Two Good Reads - Livin' the Good Life
Aug. 29th, 2012
09:47 am - Two Good Reads
I have been laid-up, yet again, with another illness these last two and a half weeks. This one has been a cold that went into my ears. The sense of having plugged up ears and compromised hearing has been wearing on me. It does seem to be getting better, but way too slowly. The silver lining has been that I've had lots of time to read. I have read two great books while lying in bed, trying to distract myself from my suffering. And, interestingly enough, both of the books were about suffering, and both of the books tackle very sensitive topics.
The first one was THE BOOK OF MORMON GIRL by Joanna Brooks. It is her autobiography as a lifelong Mormon and the struggles she's had with it. The book is timely. Seeing as how we may be electing a Mormon president this fall, I think interest is high in finding out more about this religion. What I love about this book is that, even though the author has her problems with Mormonism, she takes a very tender and loving view of her experiences in the church and of her family growing up. It wasn't until she entered BYU that she encountered feminism, and what followed rocked her world forever. She left the church due, in part, to the excommunications of her favorite professors who were feminists. She went on to marry outside the faith and had two children. But, the whole time she yearned to be back in the fold. She says she will never stop being a Mormon, and she is raising her children in the Mormon traditions. She is now back at church, reverently enjoying and contributing to all the activities with her children AND her Jewish husband, while trying to reconcile all the differences that she insists must be reconciled. She feels that her Mormon faith is based in LOVE, and that Heavenly Father will make all things right... eventually. That's what she is counting on. A fascinating read. She also has a blog: askmormongirl where controversial and dicey subjects are discussed, like being Mormon and gay. Since we have a gay member of our family who we all treasure and support, and we have a gay member of our band who we love dearly, and a number of other gay friends, this is an important topic for me. Once you have gay people in your life, the gay debate and controversy takes on a whole new meaning and perspective. You don't think about the person as "gay". You just view them as another person you love.
The second book was IN MY FATHER'S COUNTRY, AN AFGHAN WOMAN DEFIES HER FATE by Saima Wahab. She tells her story of growing up in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, and how her father suddenly disappeared after "questioning", and her grandfather sent her and her siblings to America to keep them safe. Living with an uncle in Oregon, she became an American citizen and eventually graduated from college. This all happened in the first 60 pages of the book. The rest of the book was about how she longed to return to Afghanistan and help her oppressed people. Particularly the women. She signed up to go with the US military and work as an interpeter in the combat zone. All throughout, her bravery amazed me. For the next 300 pages, I read about the dangerous situations she lived through, from working in combat zone hospitals, to traveling along bomb-infested roads to help villagers get medical attention. In many cases, she was the only one who spoke the language and knew the critical "rules of conduct" of her people. This was crucial, and the soldiers could not have done without her. For instance, NEVER ask an Afghan man about his wife (but please do ask about his children). Never look an Afghan woman in the eyes. Never be in the presence of an Afghan woman without a male member of her family present. Never decline an offer of food or tea. These are all serious offenses in their culture. Her ultimate goal was to talk to the villagers and ask them what they needed, and help them get it. She had to gain their trust first, as it was against Afghan culture for a woman to be in a position of authority and to help men. I believe there will be a sequel to this book because she definitely was still on her mission when the book ended. I felt so grateful to be born an American while reading about her culture. I'm much too independent of a thinker and value my freedoms way too much to find this woman's culture attractive in any way. However, I found it fascinating the SHE was so torn about her culture. She loved her freedom as an American, but she truly missed the closeness of the women in her large extended family and the security of knowing ones place in the world. She felt that she could never marry because she could not let a man control her in any way. Since this is the norm for Afghan women, she believes she will be happy to remain single. I will be interested to read a follow-up story on her 10 years from now.
So this is how I've been spending my days, lounging around, waiting to get better, while reading the accounts of two fascinating women who have suffered far more than I ever have.... and have lived to tell about it. May we all honor them by reading their stories.