No Spoiler Book Review: Dread Nation

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Today’s Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Today’s Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

You could read this book purely for the entertainment, but it’s the social commentary that makes this literary work a very powerful piece. And that’s always been the beauty and power of Sci-fi and Fantasy: the genres have always been an incredible medium for holding up a mirror to society, telling the stories of the oppressed and marginalized, and in so doing, speaking truth to power.

Set in the backdrop of the American Civil War, Dread Nation is quite obviously a creative exploration into racial inequality as well as feminism and classicism. And whether it’s intentional or otherwise, it does open up the door to conversations about colorism as well. All these themes and motifs, depending on who you are as a reader and where you are on the spectrum of social consciousness are either enlightening and empowering or simply don’t go far enough with regards exploring the complexities of racial inequality, class, feminism and colorism.

In summation, just the premise alone, “Zombies roaming around during the Civil War” sparked my curiosity. And with just a few pages in, I was hooked: the characters, the social commentary, and the pace are all engaging. I strongly recommend this to anyone yearning for a new socially conscious spin on an otherwise stale zombie genre.

Book Description: Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. 

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Sincerely,
Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

Glad It Happened, But Happy It’s Over

Like battle weary veterans, she and I would exchange love stories. Bruised and scarred by love’s many encounters, we would tell tales of how we endured in times of disappointment and heartache. These were often intriguing conversations that would sometimes spiral into bizarre but profound observations and epiphanies. Because you see, for every kiss, there is a broken heart and for every “I’ll never let you down,” there is a broken promise. It’s easy to fall in love, but harder to stop the tears from falling once our companion has fallen out of love. The lucky few find love and the promise of forever, but for the rest of us, heartbreak and heartache ensue. And if the agony of lost or unrequited love is indeed inevitable, then we might as well heed the lessons those encounters taught us and then perhaps, our pain will not be in vain.

“He treated me like I was his possession,” she lamented. “And do you know what the sad thing is? For a while I liked it; I loved the idea of belonging to him—it was sexy to me. But it slowly became overbearing, and by the time I realized it was a product of his insecurities and paranoia, rather than his love and affection for me, it was too late. He had removed any sense of self I once possessed: self-determination, self-reliance, self-awareness, and most of all, self-worth. He made me feel ugly. He made me feel stupid. He made me feel inadequate. He made me feel powerless. Suffice it to say, the only empowering thing I ever did in that relationship was break up with him and muster the strength never to look back.”

Love can leave you maimed, dazed and confused. However, even though it hurts, time has always proven that hearts heal, and when they do, we stand ready to put the past behind us and dare to love again. At that moment, the only important question is, with every scab and scar left behind from the previous heartbreak and every lesson learned, are you one situation stronger, and one relationship wiser?

“But I guess in some weird way, I’m glad it happened, but happier now that it’s over,” she reflected. “It took a bad situation for me to grow up—and out—of those flawed ideas of love and relationships I had. Before that unfortunate relationship, if you had asked me what I look for in a man, I would have told you, ‘good looks, a steady job, and a good personality with bad boy tendencies.’ You ask me that same question today, and I will tell you, ‘maturity, compassion, patience, and a kind heart.’—the things I never experienced in the men I dated in my past. I’m not saying things such as looks and a job don’t matter to me anymore, but I’m just saying I don’t put as much value in them as I used to.”

We all find things we regret in the aftermath of our bad relationships. Those who haven’t matured and grown through those bad encounters are prone to repeat them, but the smart ones quickly realize there is a lesson to be learned and a mistake to be noted so it’s never repeated. The only thing more unfortunate than dealing with a broken heart and a bad relationship is never learning the lessons that experience and journey taught you. So, be glad it happened, even though you have every right and reason to be happy that it is over. The lessons you learn and the wisdom they carry will better prepare you for your next relationship and encounter with love.

Sincerely,

Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

Zimbabwe: Making Our Leaders Idols Hurt Our Democracy

Truth is, some of us follow our leaders with such rabid loyalty that we fail to see their flaws or hold them accountable for their failures. Perhaps it’s a cultural impulse that implores us to follow blindly: we are so wired and conditioned to follow one man or woman, figurehead or mambo without question, that we become incapable of taking a step back and objectively judging them purely by the outcomes (or lack thereof) of their actions and leadership.

Zimbabwe has seen episodes of political violence over the years

Our culture over hundreds and thousands of years, much like that of many other countries on the continent, created a sociopolitical structure that gave absolute power to a single individual. These individuals were treated as infallible, and in some instances, almost godly. Moreover, they could rule almost indefinitely, never voluntarily giving up power.

That archaic sociopolitical mindset seems to have never been fully exorcised, and because of this, it is in constant conflict with the fundamentals of the constitutional democracy Zimbabwe needs to be: a nation with a balanced and decentralized power structure, a healthy opposition and civic discourse, and most importantly, an engaged citizenry that holds those in power accountable.

Zimbabwe lawyers protesting the deterioration of the rule of law

There is a reason Robert Mugabe stayed in power for over three decades. It wasn’t just the military and the regime that kept him cocooned, but our propensity to put him on a pedestal and never question his leadership, regardless of how bad things got. A habit we seem to be repeating with not only the ZANU faithful, but MDC as well.

Unfortunately, we hold some of these leaders in such high regard, not because of the quality and results of their work, but simply their title or wealth. When we do this, we allow them to be above the law, we allow corruption and misrule to continue, and the suffering to be prolonged.

‘Tortured Zimbabwe abductees’ facing prosecution

Leaders need to be challenged and held accountable when they are found to be inept and wanting, and this can only be done when we snap out of this mass hypnosis and our propensity to follow without question or reservation. We need to learn to adopt a quantifiable results-based mindset when it comes to how we evaluate our leaders: What initiatives and policies did you propose? Did you deliver on them? Did they do what you said they would? And are things better or worse because of it?

I used to think it was only fear that kept these types of leaders across the continent and the world in power, but I’ve also learned that blind loyalty can be just as effective. Tell people what they want to hear, find someone else to blame for your failures, and create the illusion of change, and they will follow and defend you passionately, sometimes to violent extremes. It’s this, in concert with other factors—corruption, cronyism, sanctions, human rights abuses—that has hurt the beautiful country of Zimbabwe and compromised its potential to be a healthy democracy and thriving economy.

Sincerely,
Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

A Conversation About LGBTQ+ Rights

“Are you gay?” he asked me.

It’s always strange when people ask me that. I guess, in their minds, they can’t seem to accept or comprehend the idea of a straight, African, Christian male being okay with the LGBT community, let alone being supportive and vocal about it. Clearly, in their minds, I must be gay too.

“Should it matter if I’m gay?” I replied. “I’m a strong advocate for women’s rights; does that make me a woman?  I’m a strong supporter of immigration reform, and I am opposed to scapegoating Mexican immigrants; does that make me Mexican?  I am opposed to people’s obsession with vilifying the Muslim faith and using the evil actions of a few to stereotype a whole race and religion; does that make me a Muslim?”

A sincere look at our recent and distant past as a nation and world will make the unbiased observer acknowledge there are many examples of people who took up causes they didn’t have to, causes they could have easily and conveniently ignored, but due their respect for human dignity, civil liberty, and everyone’s right to happiness, they fought for the greater good of others.  From white slave abolitionists to nations opening their borders to Syrian refugees, history is filled with many examples of individuals, communities, and nations doing the right thing, even when looking away would have been easier.

As our conversation progressed and meandered its way to the same-sex marriage debate, he called it an abomination. He quoted a few scriptures from Leviticus, but conveniently skipped over the ones that shone a light on his own flaws and frailties: it’s funny how many of us use the bible to camouflage our own biases. He said men marrying men and women marrying women would ruin the sanctity of marriage, as if it wasn’t already ruined by adulterous heterosexual politicians, celebrities, and pastors—it’s safe to say the sanctity marriage was ruined long before the gay community asked for it. And besides, us Christians did not invent the practice of marriage, so who are we to define and dictate its terms and conditions?

I understand that some of us have a hard time accepting the idea of same-sex marriage. In some ways, although I disagree with them, I have to respect their arguments because, sometimes, their opposition is not a product of hate, but merely an expression of religious conviction and belief. There was a time when I thought almost the same way.  But it’s that same faith that opened up my eyes to a different way of thinking and taught me tolerance, compassion, fairness, non-judgment, and love. And in a country that believes in the separation of Church and State, one cannot deny the gay community their civil liberties and constitutional right to be treated equally, without fear of prejudice and discrimination.

Feeling frustrated, he then said, “Well, if we allow gay people to marry, what stops people from wanting to marry animals or children next?”

Now, I’m not one to call people stupid, but that argument seemed one any person with an ounce of common sense would have never uttered. Its premise was entirely flawed and lacking in intellectual honesty. When we’re talking about gay marriage we’re discussing two consenting adults and their right to marry. Legally and logically, an animal or a child is not considered consenting adults. An animal doesn’t have choice and therefore could not enter a relationship with a human being of its own free will, nor could a child. Children are minors; therefore, they are not considered adults.

We continued to spar for a while. We debated Uganda and its draconian anti-LGBT laws and then discussed the plight of the transgender community and the senseless murders committed against them. We discussed hypermasculinity and transphobia in the black community, and my firm belief in how people should be allowed to be whomever they feel they are in terms of gender or sexuality. We debated workplace and housing discrimination against those in the LGBTQ+ community and then discussed religion and what separates those churches that accept the LGBTQ+ community and those that do not.

As our conversation touched on many themes related to LGBTQ+ rights, I couldn’t help but feel as if we, as a society, are a contradiction. We are quick to profess our belief in individual freedoms and civil liberties, yet we deny others those same inalienable rights because we do not like who or what we think they are. Denied the dignity of being fully embraced and accepted for who they are, they cower under the long shadows cast by a hypocritical, discriminatory, and oppressive society. One quick glance at society today, and you soon accept that we have fallen short of the legacy those who came before us left behind. If we don’t stand up for each other, if we don’t fight the fights worth fighting, and if we don’t fight for those worth fighting for, we are a waste of space and good air, because we are not striving and living for the greater good of not only ourselves, but of others.

The injustice woven into the fabric of our nation and world’s history as Christians, Native Americans, Mexicans, African Americans, Women, and other marginalized groups echoes through passing time. Religious persecution, race based discrimination, ethnocentric clashes, xenophobic mindsets, and gender inequality forced destinies to collide as those that came before us struggled to break down the many barriers that held them back. Many sacrificed their lives for something they felt was greater than them, adopting a morally binding understanding and commitment to the fundamental belief we are all created equal. Be it immigration or gay rights, the justice system or women’s rights, we as a society, have tripped over ourselves again and again and have set an uneasy precedent, an Animal Farm mentality that implies we are created equal, but some of us are more equal than others.

Sincerely,

Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

No Spoiler Book Review: Planet of the Apes

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Today’s Review: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Perhaps with my childhood innocence gone, and now replaced by a more realistic view of the world we live it, this book just seems even more powerful.

Kwapi Vengesayi

This was a title I always loved but had forgotten about until 20th Century Studios (formerly 20th Century Fox) brought it back to the epicenter of pop-culture with its Planet of the Apes Trilogy. This trilogy served as a reboot or prequel (depending who you ask), and was beyond successful.

It was great revisiting this book after having read it in high school over two decades ago. But I guess when you encounter such works at a young age, some of the nuances and complexities of such works are lost. But as you get older and experience the world we live in, the layers of social commentary are even more apparent and poignant today than they were then.

But to understand this literary work and start to immerse in its themes and messages, one has to look at the person that wrote it and the era they wrote it in. In short, this book was written in 1963 during the tense environment of Cold War, at the height of the Civil Rights and African liberation movements, by a man who had served as a French spy and was a prisoner sentenced to hard labor during World War 2.

This explains the themes in Planet of the Apes: humanity’s lust for war and the consequences of it, race and our flawed notions of superiority based on it and our treatment of those we consider inferior (and how it feels when the tables are turned). Add gender roles and conversations of Animal Rights and this book becomes a very interesting exploration of humanity.

And by the way, this book is also funny. Its not meant to beat you over the head with a guilt trip and introspection, but rather, wittingly and satirically inspire you to engage with such complex themes in a very mellow way.

A great read and highly recommended.

Book Description: First published more than fifty years ago, Pierre Boulle’s chilling novel launched one of the greatest science fiction sagas in motion picture history.

In the not-too-distant future, three astronauts land on what appears to be a planet just like Earth, with lush forests, a temperate climate, and breathable air. But while it appears to be a paradise, nothing is what it seems.

They soon discover the terrifying truth: On this world humans are savage beasts, and apes rule as their civilized masters. In an ironic novel of nonstop action and breathless intrigue, one man struggles to unlock the secret of a terrifying civilization, all the while wondering: Will he become the savior of the human race, or the final witness to its damnation? In a shocking climax that rivals that of the original movie, Boulle delivers the answer in a masterpiece of adventure, satire, and suspense.

Sincerely,
Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

Coronavirus: Will Society and Humanity Learn the Right Lessons from This?

Whether we find a vaccine, figure out how to treat it or simply learn how to live with it, one thing we know for certain is that the coronavirus and the state of the world it has hastened will come and ago. And when this current crisis ends, and it will, one question among many other pognaint and powerful ones many will ask is: Have we as a species learned the right lessons that will allow us to change our communities, systems, and world for the better? Or will we simply double down on our worst and most destructive tendencies?

Humanity at Our Worst

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Yoda, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Fear is a powerful emotion, especially for many who live in communities and places that have never been directly impacted by nature’s wrath and power—drought, earthquakes, disease, tornadoes, tsunami, hurricanes etc. But, worse than nature’s forces, its our reaction to them that often times make or break us as communities, nations and species.

Guided by fear (and the manipulation of it), our most destructive and toxic habits as a species thrive. History has shown many dark passages and chapters in our past (both distant and recent) in which we became more isolationist and xenophobic, oppressive and regressive: concentration camps, hate crimes, genocides, and more.

Humanity at Our Best

We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness—not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there’s room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

But there have also been times in which we learned the right lessons in the aftermath of tragedy and catastrophe. The formation of the United Nations in the aftermath of World War 2 and its hope of becoming a peacekeeping force that would help resolve conflict around the world, the creation of Doctor’s Without Boarders 1968 by doctors who wanted to go help the sick and injured in war and disaster areas, or South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was created to address the injustices that occurred during apartheid are just a few of many examples in which humanity learned the right lessons.

COVID-19 and It’s Many Lessons

COVID-19, like many other challenging moments in human history, both man-made and natural, exposed our points of weakness and where there was room for improvement in our communities and countries (and world), our systems and policies, our laws and regulations, and our leaders and institutions.

This virus exposed the flaws in our healthcare systems worldwide. It illuminated many societal socioeconomic disparities that not only impact people’s access to healthcare, but how they are treated once within those healthcare systems.

Some environmentalists will argue that COVID-19, much like the Bird Flu, Swine Flu and Ebola, is in part or entirely a product of human beings encroaching on animal habits. The lesson being that the more we encroach on natural habitats the more we are likely to continue to encounter these new deadly viruses and diseases.

From paid sick leave (or lack thereof) to safety in the workplace, the virus exposed issues related to workers’s rights. It exposed how, even in the most thriving and booming of economies that have the resources to do better when it comes to the rights of employees, workers are not given the economic and health-related protections they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and financially secure.

There were lessons to be learned in how different leaders around the world responded, and how those responses had positive and/or negative results. From the missteps of China and the United Nations to the competence and great leadership shown by leaders in countries like South Korea.

Even how we as individuals and communities responded carries with it some insightful and sometimes harsh lessons. From the selfish and explotative hoarders and price gougers to our selfless first responders and responsible lockdown rule followers, our actions as individuals and communities sometimes had a direct impact on the welfare and well-being of not only our loved ones but the larger community.

These are just a few examples of many more lessons that people smarter and more impacted than me could go on to list and expound on; lessons many of us would only hope we embrace and use to better ourselves and society as a whole.

Our Fates Are Intertwined!

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.

Edgar Mitchell, NASA Astronaut

To the objective and intellectually honest mind, one of the biggest lessons is quite obvious: in a world in which our economies, politics, travel, religions, health, resources, social structures, security and general wellbeing are interconnected and codependent, our outcome as a species, in order to coexist and thrive, is better served by rewiring the way we percieve ourselves in relation to others we may consider different (or defficient) and building bridges.

Stuck on this small planet, our fates have always been intertwined as much as we might try pretend they aren’t or make it so. Be it by race or borders, wealth or religion, political affiliation or any other creative tool, method, or mindset we’ve created to isolate and divide, time and time again, many tragedies and events have always taught us the same lesson over and over again. You take a step back and you quickly realize that many low points in our species history have ALMOST ALWAYS been resolved and remedied by us setting aside our petty and most toxic mindsets and coming and working together.

And the Coronavirus will be no different: we will find ways to work together across labs and expertises, socio-political differences and geographic. My only worry is that after we conquer this disease TOGETHER (some having been stubbornly forced to), we’ll forget we did and revert back to our default setting until the next man-made or naturally occurring crisis: a crisis we might not survive if we don’t start embracing our oneness and using that new spirit to preempt tragedy and suffering.

Sincerely

Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

Monogamy is a Selfish Institution

Written By Myesha Clayton

During an interview in June 2015, Jada Pinkett Smith once again attempted to clarify her and Will Smith’s ‘open marriage.’ Do they have an ‘open marriage?’ Her response:

“Here’s what I trust: The man that Will is, a man of integrity […] He’s got all the freedom in the world… as long as Will can look in the mirror and be okay, I’m good.” (SiriusXM Satellite Radio Show Interview, June 2015)

The media and blogosphere exploded with all kinds of conjecture on what she meant by that and whether Will was free to run around and have sex with whatever women he wanted. And all of them missed the point of what she’s trying to say. An open relationship or marriage is defined as one in which one or both partners are committed to one another but are also free to have multiple sexual partners throughout the course of the relationship. And it’s this very definition that Jada’s ideas are viewed through. But I’m here to tell you that’s- what’s the term? Basic.

Prior to my current partner and I becoming the great thing we are, we spent many nights in dinner and conversation. During one dinner in particular, he told me about how he would only be in an open relationship and that anything else was a deal breaker. I took a deep breath and held it. Could it be? Had I found someone who understood what I, too, wanted for myself? The answer to my next question was going to determine if I continued my pursuit or if he moved permanently into the friend zone. And so I slowly exhaled and asked “Why?”

“Because I’m a grown ass man, I’m not a possession. I’m not your child and you’re not my mother. I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone who feels they need to dictate to me what I can and cannot do.” Well, hallelujah, he and I were on the exact same page. As a new divorcee, it was a sentiment I understood all too well. Forced monogamy was not for me, I would only involve myself in open relationships from here on out. But if you think it’s because I want to sleep around, you’re being too narrow-minded.

Truth be told, I don’t want to sleep around. I want to be in a monogamous relationship with one man until I keel over and go toes up. And if a man says to me “I want to be in an open relationship because I’m a man and it’s just our nature to sleep around”, well then I know that he has no idea who he truly is and is only trying to have his cake and eat it too. This man is not self-aware, he’s just self-centered.

When either I or my partner say we will only be in relationships that are open, what we are saying is that we want to be self-sovereign.  What does self-sovereign mean? It means I put myself first. It means that I get to do what I want, when I want, how I want it with whoever I want and no one gets to dictate to me otherwise. I’m a single mother, I run a household, I have a career, I pay all my own bills, and so at what point in time does it make sense that I should turn around and let someone else tell me what I can wear, where I can go and what I can do when I get there?

And I want a man that is self-sovereign. I want him to be a man of integrity who is fully capable of making his own decisions about what he wants for himself without need for my input. I don’t want to be his mother and tell him what to do. I want him to be a man that already knows what to do. This man is self-aware. He is not looking to sleep with any woman he can but to always be able to put himself first. And it might surprise you but in doing so, this gives you as a couple more of yourselves to share and it is that sharing that deepens your relationship. It’s the great paradox. In giving your partner freedom, you have a much more profound connection to one another.

I adore my partner. He makes monogamy so easy. He leaves no gaps, you see. Every moment and interaction that we share with one another fills me with such deep and profound love that there is no room for anyone else. I am free to do any and all things I want to do with myself and my time, and he is free to do any and all things he wants to do with himself and his time and because of that, we appreciate the time we give and take from one another as a couple. We respect one another so much more.

But that was not the case in my marriage. In my marriage, there were many gaps: sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual. I was consistently left wanting and dissatisfied. And yet we were ‘monogamous,’ based on a feeling we both had seven years earlier on a specific day when we were really into one another- a feeling we no longer held seven years later. Yet we were forcing ourselves to honor commitments based on a feeling that no longer existed. We were not allowing ourselves the fluidity to be the people we had grown into all this time later.

Now, two people who refused to be involved with anyone that didn’t believe in open relationships are in a very happy and monogamous relationship of their choosing. We do not try to own or possess one another. We do not play Mommy or Daddy and try and dictate the behavior and choices of the other. We allow one another to be as authentic as possible and then show gratitude for the sharing of that. And when you are feeling gracious, there’s little room for someone to come in and steal your bliss.


Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv, Instagram @goodblackreads or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

Abusive Relationships: In Their Own Words

My initial intent when sitting down to write on this subject for this book was to gather people’s true stories from social media, create new characters, and mesh all those stories into one. But as people shared their real-life experiences, I realized there is nothing I could write or create that would be as powerful as the stories they were telling. So, I decided to share their experiences with you. I asked for their permission to include their stories in this book, and these are five of the many stories told. The names and locations are made up, but the events they share are real.


Abuse & Forgiveness

by Chenai

Unhealthy relationships are scary, but I believe it’s important to forgive the person. I was in an unhealthy relationship in high school. He didn’t physically harm me, but he was verbally and emotionally abusive. This left me feeling terrible about myself for the next couple of years. I fell into deep depression as my self-esteem and confidence faded. I distanced myself from family and friends. My grades slipped, and I got into trouble at school because of him. I kept everything to myself and never reached out for help, because I feared losing him. Weirdly enough, I felt like I could fix him. My friends and family noticed something was off, but I never really spoke about it until I was out of the relationship.

After several months, I finally realized it was something I couldn’t fix. I realized I was in a bad situation, and I missed my family, friends, and just being happy and enjoying life. Missing my old self gave me confidence. I had changed so much I didn’t even know who I was. I finally broke up with him and immediately felt a sense of freedom and safety. I then contacted my friends and family and told them about my relationship. They helped me heal and get through it.

However, the reason I say it’s important to forgive is he committed suicide about two years after we broke up. It turns out, he was going through a lot when we were together, and his struggles continued after we had broken up. There were numerous times he contacted me to ask for forgiveness, and I never replied. And on the rare occasions I did, I was often rude. I couldn’t get over what he made me go through. If I could change one thing, it would be letting go of the pain and forgiving him.

My abusive relationship taught me a lot. It taught me to be strong and to reach out for help when I need it. It also taught me to forgive, even when it’s hard. And it taught me it’s important to forgive yourself.


 Him or Me

by Lucia

 I was once in an abusive relationship for two years. My breaking point was when he brought a gun into our house. I realized that either he would use it on me or I would use it on him. I seemed to start mentally preparing myself for the day when I would have to kill him for the abuse to stop. Fortunately, that day never came. One day, I packed what belongings I could fit into my car and moved back home to Michigan. I left college and everything I knew. I left during the day while he was out of the house, and I never saw him again.


Strangers that Care

by Sarah

I don’t share this with many people, but I’ve recently become comfortable with talking about it, hoping telling my story will help someone else.

I got into a relationship my freshman year of college. He was the opposite of what I would have seen myself dating. He was a bad boy and trouble seemed to find him, and sometimes, he would seek it out. He was great at pushing me around and making me feel worthless then turning around and making me feel beautiful and loved. He would say I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough. Then he would turn around and tell me I’m beautiful. He cheated on me multiple times. I even caught him in the act. I knew I needed to get out of that relationship, but I was too afraid to try. He would threaten to kill me. He would say, if he couldn’t have me, nobody could. One day, he got violent and my neighbor heard it. She called the cops, but he was gone by the time they showed up. My neighbor helped me clean up, and as she was doing so, she told me I deserved better. She asked me why I stayed and subjected myself to such abuse. It was at that moment, feeling a little embarrassed but touched by how much concern a stranger was showing me, I decided to get out of the relationship. For a while, he harassed me. He would show up unannounced, and I would leave through the balcony and drive to the police station or a friend’s place he didn’t know.

I filed no charges against him. I can’t give a reasonable explanation why I didn’t. A part of me feared how long the process would take: filing charges, restraining orders, affidavits, testimony etc. I just wasn’t emotionally prepared for the toll that would take on me.  I just wanted it over and behind me the quickest way I could. So, at the end of the semester, I changed my number, transferred schools, and never heard from him again.


He Is Now Someone Else’s Problem

by Sophia

He was an angry person. I thought it would go away. Over time, I felt unsafe. I was not only worried about myself, but our daughter, as well. Sometimes, I would think of calling the police then I would stop myself. I tried to move so often, but my daughter would cry for her father, and so I went back. I would pray for things to change, but they didn’t. The relationship ended, not because of me, but because of him. He left me for someone else. As much as it hurt, I’m glad it’s someone else dealing with it. It’s sad that I didn’t have the strength to leave the relationship on my own. At the end of the day, though, it’s over either way, and that’s a good thing.


The Cycle of Abuse Is Real

by Megan

My father was abusive. If it wasn’t my mother he was tormenting, it was us. You would think my sisters and I would never date people who were abusive, considering what we had endured in childhood, but unfortunately, we all did. The cycle of abuse is real. I think, as parents, we don’t understand what impact the environment we raise our kids in will have on their adulthood. As parents, we make excuses about why we stay in that abusive relationship. We say it’s for the kids or for love, but most of the time, I think it’s either fear, shame, or the silly belief that things will change and the abuser will treat us better. Had our mother left that relationship or at least tried to protect and defend us, perhaps, my sisters and I would have had happier and healthier relationships once we were grown.

My mother had me when she was seventeen. She was disowned by her family, moved out, and so she was on her own from a very young age. She raised me on her own until I was around four years old, when she met my stepdad, the father of my two younger sisters.

Parents think kids don’t notice the abuse, but we do. He would beat her often and for the smallest of reasons; although, I will admit that, sometimes, she would provoke him and try to get him to hit her. She was awful when she was drunk, and she knew how to set him off. I saw her try to leave the room once to save herself from a beating after they had gotten into a fight, and he pulled her back in, slammed the door, and continued. And with each skirmish, all I could do is take my little sisters and hide with them in the closet and wait until it was over. This was our childhood.

Some studies show that children who grow up in an abusive household battle mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and can even show symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress. Some of these children seek partners that are abusive, or they can become the abusers. This was the case with me and my sisters. We struggle with anxiety and depression and have dated men who were physically and emotionally abusive.

In a lot of ways, our lives were beginning to mirror that of our mother’s. Maybe counseling at a younger age would have helped us deal with the trauma, but it’s never too late to get help. After having my son, I have vowed to break the cycle, and going to counseling was the first step. I have also pushed my sisters to do the same. It’s not easy, but I’m happy to say I am in a better place now. I have a good man, and my son is growing up in a happier and healthier environment than I did.


Sometimes, we fall for the wrong person, and we end up in a bad, abusive relationship. It happens to the best of us—women, men, gay, lesbian, educated, uneducated, military, civilian, Christian, Muslim, and so on. Often, though, I’ve known women to be on the receiving end of abuse more than men. However, usually, it’s easy for many to keep their pain and ordeal invisible to the rest of us. Makeup is an amazing thing; you can camouflage split lips and black eyes with a powdered brush, a tube of lipstick, and a delicate flick of the wrist. Fingerprint shaped bruises around the neck and forearm can be explained away with a simple shrug and a plausible explanation. In other instances, this abuse scars the heart and mind, not the body, a mental and emotional burden that can leave one’s soul and self-esteem in tatters. Meanwhile, to those on the outside looking in, everything seems intact.

I think anyone in an abusive relationship, male or female, knows they are in one. The challenge they face is finding the courage to leave, the strength to stay gone, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are safe and they did the right thing. I don’t know how those challenges can be faced, but what I will say is that, for many, it starts with knowing there is help out there and it’s in their best interests to seek it: friends, family, police, hotlines, hospitals, and more.  While, for the rest of us, we make sure we let them know we’re here for them, without judgment or shaming, should they need us.

Sincerely,

Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

Zimbabwe: The Easiest Ways to Make a Homemade Face Mask

I searched the internet to try find the easiest three (3) mask making methods available. My criteria was based on finding methods that used materials that were easy to find around the house, didn’t need a sewing machine, and had simple instructions to follow.

The Techniques below are ranked from in order of ease. I hope these help. But first, here is something that might help illustrate why masks are important.

Why You Should Where Facemasks!


METHOD ONE: Bandana Face Covering (no sew method)

Method Source: The Center for Disease Control

Materials

  • Bandana
  • Rubber bands (or hair ties)
  • Scissors (if you are cutting your own cloth)

METHOD TWO: How To Make a Mask At Home: 3 Easy DIY Masks

How To Make a Mask At Home: 3 Easy DIY Masks

METHOD THREE: Quick Cut T-shirt Face Covering (no sew method)

Method Source: The Center for Disease Control

Materials

  • T-shirt
  • Scissors

Tutorial

How to Wear a Cloth Face Covering

Side view of an individual wearing a cloth face covering, which conceals their mouth and nose areas and has a string looped behind the visible ear to hold the covering in place. The top of the covering is positioned just below the eyes and the bottom extends down to cover the chin. The visible side of the covering extends to cover approximately half of the individual’s cheek.

Cloth face coverings should—

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control

Sincerely,
Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com

No Spoiler Book Review: Born a Crime: A Stories from a South African Childhood

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Today’s Review: Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Erma Bombeck said there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt. Like Freddy Nock on a tightrope, Trevor Noah walks that line superbly. This book is hilarious, touching, inspiring, honest and witty: a masterpiece.

Kwapi Vengesayi

Growing up in South Africa’s neighboring Zimbabwe, some of my primary (elementary) school friends, teammates and acquaintances—black, white and coloured⁠—were from families that had fled South Africa in search of more peaceful pastures, all them representing different experiences on the apartheid spectrum. And although I was too young to comprehend some of the nuances and complexities related to the history of apartheid, piecing together their stories and what we learned in classrooms and in the news made me well aware of what apartheid was in its broadest strokes: institutionalized discrimination designed to oppress and disenfranchise non-whites and maintain white minority rule.

In reading Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, the different textures and dimensions of one person’s day-to-day upbringing in apartheid South Africa are painted in such vivid colors. His stand up career had already established him as a phenomenal storyteller, and that gift carries over rather effortlessly into this literary work. If you love his comedy and his work on The Daily Show, you’ll love this book. And if you weren’t familiar with his stand up career before The Daily Show, this book might inspire you to go back and discover what you’ve been missing.

Erma Bombeck said there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt. Like Freddy Nock on a tightrope, Trevor Noah walks that line superbly. This book is hilarious, touching, inspiring, honest and witty: a masterpiece.

Book Description

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Sincerely,
Kwapi

Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv, Instagram @goodblackreads or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com