Questions for ADA

By Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Not to be dramatic but this book changed my view on poetry. I used to think that it had to be flowery or that there was a level of “deepness” required to enjoy it to its fullness but “Questions for Ada” showed me that it could also be simple and relatable. The poems touched on a myriad of topics that most of us are aware of but dance around discussing.

“The day your education makes you roll your eyes at your father, the day your exposure makes you call your own mother uncivilized, the day your amazing foreign degrees make you cringe as your driver speaks pidgin English, may you never forget your grandfather was a farmer from Oyo State who never understood English”

As a Nigerian in the diaspora, the struggle is real; with one foot trying to expand your mind and acclimatize in your new environment and the other not wanting to become too detached from the motherland. As one of my favourite podcasts puts it, “Too foreign for here and too foreign for home”. There’s an air of superiority that can come with “exposure” that we must temper at all costs. In our rush to conform we can unknowingly end up turning our noses up at where we come from. Awareness is key.

“Daughters do not have to inherit the silence of their mothers”

A lot of the evil perpetrated in Nigeria is enabled by our celebrated culture of silence. “Shhhhh”, “What will people say?” and “Hope you didn’t tell anyone else?” is killing my people because the opinions of others matter more to us than where the shoe is pinching us. Our culture of silence is one of the reasons why abuse goes unchecked. Abuse (in all forms) thrives on the silence of the victims and family members who are conditioned not to speak up.

“Nobody warned you that the women whose feet you cut from running would give birth to daughters with wings”

Many of us believe that the feminist movement is a recent development but the groundwork of all that’s happening now is as a result of the fight that our mothers put up. Society tried to silence them but they raised daughters that wouldn’t be silenced. We in turn have a duty to champion the cause and pave the way for the next generation of women that won’t put up with this shit.

“You call me “sister” not because you are my blood but because you understand the kind of tragedies we both have endured to come back into loving ourselves again and again”

The importance of female friendships and support cannot be overstated. We stick together because we might be unique but we share similar struggles and as such are better equipped to support and lift each other up. Every woman needs and deserves a sister circle. I’m grateful for mine every day.

“Your feminism wears a wrapper, cooks for her husband, changed her surname.”

My view on feminism is that it’s a fight for everyone (especially women) to have equal opportunities. This means that the house wife, the entrepreneur, the hawker, the woman who loves to cook and the woman who does not want to change her last name can all be feminists in their own right. In our haste to not make the same mistakes as those that came before us we sometimes put down those whose way of life or choices do not align with our wants and choices. We forget that this kind of exclusion is what brought us here in the first place.

“There are many ways to love yourself without breaking in half for a man. Even your mother forgot to teach herself”

For years women have been taught to bend over backwards for men without expecting the same in return. We’re supposed to put everyone else’s needs above ours and deal with whatever comes with that without complaint. Men these days point to their mothers as an example of who we should be they fail to realize that they too were silent victims of a society steeped in patriarchy.

“Someone should have told you the eyes of a lover are not where you find your beauty. Someone should have told you never to cling to another for a reason to feel precious”

It’s easy to get lost in your desire to be found worthy of a partner that you try to change yourself to fit their standards. I have found myself in that exact boat a number of times. It’s usually unintentional and subconscious but it has the same consequence, you lose yourself until there’s nothing left of you. And if or when things end; you’re forced to start finding yourself again.

“Forcing manhood on boys with skin still soft and sticking to mother’s milk for survival is cruel”

Toxic masculinity is destroying our young men. The problem with setting a standard of strength for men is that it leaves no room for mistakes or the chance to simply be human. Sadly, the effects of toxic masculinity linger on for generations and hurt both men and women.

“America, while you were asleep another woman mourned her dead black lover’s bullet-ridden body, as his baby cried for her father’s life”

I’m leaving you with these two jarring quotes that I’m hoping will intrigue you enough to check out this amazing collection of poems or at the very least leave you to ponder their significance. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and you’ve already read it. If that’s the case, it’s only right that you share your faves with me since I already shared mine 😉

“They invite you to come view artifacts stolen from your ancestors in their museums as their “experts” explain your ancient Benin Kingdom”

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Yoruba-Torontonian. Lover of music and most things tech. Avid reader, cook and writer

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