Cover Image: How to Say Babylon

How to Say Babylon

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Member Reviews

A truly masterful memoir. It's clear that Sinclair is a poet -- her mastery of metaphors and description elevate this work. I learned a lot about Rastafarianism and was deeply invested in Sinclair and her family.

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There is nothing better than a memoir written by a poet and How to Say Babylon was no disappointment. Brilliant, sharp, and heartfelt. I loved every word.

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Powerful memoir about Safiya Sinclair’s experience growing up in a strict Rastafarian household in Jamaica and the abuse inflicted upon her and her family by her father.

I appreciated how raw Sinclair is with her description of her father’s cruelty and how it affected her feelings and perspective on the world. Her writing is also beautiful and paints a very clear picture of her life.

I do feel like it was a bit repetitive at times but aside from that this was a really good read.

4.5 rounded up

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I received this book as a NetGalley arc and was hooked from day one. Sayifa Sinclair wrote about her childhood with an authoritarian father at the helm. Many of us grew up with strict parents, but Sinclair's father is on another level. There really was very little freedom in her upbringing. What I appreciated was that despite her difficult circumstances, Sinclair never fell into whining or complaining in this book. The story is told in such a way that you feel as though the author were trying to explain what happened.

We root for Sinclair as she moves through the various chapters sof her life. Although her upbringing was harsh, the author ends up demonstrating much more maturity than many of us are capable of, she cultivates a relationship with her father and forgives him.

I have to admit, I didn't know much about the Rastafari life and I understand that this is one person's lived experience. Even still, it was interesting to learn a little about a religion in which I am not familiar. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for an engaging memoir to read, anyone wanting to learn

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𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘚𝘢𝘺 𝘉𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘺𝘰𝘯 is a memoir about the author's Rastafarian upbringing. One quote from the book to sum it up - “Babylon would not pollute the purity of his daughters any longer”.
Safiya’s father was a stout Rastafarian, who wanted to protect his daughters’ purity at all costs. They were not allowed to leave home to meet up with friends, only allowed to wear their hair loc’d (or “dreadlocked”) and had to only wear skirts.
Safiya recounts her upbringing, from being in a strict Rastafarian household to breaking out on her own.

I typically do not rate biographies or autobiographies, but this is one YALL NEED TO READ!

I knew of the Rastafarian religion but never to this extent. At times I felt so bad for Safiya and her siblings, because it felt like they were living in a cult. I loved her mom, even though at times she made me angry.. BUT her mom made the impossible happen for Safiya & her 3 siblings which I felt was like any [black] mother would do.
Overall, this is definitely a memoir you should pick up and read ASAP!

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Finished How to Say Babylon by @safiyasinclair. This is definitely my TOP book of 2023. One of the books I will never forget. First, my reading experience was heightened by the hypnotic voice of the author as she recounts events of her life in the audiobook. I recommend that you listen. It's powerful.

I connected with her story because my mother was a member of Twelve Tribes of Israel (a form of Rastafarianism) when I was a child. I understood and identified with the culture and references to Rastafari even though her and her mother's stories do not mirror my own. I called my mom to talk about her Twelve Tribe days and she recounts the pain but also a sisterhood of women taking care of each others' babies, cooking together, color dances, and some Twelve Tribe women who dressed only in skirts and were subservient. That, yes, polyamory was the norm. That Emperor Haile Saliassee I was revered, looking to Africa as Marcus Garvey taught and ganga, among other herbs, were healthy and necessary. I will tell you that I have only smoked weed in eutoro because my mom smoked it to squash the morning sickness I gave her. But my mom in particular, nor her children's father, prescribed to the strict tenants Safiyah grew up under. I did not grow up with a father figure isolating me from the world or locking me into his beliefs but I understand the world she describes so well. I hear her pain and recognize that her dad's frustration and his mother's abandonment shaped beliefs that became a weight around her neck. And I relished in the voice she developed. The way she unshackled to find herself and then write her story.

I cried at the conclusion. But I'm not sure if it was because of what she endured in her younger years or for the pivotal moments she began to speak up for herself. Her poetic voice brought literal tears to my eyes. This is a phenomenal book. Not good or great. This story is set in Jamaica but it is for every little girl and woman in a patriarchal world that tries to crush them under the guise of protecting their purity and womanhood. It's for all of us. And you MUST read. It is a 5 ⭐️ for me.

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This is one of hte best memoirs I've ever read. it is heavy and heartbreaking yet beautifully written and full of vivid imagery of Jamacia.

There were times I had to put the book down and take a break because the abuse the author suffered is absolutely brutal. Those scenes are necessary and the violence is never gratuitous. I felt so many feelings while reading this, mostly anger and frustration but there is also hope and love.

Highly recommend for memoir readers.

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Safiya Sinclair's "How to Say Babylon" is a mesmerizing memoir that delves into her journey of breaking free from a strict Rastafarian upbringing to embrace her identity as a woman and poet. Sinclair's lyrical prose vividly portrays her struggle against patriarchal control, inviting readers to reflect on universal themes of self-discovery and empowerment. The book's inclusion in prestigious lists like the New York Times Notable Book and its selection as a Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick underscore its impact and relevance. Sinclair's powerful narrative leaves an indelible mark on readers, prompting admiration for her courage and resilience.

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A lyrical memory about the beauty and harrowing oppressiveness of Sinclair's life, along with the lives of her mother and her siblings, growing up under the strictness and militance of an unpredictable Rastafarian father. Generational trauma, the everlasting effects of colonialism, the origins of Rastafarianism, the subjugation of women under the brand of Rastafarianism that Sinclair's father, and others, practice(d), molding this way of being into one of imprisonment and limitations, ongoing misogyny, and more, - and the saving grace of poetry and words, all laid out with beauty and horror.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the ARC.

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This book enlightened me tremendously on Rastafari. Rastafari is “an Abrahamic religion that developed in Jamaica...” This is a story of a girl, the author, Safiya, growing up in the home of a radical Rasta. It shows the influences Haile Selassie, Mortimer Planno (Rasta leader) and others had on her father, Howard Sinclair. Safiya’s father was a Rasta musician (reggae) and wildly successful at times. Her mother followed his passions. Her father “understood what Rasta had been saying all along—systemic injustice across the world flowed from one massive, interconnected and malevolent source, the rotting heart of all iniquity: what the Rastafari call Babylon.” The theme throughout the book is Babylon, that is, anyone who is not Rasta…the Christians, the nuns, Americans.”

Her father’s radical views developed into paranoia and extreme dysfunctionality for the family. The abuse Safiya, her mother, and siblings endured was excessive. The control her father (“ruler of the house”) had over the family was great. “He tried to beat the Babylon out of me.” Her father “moved cautious and smiling in the face of Babylon, and saved all his fire for us.” Additionally, poverty was severe.

Safiya’s mother was amazing. She was able to help her children at times by influencing Howard. Dreadlocks is an undercurrent as a symbol of Rastas. Safiya did not brush her hair in over two years! The ridicule and abuse she received from peers at school was depressing to read. On top of home abuse, she received abuse at school. Being a child of a Rasta carried a heavy burden inflicted by those in Babylon.

Safiya provides insight into a horrible childhood and family life. With her mother’s influence, Safiya was able to model for a short time; but due to dreadlocks, was unable to pursue it. The cutting of her dreadlocks was a huge change for her. She pursues poetry and has been successful, which was a catharsis for her emotions growing up. This is also a book about forgiveness. She says there is “no more red.” In other words, no more anger, no more passion, no more power, no more tragedy, no more cruelty! I applaud her courage to share this story. I recommend this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, and the author for the privilege to read this advanced copy. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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This was a memoir that I was excited to read, but didn't really have any preconceived notions or expectations because I am unfamiliar with the Rastafarian background that the author came from. Perhaps needless to say, this memoir was very interesting and well written and exceeded any expectations that I may have had. The author's account of her upbringing in the Rastafarian movement was enlightening and relatively balanced in my opinion. Buried in the mostly negative aspects of this movement for women, there are also valid criticisms of colonialism which the author also illuminates in her native Jamaica. Due to the education that the author was able to receive she was able to escape from her limited upbringing, which seems to be a somewhat unique experience that has brought this story to the mainstream in a way it seems that the stories of other women raised in the Rastafarian movement rarely have. The strength of the writing in how the author tells her story, and the uniqueness of the story has led this to be one of the most acclaimed memoirs of 2023 and I would definitely recommend it as well.

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A heartbreaking story of a family's, and specifically an eldest daughter's, actions and reactions in a restrictive Rastafarian household. Generations of history have brought this memoir through Safiyah and her poetry. I highly recommend this read.

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4.5 stars. Thank you to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster for the the ARC in exchange for my honest review. This memoir poignantly tells the story of the author's Rastafari upbringing which is strict and unbending as there is always the fear and threat of Babylon, everything of the Western and colonial culture. As a younger person, the religion seems nuturing, healthy and positive. Yet as the author and her sister's grown up, they must cover their bodies in clothes as there is great fear of them being or being seen as sexual/loose and their education and voice not valued. Her father was very strict, raged and was easily angered and abusive to both them and their mother. Their mother went along with many of these things but she was the loving parent who also provided books to her daughters and encouraged their growth and education in small ways. Although she cuts all ties with her father as a young adult, this relationship will shape her life and is a theme throughout the book. Another main theme is how those outside the Rastafari culture were highly prejudiced against it and suffered terrible treatment by schoolmates - called names, claiming she was unclean and dirty and saying commenting on her dreadlocks, The author learns that she is quite intelligent and excels in school and her way out is through education. The author is a poet and I find prose written by poets are the most beautiful. There are some lovely passages near the end of the book as she reflects on her life. As well, I learned a lot about Rastafari religion and culture which I found interesting. I highly recommend this book!

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Loved this memoir of a Jamaican poet who grew up with a strict Rastafarian father. I listened to about 30 percent on audio, which was fantastic (narrated by the author), but I just wasn't in an audiobook mood this year so it was taking me a while to get through. I finally switched to print and couldn't stop reading. Highly recommend to both nonfiction and fiction fans!

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Safiya Sinclair’s father, a volatile reggae musician and militant adherent to a strict sect of Rastafari. Her father becomes obsessed with keeping her safe from what he calls Babylon which is outside influence. This is her story of how she reconciled that part of her culture and how she wanted to live. This was a interesting look at a different culture that I don't know anything about.

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I never know how to write reviews for memoirs like this, because I have no criticism to give. Obviously her life has not been easy, but reading her story was empowering and educating. I highly recommend it. No surprise it was a BOTM pick.

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At first because I went into this book blind, I found this book to be random. Then when I understood that this was sharing the strict Rastafarian experience, it was so interesting and surprising to learn the details of a term that I had heard just casually growing up. Sinclair had a challenging upbringing for sure and I learned a lot about that aspect of Jamaican culture. Brava to her for sharing a story with such difficult aspects to bring to the world. I found myself tearing through the last fifth of this book. 4 stars ✨.

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It was very challenging to read all the parts of this memoir.
What a hard hard way to grow up.
Thought about Glass Castle and Educated.
WOW.....

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This lyrical masterpiece fed me for days! My anthropology led mind could not get enough. I've also listened to the audiobook.

Seeing Sinclair endure such a childhood, while also finding joy in her surroundings was marvelous. There is darkness and sunshine in such an emotional package.

Thank you to the publisher for the multiple formats of the advanced copy. I devoured all three!

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Reading this book was like eating a delicate piece of dark chocolate - it isn't always sweet, but it's best when savored and you take in every flavor. Compared to more trendy memoirs of late, this book is not one that I could fly through. I sat with every word. I put it down to digest what I had read. I picked up my phone and looked up a history and culture and religion so new to me. I learned so much and I feel such gratitude for Sinclair to share her story with us.

I highly recommend adding this book to your to be read shelf, you won't be disappointed!

Thank you NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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