By: Raouf Mama
384 pages (Hardcover)
This memoir follows the author’s love of the English language and English literature, and his real-life quest to become a teacher, despite the obstacles put in his path.
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Stories are stories, fiction or not.
This is my first ever memoir, but only because I’ve never come across one I felt drawn to read. This book is a little bit special. A friend of mine is studying at Eastern Connecticut State University, and just happens to have Mr. Mama as his teacher. They seem to get along quite well and somewhere along the line my love of books came up, as well as this blog, and my fledgling attempts at writing. The next thing I knew, I was asked if I’d be interested in, not only reading the book, but reviewing it as well. I have a firm policy that I’ll read anything once, so I happily agreed and, to top it all off, I got a signed copy!
The first thing that struck me about this book, was how much I enjoyed listening to Mr. Mama talk. It was like sitting around a fireplace, listening to him tell his tale. There’s something wonderfully comfortable about that. It almost didn’t matter what he was talking about, I wanted to listen all the same.
There is an incredible amount of love in this true story, and so much honest emotion. While there were sad moments, those were often outweighed by love and great perspective. The traditional African stories and fables, woven seamlessly throughout, taught lessons and made their points far more effectively than a mere string of words. My favorite fable was the one about the fly who got stuck in the honey jar, because he dove into the center, rather than taking it more cautiously from the edges. If I’m correct in my interpretation, greed and over-eagerness will get you into trouble. I was surprised at how often the true events in this story reminded me of the fantasy novels I love. There was more excitement, suspense, and otherworldly synchronicity than I would have ever expected from real life.
The writing was so beautiful that, when compared to him, my grasp of the English language as a native speaker seems woefully inadequate. Then again, I haven’t spent years studying it either. Perhaps a little more studying on my part wouldn’t hurt. Everything was expressed so clearly and often poetically, which is noteworthy since I feel that more often than not those two things are mutually exclusive.
If this had been a fictional story, I would say that I loved the main character. But what do I say when the narrator is a real person? I loved being a fly on the wall for a portion of this man’s journey. It was enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable, to the point where I felt a little sad putting it down.
Now that I’ve grown accustomed to listening to a wonderful narrator tell his story, the only book to read next is Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear, since Kvothe, although fictional, is a pretty good storyteller too. Until next time…