BOOK REVIEW: ‘Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw: Reimagining Success as a Disabled Achiever’ by Eddie Ndopu
c.2023, Legacy Lit
WI Contributing Writer
You really get around.
You’re here, you’re there, at all the best parties and all the biggest events. It seems like everyone knows you, too, and you call them all “friend.” You’re a mover and a shaker and you sure do get around — even if, as in the new book “Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw” by Eddie Ndopu, it’s on four wheels.
He almost let it go.
In the days after receiving an acceptance letter from “the oldest university in the English-speaking world,” Eddie Ndopu was stunned. The scholarship he’d landed from Oxford paid for his classes and room and board. He’d also get a stipend but the scholarship didn’t include one essential thing: funds for his “disability-related needs.”
Diagnosed at age 2 with spinal muscular atrophy, Ndopu was not expected to live beyond age five, but he defied the odds. Now his body required a wheelchair to get around, and help with his personal hygiene, bedtime, dressing, eating and drinking, and other day-to-day things he couldn’t do himself. Not only was Oxford discluding money for that, but his regular caregiver, Lucky, was denied a visa provision.
That ultimately turned out for the better. Ndopu was in love with Lucky, who said he’d never be with another man but he suddenly was. Lucky’s insincere vows broke Ndopu’s heart and gave him impetus to seize the Oxford offer. Things could change. He’d figure it out.
He said yes, and began searching for a new caregiver who’d bring him from Johannesburg to London and stay to help — but before he even got to Oxford, he was passed between two people, one of whom told him that England had laws by which caretakers had to abide. Caretaker Four decided the job wasn’t for him. “Five” was homophobic. “Six” embarrassed Ndopu. “Seven” had family issues to tend to. And then the final blow arrived: a £66,000 bill (about $84,000 U.S.) that Oxford University wanted for their help …
“Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw” is really quite the complexity.
Author Eddie Ndopu has a lot to be proud of — his humanitarian work and activism on behalf of the disabled, his education, and his dogged wall-busting, to start — but only a fraction of this book is about those things. The rest is largely a good long rant about how a major institution colossally dropped the metaphoric ball, and about the individuals who disappointed Ndupo in ways large and small while time he was studying there. In that, Ndupo expresses outrage — righteous and right, when he’s dismissed, denigrated, or lessened — but others are not always given that grace, and seem to be dismissed and judged. Complex, see? — and conflicting.
Though readers will absolutely note the indignation and unfairness of what Ndopu endured, and may be compelled to act, don’t look for a lot of joy in accomplishment inside this tale. Instead, it’s an assertive, loud call for change at every level, and you should consider it as such. You’ll like “Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw” if you can get around that.