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Books I read in January 2021

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

When I first came to the UK in September of 2019 to commence my scholarship, I never thought I would be stuck in the UK for another couple months until January 2021. I figured I might as well enjoy the time spent in lockdown and do something productive. So here are the books I enjoyed reading in January.

1. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall (2020)

This was the very first book I read in 2021. This was a tough book for me to read. Not tough as in the words were difficult to understand but tough as in the ideas discussed in the book made me so blatantly aware of all the privileges in my life.

Some things we may not think twice about growing up in Tonga as a privilege, like not having to walk 3 hours to school each day because there were no bus routes in your side of town. Or not having to miss school because their period came and they couldn't afford sanitary pads. Or being raised in a household with both parents still together and having a strong support network that picks you up and corrects you. Or having a safe place to sleep, water to shower with and food to eat. Those things never happened to me as a kid, and that's my privilege. It made me cry on every other page because I was reminded that just because things aren't a problem for me personally, doesn't mean it's not a problem for another person, particularly in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) communities.

Although the book highlights issues specific to Black women, it can also apply to Indigenous and People of colour. We talk about feminism to solve problems, but feminism has to be intersectional and take into consideration different contexts and backgrounds because it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

I was in my early/mid-20's when I realised that feminism is treated like a dirty word when I talk about it with people back in Tonga. Hopefully, this book will change their minds.

The book is written in such a straightforward, easy to understand way, so it will shoot right through you and lodge deep into your brain.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Please read. Please.

2. The art of War by Sun Tzu (2009 edit) 

This was a short read about leadership and strategic thinking. Strategic thinking means knowing when to be cautious and knowing when to take risks. When I finished reading it, it really made me wish the people in charge of covid repat flight in Tonga could read this book to get an idea of how to work more efficiently and fearlessly in a war against Covid (lol). In retrospect, the principles in this book are also applicable to positions of leadership in any situation.

3. Leaders eat last by Simon Sinek (2014)

This book is also about leadership and a reminder that leadership is a privilege that you should not abuse. It is about serving others, thinking of others and how to improve situations/things/processes/systems for others. And if you can't do that or don't want to do that, then you shouldn't be a leader. That's it. That's all.

4. We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)

There is no excuse to not read this. It is only 27 pages, so it's more like an essay. I bet you've read Facebook tau lau drama comments longer than that (lol).

Anyway, the book was direct, succinct and simple to understand why everyone should be a feminist. The author is Nigerian, so she explains her feminist perspective based on her background. When I read the book, I felt there are so many similarities between Nigerian culture and Tongan culture, so this book is worth reading and reflecting over.

5. Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018)

Michelle Obama wrote this book. That's enough reason for you to go read this book.

6. Atomic Habits by James Clear (2018)

This book is about fixing your habits for success. We can retrain our minds and behaviours to be more proactive, more productive, happier etc. if you change your habits. This book was also really straightforward and easy to understand, that it left me thinking, "oh, ok, this is gonna be easy". But alas, I am an idiot. It was easy to read, but a challenge to apply in real life, and that's what I'll be doing more of in February 2021: fixing habits.

7. Over the top: A raw journey to self-love by Jonathan Van Ness (2019)

A light, short and funny read. Talks about serious issues like sexual abuse, addiction, bullying, mental illness, body image and HIV but still feels light yet powerful. I appreciated that he acknowledges his privileges, like financial privileges that helped him overcome his struggles, his being white thus no racial discrimination etc. He had a great support network that pulled him out of his tough times, and not everyone has that, so I'm glad he touched on that.

It made me think that it's so easy to say "I did it, so you can too! Why are you complaining that you can't?". Not everyone has the same access to resources or privileges that makes it easy to overcome every obstacle, so it was nice that he acknowledged that in the book. Jonathan Van Ness is the happiest person in the Fab5 in Queer Eye, so it was intriguing that he has a heavy history that he's overcome. Fabulous read.

8. Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2020)

Short read: about 30 pages. A relatively short story about love, priorities, motherhood and secrets women keep (premarital sex/ abortion/marital rape/birth control). Again, from a Nigerian perspective, but the core values are so similar to Tongan culture, so this book will also hit a nerve. Great read.


That's it! Were there any books that you've also read before? Or are there any books from my list that you'd also like to read? Let me know! x

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