Monthly Archives: November 2008

Forbidden Love – Norma Khouri


“Our mothers, like all mothers of daughters, did their job by training us to live in an unsympathetic, protected, male-dominated world. I’m certain no woman raised in Jordan escaped her childhood and young adulthood without hearing things like: ‘A woman’s honour, once ruined, can never be repaired’, or ‘Better to lose your life than lose your reputation’. They told us about the woman who chose to kill herself and die honorably rather than allow a potential rapist to assault her, and of the woman who didn’t preserve her honour and was raped, only to be murdered by her own family who were protecting their ‘good’ name.
Our parents wove into everyday life the idea that all men are superior to women. We were not beaten into a state of slavery with whips and chains, but rather persuaded into it by the words and teaching of centuries-old traditions. It was not our faith in those words that continued to bind us but our fear of the consequences if we ever went against them.”

The Good Women of China – Xinran


“The Chinese say ‘the hands of men and the words of women are to be feared.”

“Yes, some of my friends say I have a ‘mouth of knives and a heart of tofu’. What’s the use of that? How many people see through your words to your heart?”

“All the Chinese care about is ‘face’, but they don’t understand how their faces are linked to the rest of their bodies.”

“Jingyi said that women were like water and men like mountains -was this a valid comparison? I put this question to my listeners, and received almost two hundred replies in a week. Of these, more than ten came from my colleagues. Big Li wrote: ‘Chinese men need women in order to form a picture of themselves -as mountains are reflected in streams. But streams flow from the mountains. Where then is the true picture?”

“Men want a woman who is a virtuous wife, a good mother, and can do all the housework like a maid. Outside the home, she should be attractive and cultivated, and be a credit to him.

In bed, she must be nymphomaniac. What is more, Chinese men also need their women to manage their finances and earn a lot of money, so they can mingle with the rich and powerful. Modern Chinese men sigh over the abolition of polygamy. That old man Gu Hongming at the end of the Qing dynasty said that ‘one man is best siuted to four women, as a teapot is best suited to four cups’. And modern Chinese men want another cup to fill with money too.”

“When we are alone with each other, all you hear are the noises of animal existence: eating, drinking and going to the toilet. Only when there are visitors is there a breath of humanity. In this family, I have neither a wife’s rights nor a mother’s position. My husband says I’m like a faded grey cloth, not good enough to make trousers out of, to cover the bed, or even to be used as a dishcloth. All I’m good for is wiping mud off feet. To him, my only function is to serve as evidence of his ‘simplicity, diligence and upright character’ so he can move on to higher office.”

“When you walk into your memories, you are opening a door to the past; the road within has many branches, and the route is different every time.”

“Amidst the large pile of letters, one immediately caught my attention: the envelope had been made from the cover of a book and there was a chichen feather glued to it. According to Chinese tradition, a chicken feather is an urgent distress signal.”

Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


“It made him long for the days when Okeoma recited poems about people getting buttocks rashes after defecating in imported buckets,…”

“‘Yes,’ Ugwu said, although he had sworn never to eat Harrison’s food after he dropped by Mr Richard’s house and saw Harrison spooning shredded orange peels into a pot of sauce. He would have been less alarmed if Harrison had cooked with the orange itself, but to cook with the peels was like choosing the hairy skin of a goat rather than the meat.”

“Aunty Ifeka went back to her stirring, Olanna’s image of their marriage began to come apart at the seams.”

“My father used to say that other people just farted but his own fart always released shit.”

“Richard looked out at the calm, unending greenness. He would never have been happy with her -life would be gossamer, all his days merging into one long sheer sheet of nothingness.”

“5. The Book: The World Was Silent When We Died
He writes about starvation. Starvation was a Nigerian weapon of war.”

“Miss Adebayo visited and said something about grief, something nice-sounding and facile: Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.”

“Olanna stared at the door. She was used to her mother’s disapproval; it had coloured most of her major decisions, after all: when she chose two weeks’ suspension rather than apologize to her Heathgrove form mistress for insisting that the lessons on Pax Britannica were contradictory; when she joined the Students’ Movement for Independence at Ibadan; when she refused to marry Igwe Okagbue’s son, and later, Chief Okaro’s son. Still, each time, the disapproval made her want to apologize, to make up for it in some way.”

“Later, when she saw the plastic flowers in a kitchen cupboard, she was not surprised. Ugwu had saved them, the same way he saved old sugar cartons, bottle corks, even yam peels. It came with never having had much, she knew, the inability to let go of things that were useless.”

“This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles.”