'The story is about me' Book Review by Derrick Oduck

I met Derrick in an African Union pre-deployment training in Brazzaville, Congo in November 2018. I remember sitting next to him and starring at him till the point he felt uncomfortable. I looked at him and said “You are very attractive…”, he looked confused and probably thinking to himself “is this girl flirting with me?”. I wasn’t flirting at all; I was just stating the obvious. On the contrary, Derrick seemed as he never got that kind of compliment before. So, as a weird and annoying person, I decided to tell him almost every day how attractive he was. I don’t know why, I just felt like it. I have this thing where I am either a very open person and I say the first thing that comes to my mind or I am this serious person that you will have no idea what is going on in my mind.

He was quiet, mysterious and easy going, I liked his energy. I decided to force myself on him and try to be his friend. He didn’t seem to mind so we started talking. We bonded over writing, he told me he likes to read and I remember when I first told him I write, he asked me “do you write about transgender?”. That was so weird! I was trying to figure out who was weirder. Funny enough, I do have a short story about a transgender woman…Anyways, long story short – Derrick asked for my books and told me he wanted to read them, I didn’t believe him because most people ask for them and never read them but it makes me happy when people at least show interest. He liked the book so much that he decided to review it, so here it is:

Reviewed by Derrick Oduck, Kenyan Journalist.

"... Maybe the lives we live, the conditions we experience, the diseases we face…they only affect our bodies, not our souls."

             -Noélia Izata,2017

The Story Is About me highlights the life of Noélia volunteering experience in Uganda. We get to understand her life story, through other people’s characters. In her 3 weeks stay in Uganda, Noélia encounters other volunteers’, people from different walks of life and parts of the world. It awes her how people are different to her perspective in life but through it all, she can relate her own life experience with them give the book more life making it personal to the reader. She vividly tore her life to us in order for the reader to have a deep understanding of how many people suffer through depression, death, love, poverty and, forgiveness- that I can relate to-.

Noélia never comes to terms with the immense poverty in Uganda and she could not understand the fact that not everyone in this life is lucky enough to experience the good things in life as she did. Though it was difficult for her to cope with the living conditions in Uganda, she struggled to the very end. As a reader, I realized what she faced in her early years affects her a great deal and to date, and still influences her choices and decisions she makes in life. She judges and discerns everything around her.

Throughout the story, Noélia never disappoints in bring out the humour amid poverty and despair as you read the book. A light way to spark a smile as your thoughts and heart are deeply immersed in the heart-breaking poverty experiences affecting thousands of lives in a landlocked country in the heart of Africa.

" They were so skinny, their arms looked like chopsticks. 
I thought about this guy I met here who studied nutrition as a 
degree and he looked like he had not eaten for years..."

Noélia takes us through her many years battle with depression... a fight she almost gave up.

"...one of the signs was a drastic change of hairstyle. 
At first, I thought about cutting all off my hair 
off, like a boy..."

"Depression is now tucked at a place in my head 
where I never want to visit again but I always find
myself going back there."

"if only she knew that I have been dealing 
with depression for years... "

And how it almost led her to commit suicide. A situation which even her parents, failed to notice despite all the signs and signals she gave them concerning her battle with herself.

"I had already decided what I was going to do. 
I opened the shiny brown drawer and I took the pills...
I tried to commit suicide.  I think I really committed it, I just didn’t die..."

The accuracy she remembers the events and conversations of the people she interacted with is quite remarkable and unique. Very few people in the planet possess such a gift.

" She was wearing the same exact clothes she
wore the first day I met her..."

Though she judged their way of life of the Ugandans harshly, she vividly put across that poverty is not an inborn condition.

"... I can’t find anything positive in this village tour.
 Positive had another meaning for them; the only positive thing in their lives was their HIV statuses... "

"... I can say that to live in misery is a choice..."

It’s a situation that everyone can improve and be able to live a better life. Eat good food... good hygiene… clean environment and sufficient necessities of life that portrait a good perfect life.

"It doesn’t matter if you are poor or rich, 
that state is a temporary passage in this life..."

What challenges her is how the people in Uganda managed to live in their poverty-stricken community and yet they were happy and shared the little they had. Something she never comes to terms with, in all her 3 weeks of stay.

“Coming from a nation of bloodsuckers of the poorer, it is inspirational to see the ones who have less, 
freely giving more to other people... "

" I didn’t see poverty in their eyes, I saw hope 
and gratitude…. "

Her experience in Uganda left an imprint in her that she will always remember and amazingly she fell in love with Uganda and its people. The different way of life taught her incredible lessons that only life can give.

"I was going to miss them, no matter what I have been writing about, there’s a part of me that felt home here..."

Noélia was damaged before. She struggled to let go of her past painful experiences she went through.

" I was eighteen when it happened…. pleasure cannot replace the damage that he did to me... "

".. Today, he still rapes me emotionally and mentally and I have prayed to God to let me forgive him... "

And it was here, in Uganda, that she found solace and be able to find forgiveness in her heart.

“I thought I was going to waste my time here and be forever miserable. 
At some point I was but I know I will never be the same..."

               ''…What I experienced, what I learnt, what I felt, it is a part of this journey called life…And one day the pain will all fade away…”

In the end, THE STORY IS ABOUT ME is a story about depression, a story about suicide, a story about death, a story about love and above all, a story about forgiveness.

"... Kawooya Lawrence forgave the person who contracted him HIV; Nakamnya Christin forgave God... It finally hit me...this book is about forgiveness...That was my lesson!" 

Noélia Izata was able to put all these amazing thoughts and emotions evoking experiences, in just 162 pages.

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