Posted 20 hours ago

Cack-Handed: A Memoir

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First is her mother, who takes the stereotypical strict African parent to extremes: her overprotective nature slipping into cruelty when she wouldn’t let young Gina hang out with friends.

While mum is portrayed as a villain, Yashere also acknowledges the difficulty of her life, far from home and trying to raise her kids right while fending financially for herself. I appreciate how patiently Gina inserts littles lessons on West African culture and history throughout the book, knowing that Western schools and media often get the narrative wrong. In terms of comedian memoirs, I found this one to be quite lacking, even though I like Gina Yashere's standup, because unlike other comedian memoirs I've read that are quite personal, this is primarily a memoir of Gina's early career rather than being about her personal life. I won an uncorrected proof of this book as a Firstreads giveaway and would like to note to the publisher that in trawling through the daily list of giveaways, it was the title that first caught my attention.A couple of niggles I had with the book: Gina starts off with an account of the history of Benin (which I am very familiar with and I believe showcases poignantly the deeply racist and colonial attitudes of the British in the 19th century) but which is told in an overly simplified language as if the book is addressed to an audience that can barely read.

Throughout the book, Gina recounts her experiences as part of the "lost generation" of Nigerian children born abroad, her educational journey that took her to a career in engineering that then swerved into her flourishing comedy career, with hints about her coming out story along the way as well. So I just met Gina Yashere last week when I watched Netflix's Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration (a powerhouse of a special if you haven't seen it) and when I saw she had written a memoir I swooped it right up. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go get caught up on her appearance in Season 2 of The Standups on Netflix. I enjoyed hearing her stories of working with racists to coming out to her traditional African mother.I felt that her memoir could've been a bit more rounded, and would've loved to hear about when she chose to publicly come out; so much more could be been written on this issue, especially with her mother and the community she was raised in. The first 3/4 worked for me, the last part was not my jam but I have zero interest in being a stand up comic. In this entertaining and informative autobiography, Gina takes us honestly and openly through her formative years in London, with a formidable Nigerian mum and horrible stepfather, covering her childhood, education, work in engineering, burgeoning career and attempts to crack America and ending with her moving there with a two-year work visa.

I only remember her on Mock the Week (and that only vaguely, especially if it was a while ago) but this sounds to be an enlightening memoir, especially the different perceptions of West Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Americans of each tradition and culture. Her journey, at least in its early stages, was, admittedly, a bit haphazard - but which comic’s isn’t? I admit that since I wasn't very familiar with Gina's beginnings in UK comedy, I found myself zoning out during the latter half of the book.

The decision to move to the US was a gamble because she would be starting from scratch but one that paid off.

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