Oops, Zippy! is a creatively assembled diary of a divorced Kenyan woman. It tells the true story of Zippy, a 25-year-old up-and-coming performing artist with a stunningly bright future. We get a front-row seat to her whirlwind love life until she eventually overcome with the romance of it all marries a young military man. That’s pretty much where the fairy tale ends. What follows is a heartbreaking at times horrifying account of living through an abusive marriage.
The story has an appealing structure that speaks to the author’s theatre experience. Zippora is a film and theatre arts lecturer at Kenyatta University. The story’s written as a one-woman live show in which the author and performer, Zippy throws open the door to her internal thoughts and lets us see all of it, the good, the bad, and the embarrassingly ugly.
In Oops Zippy!, Zippora discovers that her prince charming is anything but. He turns out to be a philandering, physically and emotionally abusive husband and a deadbeat dad to rival the best. The book though relatively short at only 144 pages covers so much ground and packs a literal punch. This is a wonderful pick for a book club and discussion group. We see her dating and it’s refreshing how sex-positive she is. There is the issue of her physical appearance and pretty privilege. There are the struggles faced by couples and women in particular as a result of infertility and difficulty conceiving. There’s the stigma associated with childlessness and the pressure couples face.
There is physical abuse and emotional abuse not to mention marital rape. There is the societal pressure to get married, stay married, and the stigma associated with divorce and separation. There are all the red flags that people ignore while caught up in the romance of it all. There’s the shame of putting up with abuse as well as all the reasons women stay. There’s the inter-personal violence that continues to be associated with people in the disciplined forces whether they be military or police or from whatever other branch. There are all the ways society conspires to aid and abet abusers. There’s the support that people, women need in order to eventually leave abusive situations. All these thematic areas form great discussion areas for adults and even teenagers alike. There’s so much to talk about and learn here.
Above all, the book shuts down the prevailing narrative that only financially precarious women or weak women get caught up in abusive situations. Here, we see Zippy, a financially stable woman who stays with an abusive man who does not contribute a cent financially. This makes it a wider systemic problem and not just an individual, she-is-a-weak-woman-who-allowed-it problem. It also makes the reader conscious of the fact that in the same way, strong financially independent women fall prey to abusers even they can as well. This makes people less judgmental, more understanding, and more willing to help.
The book also does a great job of reminding us that life rarely turns out as we planned. And don’t we all know it? Zippora is a great storyteller and the story moves along briskly, drawing you in and holding you hostage until you turn that last page. Read it alone. Read it with a group. Whatever you do, pick up this book, hunker down and read it. It won’t take you more than a day, but the story will stay with you for the foreseeable future.
Author: Zippora Agatha Okoth
You can get the book here.
Another great read based on a real-life story, check out this harrowing tale of a woman facing the death penalty for killing a pimp, Woman at point zero by Nawal el Saadawi.