In her newly published book, The Different Sibling, the author Albertina Nakashole demonstrates how throughout the novel the main character, Oshaye Haikali, abbreviated as Oshah, is caught in identity crisis while searching for religious, social and economic emancipation. Oshah is a young woman growing up in a conservative society. The book demonstrates how it is an inner struggle to live a different life from whom you really are due to societal expectations. It exemplifies conflict of inner feelings with external pressures.
From a tender age, irrespective of her status in the community as a pastor’s daughter Oshah refuses to submit to the pressures and norms of the society by listening to her intuition and acting differently from other members of her community, including her siblings. For example, at the age of ten she sneaks out of the church service and goes back home instead of attending a church service that did not mean much to her, attending simply by virtue of being the pastor’s daughter, to be ‘’a little version of her dad”.
Historical and cultural contexts shape the work of the author. Growing up in a conservative and religious family, Oshah strives to escape and gain freedom as an individual, to do what her heart tells her instead of behaving according to acceptable societal norms. As a grown up woman Oshah fights with cultural identity as she gets involved in an inter-ethnic relationship, which seemed to be a norm in contemporary society where inter-cultural relationships have become normalised. However, these types of relationships result in liberal and conservative cultural conflicts, another identity crisis that Oshah had to endure. The Different Sibling furthermore illustrates how family cohesion plays a role in instilling discipline and acceptable norms in the process of shaping one’s identity, as well as inculcating the pride of one’s mother language before embracing other people’s cultures and languages. Also, the author portrays how strong family bonds play a key role in one’s success in life. Throughout the novel thoughts of her family kept entering Oshah’s mind and were the driving force behind her success at university. It was the gratification of having a supportive family that gave Oshah courage and determination to study hard in order to escape poverty and lend a hand to her family as an alumnus from a prestigious university.
The book also illustrates how women are still living in a patriarchal society where they are submissive to men, especially in romantic relationships where men remain dominant in many aspects while women are at the receiving end. As a grown up university student Oshah experienced inner conflict, unsure whether to follow her instincts by defying cultural norms or to lose her self-identity by succumbing to cultural norms as it is culture that defines one’s identity.
Besides being a good piece of reading for the general public, especially the youth, The Different Sibling is recommendable to contemporary feminists and historians. It provides food for thought regarding introspection while in identity crisis: being friendly and polite to people to appease societal expectations as opposed to being focused and assertive as an individual to shape the type of life you want to live.
*Elina T. Ithindi is a lecturer in the Department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (DTVET) at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).