Posted by: fireweaver | November 11, 2009

foreign lands

though i am a voracious reader, i generally avoid anything that could be labeled “classics” or “literature” like plagues.  i blame high school, as i’m sure many similar-minded people do, for ramming such things down our throats when we were too young and devoid of life experience to get much out of them.  reading these books was a chore, not a joy, and was therefore avoided from then on.

sometimes, though, you pick up something that’s “good for you” that actually is good.  exhibit 1:  Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis‘, the autobiographical story of her childhood and young adulthood in iran told as a graphic novel.  available as either 2 volumes or in one larger book, the whole thing can be consumed in one long afternoon or two.  the illustrations are simple, thick, filled-in b&w drawings that tell the story in a matter-of-fact utilitarian way; the text is casual conversation.  this quiet, personal story had a lot to say that i’ll go ahead and admit was completely novel to me: for all our roll-over bumper stickers, iran & iraq are not interchangeable similarities; a cultural 180 from modern to veiled happened nearly overnight in our modern era; and another window into the concept that “muslim” is not a monolithic homogeneity.

exhibit 2:  i’m about 2/3 through Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Poisonwood Bible‘, which i’d always dismissed (since it’s an oprah book, after all) as something girly and/or middlebrow.  wow, was i wrong on that front.  the 1001 books reading group has caused me to pick up several of the types of books i’d otherwise avoid, some surprisingly good, but this one is amazing.  the intimate meltdown of a white baptist missionary family parallels the political meltdown of the congo revolution, while the beauty and the hell of impoverished africa is told through the varingly naive points of view of the missionary daughters.  there’s nothing fluffy or middlebrow in here, and this otherwise-to-be-avoided high literature is keeping me reading up late at night.



  1. I *love* Poisonwood Bible. (I hadn’t actually realized it was an Oprah book. Lucky for me that I read it before that happened!) It’s one of those books that has really stuck with me, even years after reading it. I suppose it also helped that I went to Barbara Kingsolver’s reading/signing when it was new.

    There are many scenes that I recall often. Like the family wearing extra clothing and kitchenware on their flight to lighten their checked luggage. And have you gotten to the scene with the ants?

    I really want to read that book again.

    And I’d really like to read Persepolis, too.

    But I seem to spend any available time for reading on reading blogs…

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