What you need to know:
- Review: Suzan Adong’s Understanding Teens: A Parent’s Perspective gives hope to the challenging society we are faced with today, writes Sylvia Mwesigye.
Uganda was a literary desert for close to 20 years between 1970 and 1990. After the early promise of writers such as Okot p’Bitek famous for his masterpiece Song of Lawino, John Ruganda with The Floods and other plays and Barbara Kimenye with her Kalasanda, the publishing industry slowed down probably due to the political and economic turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s. It is hard to think of story lines or figures of speech while dodging bullets or if your top agenda is getting a kilo of sugar at the ration centre for the children’s porridge.
However, as the country started experiencing relative peace, in the 1990s, Ugandans started writing and publishing again. Mary Karooro Okurut released The Invisible Weevil and Arthur Gakwandi released Kosiya Kifefe. And since then, it seems that every week a book is being launched somewhere in Uganda. We now have so many memoirs, war time books, autobiographies and self-help books to ably stock a mid-sized bookshop with local books. I am hopeful that this will eventually eliminate the misconception that Ugandans do not like reading. The only reason I think our people stopped reading is because there were no books that addressed their issues and told their stories. I do not see how someone who is literate can leave a book such as The Invisible Weevil or Understanding Teens: A Parent’s Perspective on the shelf without at least leafing through. Although the two books belong to different genres, their themes are equally enlightening and powerful.
Suzan Adong is part of the crop of the emerging promising Ugandan writers. Her book is part memoir and part parenting manual, for she uses her experiences as a child and teenager and as a mother to bring forth her ideas. Her approach is neither hurried nor too out there. It brings to mind the saying that it is occasionally possible for a tortoise to outrun a hare that seeks originality or does not want to be left out of the crowd, if the former stumbles on some effective ways to apply the best previous knowledge to accomplish its purpose.
The joy in reading this book is not that one can learn how to parent better. Let us face it, parenting is not a one-suits all arrangement but rather in absorbing her wisdom, one will gain a far deeper understanding of parent-child relationships and how to not perpetuate the mistakes in our own upbringing to the next generation. It is often said that the reason there is so much conflict between parents and children is lack of understanding of what either party wants. Because at the end of the day, parents want the best for the child and the child wants the best for themselves but the road to this destination is not always clear, hence the conflict.
How many times have we heard people’s parents being blamed for their children’s shortcomings? That you can tell a lot about a person’s background from their character? In this, book, the author attempts to help both parents and children steer clear of this blame game by suggesting a parenting method where parents and children are able to meet resolve this impasse. Without sounding preachy, she endeavours to explain to the teenagers that their parents may seem to be joy kills and bores with their rules and regulations, but the actions come from experience and want them to avoid the mistakes they made. This is a departure from Adong’s childhood where the parent’s word was law and could not be questioned at all. She advocates for a blend of modern parenting practices without entirely moving away from the proven African norms. Rather than forcing careers down their throats, Adong encourages parents to let children explore their God-given talents. She urges parents to look beyond the present and instead go deeper in order to find lasting solutions, especially with teenagers that get entangled in drug abuse and other addictions. Blame gets nowhere.
The author has shown the essential demands, challenges and does a good job at suggesting solutions that are workable, relatable and are potentially effective. She reminds us that society is constantly changing and a successful parent is one who will adapt to the times without necessarily losing the good values from the past.
Many congratulations to Adong for this great work. For indeed it takes courage to write a book because of the amount of work and other resources needed to publish.
And not to mention, the emotional strain that follows the publication because many times deep in the night you will ask yourself if it was worth the trouble.
I want to assure Adong that if even one teenager becomes a well-adjusted, happy useful member of society, then your work was not wasted and I am sure many will gain from your humble offering.