Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Plea for World Peace, plus Mailbox Monday

World peace?  Really?  Yes:  Peace through books.  Hop down to the next purple text for the details about how you can help, but in the meantime:

Look at the international titles that landed in my mailbox this week: The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison and Dusk (Po-On) by F. Sionil Jose

This novel, long-listed for Britain's Orange Prize, has already gripped me:  It's a WWII story of London and Yorkshire, of the children evacuated into the countryside to protect them from potential hostilities in London, and of a couple torn asunder by previous war and disease, and by their own unexpressed needs and desires.  I'm already half way through the ARC paperback I received on Friday, and enjoying Alison's prose, characters, and historical insights immensely.  If this novel continues to please, you can bet it'll be my first 4-5 star read in a few weeks: yay!

And then I just received Dusk by Filipino novelist F. Sionil Jose from my public library.  Eight cheers for the Whatcom County Library System and all who support it! I live in an unusually literate place, especially considering our outstanding rural aspects - #1 raspberry grower in the USA, as I can well attest this week, among other things.  We have at least five used bookstores in town, plus one of the best/most notable independent bookstores in the United States, and I'm continually impressed by the bounty of our libraries. 

With regard to Dusk, or Po-On as it was originally titled, I want to thank Enbrethiliel over at Shredded Cheddar for answering my query about the Filipino novels she'd recommend for American teens' reading.  She's a blogger who's exemplary in terms of correspondence and courtesy, not to mention insight, so I encourage y'all to go visit her regularly.

So: World Peace, you said?  Yes, indeed:  Peace through Books.  My premise:  Basic cultural awareness - not to mention appreciation - is the foundation for collaboration and compromise. 

This prompts me to ask y'all to offer up your suggestions for my tenth grade World Literature class next year.  I'm looking for the seminal stories from non-Western cultures and countries, especially.  Because of their predicted future impact on our world economy - and due to the limited time in a yearlong class - I'd especially appreciate your suggestions for teen-worthy texts from China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia.  Of course, if your background boasts keen knowledge of other world cultures, I would be honored to receive your suggestions as well.

PLEASE help me, and more importantly my students, all you well-read book bloggers. Talk about a quick and easy action that can positively impact the future: This is your chance.

And PLEASE stop by here tomorrow when the Top Ten list is "Top 10 Books Every Teenager Should Read".  Trust me when I tell you, I'll have a LOT to say about that!  And it won't be what you expect.  Not at all.


Itchy for the latest enviables, mailbox-wise?  Go visit the other bloggers hooked up to Mailbox Monday at Sea of Books...

Ready for the Roots Read-Along?  Wondering what's happened to Kunta Kinte in the past decade?

So, I'm pleased to report that Kunta has indeed moderated his religious views enough to accept that his new wife Bell is a "O-Lawd" Christian, and that - although he can't condone it - he's not going to stand between her and her religious freedoms.  He even allows his new daughter Kizzy to be baptized so that she can attend church with his massa's niece Missy Anne. 

One aspect of this section that caused me a little Kunta-envy was the exchange of handmade gifts between Bell and Kunta during their courtship.  Although - of course - no one would want to exchange places with these slaves and I in no way want to make light of their hardships and the injustice of the entire situation, I will say that the idea of painstakingly crafting presents for a loved one as a means of showing them how you feel seems like a largely bygone practice.  Sure, we'll purchase a present or even cook dinner or craft something, but the idea of putting in days' worth of work to craft something from what little you have is impressive and moving, at least for me.

In this section too, we see the emergence of slave rebellions as a regular concern for all involved, and we find out that Bell can read.  The dangers of being a literate slave are emphasized, even as Kunta teaches his daughter Kizzy Mandinka words and Arabic writing.  At this point, I think I know Haley's writing well enough to predict that this knowledge in a young child will be a dangerous thing, especially because Kunta is doing it secretly, in defiance of the much more savvy Bell's expressed wishes.  As usual, Kunta's arrogance will cause problems (to put it mildly) for him, and now for others around him too.  I continue to wonder why Haley crafted this character in this way, although - since he had previously written The Autobiography of Malcolm X - I have to suspect that he identifies with Kunta's "royal" bearing and dedication to Islam.

Of course, the slave rebellions spark increasingly draconian measures from the "massas", heightening a tension that I suspect will come to a head in the next section as well.  I predict a collision course between the increasing paranoia of the white slave owners and the naively little Kizzy, not to mention Kunta.

Still enjoying this modern classic, and hope that if you haven't read it, you will. 



As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Wow, I sure wish I had suggestions for you re: 10th grader books from India, China, etc. Can't think of anything I've read this year that would be appropriate, which rather shocks me.

The Very Thought of You sounds really great, and seeing how I just finished off two other books about women during WW2, this looks like a good follow up.

Thanks, as always, for the wonderful reviews.

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

Urgh! I don't have any suggestions for you. I wish I did.

Here is mine

Dana said...

I love your thoughts about teaching tolerance and 'world peace' through books. I'm assuming you want modern texts. I love The Good Earth but it sure isn't modern.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I really liked THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU, too. And, I'll see if I can come up with any suggestions for your class, but I think teen reads will be hard for me.

Mystica said...

I like the WWI and II eras so this book will definitely be on my lists.

Anonymous said...

First book looks great, and of course, the title is catchy.

Mary said...

I'll look for The Very Thought Of You. Have a good week!

bermudaonion said...

I'm not sure of the reading level of your students, but Bamboo People is an excellent book set in Myanmar. Enjoy your new books.

Kaye said...

I hadn't heard of The Very Thought of You but that is certainly going on my wish list. I love books set in Britain during WWII. Have a great week and enjoy your new reads!

Laurie said...

Crowe - I wonder if it's the multiple filters that make this challenge just that: works I'm seeking should spark teens' interest yet offer literary depth and feature 'non-Western' writers or settings. Plus, not every culture features book-length narrative as a prominent literary form, so of course I'll be using many other types of texts.
Brooke, Gwendolyn - No worries, but if you do think of anything, I hope you'll share it!
Dana - Thanks: Good call for a lit. circle book.
Bermudaonion - Thanks! Your title's going right onto my library list today.
All interested in The Very Thought of You: I'm now 3/4 of the way through and the title keeps gaining relevance. It's a quiet, mostly interior sort of novel with - at this point - multiple perspectives to keep it moving. Atmospheric as well, so it's still got my thumbs-up. Paperback just came out this month, I believe. I'll likely offer a short review with my Friday First Sentence/ Friday 56 post this week. said...

I can't think of anything. The only thing I've read that is even close is Shantaram. The setting is in India. But it's over 900 pages. You could break the book up into section and divide it into groups to read. But other than that, I can't think of anything.

Enbrethiliel said...


Laurie, I thought I left a comment here a few nights ago. I'm not sure what happened to it, so I'm going to try to reconstruct it as best I can . . .

What I said was that your library system is just wonderful and I'm really glad that someone else in the world is reading Po-on. (You know, I think I know more Americans who've read it--thanks to my recommendations, natch!--than other Filipinos.) There was more, but I can't remember it! =P

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viagra online said...

Those filipino novels are awesome, an excellent addition for any bookshelf

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