shake downs like these get old (shadow_shimmer) wrote,
shake downs like these get old

book reviews, etc.

.... and I'm done.

This has been a LONG ASS day, and also cold. And snowy. Which is fine because Slim is bringing firewood tomorrow and we will use it after we eat Indian food and go see The Golden Compass to celebrate the doneness.

I gave my last final from 1-3:30, during and after which I did the grading and submitting thing. Then, I came home, bathed both dogs and partially cleaned the house. I needed clean dogs, specifically, because my mom knitted me a blanket for Christmas and it is made of furry green and pink awesomeness. There will be no smelly dogs on the blanket.

Also, I just finished both The Kite Runner and Land of a Thousand Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I liked The Kite Runner, but I LOVED Land of a Thousand Suns. Both books are set in Afghanistan and follow roughly the same time line, from the overthrow of the monarchy in the mid-seventies to the rise and fall of the Taliban. The Kite Runner is more autobiographical and uses the male perspective. It also deals with the life of Afghani immigrants in America. There is a deeper focus in The Kite Runner on ethnic conflict than in Land of a Thousand Suns.

Both books have friendship and belonging as central themes, and the country of Afghanistan is put the starring role. Land of a Thousand Suns looks at women's lives from the 60s until the American invasion, and Hosseini pulls absolutely no punches. Because his prose is so stark, and his language so plain, the pain that the women feel in the novel is never obscured.

Mariam kneeled to the ground and tried to pick up the grains of rice and put them back on the plate, but her hands were shaking badly and she had to wait for them to stop. Dread pressed down on her chest. She tried taking a few deep breaths. She caught her pale reflection in the darkened living room window and looked away.

As an aside, I don't know if the Land of a Thousand Suns is partly informed by Hosseini's work with refugees in Darfur, but I don't know how it couldn't be. When he talks about Sudan, he talks about the plight of women there.

I teach the history of Afghanistan only briefly and only in one class. Students never remember exactly how the ethnic conflict between Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Hazaras came about. They rarely remember the country's Buddhist, Bactrian or Persian past; they inevitably get lost in the Soviet invasion, the Mujahideen and the origins of the Taliban. However, they do remember the numbers. Life expectancy in Afghanistan is in the 40s. The country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, and that includes sub-Saharan African nations. The same goes for women who die in childbirth. The literacy rate for women in Afghanistan is currently at 21%.

Despite all of this, and despite the fact that Hosseini left the country in 1980 -- shortly after the Soviet invasion -- his love for the country and the people in it is evident. And because he has never lost hope for Afghanistan, his characters don't either. I think that both books are beautiful, painful, accessible, and important.
Tags: book reviews, books
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