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Bookworm: ‘Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?’ will make you happy

If you love to stay active and a look back at where we’ve sweated sounds fun, ‘Let’s Get Physical’ will make you very happy

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? A Novel”

  • By Lilzzie Damilola Blackburn
  • c. 2022, Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
  • $26, 384 pages

“I just want you to be happy.” You’ve heard that before, and yet, unsolicited advice never does. All the y’oughtas (“What y’oughta do is ... ”) and the unexpected help make you want to scream, even though you know that people really do mean well when they offer it. The thing is, they are not the CEO of your life. As in the new book, “Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?” by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, they need to mind their own business ...

It was almost getting so that Yinka Oladeji didn’t want to go anywhere.

Every time she went out, someone – her Mum, her Aunty Debby, Big Mama – someone was asking when she was going to find a huzband. Pronounced auz-band in the British-Nigerian way, it was a total embarrassment.

"Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? A Novel" by Lilzzie Damilola Blackburn

It probably didn’t help that Yinka’s little sister, Kemi, was expecting her first baby, or that her friend, Rachel, just got engaged and Ola just had her third child. It also didn’t help that Yinka lost her job, and the man she loved, Femi, who’d dumped her and moved to America, was back in the city with his beautiful fiancé.

Femi had broken up with Yinka two years ago.

She should have a huzband by now, right?

Maybe so. Yinka had to admit that romance would be nice, and so she created a spreadsheet and filled it with sticky-note ideas, vowing that she’d have a date for Rachel’s wedding. She agreed to let Aunty Debby fix her up with Alex, but he was pretty clear that he really liked Yinka’s BFF, Nana. Yinka went online, on many dating sites and she swiped, swiped, swiped. She considered Derek, but she didn’t like him like that. Donovan was kind of a jerk, Marcus wanted just one thing (ahem!), and Emmanuel had someone with lighter skin in mind.

“Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? A Novel” author Lilzzie Damilola Blackburn

And so, Yinka began to look harder. She even considered men she rejected once before but the more she looked for a date-slash-potential-huzband, the more her other relationships suffered. Now, nobody wanted to be around Yinka. Where’s the happily-ever-after in that?

At this point in your life, the pandemic, your career, whatever, you’ve had your fill of nosy-but-well-meaning questions and advice you don’t need. And so, “Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?” is a book for you.

Indeed, this sweet little rom-com removes any sting a busybody might leave by taking the ultimate in none-of-your-business literature and turning it upside down. Author Lizzie Damilola Blackburn inserts way too many meddlers into Yinka’s life, and the resulting mess is hilarious – especially when the lies pile up and readers are given a peek at several obvious solutions, only one of which has anything to do with a huzband. Not to be a spoiler or anything, but peace is made, but not before readers get the lightest touch of feminism from this completely enjoyable story.

Beware that there are Briticisms inside this novel but nothing that’s too difficult to understand. Mostly, understand that “Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?” is going to just plain make you happy.

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“Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World”

  • By Danielle Friedman
  • c. 2022, Putnam
  • $27, $36 Canada, 328 pages

Heavy sigh. You need to watch your weight. There it is, the blunt, unavoidable truth, now that the holidays are over, and the parties are done. You need to have cookie-calories shed, poundcake pounds lost, flan flab melted. Or you need to hide the scale in a closet, find “Let’s Get Physical” by Danielle Friedman, and then thank your foremothers for their activities.

Bonnie Prudden was on the top of the world.

At 42 years old, she had a new career (on TV!), her daughters were doing well on their own, and Prudden was enjoying a bit of fame doing something she loved: exercising.

"Let's Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World" by Danielle Friedman

In that late summer of 1957, Prudden was a true anomaly. Women didn’t exercise in those days; they were too delicate and besides, exercise had the potential to damage a woman, physically. Women’s bodies were not meant for it. Nope, exercise was for men and boys. Period.

But there was Prudden – who was a bit of a rebel – and whose Institute for Physical Fitness (opened in 1954) and televised exercises both intrigued Americans, including politicians who “vowed to create a special council to improve the fitness of the nation’s kids.”

Fashions in the 1960s gave women more impetus to exercise, and they learned to love how it made them feel. Running – another thing women previously avoided – became popular, though the first woman to run the Boston Marathon was mercilessly heckled and assaulted, and sports bras didn’t become a thing until 1977. Title IX gave girls the chance to be as active and sports-minded as were their brothers and boyfriends. Aerobic dancing caught on, and it was fun! Jane Fonda made it okay to exercise to a video, though VCRs were rather pricey; women picked up weight lifting and body building, ThighMasters and Buns of Steel; they embraced various kinds of yoga for mind and body; and they know now that it’s not the metal in the muscles that’s important, it’s the overall health of the body...

Sit up straight, shoulders back, hiney tucked. There. That’s the perfect position for reading “Let’s Get Physical.”

Or you can sprawl on the sofa, but you probably won’t want to, once you start this fascinating, lively book. Author Danielle Friedman offers not just a peek at women’s history, but also an oddly compelling urge to move. Readers will wish they could pace Bonnie Prudden through the streets of Manhattan again, or find a Jazzercise class somewhere. You might even be tempted to go looking for your old “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” tapes or the ThighMaster in the attic, because Friedman’s stories of empowerment and enlightenment are very contagious. It also helps that no weighted tire is left unflipped: readers also learn about the role of not-so-modern medicine in physical fitness, and how Black women have often been shut out of the gym altogether.

If you love to stay active and a look back at where we’ve sweated sounds fun, this book will make you very happy. Get “Let’s Get Physical.” You shouldn’t wait.

More

If you want to see peek at the other side of the locker room, check out “Sweat: A History of Exercise” by Bill Hayes (Bloomsbury, $28.00). Hayes takes readers back centuries to see how our physical health has become what it is, and why we’ve perceived it as both pain and pleasure through time. It’s a personal and historical look, literally sweatin’ to the oldies.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.