BY JACOB OKETCH
Miaha is a Dholuo word that means a newly married young woman. As used in the title of this book, it refers to the recollections of a young woman recently married to a man from the Luo community.
This book is a fresh breath of air as far as memoirs are concerned. Firstly, most people who write memoirs are in the twilight of their careers and lives. This one is about a young woman who is just starting out in life. The readers will realize that there is equally a lot to talk about at this stage of life. Secondly, most accounts of our lives is eschewed towards the good attributes and very little is said about infractions, weaknesses or what is deemed as unpleasant. Diary of the Miaha lays bare some of the author’s most uncomfortable moments, emotions and feelings. It is truly a candid account.
Diary of the Miaha deconstructs marriage as it is commonly perceived. Take for instance, the pomp and ceremony that surrounds a marriage; the flowers, the meetings for wedding arrangements, you name it. The author gives us a glimpse of her wedding which was devoid of ostentation and hype. Even their honeymoon was a low key affair involving just the two of them. As readers, we get to appreciate the value of simplicity in important engagements such as a marriage ceremony. As they say, less is more.
Reading this book, one is amazed at the number of books the author quotes in it. More than twenty books are featured in this work. In a way, one gets encouraged to embrace books in whatever they do. As a matter of fact, by reading this book, one is tempted to look up the books quoted in it so as to savor the experience of what they talk about. It invigorates the spirits of book readers to stay the course.
The author is quite brave to talk about certain aspects of her life which many out there would rather keep under wraps. Sexual abuse is something that is not easy to come out about. She candidly shares her experience of abuse at a young age and is not measured about it. She shoots straight from the hip on this matter. Many people are suffering quietly with their violations and this builds a great sense of resentment. By going public about this, the author has elevated herself to the role of an ambassador who has boldly spoken about the consequences of this nefarious act. In fact, she adequately prepares her readers to some of the challenges she has had to contend with in marriage as a result of her abuse.
Female Genital Mutilation is something that every woman abhors today. In fact, the government has set out an ambitious plan to end the vice as soon as possible. In another classic act of candidness, the author reveals that she actually underwent the exercise as a child. Again, this is very brave of the author because very few women out there would admit that they went through this ritual supposedly for fear of being shunned by the opposite sex. It is quite telling that the author decided to let out all as far as her life is concerned. As readers, we are left with the feeling that the author is not hard enough on perpetrators of FGM but considering her experience regarding this practice, she may not have that sensitivity given that she faced the cut at a younger age and it was communally sanctioned.
This memoir is a refreshing read to those who are navigating the waters of a young marriage that is usually beset with a lot of challenges. The turns and twists of such a relationship are well brought out by the author. It is not easy to talk about your better half in a book like this. The degree of honesty and openness exhibited in the book is a rare happening with memoirs. I also admire the fact that the author is not shy to delve deep into her fears and frustrations in her marriage. She deliberately steers the readers away from a lovey-dovey kind of account where it is all bliss.
Another unique feature of this book is the way in which the couple’s creative ambition is intertwined. In fact, this book was launched together with the author’s husband’s book in a joint initiative which also marked their first anniversary. Indeed this is the first couple that I have encountered who are on a kind of joint writing mission. As readers, we get to appreciate the role relationships can play in harnessing one’s potential.
Diary of the Miaha is such a refreshing read because it goes against the norm of how to write a memoir. It debunks the myths about how to write one’s story by being brutally honest. It is a worthwhile departure from the stereotypes of a biographical account. I loved reading it and so should you.