Book Review

‘It’s a She’, breaks all sorts of molds

book

Magdalene Matthews Ofori-Kuma is a Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) and Development Specialist. She has authored 'RISE!', 'Redeeming the Future of Liberia', and 'A Practical Guide to Self-Development'. PHOTO | POOL

vieve

Summary

  • The author is a true Testament of how misguided human perceptions can be and how at face value we can predetermine people's privileged experiences and judge them wrongly.
  • She did the bravest thing she had ever done in her 16 years alive: She picked up her dad’s phone, scrolled through his contacts, and phoned the then-President Charles Taylor, a reknown former warlord who now controlled state power.
  • This book evokes terror, anger and joy as she bares her soul giving the reader a good balance of the bittersweet and doesn't give you the luxury of falling into pieces as she is quick to point out the silver linings.

The battle for survival that began from her mother’s womb was a sign that her life would not be an ordinary one. She broke the mold, changed the narrative in her family and emerged a SHE, among the pack of boys.

It’s a She, a memoir by Magdalene Matthews is an immersive and vivid descriptive piece with riveting accounts of multiple near-death encounters growing up in a country at war with itself. It is a front-row seat to the shocking and pervasive effects the war had on Liberia’s youth and children.

What began as a life of privilege, fame, and comfort for her was quickly eclipsed by war, prejudice, and tragedy that reduced her existence to living on fumes. The political instability in her motherland, Liberia, left her scraping the barrels of mercy for life to cease its onslaught on her and her family.

She demonstrates audacity, tenacity and grit at every turn to weather the crises that attended her path as she courageously chronicles her remarkable journey of life, loss, and love.

In 2003, amid an uprising, her family split up.

Her father was in Ghana attending a peace talk and out of reach, her younger brother (who is a US citizen) and mother had been evacuated by the US Marines, her grandmother was frail and the rebels were closing in.

She did the bravest thing she had ever done in her 16 years alive: She picked up her dad’s phone, scrolled through his contacts, and phoned the then-President Charles Taylor, a reknown former warlord who now controlled state power. To her surprise, he personally picked the call and gave her an audience but even then, she still wasn’t able to contact her father.

As the only daughter of a known opposition figure, Gabriel Baccus Matthews, she had to think fast as the battle escalated with different actors and interests at stake. Finally, the rebels overrun Monrovia and she managed to take the last flight to Abidjan before all commercial flights were suspended.

Now at 34, she has lived a life of privilege as a politician's daughter, a diplomat, a refugee and at some point after the death of her father, turned to “intellectual begging” (seeking educational sponsorship from corporates) just to complete her studies at the university.

In each chapter, she excavates the emotional and psychological aspects of her experiences and simultaneously processes the triumphs and traumas thereof. She graciously navigates the themes of politics, racism, abuse, and gender biases that have shaped her achievements so far. Her writing is garnished with poetic extracts telling of the author's love for classic literature.

This book evokes terror, anger and joy as she bares her soul giving the reader a good balance of the bittersweet and doesn't give you the luxury of falling into pieces as she is quick to point out the silver linings. Overall it is a well-written piece that has left me in a place of silent reflection and deliberate introspection.

Her vulnerability allowed me to revisit some of my own painful experiences that I desperately escaped from with newfound wisdom and the much-needed comfort and courage. Her triumphs are a great reassurance of survival.

The author is a true Testament of how misguided human perceptions can be and how at face value we can predetermine people's privileged experiences and judge them wrongly. It is a book I would recommend because it is not only inspirational but it provokes immediate action against the status quo in your life no matter how small.

Magdalene Matthews Ofori-Kuma, currently residing in Kenya, is a Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) and Development Specialist with a dozen years of work and research experience across United Nations agencies and donor entities.

A wife and mother of two, she has also authored RISE! Redeeming the Future of Liberia, A Practical Guide to Self-Development. The official book launch for It’s a She is on November 25, 2021.

[email protected]