Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela: A Book Review

nelsonI learned  Nelson Mandela’s life   from my high school history because of  the word,  apartheid. (Thanks to  Mahatma Gandhi; he introduced him to us on his cause of Caste  System in India.) However, I just scratched  the surface of him as my teacher did not tell much details about him as if he was not   attached much importance to the subject. ( If I were my teacher, I would have told much more about him.) In fact, I mistook him for a Black-American. Uh-oh! I was still an ignoramus at that time despite the fact that I was enthused about  studying  history.  Few years later, he drew my attention when he was in the news ; he was reported to have passed away. The world was so grieved by  his death  that he was almost  the headlines of all the newspapers and news programs. Only that time did I realize  that he was such a big name in the world. As usual, I desired  to know him more by reading his life. However, I  did  not afford to buy his book then. Eventually, my generous-to-fault student gifted me this book. Of course,  I grinned from ear to ear with joy.  Full of enthusiasm, I started to read it. However, it took me time to finish it and ended up on my study table for a few months. The book is light  because of  Mandela’s prose but steeped in geographical places and  anthropological and  political terminologies only South African can  almost relate to. Nevertheless, I liked it on account of Mandela’s ideologies, experiences, and speeches he delivered before his people.

I enjoyed reading Mandela’s autobiography because of his  light English prose as the indication  that he  had studied well- typical of a  smart student studying  in English speaking countries. For your information, South Africa has many official languages, and English is one of them. Thus, not  the majority of its population uses the language every day. Another impressive thing about writing his autobiography is his capability to  incorporate his   various feelings, be they in positive or negative, into his compelling  narrations. Sometimes, other autobiographers  write with highfalutin, highbrow, and high-flown stories  or  with unfathomably philosophical insights  beyond my understanding (, but still I try to bend my mind to  them until I bash my head against the wall ending up into a library of books or surfing the internet. Ones of  best examples so far are Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Selected Writings and Poems.)   Therefore, reading Mandela’s autobiography can be likened to a  teen-ager’s diary. Everyone  can   take a  fancy for his diary unless you are that a political animal. On the contrary,  his usage of some political, geographical, and anthropological terms which  I am not very  much familiar with undermine the said like-a-teen-ager’s-diary element. You might get tired of  them , saturated with the words you need to absorb in and turn over in your mind. In fact, it has 859 pages, the thickest book   I have read this year. Thus, you have no choice but to turn to Google or to a library of history books if you are a Luddite in order to understand them by heart. That’s why   I  did not lay a finger on it for a few months.  In the end, Mandela’s autobiography, in  my hypothetical suggestion, could still be a critically acclaimed book  for  its two kinds ,A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson  Mandela’s Autobiography: An Abridged Version– expunged  some technical words and A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson  Mandela’s Autobiography: Unabridged Version, same  with this original version.

Reading his speeches is also page-turning. There’s something about his speeches – they were  like causing mass hysteria among South Africans at that time. I tend to read his narrations as fast as I could in order to imaginatively listen to them . As a matter of fact, I tended to search  his speeches on Youtube wondering how he delivered them. I would say that Nelson Mandela, along with Malcolm X ,  has  most moving speeches  I have read so far.

Mandela’s autobiography reminded me of Malcolm X, another Black -American  revolutionary who had somewhat the same cause—racial equality. Malcolm X , based on his  best-selling authorized biography,  also believed that Black-Americans should be equal to White Americans . He demonstrated against   the  culture of discrimination  against his fellow Blacks. The only differences between their causes were: specifically, Mandela   fought against the Apartheid whereas Malcolm X against   general forms of discrimination. Still, both  of their causes  categorically fall to  racial equality.  Besides, there is one surprising thing that  made me jump to my conclusion: Nelson Mandela’s last resort was using violence when he came to the point that diplomatic negotiation did not work at all. In fact, he had been   influenced by the idea of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma  Gandhi  on civil disobedience. After all , he succumbed to  Malcolm X’  slogan , “ By Any Necessary Means.”, which I surmised he had disliked ;rather, admired  Martin Luther King’s , “ I Have a Dream.”I guess I can also conclude as well as you agree  that , sometimes , in any circumstances even  in history,  Malcom X’s slogan worked and is feasible as long as this is the last resort as was  Mandela’s. On the contrary, in the end,  Mandela  had proved that “virtue of patience” in the name of peaceful,  friendly, and sincere ,as he put it, negotiation can work.

Likewise, Mandela was weaned on  communism or Marxism – the political idea that also influenced Malcolm X and  Richard Wright, famous for his books, The Native Son and Black Boy. Did this idea also occur to some revolutionaries  in a place with insurgent atmosphere because of social injustice? So does to some at the present situation?

Before I finished it, Aristotle had taught me his The Republic, a philosophy book  that  also deals with the real meaning of JUSTICE. ( I haven’t written my review of it yet.)   It has the   dialogues   among the Philosophers   debating   over the  scopes  of justice. As a student of his , discombobulated, mulling over  his students’  philosophical explanation, upon reading Mandela’s autobiography, it dawned upon me  that  justice means equality.  In other words, I applied   understanding The Republic by Aristotle  to Mandela’s book. For instance, for Plato and Socrates, justice is fulfilling one’s appropriate role, and consequently giving to the city what is owed.  In a simple way, I want to illustrate  the virtue Nelson Mandela  believed in my life. I want  that life in some aspects  is “FAIR”. That’s why, without malice, without  this air of  pride and pompousness, I  want to  respect  people regardless of their skin color , sex , and race ; I respect in action people with deeply-seated religious beliefs   despite I have this  Richard Dawkins’s –desire to change the world;  I empathize “the destitute”  despite that giving alms is not my principle except for “the needy”, but bringing them to their senses  that capitalism is an evil, that living in this world is consummate “survival of the fittest”.

Mandela applied his rude awakening to equality  to understanding the people he got along with . With this belief, he became a freedom fighter, stalwart, determined, humble with undefeated fighting   spirit. That was Nelson Mandela, and in the end, despite the travails he had gone through, he   made it to his final walk  to FREEDOM.

Obviously, my long review of this book   indicates   my feeling of fulfillment. I am glad that I finished it after a short while. I do not regret   having   laid it  aside on my study table. Just I let the time permit.

Thanks to my student ( Sr. Angela )  for picking  it among the books in a book store,  without the idea that I had longed to read it  ; she had granted my wish. If I were a pantheist, I would exclaim  ,”What a divine intervention!”  ^_^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

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Secrets of a Sparrow by Diana Ross: A Book Review

sparrowWhen I was in high school. I watched a contest on TV about contestants who had to lip-synch any famous singers they wanted to parody. The winner chose Diana Ross. I wondered who Diana Ross was  at that time . I just had an idea that she may have looked black with these long soft curls. Then the idea had dwelt upon me for a long time . This is the fact that I am fascinated by Black Americans. For me knowing about the lives of Black Americans is a mystery to me. No doubt I have read some of them such as Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. So I wish to read others’ more.

Since Diana Ross may be a legendary icon, I try to relate to the story by listening to her songs on YouTube, even listening to other singers namedropped I am not familiar with.Besides, I got wind of other legendary singers like Josephine Baker and Marvin Gaye whom I find very interesting. Thus, reading books is indeed beneficial; it leads you the way to other worlds you have not gallivanted around yet.

This book appears to be simple since it is Diana Ross’s memoirs. May be I wish that she had written it at length. She just made it special because of the mushy lines she padded with, which touched me to the bone nonetheless, and for sure readers might feel the same way.So it is inspirational for people who want to make something of them. Also, you can understand what makes Diana Rose to be the way she is, how she always believes that there ain’t such high mountain that people can reach, how perfectionist and passionate she is about her profession, and how smart she turns out to be- not only how she views the world from her own perspectives but also the way she puts her ideas into beautiful sentences. In fact, she loves readings books, too. It is just as well I decided to buy it after having skimmed through the pages.

Since this book was first published in 1993, I am sure that somehow I would understand any talks on her life whenever she makes a headline on TV or newspapers, I would just exclaim, “Ah, it’s Diana Ross- the wonderful singer.”

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison : A Book Review

invisible manI  started to read  it in December last year,  but eventually  I found it   too cumbersome and hefty  to absorb since my mind was still saturated with personal concerns at that time, so it wound up  unfinished on my study table , collecting dust  , biding its time to be read  until its leaves are turning crispy. Then , I realized that  it is about time I  cleared out my currently-reading shelf to work up more appetite for  the other to-read books. It is a burden on my part   to put a heap of  unfinished books aside, or it looks like  as though I had a Mahabharata list of currently-reading books.

History has  proven that living in a suppressing  nation where you  have no absolute  freedom , where its  atmosphere restrains  your desires from expressing  your thoughts and feelings, where you are not valued, where you are degraded and debased  as if  you were the  disgusting “invisible”  dregs of humanity, brings about revolution in any manners. Some well-known leaders have stood up  by  means of the iconic Mahatma Gandhi ‘s  principles of civil disobedience or “by any necessary means”  immortalized  by the late  black activist Malcolm X.  In a subliminal or passive way, some   have  channeled  their pent-up  grievances through writing books such as   novels which  could in effect change a particular cause  , and this  is at what Ralph Ellison  must have aimed .

Ralph Ellison is not far different from Richard Wright, the author of the Native Son that astounded me to the bone. Both of them   have in common with   their ulterior  motive  why they wrote a novel about African life: to revolt. The only thing they have big difference is the  instrumental style  they used in  putting  their suppressed feelings into a novel. Richard Wright , on the one hand, wrote a suspense novel which you could feel the psychology of  racism.Consequently, the novel is heart-breaking, appalling, and sympathetic. You could feel the  psychologically  adverse effects of    slavery, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. On the other hand, although  Ralph Ellison used the style of R. Wright,  he  attached more importance to  allegories  or  literary devices; he used some situations and materials   in elaborating his suppressed grievances, as appeals to reasons, appeals to emotion, and  appeals to authority.   Thus, reading it was like as though you get  into two dimensions of semantics , and yet you could get at the real climax of the story: You read  the literal passages ; at the same time, they have figurative meanings. That is why I was impressed by this book- it is steeped in awakening passages; every page is worth reading, indeed.

Since R. Ellison grew out of a culture of bigotry and  availed of   his talent in writing to produce this , which he believed could have changed the  incorruptible stereotypes of white Americans about blacks  as well as awakened his fellow blacks to the reality about  divisive dilemma coming into existence among them. In this book, he simply   attached to the very simple dialogues and passages with what the “ real” problems  he  insisted on are the crucial to the desired equality. Ellison wanted to imply figuratively that there  are two groups of  blacks that prevail: one is that believe in the principle of practicality and gentle and gradual  process of raising awareness whereas the second one is consist of the people who believe in the urgent revolution in a manner of  public demonstration .

While reading it, the character,  Brother Jack reminded me of  Martin Luther King Jr. while in the half persona of  the unnamed protagonist and Ras the Exhorter , of Malcolm X. As far as I remember from the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X, King and Malcolm had  unresolved misunderstanding then, for  they had different opinions of means of  revolution against racism. For  King’s, he could get rid of  the  ulcer of society by means of  religion  using his immortal slogan I HAVE A DREAM; Malcolm X’s “ By Necessary Means.” In the other case, I could interpret that the main protagonist could be the persona of Richard Wright. Why not? Ralph Ellison was then close to him. Besides, I learned that Richard Wright once became a spokesperson of  a Communist party  based on his autobiographical novel Black  . Gee,  having read a great deal  of  books  about blacks is now causing me to  have mental bubbles of  analyses.

It is understood that this book  was written as  a revolutionary book   against freedom and equality just the likes of  what I have read :  UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher , A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E. M. Forrester, THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud, A NATIVE SON by Richard Wright, and our very own NOLI ME TANGERE ( TOUCH ME NOT )  by Jose Rizal.( I hope you give it a try. )

This is  included on 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well  as on TIME’s BEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME since 1923. I should not give it any sheer shadow of doubt because it is absolutely deserving- deserving of any special literary awards, of   your time to read it, of  being part in American studies, and of your 5 stars. ^^