August 5, 2013

1 Minute Book Review: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Name of the book: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth 

Author:    Warsan Shire

Publisher:  flipped eye publishing limited

What's the book about? 

The various female personae in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth confront identity against a background of war, nationalism, and the conflicting claims of religion (Islam) and gender.

Why am I reading the book? I met Warsan Shire at the Yardstick Festival and was struck by the contradictions (Black British/ Somali/ Female/ Moslem) and the sensuality of her verse.

Quote from the book: 


My older sister soaps between her legs, her hair
a prayer of curls. When she was my age, she stole
the neighbour's husband, burnt his name into her skin.
For weeks she smelt of cheap perfume and dying flesh.

It's 4 a.m. and she winks at me, bending over the sink,
her small breasts bruised from sucking
She smiles, pops her gum before saying
boys are haram, don't ever forget that.

Some nights i hear her in her room screaming.
We play Surah Al-Baqarah to drown her out.
Anything that leaves her mouth sounds like sex.
Our mother has banned her from saying God's name.

Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer who is based in London. Born in 1988, she has read her work internationally, more recently in South Africa, Italy and Germany. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing. The artist and activist uses her work to document stories of journey and trauma. She curates and teaches workshops around the art of healing through narrative.


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