Short Story Review – “City Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer

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Nadine Gordimer (image source)

 

A few months ago, I read “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah. The autobiographical book is about his experiences growing up in the apartheid regime in South Africa. What makes the story even more compelling is that Trevor was considered “a person of colour”, since his mother was African and his father was white. The book discusses not only the racism that was practiced, but also quite a few funny anecdotes of people not knowing how to treat him because he belonged to neither group.

“City Lovers” instantly reminded me of Trevor Noah. This short story, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1975, is by the Booker Prize (1974) and Nobel Prize in Literature (1991) winning author, Nadine Gordimer. It tells the story of a European geologist working in South Africa who grows close to and gets intimate with a coloured woman whom he first happens to meet at the supermarket. Their relationships is considered illegal according to the laws present at the time, and they must hide their affair. The story traces their affair and the legal and social consequences.

I usually do not like stories that go nowhere. This was a wonderful exception. The story is truly thought-provoking, as it makes you wonder about not only the intentions but also the motivations of the various characters for acting the way they do. This is also true of the minor characters in the story, for example the doctor and the policeman. They’re not evil, just doing their job within a grossly racist system. The story doesn’t come across as a moralising tale, rather makes you focus on the personal relationship of the couple.

This is a beautiful little story which made me sit back and think awhile after I finished reading it. It’s a touching tale that I definitely recommend you to read.

You can hear a narration of the story here.

Read more about ‘City Lovers’ on Goodreads.

While I couldn’t find a book which had the story “City Lovers” in it’s collection, I did come across the following book which was edited by Nadine Gordimer and includes a short story by her as well. None of the authors contributing to the book took a fee or take any royalty from the sale of this book; all money goes to the treatment and prevention of HIV/Aids.

Title: Telling Tales

Authors: Various; Editor: Nadine Gordimer

First published: 2004

No. of Pages: 320

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 350 (Amazon.in)

(Disclosure: If you buy books by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

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Book Review – “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck

 

It’s official: Nothing is impossible

If you have always felt that there are some things that you could never be good at (mathematics, science, drawing, dancing, chess…) because you’re “wired” a certain way, then this book is here to challenge that notion.

“Mindset” makes the claim that *anybody* can get good at *anything* they put their mind to. The author does not claim that you will definitely become the world’s best at your chosen activity or skill, but if you work diligently and scientifically, there’s almost nothing that you can’t become better at. This “growth mindset” is in contrast to the “fixed mindset” where one believes that we are born with a set of skills and that there is no way we can become better at other things.

A couple of caveats, though. The author points out that there are always going to be the 1-2% people who do have skills which would make us label them as geniuses. Then there might be the 1-2% folks at the other end of the spectrum, who might have learning disabilities and hence find it more difficult and take longer to pick up a certain skill. However, for the remaining 96-98% of the population, there is tremendous scope for improvement.

The other thing one needs to watch out for is that people who have a “growth mindset” in one area of life might have a “fixed mindset” in another. This was akn interesting wake up call for me.

I identify myself as someone who largely believes in the growth mindset, although I was barely knowledgeable of the term before I picked up this book. However, even I was surprised to learn that a skill like negotiation could be learned. This jolted me a bit and now I find myself questioning everything that I thought I couldn’t learn or be good at.

The book also touches on thei issues of sexism and racism. Negative labels can limit women and communities to feel that they canonot achieve excellence in certain disciplines; STEM or financial management, for example. I was glad the author mentioned this because it tied in directly to the essay “We Should All Be Feminists” that I read just last week.

The one criticism that I do have of this book is that the examples are mainly American. While I do understand that the book was largely aimed at an American audience, the success of it’s subject matter surely deserved an international comparison.

This book made me go back to “Grit” and made me realise how well that book was structured. In it, the author listed four reasons how grit could be cultivated: interest, passion, purpose and hope. This book addresses that last factor, hope. If people realise that they can get good at anything provided they put in systematic effort, they will tend to apply themselves to a job or a task for a longer period of time.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially to parents and teachers. The book shows how vulnerable young kids are to labels and fixed mindsets and how making them believe from an early age that they could achieve almost whatever they put their mind to is much more empowering than feeling helpless and trapped.

Snippets:

  • “It’s ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”
  • “Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”
  • “Later, at a meeting of Hewlett-Packard engineers, Packard gave the young man a medal “for extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty.” ~grins~

Read more about “Mindset” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: Mindset

Author: Dr. Carol S. Dweck

First Published: 2006

Number of Pages: 301

Price: Paperback – Rs. 330 / Kindle – Rs. 215.60 (Amazon.in)

My Rating: 8 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)