Creative Writing Program, Education, News


Introduction: In August’s edition of our book meeting, we discussed “The Ones with Purpose” by Nozizwe Cynthia Jele. This novel tells the story of Anele’s sister, Fikile, who died of breast cancer, an absent husband and father, a mother emerging from years of slumber and a disoriented brother. “The Ones with Purpose” is a story of survival, love, family, sacrifice, death, pain and secrets.

Moderator: “The Ones with Purpose” engages with the body to discuss themes of survival and womanhood. It is a touching and powerful piece of writing. I am especially thrilled by the ability of the body to destroy itself with festering organs and diseases and the victim looking at their body eat them while all along expecting a death that is bound to happen. What did you feel while reading this story?

Salman Abdullahi Gwani: The book talks about different kinds of struggles with life to avoid death. I haven’t read a book that discusses the body’s fragility as much as this.

Najib Kazaure: The book was hard to process. It wasn’t entertaining for me because it was triggering. I was glad when the story moved from the graphic portrayal of the body to stories of family, secrets, pain, alcoholism and infidelity. However, I feel the narrator of the story should have been seen more often instead of mostly giving us an account of the other characters in the story and saying little about the narrator.

Eze Peter Ifeanyichukwu: Society is very judgmental, and once you have certain ailments you are stigmatized. This isn’t just a story about a family. It creates awareness about cancer. After reading this story, I learned more about cancer. I am more empathetic to people living with cancer now. We need to be more aware and human in our approach to people living with stigmatized diseases.

Moderator: What’s your idea of the caregivers in the story? Do you think Fikile and her family show the cancer patient enough love to fight this disease and how would you relate it to the importance of familial love and care for sick people?

Salman Abdullahi Gwani: It requires sacrifice to take care of a sick person. Especially a protracted illness. We also have to look at the social effect of diseases on caregivers. I commend Fikile’s family members, especially Anele, in the book “The Ones with Purpose”. But it is tasking sacrificing your time and life and career to care for a sick person. It needs commitment and patience, which Fikile’s husband, Thiza lacked.

Najib Kazaure: You all raised valid points. That is the reason for my criticism of the book. I have read lots of stories about people living with cancer and they all read like this one. I would have loved to see a story from the perspective of the caregivers, to see the effect of the disease not even on the patient but on family members and people around the patient. We don’t get to see a lot of stories like this.

Moderator: I noticed hopelessness and morbidity with the character as soon as she was diagnosed with cancer. She isn’t even trying to fight it; she gives up and waits on death. What’s it with a cancer diagnosis, most times in African countries, that seems to conquer patients even before they fall sick?

Eze Peter Ifeanyichukwu: People are scared of things that are not familiar. Most times, outliers are stigmatized. Stigmatization is one reason people living with a terminal illness lose hope. We don’t have an efficient health system to cater to sick people; hence most people are quick to lose hope because the only way we react to what we don’t understand is to segregate.

Najib Kazaure: So you think it is because of our society that we react negatively to people with terminal illnesses?

Eze Peter Ifeanyichukwu: Once you can’t solve a problem you create a circle and you begin to segregate against people that don’t fall into the circle.

Moderator:  The main character had at some point considered using refillable after the mastectomy. I like that women are taking possession of their bodies now and not letting society decide for them.

Abdulkareem Ahmad: It is their choice what they do with their body. I don’t even think it has anything to do with society.

Aisha Usman Illo: I think it is because of the stigma. Most women wouldn’t be comfortable working with an empty chest. We can’t overrule society’s place in this.

Abdulkareem Ahmad: It is normal. Just like disabled people, if you are missing something you’d want to cover for it. Not just women. Everyone who has a disability would want to cover it up.

Moderator: That is true. Some of the characters in the story show likeable traits. Who is your favourite character in the story? Why is the person your favourite character?

Khadijah Ishaq Ja’e: I like Anele because she doesn’t give up on her sister even when her sister has long given up. I like that she loves her sister unconditionally.

Najib Kazaure: I like how resilient Fikile is. I like that she is strong and tries to put her family and her siblings together. I like how she took care of her siblings when their parents were absent. She is a strong-willed character.

Moderator: In “The Ones with Purpose”, Nozizwe shows us that even when our body fails and withers, the love of family and loved ones would always get us going. It explores the love that binds us amidst tribulations and shows that sickness is sometimes not the absence of health but the lack of love and care.

Thank you for coming for the August 2021 edition of the YELF Book Club Meeting. I am looking forward to seeing you again next month.

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