Appraising Single Mother of Five: Insights for Fathers, Mothers and Counsellors (2010)
by Patrick E. Iroegbu
I was contacted to review the book, Single Mother of Five: Insights for Fathers, Mothers and Counsellors, written by Dr. Rose Joshua, for the occasion of its public launch on Saturday, July 23, 2011 at St. Edmund's Catholic Parish, Edmonton, Canada. It dawned on me to scrutinize the book and make sense of it around our lived marital challenges, social, religious and economic realities for Nigerian and African families and elsewhere. First of all, the entire book, which I am about to review is captured by an Igbo proverb which says, Onye ajuru anaghi aju onwe ya! (this literally means, when one is forsaken, one does not let up, but to face it and move on).
In a recent third edition of Author's Forum held in Ibadan of Nigeria captioned ‚ÄėHow to make People Love Books' reported by DAMIETE BRAIDE of the Daily Sun (July 14, 2011), it was held that there is a need to develop the culture of public reading as a way of getting a lot of people to read. It was also observed that in Asia and the West, authors make more money through public readings because it helps to publicize their books. Publishers and book sellers are encouraged to organize book launches and public readings, which in turn would boost sale of books. Common in Nigeria, for example, is the call to bring back the culture of reading and campaign for the return of books. Professor Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo, who chaired the occasion, said this,
"I love books and I have always loved where books are discussed. There was a time when books were rare in the country but today, books are everywhere. I cannot imagine today a world without books; books construct wisdom, inspire, shape values and interests, empower and represent a repository of knowledge and they should be celebrated. Reading is one thing that should be encouraged and reading should not die. In the West, they read a lot; so, a young child who discovers the world of books is very enchanting."
The African people are often cajoled by the westerners for the fact that to read books is to trouble them. Therefore to hide knowledge from the African, write it in books. They won't read it has become a common catch-phrase!
The coming of internet, namely electronic writing and communication, may appear to have replaced books. It is not true. Books are still relevant despite the use of modern technology like e-book. Like physical books, electronic devices simply add to the ways of learning what books teach.
Not long ago, Dr. Rose Joshua contacted me from Calgary via facebook and requested to be helped to settle down to her new job in Edmonton. Dr. Rose Joshua had lived in and studied in several cities in Canada and of course in USA too. Poised I did become after reading her exciting and intimidating resume on the internet. Not only did I quickly place a phone call on one of the Real Estate guys here but I also went over to say hi, there is a great guy coming from Calgary to settle down here in her new employment. But she is seeking for help to find a temporary accommodation until she will sort out what she will require in the area of housing. Just take it up and help. Choices were offered and here we go, she settled down and has been awesome with reaching out to the community.
Dr. Rose Joshua has just settled down here in Edmonton with a strong purpose. Her settling down in the city coincided with the rough moments Nigeria Association of Alberta (NAA) was having with the so-called unpopular Caretaker Committee and the NAA Board as at then. The rest of the story is history as all of us know where we are in the trend of things ‚Äď to be or not to be.
I am not going to review the book ‚Äď Single Mother of Five ‚Äď based on the circumstances of Nigerians in the Diaspora such as the history of NAA and its present predicaments ‚Äď much like in a broken family. But I will offer a review based on the mindset of a scholar and community responsibility to make sense of the book.
Why Is a Review of this Book Necessary?
People often ask, why do we have to review books, can't readers do it themselves? Good question. Reviewing books is an important way of bringing the knowledge of a book to the fore. A review is a highlight of the book. It helps to give authority and credibility to the work. Reviews offer both critical comments and praises of the work. Not only that reviews put value to a book, they also redirect the focus for intellectual skill, social policy and market value. Since libraries can't buy books unless they have been reviewed and/or recommended, and even many individuals won't buy books unless they have read a review, reviewing books can definitely shine light on the book and advance the field of the author. To review a book therefore demands from the reviewer to be an active reader of the book. A reviewer is a reader who reads meaning into and beyond a book.
Having said that, my task today is to share a comment about the book Single Mother of Five. That brings me to thequestion, why is this book written? What inspired it? How is it written, what circumstances surrounded the writing of this book. What is the book's central argument? Did the book do what it set out to do? Is the book well written? How accurate is the information provided? What course can it be used for? Who will benefit from reading this book? More importantly, what critical message and lessons can we draw from the author's approach, perspective and experiences shared in the work? In short why are books written, especially why is the Single Mother of Five written? Why also should a literature like this be launched? Books are judged, I need to mention, not by the reviewer's intentions but essentially by the author's goal and approach. More importantly a review tries to assess if the book has covered a good ground by standing out as a genuine contribution to the field, and indeed, adds to our knowledge. The most important element about a book review is that it is a commentary, not just a summary and quotations from the book. Even though critical reviews will point out areas not covered by a book or references deserving of inclusion but ignored by the author, it matters to keep in mind that the reviews evaluate the overall thesis of the book and its validity through explanations, interpretations and analyses. Yet book reviews, unlike reports which discuss content, can vary in length, scope, intended audience, and complexity.
There are many answers one can offer in response to the above questions. Social analysts and pundits have ways of mirroring a book such as the Single Mother of Five. More importantly when a book is written by a scholar like Dr. Rose Joshua, some readers attempt to view such books to be out of their reach or comprehension. People read books or articles for different purposes. I need to tell you one thing, some people read books written by people they know to default them, not to appreciate the work. For example, some will read a book to criticize the style of writing ‚Äď that is the use of language by the author. Others will read it to scrutinize the life and troubles a writer may have had in life. Yet others read a book to capture the idea of the author and lessons intended of the book. In one way or the other, a book has something to offer and it depends on what the reader is prepared to take out of a book.
Authors like Dr. Rose Joshua, and a whole lot of African, Asian, Middle-eastern, European, Canadian, American and entire western and non-western writers have one thing in common ‚Äď the desire to communicate an experience, a thought, idea, a lesson, a research finding, a subject of interest and, in deed, a story ‚Äď true or fiction. Keep in mind that the popular novel,Things Fall Apart written by Prof. Chinua Achebe was written as folklore ‚Äď being an account of the missionary and colonial encounter with the Igbo people. He was not the only one who experienced the circumstances of that historical come-across ‚Äď was he? Not at all, but because he felt there was a need to tell that story in his own perspective, so he wrote it. Things Fall Apart was rejected by all most all major English Publishers in UK as at the time because it was reviewed as untellable and non-sellable material in the sense of what mattered in the then English literary domain and world. Until one professor who just returned from African university tour of duty was approached to read the book. In his review reply, that is what evaluators call assessment and relevance for academic knowledge and market value, he said "this is the best of any ‚ÄėAfrican writer and topic' he has read and deserves to be read by the world about African knowledge system and the western world". There you go; the success story of Things Fall Apart that has become the most read book out of Africa today written by an Igbo person began. Changes like you know have occurred on how manuscripts are assessed by publishers before they hit the press. Today we have self-publishing made possible by the electronic and internet resources. Self-publishing requires heavy publicity network which includes book launching to bring the work to the attention of readers and users.
The First & Current Edition
I did not have the opportunity to read the first edition of Single Mother of Five. When the author was asked about what significant changes occurred that warranted the second edition, she opined that there was not a radical break away from the first edition but the second arose out of the need to add feedbacks and reinforce some of the arguments raised by readers' of the first edition. I am happy the second edition has been able to address the readers increasing quest to have out there a standard book to address motherhood, fatherhood and counselling in the face of doing it alone.
As a reviewer of this book, I just want to tell you that I have read the book ‚Äď SINGLE MOTHER OF FIVE: INSIGHTS FOR FATHERS, MOTHERS AND COUNSELLORS (2ND.ED.) 2010.
I read it with deep pleasure. I can testify that I found the book easy to read, even though I am not a trained Church Pastor of the verses from the bible which the author so much used to blend the hard core issues involved in her narratives. But such verses were carefully drawn and beautifully woven around the themes explored. At a point of reading the text, I kind of wondered how long it consumed this woman to scrutinize the verses and made sense of them, including even applying them to teach and counsel. Only a creative mind and sound intellect would have been able to do that. Another surprising thing is that our Author, Dr. Rose Joshua is far way off the pedigree of a literary storyteller. But I found in her book that her story flowed from her heart and daily experiences far more than a professional story writer will put forward. She majored in computer science and gained her Ph.D in computer science knowledge systems ‚Äď not in the field of literary criticism and politics of writing stories and launching stories. We will not give her award for colonial and missionary writing in Africa like Prof. Chinua Achebe and Prof. M.J.C. Echeruo. The latter being the first Nigerian professor to Head English Department in a Nigerian University at University of Ibadan. He was also the first Igbo Ahiajoku Lecture laureate to teach the largest educated Igbo audience at Owerri the matter of Igbo Identity - Ahamefuna. In the same light as Achebe, Echeruo and many others have done and continue to do, Dr. Rose Joshua has written a book ‚Äď Single Mother of Five to teach us how to survive and care for our off spring even when we are abandoned, divorced or separated from our married partner. Like Achebe and Echeruo, Joshua set out to educate us about family survival in diaspora, even when one's partner is missing. By so doing she raises the cultural saying that onye ajuru anaghi ajuju onwe ya (one does not abandon oneself when one is disserted or betrayed). To survive the misfortune of being dumped, being made vacant, empty, one has to figure it out and move on by being on the determination and solution side of things. Regretting and living by the shadow of that regret will not help, she argues, until one concretely begins to fill the gap of emptiness with God the maker and giver of all things. Many things can lead to divorce or separation. The following theme lists some examples of such situations.
Factors that Lead to Failed Marriages
Several situations can account for a husband and wife calling it a quit to their relationship. In every relationship, it is said that degree of love for one another determines everything. But love in itself is a function of contribution each partner brings to make the relationship work. No one eats love like food; though love satisfies our emotional and psychological need to share with another in a companionship. The following situations are examples that may bring about the break down of relationships; although this book did not elaborate on this list of issues and situations but it can be inferred from the reading of the work.
1. Quarrel about income, spending, money issue, poverty or greediness
2. Level of trust and communication issue
3. Cheating/infidelity issue, Igba outside game
4. Child care issue
5. Career issue, irreconcilable religions and outings
6. In-laws and friends issue
7. Immediate and extended family issue
8. Opposed social and political interest issue
9. Physical attraction, sex thing and love making issue
10. Religious views, inclinations and associations
11. Intercultural conflicts ‚Äď life in diaspora vs. home culture
12. Gender dominance, put down and power struggle issue
13. Fear of death, health and wellness issue.
Do I Like this Book?
I simply like this book because it made some 90 degrees departure from common publications on family and child rearing practices. It told the story of the other side of the coin as never before when divorce or misfortune takes the stage and the audacity to move on is religiously imperative. This is not to say instances of disappointment do not exist. They do in many ways and in many places ‚Äď local and urban. People loose their partners to death, misfortune of different kinds and also to divorce. But we rarely tell the story the way this author has turned her experiences into a counselling literature for us to learn from and grow stronger. The book also turns the page to help understand another folklore in Igbo which says, a man or woman does not count him‚Äď or herself lucky until after marriage. This means that to the Igbo as it is for many other related societies, marriage shapes the family and public destiny of a person.
Coming to the specifics of her book, Single Mother of Five, Dr. Rose Joshua highlights the point that in the face of failed relationships, businesses, betrayals and struggles with children's behaviour, we are faced with a monumental challenge. Yet, all hope to re-invent and bounce back to life is not lost unless when we ignorantly and arrogantly allow it (see Preface, p. iii). Offering a remedy, she stated that life in itself is veiled or covered with "opportunities which must be sought out and explored despite roadblocks." I cannot agree more with this insight. Throwing a PITY PARTY in our Minds is not a solution, she claims and advises. This is because life is a critical struggle, to be or not to be; a battle of opportunities and misfortunes. One has to fight this battle to be, to live, to shine, and to contribute. As such, we need to pick up and move on! Resorting to common proverbs and metaphors of life for wisdom to endure ‚Äď she further says, "It is of no use crying over spilt milk". Clean it and get another or seek for an alternative. Spilt milk has logical consequences ‚Äď natural and financial ‚Äď and both are inevitable when milk is spilt or relationship is broken. In the author's way of saying the same thing, she writes ‚Äď take time to improve and beautify yourself (man or woman), and let the devil be put to shame" ‚Äď the knife that cut the two apart. That is, taking time to work through it is good and again realizing that one has children to mentor and grow to live a good life must not be lost sight of than chasing the cross (absent partner) ‚Äď of the spilt milk. The author's ultimate is that where there is a will, there is a way too. One way closes, another opens is what that supposes. At home, we often read inscriptions on Trucks, Lorries and Buses thus: "Will is Way", "Good Hope", and "Thanks Be to God". What did this author conceive of as the will and the way? How did she figure it out and advice us to imbibe that philosophical horizon of surviving in the face of a broken home, a broken life and deep confusion?
It is at this point I think, from the instances in the book, that this author knew very well what she is talking about. Her work did not just show a life of poor economic experience to survive for the next moment but also a life discovered through urgent career, motherhood, devotion to God and community and the need for a better society through giving to the child. Love is often defined through the female side whereas economic achievement is on the male side. Dr. Rose Joshua was of the view that in the circumstances she faced, including most women, there is a need for women to move away from that notion of being dependent. The author's narrative of her economic successes ‚Äď houses and sizes in different cities she has lived in were paid for by her hard work and devotion to exemplify this. Come to talk of it, her academic records to the highest university degree is exemplary also. In her case, many women would have dropped out ‚Äď called it a quit and lived in deep weeping and nagging to bargain the emotional and mental torture ‚Äď therefore stand out on a pity philosophy to chase men around for easy virtue and support. Sex craze, the so-called bottom power would have been the best of all opportunities available. But she refused to let it go that way. It takes a strong spiritual, intellectual and social mindset to take that extra mile to be there.
How Does the Statistical Notion of Single Parenthood Look like Today?
Ladies and gentlemen, in North American Society, research shows that single household amounts to 60% which suggests a huge culture change in modern society caused by the challenges of industrialization. On the contrary, traditional family-stead consists of the remaining 40% as it is envisioned by dogmatic theology of family constitution. African families are quickly joining the trend of large number of single parenthood.
This brings me to the next point. Why did this author not consider re-marrying as an option? What do we take out from this book in the context of re-marrying when one's first marriage hits the hard Aso-Rock or fails and the children are out there to be supported and raised to live their lives? Your guess is as good as mine. But again wadding through the book, the author brilliantly connected God as the answer to the dilemma raised by the question of why not remarry? She shows that it is only God who makes things happen. We need therefore not force God to do what will hurt the children in the making of their world.
As much as one may like that position, if one will divorce tomorrow, one would be happy to have one's children raised without another marriage involving one's ex. But as a man will one remain celibate? That is to stay without another marriage? We can find answer to the situation when we deeply understand the type of marriages ‚Äď legal marriages and co-habitations and all the social and cultural issues that pertain to the western and non-western lifestyles.
Having addressed these concerns and questions a reader may raise by reading this book, I contend that this book helps us to show the new us, new me, new you by changing the way we look and take things to promote or demote our cravings and destinies. A close reading of pages 125 ‚Äď 128 with the themes change your wardrobe and carrying ourselves like kings and queens with an honest purpose resonates with time offs to rejuvenate. Our author points to phrases like "take me break time and pampering oneself" ‚Äď time off to be and live, and to train others on our availability (p. 128). Another is what she termed having a weekend off" and what that should mean in the practice of taking time off. For example, send the kids away, get out yourself if affordable. She shows that spending your valued time off on divine meditation or prayers counts as part of taking time off as well as reducing one's fatigue cycle. Important to mention also is the gym life and physical appearance which the author emphasized (pp. 116 - 120).
Chapters that Stood Out
This book is written with 12 chapters as a whole. Nevertheless, all the chapters in this book are good to read and to follow the depth of social and moral philosophy and theology it explored. Not only do I want to mention a couple of chapters that stood out for me, it is also useful to draw attention to them due to their significance in the work.
They include chapter 2, which points out that we are not alone when we feel abandoned. Though this chapter will require a further explanation of the characteristics of whom a "bully devil" is that needs to be chased away (p. 16).
Chapter 3, headed as Build a Strong Support Community is engaging. It details the need to belong to a community ‚Äď church and cultural groups and how these community associations must in turn challenge us and build us to be better.
Another is chapter 6, captioned Fulfill your Dreams ‚Äď Pick up and Progress ‚Äď which discusses dreams and resilience to move on. It reveals the emotional challenges and life views of women in a shelter and how women should think and act to overcome their tragedies.
Chapter 7, named Shoot for Financial Freedom, is an important one because it is a bother to most mothers and fathers. It is also a challenge for counsellors when discussing factors that lead to marital breakdowns among couples. The insight the author brought into it is worth reading and following.
Chapter 8, titled Maintain a Healthy and Happy Lifestyle is one of the secrets of success no one should ignore. This chapter caught my attention by the way it details the day to day issues that often trouble mothers from acting right. Her approach to overcome this will work for many who will try it. Her conclusion is that God wants us to be healthy and whole to function well (p. 114). Our genius and our best self can only be transmitted to our off spring when we are totally functioning in our best of mind and body; period.
I liked chapter 9, captioned Nurture a Mother-Child Partnership. From the author's professional role as a scientist and counsellor, we are made to understand the need to appreciate psychological counselling as a way to go and reinvent. Her obvious argument here is that there are lots of things involved in taking care of our children (p. 134). Many things, we often, take for granted in our rearing beliefs and practices should not be so. The chapter points out what some of those things are. In particular, she notes that the first mistake her fellow mothers (or fathers) make is the neglect of their children's psychological welfare when we have family crisis (p. 135). To think that kids do not need counselling is untrue, argues the author. The author's narrative of her experience in this domain is revealing for everyone to read (pp. 135-137).
Chapters 11 and 12 discuss forgiveness and seeing oneself as being on a mission. I need not over labour the concept of forgiveness for it is not only crucial to religious life, but also to the dimensions of mothering and fathering, and moreover, to community relationship dynamics. The book chapters in its entirety are crafted in a way to define the problem of single motherhood and at the same time offers a solution to look ahead as one on a mission. The various chapters constitute a global call of what we have to be in our changing and challenging world. Drawing from a song by Whitney Houston and Brandy's Cinderella, Dr. Rose Joshua's Single Mother of Five asserts in page 195 that mothers need to be told that they are women on a mission. Her pledge and mission (our author's) is therefore,
1. To protect my children from harm, show them God's way, pray with them, and teach them to become the role models and leaders of tomorrow" (p. 195).
2. To ensure that my children will not be counted in the negative statistics of "children from broken homes".
3. To change the world's view of children from broken homes ‚Äď from negative to positive one ‚Äď have my children not broken in themselves.
4. To be a woman on a mission refusing to fail in the face of adversity, but to succeed with God's help (p. 201).
Critical Comments and Conclusions
Taking the book as a whole, I must say I enjoyed the effort and daily graphic details the author gave to the themes and the story of a Single Mother of Five. In a suddenly broken down home where a partner is thrown into a severe confusion, the book reflects on the challenges faced by the mom or dad and worries that in a clinically counselled system, someone needs to make sure the parent's voice continues to be spiritually modelled, heard and listened to.
In modern day family life, a book of this importance would have created more admiration if the author had included some beautiful images or pictures of the family. Who would not like to see the family photo of the FIVE Children restored to hope by God? If I were the author, her first house as described in the book would have endeared readers to see the transitions in the success story of her survival and appreciation to God and community support.
Another small observation I made while reading the book is ‚Äď not all chapters of the book were supported by a list of references. Why the author chose to provide some references for selected chapters and accorded no references to others were not explained to reduce the confusion a reader might develop.
It is noteworthy of the author to have indicated that King James Version of the Holy Bible was used and quoted extensively. I took time to scrutinize the verses and found them nicely chosen and explored.
I liked the aspect where the writer used the God question and community ethos as a strategy of survival. It not only held the author in a much potential for improving the quality of emotional release and hope fostering practice but also in a socially oriented health services support. Ultimately the community religious initiative may often tend to exclude important victims and crucial aspects of single mother family primary care. Our society has diversified so much that sometimes I wonder how easy PASTORS and Counsellors find it to preach the concept of "hanging in there" in a deep turbulent relationship.
Perusing the chapters and themes of the book, one gets the impression that with God all is cool and done. I do not belittle the fact that with God all things are possible when we carry ourselves to be solution, determination, focus and hard work. Yes, with God, according to the author of Single Mother of Five, we are empowered to overcome all tragedies and roadblocks if we try. So without trying and working hard, we stand to complicate the tragedies of life in loneliness, in dependence, in complaining ‚Äď hence the essence of community and association with zero tolerance to failure, ethnic rancour and hate, conspiracy and discrimination of all sorts. It is like what the author calls for is that a fractured home requires all the divine help, community support, not blame and distraction, to rebuild.
One point of view the author shows is the importance of investing in God as the solution ‚Äď to give us what no other person can offer us. That God is the abundance of love. If a human person will deny us love and care, God provides it as the source of true and unfailing love. When human love fails, the author argues, we need not forget God who is the Alfa and Omega of providence and love. A partner shares a minor love; God the giver hugely nourishes us with the major and abundant mercy and love.
I need to state that the author of Single Mother of Five succeeded in taking the narrative of her story with a psychological, religious and philosophical calm. The book's argument suggests that every mother or father can do it as the author experienced it and braved it only if one is ready to learn and follow up. It resolved the conflict and contradiction of asking people to divorce or misunderstanding mothers and children emerging from broken homes. One can also take from the author's charge to single households that God and children are centrally the ultimate focus that offers us the way to balance the outcomes of our lived reality. Addressing several issues of practical reality ‚Äď from self-care and self esteem, to finances, the work charges parents involved in child rearing practices to collaborate with communities around them with a variety of perspectives (p. iii). To say the least, this book can be described as an ethnographic text of survival told by a single mother of five. Not only does it shed light on being and becoming, but also it provides details on the opportunity for growth in any encounter ‚Äď encounter surrounded by divine life, community order and group support.
I conclude that having reviewed this book and commented on the findings, I strongly think it is a valuable book to have in our homes, schools, churches, libraries, and communities. Thank you Dr. Rose Joshua for challenging yourself to write and to share the story of being a Single Mother of Five. It really provides a well grounded insight from a female gender perspective of survival in the face of a broken home we cannot ignore to read and advance the dimensions of her perspective. Grab a copy ‚Äď for it fits as a must read and a pendulum of crucial survival, in particular, when one is faced with a broken home and disserted. By reading this book you will discover as I did that the notion that a broken home cannot be better and that single mom and single dad child rearing practices is handicapped with the missing link and therefore over troubled is challenged by Dr. Rose Joshua's book. A must read by all, particularly, those who are faced with living alone to give to the child in a changing situation.
Publication Year: 2010.
Number of Pages: 201.
Publisher: Blitzprint Inc. Calgary, AB. Canada.
Canadian Library & Archives Info: BV4529.18.J67 2010 248.8'431 C2010-905726-0.
Copy Right: Family Defense International, Inc. Canada.
Author: Dr. Rose Joshua
Dr. Patrick Iroegbu is an anthropologist, community health advocate and leader. The author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in an African Society (2007) as well as Healing Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria (2010). Both books and others are available online ‚Äď www.amazon.com