Saeeda Hafiz takes us on a journey of mind, body, and soul as she brings to light the truth of a dark childhood, one rattled with domestic violence, absence, and addiction, and the relationships that grew out of it. Determined to push herself above the backdrop of her youth, she soon finds herself established among the middle class in the corporate world of banking only to realize that she still feels out of place. Interspersed with emotional flashbacks to what she fears is “the typical black American family”, this is one woman’s struggle to leave behind a stereotype that can feel like a legacy. Her story is not one without shame, which makes it all the more courageous.
Leaving her corporate status behind, she literally follows her gut and decides to adopt a macrobiotic diet which eventually leads to living out her dream of being a holistic health practitioner, live-in chef, yoga instructor, and teacher, continually redefining her life’s path. However, the dreams are short lived and she often finds herself falling back down the rabbit hole of shame and eventually on the brink of depression. The troubles of her past seem to always find a way to haunt her until she is able to face -and accept- them. Along the way, she gains perspective through traveling, new relationships, and therapy, but holistic health is at the heart of it all, guiding her forward. Hafiz’s story is both wretched and relatable; the story of finding oneself born among the rubble and the tedious fight to rise above it, scarred, but intact. In the end, she learns that the constant ups and downs are simply a part of finding one’s balance.
I had high hopes for the newest release from Parallax Press, the publishing company founded by renowned Zen master Thích Nhất Hanh. On one hand it had everything I expected and hoped for; it depicted a holistic lifestyle, told of the author’s journey both through travels and her yoga practice, and had some Oprah-worthy insights along the way. However, it was also the one thing a memoir should never be: a story of the author’s life from beginning to present day. The lack of framing made an otherwise good story a tedious read. The reader is shown the author’s thoughts and habits on a loop, beginning in her early twenties and continuing through three jobs, two yoga retreats, three failed relationships and two decades before finally bringing forth any real resolution. This may mimic the ups and downs of life and stay true to Hafiz’s experiences, but it was the same message being dolled up in different clothing over and over. Hafiz is gifted in metaphor, but certain passages toe the line of being vague and unnecessary. Even the afterword, which is peppered with macrobiotic whole-food recipes, was a bit lackluster when compared to even the most banal of food blogs. No doubt there is a message worth hearing here, but perhaps like the practice of yoga, patience is key with this novel.