Sunday, August 23, 2009

A book review - "Are You Somebody?"

Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When a really cool black female friend presented this book to me as a gift, she told me that other black women had been reading it voraciously and that through it, they saw themselves. I think her exact words were that they found their voice. I didn’t understand how an Irish writer, journalist and tv personality could pull that off but I decided to keep an open mind. I’m glad I did.

I think that ultimately, it’s the human experience that connects us and binds us. This is the stuff that transcends culture and gender and race and anything else that people tend to wallow in and use in divisive ways. It’s this human experience that touched me to the quick as she swung back and forth throughout moments in her life, from her childhood to her love life to her mother’s school days to her father’s career to her brother’s demise and more, much much more. Back and forth she swung like a pendelum, exacting and so full of feeling, swirling you into a conversation that she’s having with you, with her subconscious, with her very soul, perhaps. It really does read like an intimate chat, the kind you have with a close friend well into the night that reverberates within you whenever you think about that friend. No wonder so many have taken this woman to heart, and cherish her, and hold her close. Especially other women.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. At the end of the book, she talks about how you become invisible in society or are treated like a nutter after a certain age if you are a woman because you are no longer considered sexually attractive or viable. (Remember how they treated Susan Boyle?) The frustrating thing is that you still have those sexual feelings. What’s true is that women outlive men – females outlive males of every species, actually – and so the population curve is that eventually there will be a lot of single older women out there. Actually, according to stats, over 60% of African-American women are single and/or have never been married.

In the end, the snapshots that she creates with her words are so vivid, so painful, so real that I couldn’t help but think and reflect on my own life. I think that black people are used to being treated like they are a collective nobody by society but this is especially true for black women. Society wants us to believe that we are invisible, that we don’t matter at all. We don’t become invisible when we are no longer sexual objects. We are perpetually fetishized sexually. We know exactly how that invisibility feels at ANY age.

My black female invisibility doesn’t phase me in the least. It just makes it easier to get stuff done, to get what I need for me and mine, and to conquer the ground I stand on. And we black women, we can certainly see each other and stand together. Maybe that’s our strength, our advantage. Maybe that’s the lesson for our Irish sisters.

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