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

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

Archive