Book Review by Halimat Shode
Illuminating The Difference by Habeeb Akande is a book dedicated to the diverse beauty of Black, White and Brown women.
The British-Nigerian author has other titles in an Illuminating collection: Illuminating the Darkness; Blacks and North Africans in Islam was the first title released which was well received.
He has since gone on to write other titles including his most recent book, A Taste of Honey: Sexuality and Erotology in Islam which has gained a large following on the Facebook page with over 23,000 likes.
I bought Illuminating the Darkness as soon as I could after its release, intrigued by the title. I thoroughly enjoyed this book’s historical analysis and depth, and carried these hopes into this title.
Though well-intentioned, I was less than impressed.
The redeeming parts of the book were the author briefly touching upon the European standards of beauty that dominate the world, colourism, and ‘the black beauty resistance model’ which goes back as far as the ninth century to the Afro-Arab scholar and writer Al-Jahiz who authored numerous titles and poetry in response to intense anti-Black attitudes at the time.
Akande also mentions Ibn Al Jawzi, who at the beginning of the thirteenth century, produced a text reminding people of the great deeds of black personalities in history and Al-suyuti who wrote texts about the noble nature of the Abyssinians(Ethiopians).
Now on to where the majority of my criticism for this book lies.
Following the preface, the reader meets this quote:
“Men desire: black women for their sexiness, white women for their elegance, and brown women for their exoticness.”
A very tired stereotype, but I continued reading.
The first line then reads;
“the male desire for black women is because of their sexiness and sensuality which is based on their curvaceous bodies, large buttocks and appetising vaginas.” (page 13 – intro)
Appetising vaginas? Seriously?
I did not expect to find this level of vulgarity to describe the Black woman’s body. There is more than enough objectification from the mainstream media on what seems like a daily basis.
The author then goes on to discuss the merits of Black, White, and Brown women in different sections.
The merits of Black woman are once again, focused on her body and sexual appetite, whilst White women are praised for their delicate, fine features. Brown women are referred to as ‘exotic’ and ‘exotic-looking’ numerous times, which becomes repetitive. Asian women and women of the Americas (Cuba, Brazil etc.) are also lumped together with no distinction; merely Brown women.
He ends on the note,
“Whether you desire chocolate, vanilla, or caramel, or all three, true beauty has no color.”
Though I agree with the latter part of the statement, I could have done without the reference to women as flavours.
I would not personally recommend this title but I would definitely recommend the author’s other works, which can be found on Amazon or www.rabaah.com.
Rating – 3/5
(picture source: rabah.com)