Ruby Ramblings

February Reads

Vanishing America

Vanishing America: In Pursuit of Our Elusive Landscapes by James Conaway.
He takes us on a road trip across America looking at some of the landscapes that are becoming history. From the coast of Maine, to the prohibitively expensive Nantucket Island, to the deserted desert of Wyoming, he takes us on a personal narrative of these areas.

The writing is a little subdued, it’s not exactly a romping travel narrative, but an important look at the way America is changing for the worse.

White Apples
White Apples by Jonathan Carroll. An alternate look at what the concept of God is based on all life being fragments of a mosaic that are slowly being drawn back together until we recreate the whole. It was a really interesting and fast book.
Looking through you I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir by Jennifer Flynn Boylan. This author’s first book She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, is one of my favorite books of all time. With a clarity and compassion that is rarely seen regarding transgendered people, she describes the transformation she undertakes in having a sex change as an adult with a family and already established career. In I’m Looking Through You she goes back to her childhood and describes her family life growing up in what she (at the time he), perceives to be a very haunted house. The book is as much about feeling like a ghost in your own skin as it is about the ghosts that haunt the house.
Brief history of the dead The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. I had no interest in this book, and it ended up being my favorite one of the month. A really fast paced account of the last remaining person on earth living in Antartica after a biological weapon is released in all coco-cola factories. The counter-plot being that all people live on a separate plane invisible to the living world until the last person that remembers them dies. As the world’s population dies, the people on this plane disappear too.

Bookseller The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. I was really, really looking forward to this book, but I ended up not liking it much at all. I’ve been the author’s shoes of being really uncomfortable staying in a person’s house in a foreign country, and although I agree with a lot of her observations, her tone took on an antagonistic air as opposed to the journalist objector I was expecting. There is a really great interview with the author himself on NPR: Afghan bookseller disputes book about himself.

Voice of Hope The Voice of Hope: Updated and Revised Edition by Alan Clements and Aung San Suu Kyi. An amazing read.

Nonviolence Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky. As in all his book, Kurlansky packs a ton of information in a very small space. Although the historical information gets a little dry in places, the overall point of this book is not to be missed. Even if you just read the introduction while strolling around a bookstore, it will affect your perspective.

Autobiography of a face Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. I really think this should required reading for middle or early high school. It recounts Lucy’s childhood battle with cancer, the disfigurement it left on her face, and the cruelty she encountered from peers.

Quote from the author: “I spent five years of my life being treated for caner, but since then I’ve spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison.”

All Elevations Unknown All Elevations Unknown: An Adventure in the Heart of Borneo by Sam Lightner. This is what a travel narrative should be. Part adventure story as Lightner, three friends, and a cumbersome camera crew climb a rarely climbed peak in very inner Borneo.

The flip side to this story is a biographical account of a general sent in with a small crew during WWII with no prior contact with the locals (known to collect the heads of their enemies), and stop the Japanese. Not having any idea if they will survive or be in any way successful, they jump from a plane at the base of this mountain and try to make it known that they, too, are enemies of the Japanese. Fantastic.

OrphansWhen We Were Orphans: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Another highly unusual narrative taking place before the break out of WWII in China as the Nanking area invaded by the Japanese. Christopher is a detective whose parents were kidnapped in China when he was a child. He returns as an adult to solve their abduction, and the answer is most unexpected. Ishiguro is known for giving just enough information to intrigue, but never really answers all the questions.

Future of Peace The Future of Peace: On the Front Lines with the World’s Great Peacemakers by Scott Hunt. A combination of an amazing series of interviews and the travel experiences encountered getting the interviews. He talks with The Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Jane Goodall, Maha Ghosananda (peacemaker in Cambodia), Tich Quang Do (Vietnam), Oscar Arias (Central America), and looks at the poetry and refugee camps in Isreal and Palestine.

I almost forgot this one….
chopsticks Fried Eggs with Chopsticks: One Woman’s Hilarious Adventure into a Country and a Culture Not Her Own

The Voice of Hope
February 17, 2009, 1:43 am
Filed under: Books, Buddhism, Peace, War | Tags: , , ,

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is a peace activist who has been under house arrest for almost two decades in Burma. Her outspoken opinions on how the Burmese government have oppressed the Burmese people have made her a threat to the totalitarian state, and luckily, rather than turning her into a martyr, the have just tried to keep her quiet by making it hard for her to communicate with the world.

One of the ideas that she presents that I find really interesting is “the questing” mind. “A questing mind is a great help towards withstanding violence or oppression, or any trend that is contrary to what you believe is right and just.” She makes a difference between a questioning mind – one that wonders – and the questing mind that actually seeks out the answers.

She argues that positive action is the first step to healing, so even though she has spent a large part of her life in seclusion and unable to see her family, she does not feel negatively about this because she has added so much positive action to the Burmese cause.

I think one of the reasons that the conservative right has such a hard time with intellectualism is that it may discover that it is wrong. Vaclav Havel stated, “The intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden and open pressures and manipulations, should be the chief doubter of systems…he stands out as an irritant wherever he is.”

If you are being vigilant in these things, then taking the humanitarian point of view is necessary. Taking responsibility is a necessity.

These thoughts come from a book of conversations between Aung Sa Suu Kyi and an American Buddhist monk ordained in Burma Alan Clements.

voice of hopeThe Voice of Hope