For those that have read Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime, they appreciate how challenges beyond an individual’s choices and makings can bring life at a standstill.
The book is about a black mother and how the birth of her mixed-race child was a crime in apartheid South Africa where the law forbade whites and blacks from mixing and procreating.
As such, growing up was a struggle for Noah as he is among the first-hand witnesses and faced consequences of apartheid’s racially divided rule.
It is his personal experiences that embodies survival, love, racism and abuse that propelled Caroline Kautsire to write her own book about growing up in a culturally conservative Malawi which mixes with other beliefs.
What Kind of Girl? chronicles the confusions that engulfed Kautsire’s growing up with Malawian norms while she was simultaneously exposed to American and British culture.
“Sometimes, I wasn’t sure which culture to lean on. I was also a tiny, sporty, tomboy who struggled with accepting myself that way, so traditional roles for women seemed a little confining.
“In addition, it was easy to become wrapped up in the narrative of how Western countries offer a better life, and I had to learn for myself the merits and limits of the West and also what I loved about Malawi,” she said in an interview.
Kautsire said she has memories and achievements that she doesn’t want to forget especially because her life moved very quickly in so many ways.
She feels no one goes through life the same way, but looking back, she can see when her life has gotten off and on track.
“When I think on the peculiar choices I made as a child, I always wonder if there are others who struggled with growing up the way I did, and writing this book was the beginning of a conversation about the awkwardness of growing up for all of us,” said Kautsire.
So, an encounter with Noah’s book, of course after writing much of her memoir, encouraged her authoring process.
Said Kautsire: “When I saw how raw, honest and vivid Noah told his story, I wanted to capture the same sincerity and captivating way of telling both comedic and tragic moments.
“As a comedian, Noah’s voice comes across in his memoir very distinctly, and I wanted to find my own voice, cadence, charm—so to speak.”
After publishing poetry and flash fiction that explores themes such as searching for identity, struggling with intimacy, and learning to love, Kautsire decided to go a notch up with the book that has three highlights.
She said: “One happens in Sunny Side, Blantyre, where my family resides. Approximately 50 thieves attempted to break into our home.
“Unexpectedly, I found myself, as a little girl, making a choice to risk my life to save my family, even as the burglars hacked and smashed sections of the house. The class struggle in Malawi became real for me while I could not fully grasp why such violence would occur.”
Kautsire’s says the other vignette is arguably what most Malawian urban girls would relate to; priming sessions which are forced on them, regardless.
She said: “It involves me attending a Catholic ‘female grooming’ school at church. The lessons reinforced expectations that are considered universal for Malawian girls, but I was eager to question everything the nuns taught.
“As a result of my questions, I was seen as rude and disrespectful, but that was partly due to my resistance to traditional female roles.”
Set for release on July 31, the 217-paged book will be available on Amazon and other international bookstores offering an electronic version that will be easily accessed in Malawi.
“I will discuss shipment plans with the publishers because I would really like to have my book, which took me about a year and a half to write, in school libraries and bookstores in Malawi,” said Kautsire.
The writer has published the book through Austin Macauley Publishers which offers both new and previously published authors a chance to publish using an open submissions policy.
According to the story’s synopsis posted on the publisher’s website, the book attempts to answer a litany of personal questions Kautsire had while growing up.
“For Caroline, being a girl is already confusing, and growing up in the small African country of Malawi, she is constantly asked the question, “What kind of girl behaves this way?”
“Alone, she must finally answer the question,” reads the website www.austinmacauley.com.
Reacting to the news about the book’s release on Twitter, Tracy Phiri wrote: “That’s a win for us women. Go girl! I am adding a list of go-getter women for my daughter. …Congratulations.”
Kautsire, 33, is an English professor at Bunker Hill Community College and Bay State College in Boston, USA. She primarily moved to America for educational purposes but now teaches literature, composition and public speaking.