Eight Literary Readers React to Sibongile Fisher’s The Miseducation of Gratitude

Sibongile Fisher won the 2018 Brittle Paper Award for Creative Nonfiction with her tour de force titled “The Miseducation of Gratitude” which the Brittle Paper judges for this year’s award described thus; “From a group of works—including a mapping project—all of which are either honoring history or figures on the boundary of history or turning an inward gaze towards the self, we unanimously chose Sibongile Fisher’s powerful memoir, ‘The Miseducation of Gratitude.’ Fisher’s track-by-track reinterpretation of rapper Lauryn Hill’s 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an autobiography of love, motherhood, family, and wounds. She blends literature and trauma into a musical framework and the result is poetic, soulbreaking, symbolic and, importantly, sure-footed. It is literary confessionality at its most bare.” A few days ago, we asked readers to share their first reaction to this compelling work of creative nonfiction and we received so many memorable comments which we have compiled here for you.

Agboola Timi Isreal:
I felt submerged. I felt out of my skin, the experience you only have while being part of something unreal and fantastical.
When it’s literature, these seminal moments are rare for me. It only happens when I’m being introduced for the first time to truly incredible work of fiction, much less nonfiction. The leading piece in Selves broke something in my heart and reorganized them again.
It was amazing to be introduced to Sibongile and her spectacular talent. Long may it continue.

Oluwaseun Shedrack Akodu:
The point of view sweeps my heart. The rhythm turns my inside. The story accentuates the writer’s feelings writing the piece; hence it reaches and enriches the core of art. The stylistic effects acquit the writer. Anytime, I remember the reading; I pulsate.

Esomnofu Ebelena Tobenna:
After reading Sibongile Fisher’s “The Miseducation of Gratitude”, I took a deep breath and thought, “God, this is amazing!”
It is as intriguing as it is poignant. I remember pausing to underline some passages that sing forlorn songs. I remember marveling at their grace, their freshness, their rawness. I remember challenging myself to memorise them all. Because they are remarkably poetic and confessional in an unconventional way. This young woman bares herself, her past, her life and her small and big struggles. The way she takes up the issues of her mother tongue, the English language that is not her language, and her culture is reminiscent of the poetic rappers of the 90’s. Sibongile Fisher is a huge talent. She commands my respect.

Ugbabe Isaac Samuel:
Pheew! Three paragraphs into the story, I stopped reading and shouted- Oh my God, Oh my God! Not kidding. She clothes you in her skin and showers you with all the feelings woven into her story. She’s a brilliant writer, absolutely brilliant writer.

Mandela Emeka:
That was the first work of creative nonfiction I had to read more than once because it was way too good. When I realised that it would be published alongside other pieces like it in a book, I was dying with thirst to read more.
I like how she walked us through those phases of her life, holding us by the hand while we all walked through those dreary paths; and while the gore and stark reality of her story was something to shed tears for, she somehow sang lullabies in the way she wrote them, making me want to walk that path over and over again.

CJ Onyedikachi:
Creative nonfiction rarely makes one cry, except if it is biographical or the opposite. But after reading Sibongile’s nonfiction it feels eclectic and different.
Her style and poetic language are brilliant and rich.

Cephas U. John
I was 5 minutes late for a meeting with my supervisor when my worrisome touch pad brought me into WPS. So I decided to roll with the tide. It was a long swim.
You see the childbirth parts? She drew me into the story. And at a point, I went from being inside my gaudy room to the “the ward painted yellow with no sign of changing.” I saw everything. I was the midwife. The nurse with water breaking on her face. I was Fisher, I was the dancing woman.
How did she do that? Was the question I kept asking myself as I read it again, supervisor be damned. No piece would have kickstarted the Selves anthology better.

Diokpa Nzubechukwu Okoye-Mbubo:
“The Miseducation of Gratitude” educated me on the facets and shades through which non-fiction can manifest. Nonfictions do not have to be snooze fests that one reads perfunctorily just to gratify a reading regime.
Through “The Miseducation of Gratitude,” a portal of inexplicable, inexpressible emotion was unlocked.

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