Happy Free-Reading Friday! I hope you are enjoying new worlds through your reading. Today I’ve been visiting 1939 Warsaw via The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.
This morning as I looked at my wall of books, wondering what to share with you, I thought about books that have changed my perspective on parts of the world I had not previously considered. There are many such titles, but these three stood out. They share a common theme: oppression. Each book opened my eyes to a bigger world than my own.
A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova gave a human perspective to life in the former Soviet Union. Growing up during the Cold War, I thought of the USSR only as a dark, military force to fear, which it was. The author grew up in the Soviet Union during that time. Through her memoir I met real people who lived under a government so oppressive that people had to pretend everything was O.K. and normal. They did not dare to speak the truth.
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi tells of the underground book club the author, a teacher in Tehran, hosted with several of her students, all women. They met secretly in her home, and read and discussed forbidden Western classics. It was a dangerous time to do so, as Islamic fundamentalists ruled Iran at the time. I gained new perspective on life in Iran for women, as well as for intellectuals.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a novel about two girls who grow up as laotangs, or “old sames” in nineteenth-century China. (The practice in China at the time was to match girls via a sort of matchmaker; they would be friends for life.) Because the girls live some distance apart, they communicate via letters written on a silk fan in a secret language women created to keep their writings secret from men. The novel enlightened me to the cruel, excruciating practice of foot binding. The author’s description of the practice was vivid and detailed. The narrator/protagonist saw it as something she must endure. “But we learned the most important lesson for all women: that we must obey for our own good.”
I hope you enjoy one or more of these books!