction.

I think Jim Rogers picked the perfect way to select his third wife: a three-year-long journey around the world. If the pair can survive the trip, they’ll survive anything that comes after. Even if you’re a gold-digger, there’s only so much you can tolerate. And such a ‘crazy’ journey to foreign lands, away from friends and family, and with only one person as your constant companion, you’re bound to reveal questionable motives, if any. According to Wikipedia, Jim’s previous marriages lasted around three years each. And it does appear to me that this one will be ‘the right one’.

I admire Paige’s courage in dropping everything and leaving for this journey with a man who’s not yet her husband. One must be feverish with wanderlust in order to do that. Maybe Jim had really swept her off her feet, who knows? And I can only cringe while reading her descriptions of some truly awful locations, when she has to go without bathing for 5 days and her hair is full of oil. Good grief! I do also love her account of how she grabbed the collars of men who’d groped her bum, and how she’d smacked them repeatedly. You go, girl! And it does seem like she has a heart for helping women and children. So she’s not just one of those socialite types who attend galas and fundraisers mainly to be seen and to win ‘Best Dressed’ awards.

I think Jim’s gotten really good at picking the right woman to be his wife. Third time’s the charm, I guess. πŸ˜‰

‘Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers’ is available at libraries and bookstores near you, so grab a copy if you’d like.

Book Review: ‘I am not a label, I am Gary’

i am not a label i am gary

I regret picking up this book to read two nights ago when I was having trouble falling asleep. The reason I couldn’t seem to fall asleep was because I was buzzing after finally spotting Meow, whom I had not seen for weeks. And I regret choosing this book to read late in the night because it has just 168 pages, and was a relatively easy read, and so I finished reading the whole book in one sitting. (>_<) I think I may actually have seen the author working in Eighteen Chefs before, but I’m not quite certain.

Gary’s life is one that’s full of ups and downs, starting from the time his parents divorced when he was three years old. His story reads like the stories of many others before him – dropping out of school, joining a gang, getting into fights, substance abuse, blah blah blah. But in his case, there’s redemption. I love how he got his act together, doing extremely well in school due to sheer perseverance (4.0 GPA! Whoots!)

I was definitely horrified at the parts where he shared about sexual abuse he suffered as a kid, and when he later strangled a girlfriend till she fainted and had to be sent to hospital. I really hope the girl is well today.

I’m so glad Gary is a changed man, and he’s been actively giving back to society by reaching out to at-risk youths, and has even set up Happy Children Happy Future (find them on Facebook) to match volunteer tutors with children from underprivileged families.

One thing Gary wants to achieve with the writing of this book is to shine the spotlight on discrimination towards people with tattoos. I’m not sure what your take on tattoos is, but for me, I think people who DARE to get a tattoo (especially BIG ones) aren’t just brave; they are people who have experienced very painful situations in their lives, and therefore are able to ‘cope’ with the pain that comes with getting a tattoo. As for me, I’ve never wanted a tattoo before as I find that there’s no one perfect spot for a tattoo, and there’s no perfect design even if you’ve miraculously found the right spot, and if the tattoo artist makes a mistake, then guess who’s going to have to live with the mistake? So I really don’t mind if people have tattoos. If I’m an employer, I’d hire someone whether or not he/she has a tattoo (or many). But yes, if a GROUP of people with tattoos are walking towards me, my heart might start beating a little faster. While it may be art and self-expression and all that, one cannot deny that people belonging to gangs tend to also have tattoos.

All in all, I found this book to be a good read. Yes, the author thinks he isn’t a label. But I guess ‘inspiration’, as a label, would be a good one to have, ya?

Book Review: ‘Unqualified’ by Anna Faris (Foreword by Chris Pratt)

anna faris unqualified book review

What a great memoir this is! πŸ™‚ Almost ‘unputdownable’, and I say ‘almost’ because I think those pages with input from Anna’s Facebook fans and podcast listeners seem to be fillers. And I might be wrong, but it appears this book was launched around the time Anna and Chris split? So, why oh why, does it not spill the beans on the reason(s) for the split, instead of just gushing about what a unicorn Chris is and how much they love and will sacrifice for their son? Hmm. Before picking up this book, I actually had no idea who Anna Faris is (and yup, I’ll probably pronounce her name wrongly too, just like you would – it’s supposed to be something like Ah-nah, not Ann-na). But after reading this book, I now know (just about) everything from when she lost her virginity to the time she got breast implants. Let’s just say this book is a tell-all, except about the part regarding the divorce. I’m guessing it’s somewhere in pre-nuptial agreements to keep certain things private? πŸ˜‰ So, props to them for somehow still being able to remain friends after a divorce.

It all seems so weird to me, how these angmohs can get divorced and have new partners and everyone can get to meet / know each other. It’s like they kind of accept that no one gets marriage right the first time, so it’s ok to call it quits (“till death do us part” hahahaa) and then stay pals with exes and even befriend their ex-spouse’s new love interests. (>_<)

Anna has this popular podcast called ‘Anna Faris is Unqualified’ and I really do love this word – ‘Unqualified’. She can say whatever she wants, and you can’t fault her, ‘cos she has already stated that she is unqualified and who asked you to believe what she says? πŸ˜€ In this book, she shares lots of relationship advice too, and ultimately I feel a little sympathetic towards these high-profile celebrity romances. If you’re a celeb, it makes sense to date / marry another celeb; someone who will understand the demands of your job and also not kick up a fuss if you have kissing scenes, etc, with another hot celeb. BUT the pressures of keeping up a facade of being in a marriage that is #relationshipgoals (thanks, social media) and having to deal with the press who’d happily plaster a picture of your sole, sad self along the beach alongside one of your husband laughing with his hot co-star… that can certainly take its toll. And when there’s a comparison of who’s more famous than whom? Sigh.

On page 194, Anna shares about the time she uttered “Don’t you know who I am?” in 2002 when the manager of a bowling alley bar wanted to kick her out of the place for getting (slightly) drunk. Reminds me of the time that our own local celebrity, Rui En, did the same. I suppose fame gets to your head, ya? Even a self-deprecating, funny, and lovable character like Anna also falls prey to it.

Read this book if you’d like to know Anna Faris a little better. She does share some interesting nuggets about Chris Pratt (which make him seem REALLY desirable) but don’t expect it to tell you (not even a hint!) about the reasons why they got a divorce.

Book Review: ‘Operation Playboy’ by Kathryn Bonella

operation playboy book by kathryn bonella

This book, ‘Operation Playboy’, is about the true story of “playboy surfers turned international drug lords’. It’s a hundred times better than ‘Billion Dollar Whale‘, in my humble opinion. πŸ˜‰ It’s a real page-turner and it’s obvious the writer did countless interviews with the people involved (caught or still at-large) and the cops who caught them. The result is a book which opened my eyes to a portion of the international drug trade starting from Brazil and leading to other parts of the world, such as Amsterdam and Bali. It reveals the lives these drug lords lead, dripping in cash, and their eventual downfall which could involve 12-man firing squads. Also, there is a shocking and damning account of the justice system in Brazil, where cops, prosecutors and judges can be bribed all too easily.

“…if a judge gets convicted for crimes, even if he worked only 3,4,5 years, he’s going to be dismissed of his judiciary power, they are going to say you are not a judge anymore but you are going to receive your paycheck every month… it’s almost an invitation to sell some sentences, to get money off some guys being accused. Give it a try, man. What’s the worst [that] can happen? You don’t have to work for the next 30 years and you’re going to receive pay as if you’re working.” – Chief CaieronΒ 

Sometimes I wonder how drugs land in Singapore, what with our strict laws and all the customs checks. Then there’s this book about how these surfer drug lords have ‘horses’ (read: drug mules) working for them, and they have drugs hidden in the lining of bags, parachutes even, and also within specially made surfboards just for this purpose. There’s carbon paper packaging to counter all those x-ray checks and anti-dog scents to get dogs off their (drug) trail. It all sounds so easy, unless dumb things happen, such as sending a horse who looks like the exact opposite of a surfer, or when the guy making these surfboards isn’t paid promptly and he decides to cut corners this time.

This book succeeds, beyond any doubt, in drawing readers into the world of the playboys, with its free flow of drugs, cash, booze, women, luxury hotels and first-class travel. You might begin to wonder why you’re working so hard and making so little, when these guys are getting others to be their horses and they’re just flying in after them and getting loads of cash without much risk. Then, towards the end of the book, you’ll find executions, jail time and sometimes ridiculous outcomes such as when a “well-known horse and boss” becomes a police officer in Brazil. (>_<) Someone should make a movie out of this book!

Book Review: ‘9th Of August’ by Andre Yeo

9th of August book by Andre Yeo

This is a book that was just waiting to be written, really. I’m surprised it wasn’t written / published earlier. It’s a no-brainer: Singapore’s a shiny target for the terrorists, and what better time to cause maximum damage than on National Day? So this book by Andre Yeo is about how six suicide bombers have slipped into Singapore, planning to blow themselves up on SG’s 55th birthday in the year 2020.

I like how the author has woven in other stories, about Tun, about Inspector Rahim, and even about Henry. Gosh. Henry’s wife’s last words to him are so shocking when they are finally revealed towards the end of the book. You got me there, Andre! Good one!

I found this book an exceedingly enjoyable read, no doubt due to the author’s astute observations about Singaporeans. It’s totally true how a suspicious-looking character on a train would get zero attention whatsoever. And since a good portion of our train network is underground, if timed perfectly, a suicide bomber on a train could cause a lot of damage when the detonation happens right under a densely-populated area such as Raffles Place during office hours.

One of the suicide bombers even heads to Waterway Point! I certainly sat up a little straighter when reading that bit. Why a terrorist would want to head to a mall in ulu little Punggol, I don’t know. But seriously, guys, don’t come here ok? πŸ˜› I think the author might even have done a little shopping in Waterway Point before since he states on page 195 that the suicide bomber codenamed “Number Two” headed to “level one of the East Wing of Waterway Point” where he saw “several [people] struggling with plastic bags filled with produce from the supermarket”. *Fact-checking!* The author knows there’s an East Wing, but the truth is… the supermarket is actually located in the West Wing, at Basement 2. If you go to Level 1 of the East Wing, you might actually be looking at the Customer Service counter after you head past the cafe. Having said that, please don’t come to the West Wing either! There’s toys ‘r’ us, Daiso, PizzaHut, Times bookstore, McDonald’s! Most of my favorite stores are in the West Wing. Seriously. Why not an Orchard Road Mall though? Oh wait… ‘cos people don’t visit Orchard. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

What I’m not too fond of is how the author paints such a rosy picture of Singaporeans coming together after the terrorist attacks, united as one, looking out for each other, etc. The book almost became a tearjerker. But wait… we aren’t the Japanese, you know? I think the book doesn’t do enough justice to our kiasu, kiasi spirit.

I would think that people would lock themselves in their homes, like they usually do already. And they would stock up on essentials (you may think it’s rice and biscuits and water, right? But it’ll also include things like powerbanks, duh!) Possibly people might even pretend they aren’t home when neighbors come asking for some infant formula or water or food. We even pretend we are asleep on the trains when pregnant ladies and elderly folk come on board! So don’t put it past us.

And if the authorities let slip that they’ve received intel regarding a possible attack on National Day, wahahaha, people will definitely be trying to flee the country before 9th August. If they are crazy rich, they’ll jet off. Or cruise. Most of us will be trying to get onto a flight out of the country (especially folks like me who have no bosses to report to). And just about everyone will try to get to JB. We’ll walk over if there’s no other mode of transport available.

And I really don’t think the suicide bombers should target the PM. ‘Cos I want to see how he handles such a crisis. πŸ˜›

What an exciting topic for a book. And yet how difficult it must be to write this book. There must still be a “National Education” sort of message about how we stand together united as one. The author is the Deputy News Editor at TNP so yah, I don’t blame him for including an NE message. But if you were to ask me what I really think, it’ll be that we’re more likely to die in a stampede while trying to get over the Causeway to JB before the terrorists even set foot in Singapore.

If the nation is made aware of the fact that an attack is imminent (based on highly reliable intel), I think all hell will break loose. So, will they tell us? That’s something to think about.

Book Review: ‘Sick: A Memoir’ by Porochista Khakpour

‘Sick: A Memoir’ by Porochista Khakpour is unputdownable, but not in the usual ways. I wanted to read this book (and did so in less than 24 hours) because it’s strange. Why is this lady on the cover, with an oxygen tube (or a nasal cannula if you want to be specific) and pills of all sizes and colors? Why’s the book titled ‘Sick’ instead of something like ‘Road to Recovery’, ‘My Battle With Lyme’, or something along those lines? Sure, ‘Sick’ cuts right to it but it still makes you wonder why someone SO, apparently, ill would bother with writing a book and its accompanying strains on time and energy what with the editing, the promoting of the book, tours, etc?

sick by porochista khakpour

“I am a sick girl. I know sickness. I live with it. In some ways, I keep myself sick.”

And while reading the book, I’m thinking this lady is a real warrior. In her shoes, I might have taken the easy way out. Yes, really. After all those hospital visits, trips to meet “healers”, pills, therapies, broken relationships and more, wouldn’t it just be easier (so much easier) to end this life? After all, can you endure chronic insomnia, not knowing when you’ll faint again on the streets, or when you’ll vomit in public, or when there’ll be a relapse? I doubt I can. And having your parents tell you to please leave their home because they can’t live with a sick daughter anymore, and want their quiet lives back? That’s brutal.

If you’ve watched the video I’ve embedded above (if the link doesn’t work, just head to YouTube and search for “Porochista Khakpour with Eileen Myles: Sick | 6-5-2018 | NYPL Author Talks”), you’ll find that the author is a very intelligent individual with a great sense of humor. I’m already planning to read her two novels which were published before this memoir came out. πŸ™‚ [*I love the way she handled that heckler of a woman in the audience, around the 42-minute mark of the video :D]

In this particular book, she mentions a lady who wanted the author’s help with her manuscript for a memoir. But Porochista read the lady’s manuscript and found that it was made up largely of fabrications. So she turned that lady down. I’d hazard a guess that much of this book, if not ALL of it, is true or what the author believes to be true. She’s so brutally honest that sometimes I find myself shaking my head in disbelief and disapproval as I read about how she purchased a CARTON of Marlboro Reds when she went to college and purposely got herself addicted to cigarettes (WHO DOES THAT?!), and how she was STILL smoking when she put together this memoir, as a “reward for some paragraphs or pages”. I have very little sympathy for sick people if they smoke while already ill. They have a right to smoke, for sure. But don’t expect any help or pity from me.

“Another part of it is the thrill of the sick person making herself sicker. If you know a part of you is always dying, taking charge of that dying has a feeling of empowerment. My body goes against me often, so what if I put it through that myself?”

A common theme in Porochista’s life has been that of ‘addiction’. Not just cigarettes, but also drugs. In her younger, and healthier, days, she took cocaine, ecstasy, etc. At some point, she even got sexually assaulted by two men after a drug-fuelled escapade. Later on, as many ill people are, she had a drug addiction because of the medications prescribed to her.

She has managed to present so many years, if not decades, of her life into this one book that has just 250 pages but will leave you thinking she has lived a full life. She has experimented with so much, lived in so many cities, had so many relationships (probably not a good thing) and now she’s a very successful author.

“At some point I questioned why I had for much of my life leaped from one person to another, with no end in sight. I’m not sure my conclusions are good, but I can tell you when the body feels out of place it will cling to anything that looks like life. Cities. Homes. People. Lovers.”

~

I’m not sure what you’ll take away from it.

At the end of the day, it leaves me thinking about wealth and of health. Would you want to be a writer who has gotten accolades from The Oprah Magazine, Buzzfeed, Cheryl Strayed, etc? Would you want to have to go through what Porochista did in order to get there? πŸ˜‰ I’ve already read a couple of books recently which made me think that it’s such a privilege to be able to go to sleep at night with little trouble. So many people have to battle insomnia, and so many need pills in order to fall asleep and even if they do get some sleep, they don’t wake up feeling refreshed.

If anything, this book makes me feel even better about my own life, and reminds me of what I need to be thankful for. Sure, it’s probably not the author’s intent. She probably wants to raise awareness regarding Lyme disease, how flawed the medical system is because doctors don’t take young women’s complaints of being ill seriously enough thus leading to delayed detection of Lyme, and shining a spotlight on society’s attitudes towards those who are ill and not being productive, not working and not hustling.

Overall, it’s a great read. It shows you what war and revolution (the author’s family are refugees from Iran), and dysfunctional families can do to young people. And it might even get you alarmed at how a tick bite can lead to severe health consequences. Before this book, I didn’t even know there’s such a thing as Lyme disease!

Porochista currently has two fundraising campaigns going on at gofundme.com. If you are so inclined, go donate some money to help her fight Lyme disease.

Book Review: The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

the girl who smiled beads

I was wrong. I thought this would be yet another book of a refugee who simply wanted to share her story of how she fled the Rwandan massacre at age 6 and eventually made it to America after 6 long years, and how she also managed to graduate from Yale University! “Well done!”, a congratulatory pat on her back, and all should be good, right?

Instead, this book taught me more than I’d expected. What impacted me the most were the bits about how we, as people who have never suffered the horrors of war, think we know what refugees need / want. And in giving to them, we also want to receive appreciation and their gratitude. When we meet someone like the author, whose (internal) response might be “you have no idea”, it’s a punch to the gut.

Clemantine forces me to differentiate between giving and sharing. Giving implies that I’m more privileged, more able, etc. While sharing means the refugee and me are equals. I’ve realised I’m pretty good at giving; what I no longer need, what I can spare, what I can do without. I’m not that great at sharing. (@_@)

And how brutal we all are when we ask refugees to relive the horrors by sharing their stories, made worse with our insensitive questions such as “do you feel guilty that you survived when the others perished?” As usual, Clemantine has a ready response. And it’s gold. Read the book to find out what it is. πŸ˜‰

Clemantine pulls no punches. She hits you where it hurts, rips your mask of hypocrisy to shreds and grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you up.

This is a book which will definitely teach you a thing or two you never expected. And I’m glad it’s in the form of a book and not a movie. If it’s too graphic, I won’t be able to get it out of my head.

Because this book also has a co-author, Elizabeth Weil, I somehow knew it would be a decent read even before setting eyes on the first page. How much of this book is fact, and how many pages of it is fiction / imagination, I don’t think anyone knows. I cannot remember much / any of what I did as a 6-year-old. And if I had been separated from my parents because of a war when I’m 6, the trauma would have left indelible marks on my memory. Still, this book is based not so much on the author’s childhood / family history, but on her take of what happened, what should not have happened, and what needs to happen from now on. A very good read.