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book review: dear iljeawele

Dear Iljeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

『イジェアウェレへ フェミニスト宣言、15の提案』


Hi everyone, it’s Hikari! Today, I’m going to share a book review of Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Nigerian novelist and writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. People also usually call her a feminist writer.

ハロー!ヒカリです。今日は、ナイジェリア出身の小説家、ライターであるチママンダ・ンゴズィ・アディーチェの『イジェアウェレヘ フェミニスト宣言、15の提案』のブックレビューをシェアしたいと思います。アディーチェは、フェミニストライターとも呼ばれています。

It was 2014 when I encountered the author. I came across a book called “We Should All Be Feminists” along with her TED Talk. I instantly fell in love with her words. Her books are usually very short but very fulfilling and educational. Her word choices make you want to read more and more about gender equality. So I knew I would enjoy her other books and I picked it up. (This book is now available in Japanese as well!)

あたしがアディーチェの作品に出会ったのは、2014年のこと。彼女の『男も女もみんなフェミニストでなきゃ』という本とTED Talkに出会ったの。あたしは、すぐに彼女の言葉に惹かれた。彼女の本は短いものが多い中、中身はとても濃くて、教育的なものばかり。彼女の言葉に、もっともっと男女平等について知りたいと思わされる。だから、今回新たに彼女の違う本を読んでみようと、手に取ってみたのがこの本。日本語版は、先月発売されたばかり!

This book, “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” was originally a letter to her friend, Ijeawele. Ijeawele asked the author to teach her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. So the author decided to write her a letter, and it became a book to share her ideas with the world.

『イジェアウェレヘ フェミニスト宣言、15の提案』は、もともと著者であるアディーチェが友達のイジェアウェレに手紙として書いたもの。イジェアウェレは、自分の娘をフェミニストとして育てるにはどうしたらいいか教えて、とアディーチェにお願いしたことがきっかけ。アディーチェは、彼女に手紙で「15の提案」を書き出し、それが本として世界にシェアされることになった。

Have you ever thought about what kind of parent you want to be? What do you want your children to see? Even though I know that I’m not ready to be a mother, I dream of being one someday. How about you? And another question, what family structure does your family have? There are many ways to express a “family”. In this book, the family is a mother (Ijeawele), a father and the baby girl.


I’ll introduce a couple of suggestions from the book which struck me. First, to mothers-to-be out there: in your early motherhood, “ask for help”. Many mothers tend to do parenting by themselves. I’ve seen so many mothers do this, including my mom when she was raising my sister, but I can’t imagine myself being able to handle everything by myself. Changing diapers, breastfeeding, putting the child to bed, waking up in the middle of a night… as well as housework. Caregiving and domestic work are thought to be female domains, but the author strongly rejected the idea of women ‘doing it all’. Your family can be a double income household. You don’t have to give up on working if you don’t want to. Parenting, if you’re with a partner, is teamwork. There should be love instead of irritation towards each other. If you have a problem, talk it out and divide housework. And remember that men can “do everything that biology allows -- which is everything but breastfeeding”. So, “expected to be helped”.

この本を読んで、あたしの心に残った「15の提案」の中の言葉や考え方をいくつかをシェアするね。まず、お母さんになるであろう人たちへ。母になった最初の段階で『助けを求める』こと。数多くのお母さんは、全てを自分一人でこなそうとしてしまいがち。あたしも実際に今まで数多くの「お母さん」たちを近くで見てきた。もちろん、あたしの母が妹を育てるのを含め。でも、あたしがもしお母さんになって、全部を自分でどうにかできるなんて想像できない。オムツを変えたり、母乳をあげたり、寝かしつけたり、夜泣きに起きたりしながら、その上家事までこなす。人のお世話や家事は女性の領域と考えられてきているけれど、著者のアディーチェは本の中で、そういった女性が「全てできます・やります」っていう考え方を強く拒否している。共働きだって可能で、女性が働きたいと思えば、女性が職を諦める必要はない。パートナーがいる場合、子育てはチームワーク。お互いにイライラするよりも、そこにはいつも愛があるべき。もし相手に不満があるのであれば、話し合いをして家事を分担する。一つ覚えておくべきことは、男性だって生物学的に許す限り「全てできます・やります」= 母乳以外は女性と同じ。だから『助けてもらうことを期待していい』。

Second, “never ever link your children’s appearances with morality.” Mini skirts, oversized tee shirts, “girls’” or “boys’” clothes, what you should and shouldn’t wear... It’s a fact that it’s tiring to be told what people think, especially by parents, about your appearance. Not just about clothes, but also about your body, face, makeup, and hairstyles. How children want to look shouldn’t be put away with morality. Instead of telling children to stop wearing such clothes, you can tell them your opinion by saying something like “I think the other one looks better on you”. Parents are always the ones that children want to be accepted by so parents should be mindful of what they say to the children.


At lastly, this is my favourite: “the knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking -- domestic work in general -- is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have.” I have zero knowledge in cooking. Growing up, I was never good at it. My mom, as well as my boyfriend’s mom, have told me that I can stop helping them cook (LOL). That’s how much I don’t understand cooking. And as a girl, it bothered me. I practice sometimes, and I usually burn, overseason, or something goes wrong... and all that discourages me. My boyfriend is a better cook and he is the one who prepares something to eat when we’re alone. After I read this, I told myself to be better at cooking with my own pace. It made me feel better and motivated me. It’s a practice. Everyone needs the practice to be skillful at something. And just because you can’t do something, you don’t have to feel pressured. Everything is gender-neutral. There shouldn't be any gender roles. So if you feel bad for not being able to do something just because you’re a girl or a boy, remember that there’s no gender on such tasks.

最後に、私のお気に入り。『料理の知識は女性器にもともとついてくるわけではない。料理は学ぶもの。料理だけじゃなく、一般的な家事は、人生のスキルとして男女両方が持つのが理想的。』あたしは料理においての知識がゼロに等しい。今まで何度も挑戦したけれど、本当に苦手。あたしの母も、彼のお母さんですら、料理を手伝っていても「もう手伝わなくていいよ」と言われてしまうほど。笑 それくらい料理を理解できていない。でもそれが女性として、いつもどこかに引っかかっていて。たまに料理を練習しよう!と思い立っても、火傷をしたり、調味料を間違えたり、とにかく何かが起きて、落ち込むの繰り返し。あたしの彼は、あたしよりもはるかに料理が上手で、二人のときは彼が何かを作ってくれる。だけど、この本を読んで、落ち込まずに料理を練習しよう、と思えた。女性として、何かできないことがあるからって、プレッシャーを感じることはない。どんなことでも、性別で決められることはないし、性別による役割分担なんてない。自分の性別が原因で何かをできないことがプレッシャーやストレスになっているとしたら、どんな仕事にも性別が関係ないことを覚えておきたい。

In this book, every suggestion, every page, every paragraph makes you feel like you learned something. Whether you agree or not with her ideas, you will definitely get a chance to think “How should I deal with gender roles in society?” Even though I don’t have a child yet, this book helped me think about just being a human. Being an adult. Being in a relationship. Living in a society. As every suggestion explained deeper with some good examples, I thought about my mother, father, grandparents, friends, boyfriend and everyone in my life. I know I’ll take this book and reread it again when I get married, when I get pregnant, when I give birth, or when I struggle with parenting. This book could be meaningful to read at any stage of your life to learn and think about gender equality for yourself and the people around you. I highly recommend this book to not only girls who expect to become mothers, but also to EVERYONE!


Images by Hikari

Edited by Kiara and Eli

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