My Week in Books (3/31/2019 to 4/6/19)

At the time that I was reading, I did not believe that I was having a particularly good reading week. However, I was shocked to realize that I’m ending the first week of April with five finishes. Not only that, but I really enjoyed each of the books that I read. Sometimes you just don’t realize what you’re reading at the time that you’re reading it!

purple hibiscus Purple Hibiscus tells the story of fifteen-year-old Kambili and her family. They live in a privileged upper class family in Nigeria, go to a private school, worship in the Catholic church, and are shielded from what every day Nigerian life looks like. Their house is rigid, and their father is a well-respected man, revered outside of his home and feared inside it. Kambili and her brother Jaja have an opportunity to spend a week or two over a Christmas break with their aunt Ifeoma in her small apartment in a nearby town. During these days with their aunt and cousins, Kambili and Jaja begin to see what life looks like outside their father’s control. Seeing this life changes everything for both children, and sends the world that they know shattering down.

This book is excellent. There is really no other word to describe it. The atmosphere at the beginning of the book is rigid and oppressive. It was so stifling that I almost put it down. The father, Eugene, controls every aspect of each of the children’s lives, and it is painful to see their fear when circumstances force them to go outside of the boundary lines that he sets for them. Then, life is breathed into the story through Ifeoma and her difficult relationship with her brother Eugene. She, over time, begins to see what Eugene is doing to his family and to use her influence to slowly bring the children into a normal atmosphere through their visits to her house.

Perhaps the most painful portion of the book for me to read was to notice how Kambili, in her first visit to Ifeoma’s house has no voice. When her father’s control of her is taken away, she has no voice of her own, much like a flower that has been crushed. It’s just distressing, and I am so relieved to see her develop as a character over the course of the novel. Each time I think that Kambili’s homelife and Eugene’s control and abuse of the family has only reached a certain level, I would find that Adichie both ratcheted up the tension (and the abuse) another level. If you’re sensitive to domestic violence, this might be one to skip, but otherwise, it is a beautiful and compelling novel.

princess academy Palace of Stone is the second Princess Academy book. This book finds Miri traveling from Mount Eskel with Peder and some of the other girls from the first book to spend the year with Britta, helping her to prepare for the wedding.  Miri also gets the opportunity to attend Queen’s Academy to continue with her learning, and Peder gets to apprentice with a stone mason, learning more artistic ways to carve the linder of the mountain. Unfortunately, when Miri arrives in the capital, she finds that the atmosphere is restless and the talk of revolution against the crown is in the air. Does she defend the crown? Does she join in with the conspiracy against the royal family? What is the right thing to do? Which road benefits Mount Eskel?

My twelve year old and I read the first Princess Academy book together, and began reading this second one together too. Then, Emalee got so involved in the story that she snatched the book away from me to read on her own. There’s intrigue in the story and Miri undergoes a real crisis as she sees the poverty and need that she assumed would not be part of the capital. She is highly influenced and manipulated by a couple of revolutionaries, and finds herself torn between whether or not revolution is the right thing. She also finds herself just a little torn in her loyalty to Peder as he is too busy to spend much time with her, and one of the revolutionaries is a very charming young man.

As an adult, I found this book interesting and the story well-written. I could see Miri being manipulated, but knew, since this is middle grades fiction, that everything would probably work out neatly in the end. My twelve-year old, on the other hand, found this completely unputdownable. She thinks the Princess Academy books are some of the best that she’s read, and that’s pretty high praise, since these are not the most traditional “princess” stories given the connotation of a “princess academy.”

animal farm The downtrodden animals on Manor farm have had enough of working for a human and receiving nothing in return. They plan a revolt. Upon executing the revolt, the surprising happens and the animals actually win. The animals create the seven commandments of animal kind, establish leaders, and begin to work towards a future were all animals will be free and equal. However, as time goes along, something seems to be changing on Animal Farm. Are things truly better than they were under farmer Jones? Are the animals truly equal or are some animals more equal than others? Is the philosophy of the seven commandments being kept or changed by the leaders the animals trust?

These and many other questions form the thoughts and themes of this classic novel. I had read  this book many years ago in either a middle school or high school english class, and I decided that this year was the perfect year to share it with my middle school aged children. Bennett really enjoyed thinking about the messages and ideas in the book. Emalee just said it was a boring book with a bad ending. (They have very different personalities.) There were so many things that I noticed about this book that I didn’t before.

I think that, even though it is written about soviet communism, the biggest notice for me was the way that Orwell attacks the separation of the classes. Those who were educated lifted themselves above the uneducated, and they did not look after the uneducated. That’s one of the many tragedies of this farm.

ex libris Fadiman, through a series of essays, writes about her lifelong love for books, and the family history of writing and books that she grew up in. The essays covered varied topics, such as those who cannot help but proofread as they read, writing in your books, her father’s blindness, her children as readers and the merging of family libraries with her husband.

This is a wonderful collection of essays, and I gorged on them, much as Fadiman herself describes the sensuous food writing that makes her hungry. I immediately dashed this one off to my permanent book cases with the idea of pulling it out and re-reading essays as the whim strikes. Delightful!

misreading scripture with western eyes Everyone approaches any text with assumptions that they do not even have to state. However, these assumptions sometimes lead a reader to get the wrong interpretation of the text. When a person approaches the text looking for what God says about a certain subject, getting the interpretation wrong means messing up the very words of God. Richards and O’Brien are writing to help interpreters be more sensitive to the places where their western preconceptions clash with the eastern culture in which the Bible was written.

This was really informative for me and helped me some places where I had “cultural blinders” on.  I think reading this book will make me a more sensitive interpreter. However, much of their case rests on anecdotal evidence, and while the anecdotes are helpful, I would like more concrete evidence to help see what the world that the Bible was written in actually looked like.

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