Just Engage reviews ‘Chai Tea & Gingerbeer’ by Deborah Kirsten

This past weekend I found myself alone in airports for multiple hours at a stretch which is most uncommon for a mom like me. I got whisked away to Singapore for a weekend where I met my husband who was there on business and some great friends who emigrated there a few years ago. Now while I love a good book, my current sleep deprivation and lists of other seemingly more pressing priorities usually mean that I read the same opening lines of a book for days in a row unable to recall where I was when I last fell asleep in the book.

Hearing stories and snippets (some great reviews on the inside cover) of ‘Chai tea & Gingerbeer‘ though, I decided I had to make more of an effort and offered to review the book for my Just Engage blog. The timing just happened to coincide with my trip so instead of reading in short 1-page bursts, I revelled in the privilege of reading without interruption! I got to Changi airport hours ahead of my plane’s scheduled departure, found a cosy couch near a plug point and devoured most of the copy before I even boarded. I had had my suspicions that this would be a book that appealed to me but Deborah Kirsten’s story (or story of many stories) is so intoxicating and easy to relate to, that I quite simply couldn’t put it down.

She had my attention from the introduction where she describes a scene of her contribution and presence at a dinner party being overshadowed by people’s admiration and longing for the attention of her husband, who happens to be Gary Kirsten, international cricketer and coach. It immediately struck a chord in me and this doesn’t only happen when you are married to someone who is a public figure with many fans. For most of us as women who have given ourselves to men and children who we want to see succeed at their dreams, we choose to live a supportive role which very often can feel like we are sacrificing our dream for the realisation of theirs. Are we still seen and recognised as a valued person with our own God-given gifts and dreams? Does our story matter?

Debs weaves a very powerful message Deborah Kirsten #2through the story of her life: not only reminding us that telling our stories can be powerful for those who hear them but they they are powerful to the story-teller too. Sharing our own personal stories reminds us of our rich heritage, of the many events and people we should be grateful for but most importantly, that our lives carry great purpose and are worth living fully and for the sake of the future.

For any woman who grew up in South Africa through the 80’s and 90’s, this book will trigger many memories and evoke the senses. I sat flooded with memories of growing up in Natal, of my school days at a private girls’ school and the pressures and emotions that go hand in hand with our female teenage years. Deborah writes about how she met Gary and got introduced to the world of international cricket. She also tells of the struggles that came with not only transitioning to being a wife and a mom, but doing it with a husband’s manic travel schedule adding to the happy chaos.

For expecting couples especially those doing our Just Engage Online Antenatal Class, this book re-enforces my message through the entire class – that no book or website or class can in itself prepare you for the radical transition to parenthood. Everyone experiences it differently and to some extent, you just have to roll with the punches. What gets us through is the support system and community who do life with us.Deborah Kirsten #7

Definitely my favorite quote from the book in light of what Just Engage aims to achieve was this:

It seems that the famous What to Expect when You’re Expecting wasn’t going to be my book after all. I knew that there would be no more Saturday morning lie-ins and no more spontaneous evenings out. I also knew that eventually I would shed the extra pregnancy kilograms and fit into my favourite pair of jeans. But I had no idea that I would never again feel the same about myself. My own life, once so important, would be of so much less value to me now that I had a child. I would give it up in an instant to save his life. Although my physical wounds of childbearing would heal, becoming a mother would open an emotional wound so raw that I would forever feel vulnerable. A phone call from school, a doctor’s diagnosis … holding that child in my arms was like holding my own heart. I had no idea how terrifying it would be to one day have to watch him cross a road or walk into the school gates for the first time. The emotion was so much more intense than I had ever expected.

I love that every second page has colour photographs related to that part of the story – it almost feels like you are paging through a scrapbook with a running narrative. I would highly recommend this book as a great read especially for South African women and moms. You can follow the release of this book on it’s Facebook page or Deborah’s twitter page. Once you’ve read it, why not leave Deborah Kirsten an encouraging comment with the hashtag #chaiginger.



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