The Power by Naomi Alderman

Rating: 10/10

This is only the second 10/10 rating I have ever given on this blog about a book, and it is undeniably well deserved. Previously when reading other book reviews, I never understood how a book could be ‘breathtaking’ and deemed it an altogether ridiculous phrase to describe a book. Until I read 'The Power’.

I think the best thing about this book and what made it so spectacular, was the fact that I knew nothing about the storyline and bought it based on the fact that I had just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s 'The Handmaids Tale’ when this one popped up as 'like The Hunger Games and The Handmaids Tale combined’ and knew that I had to get my hands on a copy.

To try and preserve the 'surprise’ if you like, I’ll try to make my summary of the plot as general as possible, but enough to convince you that this book is an absolute masterpiece. The narrative follows a society much like today’s, but where women discover that they have all the power, and almost overnight men are cast out and realise that their power has been diminished to nothing. The novel flicks between four different characters, all located across the world in varying countries, documenting the spread of power and rise of women - Tunde, Margot, Roxy and Allie. These four characters all experience different situations and use the power to both their advantage, but sometimes to their detriment.

I can’t stress enough how thrilling and gripping this book is, because I was absolutely spellbound by it. I read it in a day and a half and couldn’t put it down, because at the end of every chapter you are left on a cliffhanger that leaves you gasping for answers and closure.

This novel is so powerful and articulated; it highlights certain elements of our society that are dark and evil, and it is so interesting to see circumstances that some women face reversed and transferred onto men. An utterly incredible novel that I know I am going to be raving about for years to come and recommending it to everyone that I meet - this is definitely a copy that is going to be on my bookshelf until I’m an old woman, and one that I know I will read and re-read for years to come.

Like I said previously, this is only the second 10/10 rating that I have ever given a book on my blog since starting it a year ago, so full ratings are not ones that I give lightly or very often because I make sure that I am critical and honest when I review books, because at the end of the day, the reason people read my reviews is for an honest opinion on a book - so that’s what I give. But if there’s one thing you should take away from this review, it’s that you HAVE to read this book.

Not only is is phenomenally written and very cleverly put together and structured, it highlights hidden and clear injustices within our society that we don’t talk about or consider closely enough - from rape to FGM, Alderman uses this book as a beacon for change by reversing issues that women face onto men and accentuates the importance of tackling these issues among readers.

This novel is wholly deserving of its 10/10 rating and is one that I hope after reading this review, you will go out and get your hands on, because not only does Alderman perfectly create a dystopian world wrapped in satire, she also artfully brings forward the struggles of women around the world. An absolute must read and a book that I will cherish for years to come. Please please please go and read this book!

What Y'all About To Do With All That Space You Reclaimed: UVA And Selective White Guilt

Wednesday night, thousands of UVA students, faculty and staff held a vigil in front of the Rotunda in an effort to “reclaim their space” following a chaotic and deadly weekend in Charlottesville that included a march through grounds by members of neo-nazis and alt-right groups. This vigil included the singing of Freedom Songs from the Civil Rights Movement such as, “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine,” followed by constant singing of “The Good Ole Song” (which is problematic, but I won’t go into that today). “Still I Rise” was recited, photos were taken, videos recorded and shared, and many felt as if this moment atoned for the horrors that they felt from seeing racism in such a large and horrific capacity. But  now that social media, and news sources have watched UVA reclaim its space, my question is, what exactly is being reclaimed?

Are you reclaiming the administration’s ability to ignore the experiences of its minority students until they need to talk about diversity? Are you reclaiming the longstanding denial of black students into Rugby Road parties? Perhaps you’re reclaiming the feeling that black students have been handed their admission because of affirmative action? Or the ability of whiteness to take over an African American Studies course because they’ve been told that these are the easy courses. Or the complacency of having small numbers of black students in your classes, and the expectation for them to speak on behalf of an entire race.

As someone who has earned two degrees from the university, I’ve noticed that there is only a need for the university to gather and speak out when it is something that has managed to impact whiteness…in addition to everyone else. For Charlottesville, this past weekend, which featured large amounts of white people sporting swastikas, carrying rifles, waving confederate flags and tiki torches made it nearly impossible (emphasis on nearly) for white oblivion to remain. So now in this week following this incident, many white uva faculty, staff and students have taken to social media to proclaim that #thisisnotus and it’s #notourUVA, but the sad reality of it is that this IS you and your UVA.  

The death of Hannah Graham, the Rolling Stone Article, the election of Trump, and the arrest and death of Otto Warmbier were all moments that led the university to (rightfully) come together, paint beta bridge, provide space to share in the classrooms,  designate safe spaces in places on grounds like Alderman Library to process and cope, send out countless emails of support, in addition to protest and think pieces from faculty university-wide. Meanwhile black and brown students of UVA have been speaking out against racist acts and attitudes both on grounds and nationally since they arrived at the university, only to be ignored, or constantly told by white peers that they were “playing the race card.”  These students have had to push forward as they continuously hear the names of unarmed minority men and women being murdered “justifiably” by police, with limited class discussion. Black students witnessed one of their own get his head smacked on the ground by ABC agents, and then had to beg for the university to respond. We dealt with the rise of Yik Yak being used to cowardly express hatred; there was no painting of beta bridge. Black students have seen “nigger” written on grounds several times; Muslim students had “terrorist” written on their doors; and a member of StudCo openly celebrated the denial of CIO status for the group DREAMers, an organization who advocates for the rights, inclusion and safety of undocumented students, yet there was no marching or protesting from UVA’s administration.

While a vigil is a space to cope, it is also a place to reflect on what was. As sad as it is to say, in a few months, last weekend will be in the past, being spoken of less often. Some of those students that stood on the lawn “reclaiming their space” on Wednesday August 16th will be the same ones insisting that, “if they had just complied they’d be alive” the next time someone is murdered by a cop. Most will continue the tradition of positioning “Mr. Jefferson” as a demigod, and the majority will most likely seep back into a place of white oblivion and thus white safety, with racism no longer being thrown at them. UVA is not an innocent university that was merely caught in the crossfire of unexpected racism in Charlottesville. An examination of the school’s history, beginning with the laying of the first brick, shows us this. This past weekend allowed those more privileged than others to be “shocked, confused and outraged” because the issue that was hiding in plain sight was thrust directly in their face.  But now that it’s been placed in front of you so forcefully, what will you do about it? Tears, shock and letters denouncing hate are no longer enough. The reclaiming of your space can only move past empty symbolism if the reclaiming becomes a reinvention.