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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Books

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien  -- I really enjoyed this book because I love cultural stuff. This book points out areas where we as people living in the West may have "cultural blinders" which make us misunderstand parts of the Bible.  Or maybe not understand the verses in the ways the people living back then did.

They deal with such things as race and ethnicity, languages, individualism, honor/shame, time, rules, relationships, virtue and vice and everything being all about me.  Good stuff! Challenging stuff!  I want to read this one again to soak it all in.

1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke -- I saw this book nearly a year ago at a train station in Germany. I guess I forgot how long it was, but I put it on my Amazon Wishlist and received it for Christmas.  It was a rather interesting and amusing way of learning/reviewing/reading new stuff about the French and English conflicts (or should I say annoyances?) over the centuries. The author looks at people, events, places, food with interesting twists and humor.  I think I learned quite a bit.

And God Said by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman - I put this one on my Amazon Wishlist because I read something on HuffPo Religion about how shepherds (think Psalm 23) didn't convey today what they did back then.  And the Ten Commandments were not translated quite right (kill is more like murder and covet more like taking). Also the Song of Songs "my sister, my beloved" - that's not an incest thing, but a sign of equality in the relationship. Also the Hebrew levav incorporates emotions and rationality together.  So loving the Lord your God with all your heart includes both emotion and rational thinking.  So I saw a post online about this author and got the book. It was more technical than I thought, but not in a bad way.  Just a bit deeper and more into linguistics and translating than I might have thought. 

In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language by Joel Hoffman -- another book by the same author, this book was a bit more technical and while I enjoyed some of it, I realized I am not all that interested in how the pronunciation of ancient languages may have changed.  I did like the chapters about the Jews' magic letters - the consonants they used also as vowels - and the information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and reviving the Hebrew language in modern Israel.

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman -- the author "invites you to release your tight hold on that familiar, try-hard life and lean your weight heavy into the love of Jesus"

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed, MD -- After reading this, I wondered if one of my favorite bloggers who writes about Saudi Arabia had read it, and found this interview from a few years ago.  Apparently I'd seen it back then, but I reread it since I just finished the book last night.  The author tells about her impressions of the people in Saudi Arabia. At times I was giggling at her descriptions. Not necessarily that the people were so funny, but her word choices were amusing. Who describes someone's beauty this way?  "I studied her for a long time, searching for the source of familiarity in my attraction to ineluctable good looks. After a few moments I found it: the squared-off jaw leading to a subtly cleft chin; the perfect symmetrical nasolabial folds, deep lines stretched across full, high cheeks flanking the wide, warm smile; and finally, the endearing yet slightly imperfect alignment between her incisors peeping between wide bow-shaped lips were all very familiar. She was the Saudi Gloria Steinem."  (pg. 372)

I was sad during parts of this book especially the chapter on the lost boys: those the author claims are products of polygamous families and don't know quite where they fit because they often are sons of second, third or fourth wives.  Many of these came to her hospital intoxicated or with arms showing their drug usage. My heart went out to them.  I enjoyed reading about her hajj experience. The way she felt absolved of her sins from performing these rituals made me think of people who feel similar when they come to Jesus.

Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar -- I'm not sure how this book ended up on my Amazon Wishlist, but I received it for Christmas and really enjoyed it.  Whenever I'm tempted to complain about my life, I should recall the truly awful reality for many women in this world. Not every story had a tragic ending, but most did. In this book you can read about a woman (a girl of 9 in reality) given to a family to settle her brother's gambling debt. She was badly mistreated and when she started her period, she was given to one of the son's as a vessel to produce his babies. Another lady was married to a man who was known in the village as a homosexual. Her marriage to him was only to give some respectability to the family, and she was sorely mistreated in this culture that dislikes homosexuality.  Another woman grew up as a boy - and this continued through adulthood so that she had no chance for marriage and having a family of her own. Instead she was mocked as a eunuch.  Throughout the book Zari speaks of her own life and I found this interview online just now if you are curious to learn more about her.  In the epilogue she wrote how the radio show was useful in helping women in Afghanistan so I was sad to read that the British government no longer funded the Afghan Women's Hour.  Apparently the show empowered women and gave information to them that was turning the tide.  Here is more about the book.

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War by Louise Steinman -- I like reading about history this way. The author discovers a Japanese flag that her father sent home from his time in World War II.  After an acquaintance translates the writing on it, the author decides to find the man or his family and return it. This takes her to Japan where she met the man's family, and later to the Philippines where she saw where her father had served.  I especially enjoyed her recollection of visiting Hiroshima and the peace museum there. Also it was interesting "seeing" Japan and the Philippines through her eyes.

Whose Land? Whose Promise? by Gary M. Burge -- "what Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians" -- I enjoyed this book as the author identified the background to the problem, the Old Testament and the land, the New Testament and the land, and introduced us to several Palestinian Christians and evangelical Christian groups working for justice in Israel/Palestine.  I really wish many people I know would read this book because too many have a very lopsided view and stance on their nearly unconditional support for Israel. I understand why they support Israel, but willful ignorance is not a good reason.  Not when you can read books, search online for news and talk to people who have been there and can share the realities of life there.

Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton -- Can you imagine receiving a file from the State where you glean more about your childhood than your parents ever told you? This was the "gift" left for the author when the Hungarian government made her parents' files eligible for her to receive.  The stories are told by informers to the State. A rather interesting book if you enjoy this sort of thing. I liked reading more of Hungary during the Communist rule and how this brave couple defied their government to realize their dream of living in the United States.

Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus by Hugh Halter -- This unorthodox pastor gives tips on how to be Jesus to the world. I enjoyed many things he said especially entering into people's pain although I don't always like the commitment that takes.  Challenging book.

Our Brother's Keeper: My Family's Journey through Vietnam to Hell and Back by Jedwin Smith -- the author tells the story of his family, his childhood memories and his brother's death in Vietnam. He shares of his eventual meeting with his brother's fellow soldiers and takes a trip to see where his brother died. I got this from the library - good book overall

In My Brother's Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS by Uwe Timm -- a German man reveals his thoughts and research as he reads his brother's diary. I enjoyed this look into a German family's life during the war. It was especially interesting hearing his thoughts about the silence of the German people: did they really not know what was happening to the Jewish people?; also see this post

Coming Home to Jerusalem by Wendy Orange -- The author, a Jewish American, decides to visit Israel, falls in love with it so much that she decides to move there with her young daughter. This book describes her first days and weeks, first winter there (which she hates).  Later she meets many Palestinians, traveling for her work as a journalist to the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem.  Many things stood out to me in this book: how Israelis fear, the racist banter that flows freely, the sense of community, the fact that the Sephardim are looked down upon by the Ashekenazim.   I understood a little how she felt. Just reading the book made me want to move there..and I've never even wanted to visit Israel!  Really though it made me remember my days in Syria. And how I missed it so much even though I was only there for twelve days. I wanted to move there if I could.  (By the way, we left four years ago today - January 28 - for Damascus.)  Wendy was in Israel when the IDF left Gaza, when Arafat returned, she reported on Jordanian and Israeli leaders signing a peace accord, she talked to settlers, men in Hamas, and many many others. (I only wish I could have sat in on some of those conversations!) 

She quoted both a Jewish woman and an Arab man telling how Palestinians are the Jews of the Arab world.  (pgs. 59 & 169)  I found that interesting, but it makes sense now that I consider how Palestinians have been treated by other Arab countries.

I like the story of how she and another leftist Jew were invited to present the Israeli viewpoint on a (then) recent PBS documentary.  She knows the two Palestinians asked to join the panel and all during lunch, the four of them are agreeable and having fun while the host tries to create divisions in order to make the upcoming discussion more... well, whatever TV people look for in panels.  She was amazed that once they started talking about the documentary, how those divisions came up. They'd just been together laughing and talking and being so agreeable - what happened? Upon reviewing it, she realized what was "minor for Jews leapt out as central for the Palestinians, and vice versa. ... I hear Charles and myself as sounding exactly like right-wing Jews."  (pg. 220)

Also interesting was Bibi Netanyahu's election - and how the Sephardim (who tend to be the working, poorer, darker, from-Arab-countries Israelis) were elated that "their guy" won! I never would have guessed that. Of course this book was about things in the 1990s...perhaps this has changed.


Wafa said...

"Coming Home to Jerusalem by Wendy Orange" seems like a great one. I always wanted to visit Israel and Palestine, I know it's hard for us but there are no restrictions on wishes, right? :)

"Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar" also would be great, since I guess women in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia share a lot.

And as always these lists shed great light and happiness into my heart, thanks a lot for sharing your readings :)

Susanne said...

Wafa, so nice to see you again! I've missed you.:)

Yes, the book on Israel/Palestine made me want to visit. Maybe we can go together in our wishes. :)

If you ever read the Dear Zari book, I'd like to see if any of it seems similar to Saudi culture. Just this morning I finished watching an hour long documentary "Inside the Kingdom" about KSA. Have you seen it? The last ten minutes or so dealt with a wedding, and I was shocked that the bride and groom didn't meet until the night of their wedding! I knew that happened in Afghanistan, but thought it was different in most other Muslim countries. I know in Syria they often shop around for spouses by visiting different women's houses, but they are able to choose - both the man and woman - if they want to marry. I thought perhaps your country was this way. One lady in the documentary reminded me of you because she enjoyed reading! :)

Have you read any good ones lately?

Wafa said...

I have read about that documentary but haven't seen it yet.
What I know is that in some areas and with some tribes yes that tradition is still happening, but in most areas the bride and groom do meet and talk and in some places also go out together alone or with a relative. But yes, mostly it's the same idea of the mother, the daughter or someone else looking for a suitable bride and in some families the bride will have a say but in most they aren't sadly.
now with the wide spread of the internet men and women fall in love and choose who to marry, but when it's time to marry the groom would send someone to his family or himself saying he heard about this family had this girl and so on, so they will marry without anyone knowing they are actually lovers :)

I haven't read much lately, a few books, though I have hundreds of them begging me to read them with a sad look :(

Susanne said...

Thanks for explaining more about that. Very interesting!! :)

The documentary bit about the wedding was some place called Hail.

Haha...sorry your books are giving you the sad look! ;)

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

Extremely late as always.

Read 1000 years about two years ago and really enjoyed it.

As for Palestine, what made a huge difference in my perception (I grew up in a very Pro-Israel family) was having Palestinian class mates, and then watching a documentary with Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist who has lived in Gaza for 20 years.

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

And I love reading your list every month :)