Shopping cart is empty.

Birchbark Blog

Things I Didn't Know

Louise Erdrich - Friday, December 12, 2014

Last August we were sorting through the advanced readers copies that had collected on the bookstore shelves. My daughter Pallas picked up The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. I thought I'd seen the last of that book, but Pallas came back for Christmas and put that reading copy in my hands. She told me to read it, I did, and now I have to say to you. READ THIS. The Underground Girls of Kabul is subtitled: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. This book. If you read it, you will never forget Azita, Mehran, Zahra, Shukria, or Shahed -- all women who have been raised as boys in Afghanistan -- and then forced to return to being women. Nordberg explores a cultural practice that astonished me. It makes sense -- to "make" a girl at birth into a boy, for at least part of her life, is to give her a taste of what it is to be human. To have a will. Often, it is a magical practice that will supposedly prompt a woman's body to produce a male. Most hauntingly, one of these women became a "brother" to a real brother in order to protect him from possible poisoning by a previous wife in a polygamous marriage. She ate everything and drank everything before her brother. You will not stop reading this book until you find out what happens to these women -- what is happening to them now.

Karima Bennoune, a professor of international law at UC-Davis, grew up in Algeria. Her impassioned and superbly intelligent book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, begins with this sentence: "Could I defend my father from the Armed Islamic Group with a paring knife?"  Bennoune's father, Mahfoud Bennoune, taught Darwinism and was a fearless critic of armed fundamentalists like the Islamic Salvation Front, who sponsored assassinations of of Bennoune's fellow professors. Her experience impelled Karima Bennoune to travel the world, at great personal risk, in order to interview moderate Muslim people, often women, who cogently and steadfastly insist on human rights in violently fundamentalist settings. She has described herself (I was lucky enough to meet her) as "the woman who makes people cry" because these stories about people who strive to maintain humanity, who die for the right to dissent, to speak freely, become educated, dance, write, paint, sing, bare their faces to the wind, their hair to the sky, and who insist that the memory of those killed in this struggle not be erased, these stories include unbearable loss. Yet the stubborn will to resist is mesmerizing -- I could not stop reading this book until page 195 (the hardcover). In the middle of this page, I had to set the book down in order to cry, too, along with the people whose existence gave me a sense of human grandeur. 

Comments
Barbara Zeller commented on 18-Dec-2014 08:24 AM
I was in Birchbark Books this past weekend, and believe it may have been Pallas who also put a book in my hands, albeit figuratively: Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life,’ by Hermione Lee. I had put it in my stack on the counter, but then put it back on the shelf at checkout on a trade for something else I wanted to purchase. Just a word from Pallas - well, you should pick that up later because it is a fantistic book - had me grabbing up the book again and adding it back to the stack. I am anxious to begin it.

I have enjoyed many books recommended by the staff at Birchbark Books. An especially powerful book that I am currently reading, and that has reached me on so many levels, is "Sacred Wilderness" by Susan Power. Finding that I need to read it slowly to understand and savor all that is there.
Post a Comment!

Canoe Family

Recent PostsRSS


Tags

Catalyst Aubrey/Maturin ireland Bleak House Victory Gardens Wendy Makoons Geniusz customers post holiday Ojibwemowin ptsd Anishinabe Chickadee Master Butchers Singing Club joy More Remarkable Trees Mohamed's Ghosts Native People solstice, Thomas King Gary Clement The Wealth of Nature pilgrims Book Review Green Team Empire of the Summer Moon Dartmouth Gryphon Press Kabul Botany President Obama 350.org Easter Island H2Oil Zombies Crushing Books Women and Trees NACDI:All My Relations Emily Johnson The Resilient Gardener Mankato Powwow Birchbark Books The Ojibwe friends Wolf Hall monkey in a dryer Climate Change World on the Edge twins Milkweed Press Afghanistan sweden buffalo British Navy knowledge the most romantic city in the world show your love Anishinabemowin Louise Greenland north dakota Kate DiCamillo Wastepaper Video aquifer cafe boarding school Population thank you friends Keystone XL support Love This Green World The Blue Sky anniversary Ojibwe bill mckibben incarnation The Royal Prussian Library The Porcupine Year Up Late Again Canada cafe closing National Book Award spring Anton Treuer Bohumil Hrabal The Transition Handbook thanks adventure Keepers of the Trees Peak Oil The Farmer's Daughter Brown Dog School Gardens how good looking you are The Round House Patrick O'Brian birchbark house series Guthrie Theater Ha Jin gratitude japan Tree Houses Stephen Salisbury plants Collective Denial graphix Nero Ice Roberto Bolano tree books Tar Sands Light in August The Birchbark House Islam Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive Vic Glover Fireworks Interview 2666 S.C. Gwynne green Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge post holiday reads ependent Hilary Mantel Alice Munro Too Much Happiness Minneapolis The Game of Silence Gail Caldwell language revitalization euphoria Czech Writer State Troopers Philip Roth italy Kenwood Gardens favorite tree mississippi leaves and snow E.L. Doctorow trees favorite dog Aza Let's Take the Long Way Home city of books coyote fresh water Too Loud A Solitude Small Bookstores as Commons Unnatural Disasters Native Arts Rare Books Poetry china Makoons neighborhood Peak Water devoted customers Bill Moyers Journal Hillary Clinton health care reform peculiar touches of green and gold book and dinner club Chitra Divakaruni William Trevor local economy Michael Jackson germany Pembina gardens Dogs Education Alan Weisman Remarkable Trees Beth Dooley Minnesota Magers and Quinn Nemesis photography favorite book Jim Harrison france

Archive