How to Say Babylon How to Say Babylon

How to Say Babylon

A Memoir

    • 4.6 • 84 Ratings
    • $14.99
    • $14.99

Publisher Description

National Book Critics Circle Award Winner
A New York Times Notable Book
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!
A Best Book of 2023 by the New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, Vulture, Shelf Awareness, Goodreads, Esquire, The Atlantic, NPR, and Barack Obama

With echoes of Educated and Born a Crime, How to Say Babylon is the stunning story of the author’s struggle to break free of her rigid Rastafarian upbringing, ruled by her father’s strict patriarchal views and repressive control of her childhood, to find her own voice as a woman and poet.

Throughout her childhood, Safiya Sinclair’s father, a volatile reggae musician and militant adherent to a strict sect of Rastafari, became obsessed with her purity, in particular, with the threat of what Rastas call Babylon, the immoral and corrupting influences of the Western world outside their home. He worried that womanhood would make Safiya and her sisters morally weak and impure, and believed a woman’s highest virtue was her obedience.

In an effort to keep Babylon outside the gate, he forbade almost everything. In place of pants, the women in her family were made to wear long skirts and dresses to cover their arms and legs, head wraps to cover their hair, no make-up, no jewelry, no opinions, no friends. Safiya’s mother, while loyal to her father, nonetheless gave Safiya and her siblings the gift of books, including poetry, to which Safiya latched on for dear life. And as Safiya watched her mother struggle voicelessly for years under housework and the rigidity of her father’s beliefs, she increasingly used her education as a sharp tool with which to find her voice and break free. Inevitably, with her rebellion comes clashes with her father, whose rage and paranoia explodes in increasing violence. As Safiya’s voice grows, lyrically and poetically, a collision course is set between them.

How to Say Babylon is Sinclair’s reckoning with the culture that initially nourished but ultimately sought to silence her; it is her reckoning with patriarchy and tradition, and the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica. Rich in lyricism and language only a poet could evoke, How to Say Babylon is both a universal story of a woman finding her own power and a unique glimpse into a rarefied world we may know how to name, Rastafari, but one we know little about.

Biographies & Memoirs
October 3
Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster Digital Sales LLC

Customer Reviews

Danou Bee ,

Jah love

Such a ride, what a journey! Brave writing that took me there. The spicy, sticky places that push the spirit to look into darkness and see light. I read this book while on a in a mountain cabin looking out to the sea. I identified with the idea of the sea healing us all, waking us from the dream to live the dream. Many thanks to the author Safiya Sinclair, who demonstrates what “writing from the bones” means. You inspire me to write authentically.

Tjdiegs ,

Highly recommended

Fantastically written memoir of an amazing woman.

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