Mini-Reviews of Short Reads: The Origin of Others & Dear Ijeawele

Over the past couple of months I read two short (~100 pages) nonfiction books that I definitely want to discuss, but don’t have that much to say about. Although I read the titles a few weeks apart, I think the books go quite well together, as they are both short pieces of nonfiction that focus on themes of social justice and equality. So with that, please enjoy (or don’t – I can’t tell you how to feel) my first ever mini-reviews post!

The origin of others by toni morrison

The Origin of Others is a collection of six essays which demonstrate how societal injustices and inequalities often occur through the act of excluding, or “othering,” minority groups. By characterizing minority groups as “others,” rather than human beings deserving of the same rights as everyone else, the in-group is able to justify its unfair advantages and even abuse of power over the oppressed. Morrison talks about distinct forms of othering including: romancing and romanticizing slavery, fetishization, and stereotypical depictions of minorities in literature and films.

Although short, The Origin of Others packs a powerful punch. The foreword alone (which is written by Ta-Nehisi Coates) had me nodding and underlining vigorously because, like the rest of the book, it is full of powerful insights. One of the reasons why this book is so powerful is because Morrison uses examples about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement to illustrate her points – yet her points are still incredibly pertinent to the current moment. There is something so striking and stirring about clearly seeing the parallels between slavery and contemporary society. I’m sure this was no accident on Morrison’s part, as The Origin of Others was published in 2017.

Overall, The Origin of Others was an incredibly powerful read. Despite being only 112 pages, this book is neither light nor easy to read – yet it is also so eye-opening and necessary. I highly recommend it.

Dear Ijeawele by chimamanda ngozi adichie

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was born after a friend of Adichie’s asked her for advice on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. The result is this short book of – as the title says – fifteen suggestions on how to raise a feminist daughter, with elaborations and examples to accompany each suggestion. Adichie’s suggestions include rejecting gender roles/stereotypes, teaching women to aspire to more than just marriage, teaching girls to question why certain behaviors are criticized in women but not men, rejecting the idea that “likeability” is a measure of success, and talking openly about sex.

For the most part, I got on well with this book. I agree with most of Adichie’s suggestions, and think that her advice is valuable for raising a curious and socially conscious child of any gender – not just a daughter. However, as the need for intersectional feminism becomes increasingly apparent, I feel that this book isn’t intersectional enough. For one thing, many of Adichie’s examples – like teach your daughter about oppression, but don’t turn the oppressed into martyrs or saints – assume that the reader enjoys a certain level of privilege and is not oppressed themself. Additionally, the book is not very trans-inclusive, as it contains well-intentioned, yet problematic statements which equate being a woman with having a vagina (for example, in rejecting the notion that women in a cis-heterosexual relationship must do all the cooking for their partner, Adichie writes that “the knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina“).

Despite its limitations, though, I still think Dear Ijeawele is a good book with good advice. I recommend it, with the caveat that you should also read more intersectional books (such as Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism) in order to recognize the limitations of this one.

Author: Hannah Celeste

Hi! I'm Hannah, a book-blogger from the Northeastern United States. I enjoy reading many genres, cooking and baking, doing yoga, and spending time with my two cats.

7 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews of Short Reads: The Origin of Others & Dear Ijeawele”

  1. I haven’t read any Toni Morrison yet, which I need to rectify. So far The Bluest Eye is on top of my list, but this one sounds good as well.

    When it comes to your point about not being intersectional enough: I definitely get what you are saying and I also agree based on the examples you give. On the other hand, I have some tolerance for people who base their writing on their own situation in life and their own premises. It must be difficult, always to take every cohort and every possible issue into account.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Besides this, I’ve only read Beloved. I need to read more of Morrison’s works as well.

      I really like the point you make and you are right. As a straight/cis woman who enjoys a certain level of privilege, that is what it makes sense for Adichie to write about. Thank you for helping me to see the book’s “lack of intersectionality” in a more well-balanced way!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Adichie’s other nonfiction book, We Should All Be Feminists, is about raising sons to be feminists, isn’t it? I ask because I saw her at an event where she mentioned focusing more on making boys into feminists instead of expecting girls to fight against the patriarchy, and the room lost its mind with applause.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh whoa, I hadn’t done my research on We Should All Be Feminists but you are right. That essay is about expanding the definition of feminism to be more inclusive in general, and it does include portions about raising sons as feminists as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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