When in college, asha meets and marries a prisoner in a jail she visits for one of her classes. She is stunned by how intelligent, compassionate, and loveable Rashid is and believes he regrets his crime. She also believes that he will get out on his first opportunity, but she doesn’t want to have a baby while he’s in prison. When she finds herself pregnant for the first time, she has an abortion. The second time, she can’t bring herself to do so again, and has the baby, convinced that Rashid will be released soon. She never sees herself as a single mother, until Rashid gets in more trouble that he doesn’t deserve and asha leaves him, unable to continue on with a husband she may not have a future with. This is the story of asha’s struggle to cope as a single mother and her all-consuming love for her daughter, Risa.
I’m not a mother and my parents are still happily married, but I know single moms have it hard. Many of the people closest to me have just their mom and it’s always rough even if the father stays involved and pays child support. Despite that, I felt asha focused just a little too much on herself despite this love for her daughter. She develops alcoholism and tells her daughter that she needs “mommy time” on a very frequent basis; it’s hard to see how devoted she is when she keeps finding other things to spend her time with. She also sets a bad example with abusive relationships. This is all despite a good upbringing, a job, and a college education. I found significant, though, her candid admission of how difficult it is for a black woman alone and in general the stereotypes that surround her despite what she does to buck them. Seeing why an intelligent, beautiful woman would stay with an abusive man was a revelation to me; I still think I’d leave, especially if I had a young daughter who might be influenced by my actions.
I guess in the end I couldn’t really relate to this book, perhaps because asha’s experience is so outside of my own and because I don’t believe I’d make the choices she did. I also found it very depressing. That said, perhaps it’s important for me to read books like this in order to get a greater picture of the world outside of my own little bubble. I still don’t think anything could compel me to marry a prisoner, though, and from that perspective it’s very hard to understand asha or feel true sympathy for her despite all that suffering.
Check out Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story on Amazon.