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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Books

The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher -- I saw this book while I was with Michael at Barnes & Noble, and found it available at my local library. The author discusses her experiences with various refugees who moved to her home in Lincoln, Nebraska.  In this book you will be introduced to Kurdish sisters who fled Iraq, school settings - one with elementary-aged refugees, another with high school students, also you will meet people from Kenya and Sierra Leone. The author also gives tips and other observations about cultures. Of course I enjoyed this one although halfway through the book I felt inviting refugees here was a mistake as America is too difficult to understand, too cruel in many ways. Then I recalled what these people left, and was heartened with stories of refugees who seemed happy and more adjusted to life here. The book made me want to be more cognizant of foreigners among us, to be open to helping them, to offering friendship...and for the hundredth time it made me wish my city were more international! Why am I stuck here??

The author noted how an Ethiopian man caught many fish, and she, thinking he'd want to save them for himself and his family, offered storage space in her freezer. He looked at her quizzically and said he had no need to store them as he was giving them away to friends.  Also she told how Afghan women were very upset with the artwork their children brought home from school because they used dried beans and macaroni.  People in our country are starving and they use food in art here!

A couple quotes from the section on "Home" towards the end of the book that I liked:

"The love of your own country hasn't to do with foreign politics, burning flags, or the Maginot Line against immigrants at the border. It has to do with a light on a hillside, the fat belly of a local trout, and the smell of new-mown hay."  Bill Holm (pg. 320)

"American restlessness is overstated. We all come from immigrants, but if we look far enough back in our family trees, we will find a farmer.  In Grass Roots, Gruchow makes the point that the average settler wasn't in search of a new world to conquer, but of a refuge, 'a place with a few cows, a garden, a house of one's own, as far away from trouble as possible.'"  (pg. 324)

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home by Kim SunĂ©e  -- This is a memoir by a Korean-born woman adopted by a couple from New Orleans who ended up moving to Europe for many years as a young adult.  Her story is so unlike my own, and I was sad that she had such a hard time fitting in and felt so adrift.  I kept hoping I could introduce her to Someone who could fill this void in her life.  This book made me appreciate food that I'm familiar with. I am sure her food is superb (she includes recipes at the end of nearly every chapter), but, eh, I just like my normal Southern-American food.  This book was in my local library biography section.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman -- curious what it's like to be incarcerated in a women's prison? Read this book. 

Hide: A Child's View of the Holocaust by Naomi Samson - a Polish Jew recounts her life in hiding from the German soldiers and the Polish "friends" and neighbors who tried to kill them;  She, her mother, brother and sister hid for a year and a half in a hayloft or under the house of a couple Polish women who fed them reluctantly -- when the children were finally free, two of them had to crawl as their muscles had attached to their legs wrongly during their growing while curled in a fetal position all that time --- so sad! And again I wonder HOW can people be so cruel to other people?!

Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption by Shon Hopwood -- found this in the new books at the library; it's the story of a Nebraskan man who committed bank robbery and served more than a decade in a federal prison. During that time he finds he has a knack for legal things and his story is quite a testimony to the power of grace and redemption - and it helps you better understand the people in prisons (somewhat...)  and what's with my reading two prison memoirs in recent days?

Stolen Years: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi -- Wow, what a book!  It seems jail is a theme this month.  Malika's jail experience isn't like the others however. Her family (mother and siblings) were imprisoned - banished to a place where they only had themselves and their jailers as company.  Quite a story out of Morocco.  Don't mess with the king!

Freedom: The Story of My Second Life by Malika Oufkir -- the sequel to the above book; the author tells how she readjusts to life. Can you imagine being locked away for twenty years and how much things changed in that time? Like automatic sinks...how does the water come out?  She also tells of her first experiences with love (or lust) after her escape.

Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Story by Diki Tsering -- I enjoyed hearing some of the customs and expectations of the people in Tibet.  The wedding preparations and the way people consulted their astrologers and the way ghosts killed their children - fascinating!

Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi -- a book of memories of growing up in Iran; I enjoyed reading about events in Iran through the eyes of this lady and her family

Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison  -- I saw this at Barnes & Noble and found it at the local library; I enjoyed learning more about Asperger's as it affected this person's life. I have friends with this condition (not a disease) and some of what the author wrote seems true of them.

The Poet of Baghdad: A True Story of Love and Defiance by Jo Tatchell -- this story is about Nabeel Yasin's early years in Iraq and how he escaped his home country and lived in exile until the Iraq War.  I enjoyed reading about the life of a family during these years in Iraq as the story spans many decades

Friday, March 1, 2013

February Books

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung  -- sad story about a family torn apart by the Khmer Rouge regime as told by one of the youngest children; this book made me cry as I (kind of, sort of, not really) experienced her hardships through her words and thought of others who have endured such horrible times at the hands of evil people

The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore -- a novel I found at the library; probably attracted to it by the author's name and it was in the new book section; an Irish lady goes to Germany and lives with a family during World War II; interesting to hear of this family and her time in Germany through her eyes

The Silenced Cry by Ana Tortajada -- a Spanish lady and two friends travel to Pakistan to meet Afghan refugees and are able to take a short trip to visit Kabul; each chapter is a day from their travel

Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk -- a look at Istanbul through the eyes of a secular man who grew up there; he focused quite a bit on the melancholy of the city, its attempts at westernizing and how it appeared through western eyes; some of it was interesting, but I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped I would (library book)

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa -- I really enjoy these types of books.  A Canadian lady decided to teach two years in Bhutan instead of going for her doctorate. So this book tells of her experiences - trying to fit in, meeting people, seeing the place through her eyes. I especially enjoyed her days of teaching the younger children and what they taught her about survival (lighting her stove and cooking for one thing).   Here is an interview with her.

The Gate by Francois Bizot -- A French man tells about his time in Cambodia. The part about his being a prisoner was my favorite.

After the Wall: Germany, the Germans, and the Burdens of History by Marc Fisher -- An American journalist lives in Germany for four years telling about people he interviewed and interesting things in the news. I enjoy cultural books so this was an interesting read for me.  Germany interests me as well since I've been there,my uncle lives there and Samer lives there presently.  I was surprised to learn how traditional western Germany was compared to East Germany as it relates to women and children.  I liked reading some of this to Samer and would love to hear how things have changed in Germany if this same author/journalist lived there now and wrote about it.  Oooh, here is a CSPAN interview with him that I'll have to watch one day.

Prejudice Across America by James Waller -- a professor takes about twenty students to various cities in the country in order to learn more about prejudice against American Indians, blacks, Jewish Americans and so forth. I enjoyed the brief history of each place, its significance in race relations, and feeling as if I were on the trip as I read what they did and how they reflected on what they experienced each day.

One quote from the book that I put on Facebook

"What will not make headlines are the ironic facts that the founder of the original Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is buried in a Memphis park that is now used mostly by blacks; that the Klan members who planned the rally had to ask a black mayor for permission to assemble and a black chief of police for protection; that most of the Klan members who actually participated in the rally came from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Maryland; that the Klan only has about five thousand members nationwide and the South no longer stands as its membership stronghold; that the city of Memphis now has more blacks than whites and that, generally, substantial and tangible process has been made in the arena of race relations."  (pg. 159)

Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World by Jan Goodwin -- although this book is about twenty years old, I enjoyed reading about the author's reflections as she traveled the Islamic world and listened to women in various countries.  She talked to some about polygyny, others about their lives under US sanctions in Iraq, some about their conversions to Islam and other interesting topics.

"The first and last person who suffers under sanctions is always a child. These are not economic sanctions, but sanctions against life."

"Raskia Mansi, heavily pregnant, was asleep in the sweltering afternoon heat next to her six-year-old daughter, Zara, who had been hospitalized with late-stage malnutrition. Raskia awakened as we drew level with the bed. The wife of a factory worker, she was expecting her thirteenth child the following week.  'I didn't want to get pregnant again,' she said, 'but I can't afford or find the birth-control pills I used to take.' She also cannot afford to feed the children she already has. Twenty-five days before, her eighteen-month-old daughter, Marwa, had died in this same hospital from the same problems as Zara has. Her husband...receives a pension of D. 220 a month.

'To buy food, medicines, we have sold everything - my wedding jewelry, our furniture, our heater, our blankets, even our clothes. This is the only dress I have left,' she said pointing to the one she was wearing. What was a typical family meal? I asked her.  'A soup made with water and rice. One of my children was so hungry, she ate a candle,' she said, as her eyes filled with tears.  Raskia is anemic herself, and doctors expect her new baby to have a low birth weight. Six-year-old Zara is expected to die, and doctors believe the new baby also will not survive."  (pg. 257-8)

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende -- Ten days after marrying Mary, this couple moved to a minimalist community for eighteen months of living with little technology. Through this experiment, they learned the value of physical labor, a sense of community and reliance on neighbors.  Eric concludes that we shouldn't exclude technology, but its role should be supplemental. "Technology serves us, not we technology." 

As Far As You Can Go Without a Passport: The View from the End of the Road by Tom Bodett  -- A cute, short book with "comments and comic pieces by Tom Bodett of National Public Radio's 'All Things Considered.'"  -- mostly little stories reflecting on life from Alaska