Dear Ijeawele is a series of questions that Chimamanda writes to her friend as a guide to raising her daughter. It’s a very short read. It will take you a couple of hours to finish reading and reflecting on it if you don’t have a busy day doing things in between. The book is neither character nor plot-driven.
This book was a stumble upon. A friend of mine shared it with me and a couple of other friends who are raising girls, late last year. The following quotes in the book spoke to me the most:
- “Everybody will have an opinion about what you should do, by what matters is what you want for yourself and not what others what you to want”
- “Teach her that the idea of gender roles is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do something because she is a girl.”
- “Because you are a girl is never a reason for anything ever.”
- “Tell her that she too deserves the kindness of others. Teach her to stand up for what is hers.”
- “Tell her that if someone does not like her, there will be someone else who will.”
- “Tell her that her body belongs to her and her alone, that she should never feel the need to say yes to something she doesn’t want, or something she feels pressured to do.”
- “The knowledge of cooking doesn’t come pre-installed in a vagina”
The concept of feminism was refreshed in me and I was inspired to share these suggestions with my daughters as they grow up. I may not do all the suggestions but I will certainly teach my daughters those that really stood out for me.
With regard to the writing style, it was captivating and unique and came with a certain sense of authority. For those of us who were socialized to accept and act upon gender roles, it will take a bit of time to unlearn. For example this quote:
“The knowledge of cooking doesn’t come pre-installed in a vagina”
I personally grew up being told that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. So while dating one of the things girls do especially when the relationship gets to a serious stage is do her best to ensure her culinary skills are on point.
Another thing that I need to unlearn and this will take great efforts is people’s opinions. The quote below is my favourite so far:
“Everybody will have an opinion about what you should do, by what matters is what you want for yourself and not what others what you to want”
This wonderful short read will stay with me for a long time to come. It is a book I will be re-reading from time to time just to remind myself and my daughter’s certain truths about women and relationships.