I feel like I have been really like with the books that I picked for the last two weeks. “Maame” by Jessica George sucked me in and did not let me go until the last page – yet again. I had a challenging week and work but even with my brain pretty much fried, I kept on reaching to this book at the end of the day.
“Maame”‘s protagonist is Maddie, a 20-something-year-old who lives in London with her father. Maddie’s family is originally from Ghana but her parents came to England to give their kids a better life. Her mom spends one year in Ghana running a hostel that her granddad left her, and another year in England, alternating between the years like that. Her older brother James moved out at a very young age to pursue his interest in music. Maddie was left with her father who started suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This is the point in her life when we meet her – living in London, working a 9-5 job, and juggling it with taking care of her sick dad.
Maddie seems to be doing quite okay but she always feels rather stuck. Instead of living the life of her peers, she struggles at her work and at her home, feeling left alone and bearing the responsibility of being the only “sensible” one in her family. When her mom returns back from Ghana to help take care of her dad, she decided to give a go to living alone and moves in with two flatmates. From there, we are following Maddie navigating through making a social connection, standing up for herself, learning to love, battling depression, and going for things that matter to her.
“Maame” is largerly a buildungsroman that focuses on Maddie’s development. It also has some interesting explorations of racism in relationships and works life (Maddie is Ghanian hence she has a brown skin color. It was illuminating to see how racism can be present around us in ways that we don’t expect. Another interesting part of the book was the presence of the Ghanaian culture. Maddie is often called “Maame” by her mother which means “woman”. However, she is also called “maame” from a very young age – this is a big responsibility to take when you are a child, and needs to bear the weight of being a “woman of the family”. All in all, this was a light-hearted, engaging, and lovely read that I definitely recommend.
“I get where she’s coming from because she doesn’t see jobs as something to be enjoyed but rather endured in order to pay bills. For Mum, work-related happiness is directly proportional to how much you earn. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that although I didn’t think I’d be rich, I expected to be happy and the failure to do so has left me gasping for air most of the day.”
“There’s something about cars that encapsulates freedom. I have this fantasy of driving my own car at night under infinite stars with my favorite, feel-good music playing. Maybe I’m on my way to meet a friend or just to get ice cream from a place that does gelato like nowhere else…”
“Many assume that love is straightforward,’ Angelina continues, ‘when really it is the most complicated of things. There is a right way, a preferred way, for each individual, to love and be loved by someone – but there isn’t only one way. I believe the difficulty of life has much to do with understanding and then navigating how the people you love both express and receive their love themselves. It can not be your responsibility, your burden, to reshape people into someone you’d like them to be. Ultimately, you must either accept a person for who they are, how they behave, how they express themselves emotionally and find a healthy way to live with them or let them go entirely. Either way, you must release yourself from responsibility.”
“My parents are not special people, they’re ordinary, and one of my problems is that I’m expecting perfection from ordinary people. They are not saints or masters of knowledge, just people who have children, which, last time I checked, required no proficiency test. People who continue to make mistakes, attempt to learn from them and repeat, until death.”