Ese Ark’s Naked Is A Needful Soliloquy For Self-Love | A Review | Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke
What you might think when you pick up Ese Ark’s Naked is that you are about to read an overstated version of someone’s life, a puffed up and trimmed text like a smiling child ready for camera on his birthday – as are most memoirs – and a tale spun to gift you with details that were carefully selected.
You think on the other hand that you are about to read shocking details from the past, especially a story about which we’re all familiar, and so you brace yourself for what you believe might be a tell-all book for your gossip ready ears.
I must say that I have been a follower of the author for a while, and so I am not new to her openness, to her yearning to always tell truths through very personal stories, and to her confidence in the possibility of a world founded on the tenets of love.
So I am not quite surprised when I start Naked and I discover that it is not in the fashion of memoirs – especially in this part of the country – being careful, Naked is not the terrified child placing his legs on an escalator and being scared to go with it. More importantly, it is not a grand revisit to a past experience from which the author has visibly moved on from.
Naked is really just as the name implies being Naked. It is a deep revelation of the workings of life through personal experience, it is a fairer way to see the world not as it is but as it should be. Naked is a needful soliloquy for self-love, it admonishes us to be and to do, not always as we have, but better.
I read Naked in quite intentional bits, spanning over six months and reading at least twenty fiction texts in between. I pack it into my travel bag, into my duffels, Naked becomes a home for my boarding passes and sometimes my Nigerian passport. I read it in sips on and between flights, and on buses and in waiting lounges. I tell you this is to let you know that I had a rather meticulous affair with the book, that I took in every detail in every possible place.
So flipping through its pages, the most resounding message for me really is that I can do better, that I can be a better person, that we can be better people, next in line would be the prompt that it is of how valid I am.
And because I am one who has had the good fortune of coming to terms with his awesomeness, because I am one who has in times past already accepted the knowledge that he is enough, it is easy to think that this would not be a major lesson to take home from the text for me. But it indeed was and I am once more through this, reminded of the power in reiteration, in repetition and how necessary it is to hear some things over and over again.
I am reminded through Naked that I am work of art, hanging on the walls of an exhibition room, that to non-art lovers, I am not worth my price if anything at all, they cringe at just how much I cost and are puzzled at how easy I look to achieve. I am reminded that I am acquired taste, that I am not crafted for everybody, and this is the power of reiteration likewise present in Ese’s book.
I had to learn to keep my learning quiet. I had to start learning for me, without trying out to teach someone else something I didn’t fully understand. I cannot teach anybody anything they don’t already know, I can only remind them of what they have forgotten.
Ese says this in Awareness: From Believing to knowing which is one of my favourite chapters and which explores the needful shift that is belief to conviction, which explains that belief is subjective but knowing is complete.
So what happens when you read Naked is that you are revitalised, that somehow in those pages where the author bares herself, you find your own clothing, that in her openness, you find closure.
It is an acceptance of the bitter pill to swallow that perhaps we really haven’t done things right, and a reminder that admitting to errors is sometimes the only way to move away from them, that finding your happy means embracing all parts of yourself. It means laughing when you want to laugh and crying when you want to cry.
Naked in its closing pages addresses death, and Ese describes it as a Reminder to Love Now, this is another thing I am taking home with me, that just like she said death tells us that we will not be here with these experiences forever, to live while we are alive.
In some ways I think that this was really the perfect way to close the book, in some ways I think this text which I have come to love is through every chapter referencing death, because what Naked does from every page is prompt us just as Ese references in the last paragraphs, never to fall to the level of merely existing. And this is the truth.
Featured Image: Pamela Adie