Watermark by Joseph Brodsky

“The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 144 pages.
Read on December 25, 2018.

I knew nothing about the author or the book prior to reading it, and I still, know relatively little about this Nobel Prize winner. Apparently, Brodsky is a kind of a big deal. Literature-nerd fail? Joseph Brodsky was a Russian-American writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. He also became the United States Poet Laureate in 1991. He was practically expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and ended up immigrating to the US where he lived to the age of 55 before dying of a heart attack in the winter of 1996. While living in the US, however, he spent that majority of his winters in Venice, Italy.

This short novel is a semi-autobiographical love story/essay/poem about Venice. It has poetical prose and paints vivid details of the author’s perception of the city’s character. Did this book make me fall in love with a city I have yet to visit? No, it’s more of a personal reflection of each of the different visits that the author took so it provides more insight into the author’s mind more than anything. While Joseph’s writing didn’t speak to me, he is a gifted writer and I am intrigued enough to see what else he has written. Besides, it appears he liked cats so that’s a good enough reason for me to give him another shot.

Joseph-Brodsky
Photo from the Poetry Foundation.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of “We Should All Be Feminists…””

4/5 stars.
ebook, 32 pages.
Read September 20, 2018

I can’t recall how I found this short essay but I’m really glad I did. I have often a wondered what exactly feminism means today? Especially in this volatile political environment. How can we as women explain our situation to the many men (and some women) who still don’t think that it is a relevant position to take a stand on in the present day? Well, I think the continued awareness and prevalence of rape culture, that a misogynist is the American president, how toxic masculinity is creating more and more troubled men, and the potential uproar over women’s basic rights in first world countries and all over the globe is more than enough time to consider how important feminism still is. This essay is important, so much so that I wish I could casually hand a copy of this to nearly everyone I know.  Essays like this should be required reading in high school and universities everywhere. 

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

How do you persuade people to understand a point of view? You explain how your point of view will benefit them and to not attack them for their current views. Chimamanda finds this wonderful balance between stating facts firmly to diffusing difficult aspects of feminism with grace and humour. She discusses the marginalization of men and women and the archaic beliefs that shape this discrimination, while also recognizing that we’re all unconsciously shaped by our culture so it’s easy to get caught up in what’s perceived as normal. Feminism is here to help us dismantle the beliefs that no longer benefit us in society, and that’s for both men and women. Feminism is not something to be feared, as many men do, as there is a history has a prevalence of fearmongering when it comes to women empowering themselves and others. 

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. “

In end, people will believe what they want to believe. You cannot move people like Trump and those who follow him, but for the rest of us that want better for humanity and are constantly trying to understand and improve, this essay is a wonderful, pervasive and persuasive read. 

“A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”