"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December Books

Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks -- Australian native and journalist speaks of the "hidden world of Islamic women." I enjoyed her firsthand accounts of times she spent getting to know women in Saudi Arabia, Gaza, Iran, Lebanon and so forth.  Nothing spectacularly new to me, but I enjoyed learning about cultural and religious tales from these Muslim women .. especially as they are filtered through a westerner's eyes.  For the record, she converted to Judaism to be Jewish like her husband.  Cute story: when she told one Saudi woman that her husband had quit his job due to her job (the author was bragging), she expected the woman to express her pleasant surprised. Instead Basilah had such a look of dismay as if "my husband had committed mass murder" and the lady cleared her throat, messed with her tea and changed the subject.  

I don't think I'll ever get used to the fact that some men actually defend their right to beat their wives as if God told them this was permissible nor will I ever understand why a widowed grandmother would have to get her grandson's permission to leave the country and do things women in the world do every single day.

I enjoyed the sections on Islamic women in sporting events - even their own Olympic-style games and the chapter discussing belly dancing in Egypt.  Quite an interesting book.

Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women's Resistance by Cheryl Benard  -- see previous posts

The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana -- This is the biography of a late 20s American woman who went to Damascus to study the life of prophet Jesus on a Fulbright scholarship in 2004. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of life in the Bab Touma area, the Christian quarter where we lived during our twelve days in Syria.  She spoke of meeting people - her neighbors, the Armenian landlord who took her under his wings and referred to her, oddly enough, as Grandfather.  I loved her stories of Arabic language class and the peculiar people who were her fellow students.  It was enjoyable "meeting" shopkeepers as she interacted with them. Much of the book deals with her spiritual journey and her time at a desert monastery during the Spiritual Exercises and what came after that.  See this short video for a bit more about this book.

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf -- see previous posts

In the Name of Honor by Mukhtar Mai -- a Pakistani woman fights for justice after being raped by four men in order to pay for a crime allegedly committed by her twelve year old brother against one in the other tribe; see previous post for a quote from this book


While attending a conference on violence against women, Mukhtar notes, "For every woman who resists violence and survives, how many are buried beneath the sand, without dignity, without even a grave?"

"Because the real question my country must ask itself is, if the honor of men lies in women, why do men want to rape or kill that honor?"

The Jewish Cultural Tapestry: International Jewish Folk Traditions by Steven M. Lowenstein  -- A book I found at the library that covered such things as Jewish music, languages, appearance (physical looks and costumes) and even the Jewish question concerning ancestry and/or religion which I talked about in my 12/26 post.  I enjoyed the author's accounting of his people's traditions.

Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization by Reza Aslan  -- see previous posts

I Dared To Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh  -- reviewed here by someone else  -- I'd actually seen this book recommended on Amazon.com for a couple of years now. It always seemed mildly interesting, but conversion stories were a dime a dozen and I was a bit burnt out on them. Too many of them seemed to create people who were so anti-Islam that they seemed off putting a bit.  However as I was looking at books on Amazon during December, this one was recommended by Amazon again and I put it on my wishlist thinking maybe one day I'd read it.  Then Christmas came, the family was looking for ideas on what to get me so I told my sister I had some books on Amazon and she could choose from the list and surprise me.  I only knew one of the books I'd get since I ordered for myself "from Andrew."  So Christmas came and I opened the books and got these.  I was mildly disappointed that this book was one of the chosen since there were others I liked better, but figured I'd read it anyway.

I didn't want to start another 'heavy' book before the new year so the other night when I finished Reza Aslan's book, I chose this one.  Fewer than 200 pages, bigger print, more of a story than weightier theological stuff...I could easily finish this one prior to the end of 2010.  And I did. What surprised me was how well I liked this book! Yes, it's a story of a Pakistani Muslim woman's encounter with God. Yes, she came to see God as her Father and was lead to follow Jesus.  But it wasn't a harsh book.   Not a harsh story or a tirade against Islam.  She was honest in telling how much of her family boycotted her and how many in her community became hostile.  After all joining Christianity brought this high-bred, important community woman down to the street-sweeper class since mostly poor people were Christians where she lived.  Yes, her decision affected her family and this most of all brought her much grief.  However she was convinced God wanted her to choose Him over her family no matter how difficult this was especially in the East (which tends to be so community minded that one person's action could influence the marriageability of nieces, for instance). 

This book challenged me in many ways. Bilquis listened to God, was sensitive to His Spirit in allowing Him to lead her.  I love that!  Far too often I do what I want and don't allow Him to guide me.  Her testimony was a challenge to me and I felt drawn to this gentle, compassionate woman. She wasn't perfect over night. In fact she admitted how often she would follow God and feel His Presence only to later do something totally against what He wanted her to do.  For a book I was reluctant to buy...and, in fact,never bought for myself, this turned out to be more encouraging and challenging and wonderful that I ever imagined.  You might read it and think I'm crazy.  No two people are the same, but I just felt God used her words to speak to me -- challenging me about living by fear, dwelling on negative things instead of Him, spending time with Him, listening and obeying His voice.  I found this an excellent book on which to end the year.  God used Mrs. Sheikh to challenge me even though this gentle lady died some 13 years ago at age 84.


Lat said...

It's wonderful to read the book reviews esp the last one.

When we think a book can't offer much with our perconceived notions,it actually does the opposite.I went thru' the same situations before.

Thank you for sharing, Sus! Enjoyed them very much!

Wafa' said...

thanks for the list, it seems like i have i have been infected by you. I am almost glued to book after book :)

Suroor said...

I enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!

Susanne said...

Lat, I'm glad you can relate to finding some books better than you thought!

Wafa', awesome! I look forward to hearing about some of your favorite books! :)

Suroor, thanks!