JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
The Only Way is Up: The Journey of an Immigrant
by Folake Taylor
4 out of 5 Stars
Folake Taylor’s The Only Way is Up: The Journey of an Immigrant gives interesting perspectives on various topics from a woman who is not native to America but is well versed in American culture. Born in Nigeria, raised in the U.K. and living in the U.S., Folake Taylor’s viewpoint on things such as being a Christian, obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight, and the positive effects of traveling around the world, comes from the wisdom of experiencing different cultures up close and personal. This can be very relevant to the American reader seeking to gain a better understanding of what can be achieved in life in on American soil.
What makes Taylor’s book a powerful document is that the author gives her personal blueprint to a life filled with more success and less stress. Taylor moved to the US from the UK and went on to become an MD by staying true to God, being patient and being persistent. If the reader is seeking solutions to getting out of a rut or confirmation that they are going in the right direction, this book is perfect. If the reader is not looking to change, this book may quickly become boring unless you like reading a good story.
A lot of the things Taylor discusses are not groundbreaking, and she explains that early in The Only Way Is Up. With a great editor, this book can really take off. What holds The Only Way is Up back small things like sentence structure and concise idea flow. One funny mistake in this book is a section where Taylor speaks about the probability that a female will marry a professional athlete. For her example, she makes the point that it’s unlikely that any person will easily marry a professional basketball player. Instead of using NBA, she uses MBA. The first time I thought, “Maybe she’s saying that a person is unlikely to find a mate that has a Master’s in Business Administration.” The second time she used MBA in the context of an NBA player, I couldn’t help but shake my head and giggle at the medical-doctor-turned-author. It is like when my wise mother talks about cell phone technology, just as cute as it is wrong.
What makes The Only Way is Up such an easy read is Taylor’s voice. I didn’t feel like I was sitting in a creaky, wooden desk while Taylor points at me with a ruler telling what’s wrong with me and what’s right with her. Instead, I felt like Taylor was sitting on the couch with me sharing her wisdom. When she shares her experience with motherhood, I didn’t feel like she was trying to teach me anything. Instead, I learned from Taylor as she expressed the joys and challenges of raising her beautiful daughter. Although I’m a married man, Taylor’s advice on being a single woman and finding a potential husband was very enlightening. During this section and the one about her childhood in Nigeria and the U.K., Taylor gives a glimpse into the possibilities of growing up outside of the U.S. Those same recollections of her past also serve to show how the difference in environment and experiences leads to a different outlook from the average American reader.
Although Taylor’s parents are both highly-educated, well-traveled professors and Taylor is well-travelled, her life is not without struggles and trials. What sets her The Only Way is Up apart from other books in its genre is she does not focus on the negativity of her struggle as an immigrant or as a person of color. Instead, those trials and tribulations are points of reflection for betterment. There is a point in the book where she discusses her life principles. The one about knowing one’s history stood out. Although self-explanatory, her reasoning for you learning about your history and knowing your place in it were eye-opening when put in the proper context: a Black woman of Nigerian and English descent actively learning about African-American history to help her better understand the struggles and some of the problems that Black people go through in America.
A great way to know who you are as a person and to better understand your culture is to travel to another country. Many times, Americans in general and African-Americans specifically, can not see the forest for the trees in terms of their place in the world. We can not see the barriers we set in front of ourselves because of being wrapped up in our day-to-day activities. The beauty of reading The Only Way is Up is being able to read about the experiences and perspectives of a person who is not from here. Taylor has a way of ebbing and flowing between reminiscing and advising that blends so well together that the reader might get wrapped up in the literary ride and learn a thing or two.
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