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

Monday, January 31, 2011

January Books

I was out of town for a few days visiting the beach!  (See photos here.) Now I am home just in time to post about the books I read this month.  I finished the last one on our trip home this afternoon. 

African Notebook -- Albert Schweitzer shares anecdotes from his time in Equatorial Africa. This book inspired two posts one which dealt with taboos and the other with "Differences Between White People and Black People" (this was actually the title of chapter 3).  This book was published in 1939 and translated by Mrs. C.E.B. Russell. 

Land of a Thousand Hills is the memoir of Rosamond Halsey Carr as she shares about her adult life in Rwanda.  Mrs. Carr, an American, married a British adventurer and after a few year of marriage, they decided to move to Africa.  Although their marriage did not last, their friendship did and Mrs. Carr stayed in Africa because she found out that she loved the people and the land.  I enjoyed reading of titled Europeans that had settled there and how they would meet for social events.  I enjoyed hearing about the natives - the Tutsis, mostly shepherds, who were a smaller percentage of the population yet were more educated and regal-looking. These were the rulers of the land.  The Hutus were by far greater in number and they were the farmers.  While the two groups (along with the much smaller population of pygmies) mostly lived in harmony, at times the differences would become too great and conflict would erupt.  The most horrible example of this happened in the 1990s after English-speaking Ugandans (made up of former Tutsis who had been expelled in the late 1950s) invaded Rwanda.  Having seen the world come to the defense of Kuwait when Iraq invaded, the Rwandans naturally assumed condemnation of Uganda and international help would soon arrive.  They were crushed - as was the author! - when world opinion came down on Uganda's side!  Horrible ethnic cleansing evolved (or should I say devolved) from this and Rwandans were murdered, murdering and fleeing.  When things finally settled down, it was not the same Rwanda.  I couldn't stop the tears in my eyes as Mrs. Carr shared about the genocide and chaos.  Young men she had loved as babies turned into evil monsters as they hunted down and systematically killed former neighbors and friends all because they were of a different tribe!  She and the other Europeans (all white people were called European there) fled after the Belgian officials gave them no other choice.  Mrs. Carr found herself trying to heal emotionally in the United States.  Yet she realized she was only a visitor in her home country.  No longer did she belong and despite being told in no uncertain terms that she was "a bit too old" to return, she did just that... at nearly 82 years old!  She wrote:  "My life is spiritually and emotionally embedded in Rwanda and in the lives of the Rwandan people.  Only here does my life have true meaning and purpose, and it is only here that I feel I am at home."  (pg. 217) 

Mrs. Carr talks about people who visited her house and the hard work she put into making her plantations successful.  She is honest in sharing about times when the financial situation was grim.  I enjoyed hearing about her house and field workers and the customs of the people.  Also interesting was the story of Dian Fossey, an eccentric and difficult woman who lived among the gorillas.  I was stunned when Mrs. Carr told that Dian was murdered the day after Christmas and no one knew who murdered her.

This book was published in 1999.  I googled Mrs. Carr the other day and saw that she died in 2006 at age 94. She was buried at her home in Rwanda near the Virunga Volcanos.   Here is a YouTube video of her memorial service.  And here is a great video summarizing her life (less than 4 minutes.) What an inspirational woman!
(My mom is reading this book now and is enjoying the reminder of things she experienced during her years in Africa.  She said there is much in the same in what Mrs. Carr shared.)

Game Change:Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin -- Bridget mentioned reading this book and I was intrigued enough that I found it at the local library in order to read it myself. I enjoyed the background on many of the candidates during the race and it also spoke of John and Elizabeth Edwards since John was in the Democratic primary.  Here is a review of the book if you are curious what it involved, but don't want to read the book for yourself. 

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria -- fantastic book I just so happened to find at the library...and maybe it was recommended to me by Amazon. But I enjoyed it and learned quite a bit from it!  see previous posts for more on the book;

"When you tell us that we support a dictatorship in Sudan to have access to its oil," a young Chinese official told me in 2006, "what I want to say is, 'And how is that different from your support for a medieval monarchy in Saudi Arabia?'  We see the hypocrisy, we just don't say anything, yet."

"American culture celebrates and reinforces problem solving, questioning authority, and thinking heretically. It allows people to fail and then gives them a second and third chance. It rewards self-starters and oddballs." 

The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware  -- see gazillions of previous posts  :)

The Appalachians -- by several contributing authors; edited by Mari-Lynn Evans, Robert Santelli and Holly George-Warren -- see previous posts

"If language is the mechanism through which we inherit history and culture, then individual words function as a type of gene, each bearing with it a small piece of the specific information that makes us who we are and tells us where we have been." (pg. 213)

Blood and Sand by Frank Gardner -- A British journalist shares about his experiences in the Middle East.  After 24 good years living and visiting there, he was the victim of a random Al-Qaeda shooting in Saudi Arabia that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  This book recounts this horrific experience and his road to recovery as well as his interest in the Islamic and Arab world.  I enjoyed reading of his college year spent living in Cairo and the adventures he had living among the Bedu in Jordan.  I found myself teary-eyed while he shared his struggle to survive and thrive even while realizing the rest of his life would be spent in a wheelchair. Yet he focused on surviving for his family and what he could still do despite his paralysis.  I marked a few places where he spoke of how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have played right into Osama bin Laden's goal to divide the West and Muslims by bin Laden's spinning such events as the Crusaders seeking to destroy Islam.  This was a book I first heard about on Bridget's blog and received for Christmas after placing it on my Amazon wishlist.


Lat said...

Love your January list of books :) In fact I'm enjoying all your book reviews for all months:) Thank you so much!

Susanne said...

Thanks, Lat! I enjoy yours as well. It's a fun way for me to learn so I'm really happy you share about what you read. :)

Bridget said...

I'm glad you liked Blood & Sand. It's such an amazing story.

Becky said...

I really loved your reviews! I thought that 'Land of a Thousand Hills' sounded like a really interesting, although sad read. Must've been so difficult for Mrs. Carr to go back to the US after so many years!

I loved this quote from The Post-American World: "When you tell us that we support a dictatorship in Sudan to have access to its oil," a young Chinese official told me in 2006, "what I want to say is, 'And how is that different from your support for a medieval monarchy in Saudi Arabia?' We see the hypocrisy, we just don't say anything, yet."

This is so true to me! I think a lot of Europeans (in addition to people all over the world) see the US as being incredibly hypocritical.

Blood and Sand sounds really fascinating as well.

Suroor said...

Susie, how does one view your wish list? I want to see what type of books you like to buy.

Susanne said...

Suroor, generally they are books that people have said I should read *and* that I can't find at my local library (I always check the online catalog first). OR sometimes I see something Amazon recommends that I decide to add to the list. It doesn't always mean I will buy them, but they are some I *might* buy based on recommendations of others. Also it's helpful when people want to know what to get me for Christmas because books are always a good gift! :)

I got about 8 off the list for Christmas so I had to add a few others. I also have a Gmail draft with book recommendations from blogs and others.


Susanne said...

Becky, oh! I forgot to reply to you! Thanks for your comments. Yes, some of those were really good books! actually they all were, thankfully! :D

Becky said...

Haha I have a 10-page list of books to read in Google docs... and it's always growing :P

Susanne said...

I can so relate! I see good books recommended on blogs and then by friends and then go to the library and find ten more...per visit! Blah! :D

Becky said...

Yup that's exactly what I'm like! Just way too much interesting knowledge out there.

Wafa' said...

Been a long time since i comment here :)

I remember the story of the journalist Frank Gardner and i guess it would be interesting to read his book "Blood and Sand by Frank Gardner", going straight to my wish list. thanks a lot dear :)

Susanne said...

Wafa', yes, don't think I didn't miss you, but I knew you were helping out Egypt and cheering them on! But it's always a pleasure to "see" you around here. :) Thanks for dropping by!