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

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

Archive