Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Group by Mary McCarthy

I finished reading Mary McCarthy’s The Group over the weekend and I have to say that it is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time to come.

It follows eight graduates of the exclusive American college for women – Vassar – as they find their places in life. Except for the fact that The Group is set in the 1930s (and written in the ‘60s), you could almost be mistaken into thinking that it is set in modern day New York, which just goes to show that the issues that women face has changed very little (careers, relationships, marriage).

Kay, Dottie, Pokey, Polly, Libby, Priss, Lakey and Helen are very different women and although most of them share a solid friendship with the others, some relationships are rather more tenuous and their very existence speaks more to university’s ability to bring together people from very different economic and social classes, who might not otherwise meet or become friends.

The book doesn’t pull any punches at all and deals quite frankly with issues of sex, marriage, infidelity, motherhood, ambition, rape, mental illness, death and even sexual orientation. It might seem too much for one book, but with each chapter focusing on aspects of each woman’s life, it never feels overwhelming or less than believable, because you get pulled into the character’s life and worldview.

The book starts off with Kay’s wedding and ends seven years later at a funeral and during that time, the friends have matured and lost some of their post-college shiny-eyed idealism. In her foreword, Candace Bushnell writes: “As Vassar graduates, the women of The Group believe they will change the world. What they discover is that not only can they not change the world, but their survival still depends on their acceptance of being ‘the second sex.’” To put it concisely – reality bites!

I liked this book because it explored many issues that are dominant in my life – and every other woman. I also enjoyed it, because I could see myself in one or more of the characters (I identified most with Polly).

It wasn’t a quick read for me, because it was dense with description, which did not lend itself to reading within the odd 10 or 15 minutes that I could snatch during my days and nights. Rather, The Group is the type of book that you want to devote a few hours to, settled in a comfortable chair.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Whip My Hair Mash-up

There seem to be no end to the number of hair-related videos in the news this week. This one is a mash-up of Sesame Street's "I Love My Hair" and Willow Smith's "I Whip My Hair."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Strategic Bloggers Meeting

A roundtable discussion was organised yesterday (coordinated by Adeolu Akinyemi and sponsored by MTN Nigeria). The objective was ultimately to "develop a framework for the Nigerian blogging industry." To this end, a selection of Nigerian bloggers - myself included - were invited to share their experiences, especially related to income generation (adverts and content marketing).

This was the first time I had heard bloggers referred to as an "industry." Before yesterday, I had thought of us as a loose group of people who happened to share one activity in common - blogging. So, the use of the word "industry" obviously connotes "making money", which appears to distinguish the professional blogger from the hobbyist.

Our discussions yesterday showed how this grouping by blogging intent is not even a clear demarcation as most bloggers who are now making money from their blogs started off as casual bloggers.

Anyway, I digress.

The discussions touched on the difficulty in selling online marketing to corporate Nigeria; the majority of whom tend to be more comfortable with more traditional forms of advertising.

I don't make any sort of money from my blog, so while I shared some of my thoughts, the experience for me was very much a peek into the possibilities. A few weeks ago - or was that only last week(?) - I realised how much more I want to do with this blog. Well, after yesterday my brain was ringing with thoughts of "To infinity and beyond!"

Read Web Trends for a more detailed write-up.

Tales of Lionesses: Reflections on African Feminism

As the 3rd edition of the African Feminist Forum opens, founding member Jessica Horn reflects on where feminism fits in our narrative of African experience.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Love My Hair: An Ode to Natural Hair

This video has been making the rounds on the natural hair blogs in the last couple of weeks.

In it, a little Muppet girl (of African descent) sings a love song to her hair. She talks about all the different ways she can style her car.

"I Love My Hair" debuted on the Oct. 4 episode of Sesame Street. It was posted on the show's YouTube page — and since then the video has been shared the world over.

On NPR, Joey Mazzarino, the head writer of Sesame Street, is also a Muppeteer who wrote the song for his daughter. Mazzarino is Italian. He and his wife adopted their 5-year-old daughter, Segi, from Ethiopia when she was a year old. Listen to the interview here.

In the interview, Mazzarino references how the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair brought to his attention the pressures that black women face to wear their hair in straighter styles.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Keeping Up with the Jones

My newest TV love is Keeping Up with the Jones, the BET reality show.

The show follows Tracey Ferguson, the editor in chief of Jones magazine, a Houston-based shopping guide for women.

I stumbled on it quite by accident, as I hardly ever watch BET. However, I was almost instantly hooked after the first episode I watched. The series follows Tracey as she seeks to build-up the Jones brand and expand the reach of the magazine. In the first episode I watched, we see her moving into her new office space after years of working our of her home. One of her staff is not terribly excited about the office space as it's on the small side. That staff had a stinky attitude and I think eventually Tracey fired her or she left.

In a later episode, Tracey explores a partnership with Source magazine, which would provide a much-needed national distribution link for Jones magazine. Her potential partners share their opinions of the magazine with Tracey including the layout, choice of cover models, size and content. And they basically wanted to change everything.

I can relate to this show on so many levels, even though I don't run a magazine. Many of the issues that Tracey has to deal with on a daily basis are the same that most business owners have to - such as figuring out the best way to bring your dream to life; staying true to your vision in the face of set-backs, criticism and 'helpful' suggestions; managing her staff; taking her organisation to that next level; and most importantly balancing her work and her family life.

Tracey doesn't know it all, but I like that she is clear on what she wants for Jones. She is willing to listen to suggestions, but will draw the line if it appears to take the magazine in the opposite direction of where it needs to go. The same goes with caring for teenage son and daughter, who both have equally clearly-defined plans for their lives.

Sometimes I can feel her brain cells whirring and asking "So what do I do in this situation?" She doesn't always have the answers by the end of each episode, but she's also confident enough to let somethings work themselves out.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Blogging Resolution

When I think about how I have neglected my blog, I become wracked with guilt. Well, not always. Most times I am. I used to be such a dedicated blogger, sometimes blogging several times in 1 day.

Many people I know have moved on from their blogs - sometimes to other social networking tools and sometimes offline.

However, I still spend a lot of time online, though most of that time is dedicated to work. And of course, I have my daily blog reads. I just don't dedicate that much time to my own blog.

Reading Ree's post on Ten Important Things She's Learnt about Blogging, I am struck that I hardly do any one of them consistently - be it writing often, being myself or pushing through my writer's block.

A few moments later, I stumbled upon 101 Cookbooks (I love food blogs, though I don't cook all that often) and discovered that Heidi Swanson, the creator of 101 Cookbooks, was the co-founder of ChickClicks an early online community targeted at young women, which among many things encouraged an interest in technology. The fact that I used to visit this site in 2000 (10 whole years ago) blew me away that I've been hanging out online for so long.

I am really going to try to post more frequently. I really will try...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Uche Eze of Bella Naija on CNN

Young Nigerians are doing big things and Uche Eze of the Bella Naija entertainment and style website is certainly one of them.

As part of CNN's coverage of Nigeria's 50th anniversary, they interviewed and profiled many individuals and organisations who are leading important social and economic changes in the country.