Summer Reading

It’s been a month of intense reading.

The Return by Hisham Matar –  A recommendation from Barack Obama’s reading list. Hisham Matar’s family was exiled from Libya and lived in Cairo where he attended an American school.  Later, both Hisham and his brother attended school in Europe under false identities because of threats to the family from the Gaddafi regime. This book is a memoir of loss, hope, and the importance of family in a land that has a history of tyranny. I was crushed by the cruelty of Libya’s prisons and the many losses. I was touched my Matar’s descriptions of hope and loss and how those we have lost remain with us in so many ways. He states, “ Hope is cunning and persistent.”, a helpful thought as I continued to read other books.

Kingdoms in the Air by Bob Shacocohis  – travel essays from afar. The Nepalese Kingdom of Lo Mustang is remote and high in the Himalayas. The author and his travelling companions return for a visit after 10 years and observe the changes and influences of westernization. The author describes navigating narrow, rocky, trails on high cliffs with no option of getting off your horse because either you or the horse would fall into the deep valley. In a sunny warm Alberta garden, fear and terror course through my brain as I imagine these heights. The author states that “until 1947 Nepal was the yet to be explored by Europeans.  In 1992 almost 95% of Nepal’s energy needs were being met by firewood.”  Democracy, tourism, economic reform, “ lifted the veil from the lost Kingdom of Lo.”  Who could deny these people education, healthcare and access to a wider world? Something is lost and other things are gained in this synthesis of old and new.

Another essay in this book, ‘Mount Ararat’, made me laugh.  He attempts to summit the 16,94 5 ft. snow-capped volcano but turns back because of altitude sickness. And did he see Noah’s Ark?  Ha, ha, no. He did, however, meet several women he humorously describes as Noah’s granddaughters.

At the end of the book he states, “… one of the most enduring lessons of travel are inaccessible until you are out there moving and then they are indelible upon the soul.”


Seven Fallen Feathers
. By Tanya Talaga, is deeply thought provoking.  A book that you cannot put down and forget, because it was not intended to be that kind of book.  This book is a call to action for all of us. Tanya Talaga tells us of the seven aboriginal youth who leave their communities in northern Ontario to attend high school in Thunder Bay, they lose their way and lose their lives in circumstances that show how alone and overwhelmed they were in a culture of racism. This is a hard-hitting book because of the truths it reveals. The VoiceEd Summer Book Club on Facebook and the weekly podcasts on Sound Cloud have been invaluable as I take in all that this book tells and think about the ways I can take action as an educator.

Tomorrow Will be Different, Love, Loss and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride. This memoir, tells Sarah’s story of coming out, her activism, her marriage, and the death of her husband a short time later.  Her honesty about her life and her willingness to fight for change inspires me.  She is currently the National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign in the United States. Another challenging and hopeful read.

Whew! A lot of deep thoughts as I read these books.  Each one was eye-opening and I am grateful to the writers, an exile, a transgender woman, an indigenous journalist and a traveler who share their lives, their observations and the facts. For me, there is a common thread in these books. Each of us needs to be seen, and acknowledged, whether we are indigenous youth, an exile, a transgender individual, or a remote culture in the midst of change. Sarah McBride states,

 

Reading Life Part 1

Winter evenings…..time for reading….. and that Reading Challenge on Goodreads!  One year I reached a goal of 24 books, but last year, well, I did not even get close. To remedy this underachievement I set this year’s goal at a measly 15 books. Yes, I admit I did that. However I am on a roll this year.

A little over one month into the year I’m delighted to have read 5 books. Each one has taken me on a journey to another time and place.

The Naturalist by Alisssa York

The Naturalist by Alissa York, took me back first to Philadelphia 150 years ago, and then to Para, Brazil, and into the Amazon Jungle. It made me long to visit this green and living forest during a time when fewer people inhabited this space or traveled its winding rivers. Of the three main characters, Rachel is the true naturalist passionaltely observing the rivers, the forest, and the creatures that inhabit the land. Iris the artist, records the beauty and striking features of the creeping, crawling, hopping, flying and slithering life they discover. However it is Paul whose journey reveals and opens to him his early childhood in jungle before he was brought to America. Vivid pictures filled my mind as read this novel.

“Orange – a bed of it, a pool, hot as flame against the bone-white sand. It’s not until they are in the monetaria, yards from the shore, that its meaning becomes clear.  …….. Butterflies. Hundreds, thousands of them, packed tight, holding their bright wings erect. ……. The flock stays long enough for Iris to complete a handful of studies and one watercolor sketch. Lift off begins with a flicker. A ripple along the margins and the whole mass rises, peeling away from the beach.  Iris and Rachel stand to watch it float out over the river, where it unravels in a trailing cloud.”   Page 179 Chapter 24 

Raj by Gita Mehta

 

Raj, by Gita Mehta, was fittingly purchased in a cluttered bookstore in Jaipur, India. India had captured my imagination in every way. Who lived in the ornate rooms of the forts and palaces we explored? Who were the women hidden behind the purdah screens? My brain was abuzz with the mystery and mystique of ancient kingdoms in this exotic land. Raj, written from the perspective of Jaya Singh, born to the Maharajah of Balmer a fictional kingdom, gave me the insight I longed for.  Through Jaya’s life I learned about the wealth of royal India, the impact of colonialism, Indian soldiers fighting bravely as part of the British Empire, and the bitter struggle for independence.

So there you have it, the beginning of my 2017 Reading Challenge.