Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan got acclaim from the New York Times and praise from Oprah and after reading the book, I believe it deserved the attention.
The book has five unique stories detailing various challenges including religious intolerance in Ethiopia and Nigeria, child trafficking in Gabon, ethnic conflict in Rwanda, and the life of street children in Nairobi.
The stories vary in length, but are all written from the perspective of the child involved. I have learned about all the conflicts and issues presented in the book from lectures or textbooks before, but to read a fictional account from the perspective of a child was absolutely eye-opening. Children, without the previous knowledge of the foundation of the conflicts or violence, or who are otherwise biased by their upbringing, slowly develop their understanding of the world around them. As the reader, I could follow their developing perspectives through the story, from childhood innocence to heart breaking realizations. Some are developed more in detail, others are presented as a snippet. Regardless, it was humbling to consider these events through the eyes of children.
The most profound theme that permeated every story was survival. Every character, from child to adult, was fighting for their lives in some way or another. It was a fascinating, but quick read, and after a few of the stories I was left shocked, saddened, or simply contemplative about what it means to be a human being in this world. Most of us are lucky enough never to experience these atrocities, but I recommend this book to shed light on these real life horrors rather than read history books or analyze statistics.
I picked up the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamant at a yard sale, and was pleasantly surprised with the read.
The story is about a woman named Dinah, only mentioned in the book of Genesis by name. The story’s foundation comes from the tale of Jacob and his four wives. Dinah is Jacob’s only daughter, and Diamant crafted a fictional story about her to bring life to a somewhat mystery character in the bible.
The book is partitioned in 3 sections: the first being the story of Dinah’s mothers, the second being Dinah’s story up to her marriage, and the third being her life in Egypt.
I was fascinated by the accounts of life from a woman’s perspective. Even though fictitious, they were interesting to ponder. A peak into ancient “girl world” that exuded strength, resilience and fortitude while posing great life challenges of the body, heart and mind.
Diamant does an excellent job illuminating the lives of a number of characters, as I felt and sympathized with their emotions going throughout the book. I didn’t read the section in Genesis about Jacob until after I finished this book, and I was glad that I had nothing to spoil the story as I turned the pages. However, I did enjoy comparing the two and considering the lives of the women who receive little attention in the Bible after I had finished the book.
I felt I could really understand Dinah and her development as a woman over the course of her life, and found myself even shedding a tear in the final pages. Rarely do I find myself as moved as I was, and so contemplative about the role of women in the world and my place in it, the power of love and the forces of life that mold us along the way.
It’s definitely femininely oriented, but I strongly recommend it!
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
I bought his book two days before I left for China, and I finished the last pages as I walked to immigration to have my passport checked in Beijing. I was sucked into the thought-provoking, intense, and completely captivating life story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and read almost the entire flight.
Infidel had been recommended to me by an American friend in Senegal, who said the book gave an interesting perspective on women, Islam and human rights. In reality it does that and so much more. Ayaan describes her life growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya under the strict rules of Islam, struggling to make sense of her identity as a woman and reconcile it with her devout faith in Allah. She eloquently writes about incredibly disturbing and challenging struggles in her life from being beaten to female genital mutilation to arranged marriage. She spoke of horrors I believe many of us would rather pretend didn’t happen in real life. In addition to that, she very clearly explains the complexity of clan structure in Somalian culture and the implication it had on all of her life decisions.
Her core focus in dissecting Islam is the idea of submission and how it is ingrained in a Muslim’s relationship with Allah and a woman’s relationship to her husband. After living in a Muslim country for as long as I did, I felt like I had some experience with some of the things she described that oppress Muslim women. Senegal wasn’t as violent or unpredictable as the places described in her story, but I still was aware of the expectations of women and their inherent lack of freedom in the culture.
I thoroughly recommend the book. It had a profound effect on my perception of multiculturalism and religion. I’m fascinated that she was able to end up where she did, writing books and speaking out for human rights, after reading what she grew up around. Few people are bold enough to broach the topics that she has risked her life to bring to the forefront, and she makes quite a compelling argument.
If anyone has read it, let me know! It’d be a great book for discussion.
I decided to review different books I read because 1) I always tend to forget details about books I read and 2) I forget why I liked or didn’t like a book. I’m no professional, but I figured if you’re trying to figure out what book to read next you can sift through my thoughts on books I’ve read.
Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young
I read The Shack from a recommendation from my step-mom, and overall, it was a good, relatively quick read. The book is about a man named Mack whose daughter is murdered and he, upon receiving a note from God, ventures to the shack where his daughter was murdered to rendezvous with the creator himself. Mack’s disenchanted outlook, further entrenched since the death of his daughter, has made him a hard-nosed skeptic, despite his wife’s particularly close relationship with God. I was able to engage in his thought processes and struggles throughout the book, and due to the common struggles of many humans who have endured tragedy and hardship, it was easy to relate to his inner turmoil.
I wasn’t sold on the premise right away and wasn’t sure if I’d like such a strongly religious themed book, as I was afraid it would turn into an attempt at religious conversion or support one line of thinking. However, I found that this book from chapter to chapter developed a rather fascinating perspective on religion, love, and spirituality that is relevant for the religious and non-religious alike. It was the first God-based book that I’ve read that put the emphasis on humanity and relationships over living based on religious doctrine whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or anything else. I found that the rationality and explanation of God as portrayed in the book is unique and thought-provoking, putting value on things that haven’t always seemed as prevalent. It questions the foundations of power and hierarchy from governments to organized religions, while challenging Mack to reconsider his view of the world and spirituality. It crafted an interesting story of hardship and redemption with a realistic interpretation of life as we know it.
I’m not one to ruin the ending or too much of the plot, but I will say I don’t think anyone who questions the true foundations of human life and wonders what it’s all about would not be disappointed in reading this book. If anything, it will give you a new way to consider many of the standards and norms we have come to accept in our daily lives.
If anyone has read this book or has something to share, I’d love to hear what you thought about it!