Tag Archives: Hope

“Lullabies for Little Criminals”: where’s the love?

This is one of those books that you love because the writing is phenomenal, not because of the content. In fact, this was a tough book to read and made me feel uncomfortable for wanting to know what will happen next. I truly enjoyed the skills of Heather O’Neill and I can see why Lullabies for Little Criminals is a Canadian must-read.

lullabies

Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Lullabies-Little-Criminals-Heather-ONeill/dp/0060875070

My thoughts about this book are a bit scattered. It provoked a lot of thought and a lot of questions. Also, self-examination. So, please forgive the jumpiness of this blog as I skip between ideas.

The scene that angered me the most was when she shows up at her boyfriend’s house. Her dad locked her out, she just got into a fight with a friend that she usually crashes over night with, and her only options are to be helped by Xavier’s parents, freeze outside, or return to her pimp. I was so angry and self-righteous when Xavier’s parents shut the door in her face. Couldn’t they see that she needed help? I have a friend who took in and basically adopted her son’s girlfriend because she needed support and family. Even after they broke up, by friend still supported her son’s ex-girlfriend. I also think of the TV show My So-Called Life, where the teacher takes in Ricki because no one else wants to go near him. Where is the risky compassion? Where is the sacrificial help? But then I think to myself, where is my risky compassion? Where is my sacrificial help? It’s easy to watch others and make judgement. It’s not so easy to actively help others.

saint

Source: https://onsizzle.com/i/everybody-is-a-saint-when-they-talk-about-someone-elses-10448484

Baby is an interesting character. She enjoys learning and tries hard at school. She often describes scenes where she is doing her homework in questionable situations and locations. At one point, she ends up in advanced classes and flourishes. Yet her living situation means that she doesn’t have a stable location to put her belongings, she doesn’t have consistent routines and activities, and she doesn’t have a reliable support network. As a teacher, this broke my heart. It’s so hard to see a student who is bright and eager to learn miss out on the challenge of learning because they can’t focus on the learning. baby has to look after her dad, navigate her neighbourhood, deal with the trauma of thinking drugs and prostitution are just a normal part of life. Heartbreaking. As a reader, I wanted to jump in and save Baby because O’Neill did such a brilliant job of narrating Baby’s character. The innocence of her situation and the ignorance of her plight makes her so lovable. She is trying her best in what she believes is a normal situation.

That being said, I couldn’t help but think that the ending was a bit too good, a bit too saviour-like. Baby and her father drive off into the sunset to live with her dad’s family in the country. If only every story of tragedy had this mysterious family help.  I think of Jane Eyre whose long-lost uncle leaves her loads of money and she is set for life. I think of the girl from The Wonder who is whisked away into a new life with new parents. Yes, these characters deserve all good things, yet that’s not the reality for the majority of people in these situations. If you want proof, look at the stats. Over 30,000 Canadian young people were experiencing homelessness at some point last year. Over 30,000 young people. Teens. That number is disturbing and tragic. Not all of those stories end happily. Although to be fair, we don’t know the ending of Baby’s story but we leave with hope.

youth-homeless1

Source: http://www.charliesfreewheels.ca/2014/11/25/job-opportunities-essential-alleviate-youth-homelessness/

One thing I truly appreciated about O’Neill’s book is the transition she lets Baby witness. Baby notices a few time that since she started to look less like a kid, she was treated differently. Poor, homeless kid: aw, poor dear. Poor, homeless teen: get a job and grow up. I think that this is true and hard to hear: we judge teens as adults, when really they are still kids. This is one thing I have learned teaching jr high and high school: pre-teens and teens still need adult support, whether they see it that way or not. That’s the saddest part about the book for me, is Baby realizing that she is treated differently and is almost stuck. She hasn’t changed and her situation hasn’t changed, but the perception and judgements of others have. This is why I think that O’Neill’s book is so well written: she taps into something that we know about ourselves, and even though we may not have had similar experiences to Baby, we have all had similar moments of clarity and sadness for the passing of our own childhoods.

So overall, I truly loved this book. It got me thinking and it got me feeling. In the end, that’s why we love reading, isn’t it?

Advertisements

“The Opposite of Loneliness”: positivity is real strength

A friend at work lent me Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories and I devoured it! I found Keegan’s writing entertaining and at times she actually had me feeling feelings.

keegan

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Opposite-Loneliness-Essays-Stories/dp/147675361X

The essay about Keegan’s mom obsessing over Keegan’s Celiac disease, baking and calling manufacturers, actually made me cry. My Mom does everything she can to make sure that I’m not sick. And often, she’ll talk about the past and make comments that she was poisoning me. I can’t imagine what she feels that she would beat herself up for not knowing better. She didn’t know and I wouldn’t ever think of holding her accountable for my childhood illnesses. We didn’t know. That’s why I cried reading Keegan’s essay “Against the Grain.” I know that my mom does everything possible to help me, even when I don’t ask for the help. That level of love is something I’ve never experienced. Thanks, Mom.

I think this is why I devoured Keegan’s writing; I connected with her voice and with her subject matter. It was a voice similar to my own. I can’t find the passage again, yet I think in one of her fiction pieces she describes a woman feeling almost helpless in her anxiety, not wanting to leave her bed or wander in the mall with her mom. I get that. I also really enjoyed her essay “Why We Care About Whales.” In this piece she asks the question of why humans got to such extremes to save animals, yet we don’t save each other. That’s a heavy question and one worth digging into deeper.

humans

Source: http://wwf.panda.org/?229330/Peoples-Climate-March-to-put-leaders-on-notice

When my friend lent me this book, she said that her Mom, how is also a writer, didn’t like Keegan’s writing. I suppose I can see that. Keegan’s voice is unique and I think a little young, yet with clarity into some dark sides of humanity. I suppose I liked her writing because part of me still holds on to my idealism, some days more passionately and fiercely than others. In all honesty, I hope that I am as honest and hopeful as Keegan: she doesn’t candy-coat life, yet she has the energy and the newness to not give in to pessimism and doubt. Fresh and ideal, yet willing to take on life’s hard questions.

quote

Source: http://quoteaddicts.com/topic/idealism-and-realism-quote/

We all know that it is easier to be negative and see the mistakes and the failures. Yet it takes someone who is strong and hopeful to see the negative and make the choice to think, see, act, and talk in the positive. I’ve been learning a lot about growth mindset this year at work and I can see how it helps students grow beyond what they, and others, thought was possible.

How do we hold onto our hope and positive thinking when life is hard and people are mean and cruel and the reality of the earth dying overwhelms us. I believe that positive people are not unaware; they know full well how the world truly is because they see it. The strength of the positive person is that they are able to muster up positivity and light and they are willing to share that with others. That takes real strength. And I find that the people who have had a hard life and are still positive are the people who have healed.

quote.2

Source: http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/scar.html

So thank you to my friend, and a big thank you to Marina Keegan and her family and friends who published her work.

 

“Salt to the Sea”: healing through story

I was chatting with some friends recently and we were talking about the idea that after a while, there might be a burn-out of how many WWII novels and movies we can consume. What about the other wars? Or, is it that WWII has left its mark on the world and it’s something we are still trying to fully understand. There are millions of stories that we haven’t heard yet because everyone’s experience was different. During this conversation, I had just started to read Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. What a great novel! And I have to say that I found it didn’t just retell the same stories I’ve heard or read before. It was something new. Terrible, yet new.

salt

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25614492-salt-to-the-sea

Salt to the Sea is the story of three young people caught up in the war and all trying to find hope and freedom in the docks. Thousands of people are trying to escape the Germans and Russians and end up getting onto refugee boats seeking safety. I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff ship disaster before, but in fact I feel that I should have. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff caused more loss of life than the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic sunk because of hitting an iceberg, whereas the Wilhelm Gustloff, full of mostly women and children and injured men, was torpedoed by the Russians.

Just looking at images online was heartbreaking.

wilhelm.1

Source: https://www.welt.de/geschichte/zweiter-weltkrieg/article136893332/Der-Trinker-der-die-Wilhelm-Gustloff-versenkte.html

wilhelm.2

Source: https://europebetweeneastandwest.wordpress.com/tag/wilhelm-gustloff/

wilhelm.3

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/142567144425047906/

wilhelm.4

Source: http://worldwartwo.filminspector.com/2016/01/sinking-of-wilhelm-gustloff.html

wilhelm.5

Source: https://www.zyjepodwoda.pl/en/wrak-wilhelm-gustloff-morze-baltyckie/

The novel is told from the point of view of four different characters. Each character has a unique story, yet they all end up seeking safety on this ship. One young man is running from the Nazis because of something he stole from a prominent Officer. One young woman is running because she is trying to be reunited with her family after being given permission to stay in Germany because of her skills as a nurse. Another younger woman is running away from both the Germans and the Russians because of her nationality. And the last young man is a German officer who is desperately trying to prove himself as courageous without actually doing anything that requires sacrifice. This cast of misfits intertwine with each other and use and help each other in order to get onto the boat.

Like all war stories, this one has a tragic ending for all involved, even those who survive the wreck. Those who survive are fortunate, yet have to live with the visions of seeing hundreds of people, fellow passengers and asylum seekers, die in the waters around them.

I can’t help but think about all of these people who survived and how they most likely spent their lives living with post-traumatic stress disorder. And not only that, but this book made me start to think about intergeneration trauma: trauma that is transmitted to next generations.

In an article in Psychology Today by Molly Castelloe, she includes this thought:

Transmission is the giving of a task. The next generation must grapple with the trauma, find ways of representing it and spare transmitting the experience of hell back to one’s parents. A main task of transmission is to resist disassociating from the family heritage and “bring its full, tragic story into social discourse.” (Fromm, xxi)

So perhaps we need stories about WWII because we aren’t finished sharing the trauma and the stories. Perhaps people like my parents, who both had fathers in WWII, need to write and produce art that still tells the stories of their parents. Perhaps a world that is afraid of another war, because Veterans from WWII and the Vietnam, Korean, and Gulf Wars, needs to share and tell stories about WWII in order to carry the trauma into the future in order to find healing. In a world that is in desperate need of healing, perhaps stories are the way to healing.

story

Source: http://izquotes.com/quote/342421

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” -Phillip Pullman

 

“The Back of the Turtle”: gentle reminder

Thomas King is a brilliant storyteller.  I wished for two things reading this novel: one, that he was telling it to me over a course of meetings over coffee or a meal, and two, that it wouldn’t end.  The world and characters he created were so life-like and curious that I was slowing down near the end of the book to make it last longer.

backoftheturtle-thumb-175x267-378206

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/books/2014/09/thomas-king-discusses-the-back-of-the-turtle.html

In the novel, a First Nation on the West Coast is completely destroyed by a newly created bacterium, GreenSweep.  Not used properly, GreenSweep kills everything and everyone in its path in the hopes of clearing brush to lay a pipeline. The irony is that the man who helped to create GreenSweep is Indigenous and knew people in the Reserve that was completely destroyed.  How do you seek forgiveness?  How do you make up for life’s biggest mistakes?

This novel is grounded in the Earth.  It shows the importance of the relationship between people and Earth and what happens when that relationship is taken for granted or exploited?

In the beginning of Barkskins by Anne Proulx, she includes this quotation:

In Anitquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence.  Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated.  By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in the mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. (Lynn White, Jr.)

After years of reading Canadian Indigenous literature, I am still amazed by the generous humour that they employ.  The humour is gracious because the atrocities that have occurred in Indigenous communities is horrible, yet often times authors approach their message with humour, which engages all readers.  We know that satire is one of the most powerful means of bringing about new thoughts and change, yet this story is a gentle humour that is embraces and brings in readers to the story.  The story is then heard by more and thought of more.  Yet, I believe it comes from a generous spirit.

One of the most heartwarming moments for me was the surprise appearance of some Alberta Elders: Narcisse Blood and Leroy Little Bear (pg 119).  I first ‘met’ Narcisse Blood through Elder in the Making, an amazing film that documents Treaty 7 and the people of Southern Alberta. In “Episode 5: A Broken Treaty,” Narcisse Blood talks about his experience in Indian Residential School.  He took an old school and turned it into Red Crow Community College.  The moment that stands out that he says he is a “person that wants to learn.  A persona that respects myself so that I can respect others.  If I can become a human then I can relate to the land better.”  In “Episode 6: Death and Renewal” Narcisse Blood speaks again.  “The land is like our mother…  We don’t take for granted that the sun is going to come up every morning.  We greet the sun because we woke up.  So we wake up and that gives life.  Our non-human relations have rights to be here.  The folly is when we think that man is it.”  The teachings of Narcisse Blood are beautiful and reminded me as I read The Back of the Turtle that as humans we have lost of connection.  In the episode, Narcisse Blood says that our folly is a kind way of saying stupidity.  As humans, we need to reestablish our relationship with our non-human relations.  In Blackfoot culture, they often say the phrase “All my Relations.”  They acknowledge all of creation and honour creation by saying this phrase.

narcisse-at-red-crow

Source: http://elderinthemaking.com/a-triple-tragedy/

Leroy Little Bear is such an important person in Alberta.  He is a Blackfoot scholar is striving to teach us about the connection between humans and the land.  He is also an advocate for justice and works with prisoners and those without means to find justice to work in the system. I know I don’t have permission to say this to make make this judgement, but to me he is a modern day warrior.  He is tenacious, wise, and generous. In a lecture at Congress 2016 in Calgary.  His lecture compares Western metaphysics to Blackfoot metaphysics:”Big Thinking and Rethink Blackfoot Metaphysics: ‘waiting in the wings’.” He talks about the difference between Western and Blackfoot ways of knowing.  In Western culture, we value reason and work around the idea that God’s creation is good and therefore stagnant.  In our thinking, we categorize and run experiments.  We value the objective facts and like creating and finding order out of chaos.  In Blackfoot culture, they think differently and so see the world differently.  As Little Bear says everything is in flux and motion, and the Earth is never stagnant.  People are made of energy waves, and once they die the waves stop but are not gone.  Blackfoot culture sees more in observation and processes.  Blackfoot draws from the idea that chaos is a constant, and ceremonies seek to bring order.  So when a Blackfoot person says “All my relations” they are talking about non-human relations because they see all of Creation as animate.  For Blackfoot people, renewal is essential.  Ceremonies are all about renewal that use the same songs, prayers, stories, and ceremonies to bring order to the chaos.  An essential way of thinking is sustainability.  Little Bear says that Native Science is grounded in sustainability and our work is to engage in the process and action of renewal.  Even the languages show this difference: in English we like nouns and naming things, yet in Blackfoot it’s all about process and actions, movement.  So when we learn, we need to renew, collect, and see the connections, not divide and create dichotomies and cause and effects.  Within the novel, King shows the difference between different creation stories and different ways of working with the Earth.  Little Bear in his lecture talks about how Western thought likes to create prophets, people who can predict what will happen.  That is shown in King’s book how Dorian tries to control and predict how to manage environmental disasters caused by his company.  Yet in the end, it is Creation itself and the chaos she creates that brings the characters together, even strangers, as they seek to push a boat off of the beach.

DSC_9353.JPG

Source: http://theweal.com/2016/03/29/we-are-not-forgotten/

Later in the novel, King references another large personality: “The Donald.”  His character Dorian is the CEO of the company that created GreenSweep and it is his job to try to make the devastation of the use of GreenSweep, and later a tailings pond spill in Northern Alberta near Fort McMurray to go away. As he is looking for a place to eat, he is referred to The Stock restaurant in the Trump Tower on Bay Street.  As he describes his decision, he says this about Trump: “The man was extravagant and arrogant.  A loud-mouthed egotist who gave wealthy people a bad name.  Trump might have been nicer, Dorian speculated, if he had made his fortune on his own rather than having it handed to him by his parents” (Pg 367).  King shows the lack of connect to land.  He shows what happens when people manage nature instead of exist and work with nature.  The thinking is different.  Trying to predict, manipulate, and exploit seemingly stagnant resources shows the complete disconnect to Creation and the different way of seeing it: not as chaotic, but as something ordered and reasonable to gain from.

What happens to communities, people and places, when environmental disasters happen?  Gabriel, the man who created GreenSweep, comes back to his community and becomes part of the people who bring the community back to life.  It’s different, yet they are in it together and connected to the land and the place.  In the end, King offers hope and a way forward.  Nature recovers and is strong, and people are the same, if we just stop to observe.

thomas-king-quote

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-tuesday-sept-2-1.2925685/the-back-of-the-turtle-thomas-king-s-first-literary-fiction-in-15-years-1.2925694

“The Night Stages”: the pain of hope

The last time I read a Jane Urquhart novel I was in the midst of breaking up with my boyfriend.  I was reading Away in a coffee shop waiting for my boyfriend to show up so we could have the talk.  It was terrible.  And here I am again, reading a Jane Urquhart novel, realizing, and now planning, that I need to stop seeing the man I’ve been dating for the last couple of months.  Painful.  Yet, Urquhart’s characters inspire me.

jane-urquhart-the-night-stages

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thenextchapter/david-suzuki-emily-urquhart-and-jane-urquhart-1.3240041/jane-urquhart-on-how-airport-art-inspired-her-latest-novel-1.3240431

In The Nigh Stages, Tam is stuck in the Gander, Newfoundland airport as she is trying to create a new life for herself away from her lover and is stuck waiting for fog to clear.  She is leaving Niall, a married Irish man who gives her just enough hope for a relationship and something real that she continues to be with him.  Niall is looking for his missing brother, Kieran, because he feels guilty for taking all of the things Kieran loves in order to win in life, a bike race and a wife.  All the while, Tam is in the airport remembering and reflecting, looking at the Gander airport’s mural by Kenneth Lochhead, who is also reflecting on how his mural came to be.  This is a novel about humans whose lives become complicated because of missed moments, harsh reality, and painfully persistent hope.

“In the next twenty-four hours Kenneth would come to a full understanding about waiting and its sister, hope, how even as you lie in an empty bed at two o’clock in the morning, even when the room you have rented is yours for only three more morning hours, hope will still cross the room to meet you, if only to keep you turning on the spit.  You argue her away from you only to discover that some semblance of her remains in the shadows where the light of the lamps doesn’t quite reach, or just behind a door where a knock might be heard at any moment…Yes, she was there in the mural, the one significant event that never happened.  The path that hope had walked and the corner that she turned” (Pg 325-26).

The pain that hope gives is worth it when what we are waiting for arrives, or turns up in a positive way we weren’t expecting. Yet the pain of hope can become unbearable when we realize that we are the only ones hoping and waiting, and that our hope is just wasted energy. That significant event that never happened.  As I was reading this story of waiting and expectation, this story of hoping for love in the wrong places, I couldn’t help but think of a song by Stars: “Romantic Comedy.”  In the song, one of the lyrics keeps sticking with me: “I cannot hold on and I cannot let go.”  That place of being stuck in hope: you want to hold on, yet you know it’s time to let go.  That’s where I find myself, which is why I think I can sympathize with Tam, the woman who is settling for half of a relationship because she has hope that it will turn into something more.  Painful hope. It’s hard to let go and take the risk of being alone and missing out on something that might be.  Even the littlest glimpse of hope keeps people holding on longer than they should, me included.  Which is why in the end, I understand Tam and her struggle.

hope

Source: http://www.picturequotes.com/stupid-quotes/7

I will say that Tam was not my favourite character in this book.  The character I liked the most was Kieran, the strange Irish cycler who leaves his home as a child and lives with the family’s house keeper in the country.  He has hopes and dreams and works toward them.  Yet when life takes away his hope (his brother takes his romantic interest and his glory in a cycling race), he continues on doing his own thing.  This reminds me of Ben Howard’s song “Keep Your Head Up.”  He writes: “Lookin’ out at this happiness/ I searched for between the sheets/ Oh feelin’ blind, I realize/ All I was searchin’ for, was me/ All I was searchin’ for was me…Keep your head up, keep your heart strong.”  Kieran was the only character in the novel who was able to move on.  He was the only character with the inner strength to take care of himself first. Yes, he was hurt (just as he was hurt in the cycling race), but he kept going: “It was these things that made him come to know it was morning, and that the day about to break was Wednesday” (Pg 396).

So for now I’m stuck a little, like Tam, waiting for some fog to clear so I can make some hard decisions.  Yet I don’t want to let my hope for something more turn into a fear of something less.  More hope, less fear!  Love for self, less for something that doesn’t exist yet.

love-self

Source: http://www.cindygcastillo.com/life-advice/2015/10/19/and-if-i-asked-you-to-name-all-the-things-that-you-love-how-long-would-it-take-for-you-to-name-yourself

“Half-Blood Blues”: music will save the world

I just finished reading Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan and I understand now why it was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Governor General’s Award.  At first I was concerned that the style of the voice might get in the way of the story, but it didn’t.  This book is beautifully written!

halfblood

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/02/living/esi-edugyan-author-interview/

As a teenager I found learning about the World Wars worked best for me through story, through fiction.  For my final ISU (Independent Study Unit) in Grade 13, I chose to compares And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat and The Wars by Timothy Findley.  I was fascinated by the real, human experiences of war and the different points of view.  Reading fiction helped me to better understand the effects and the consequences of the facts I was learning in class.  I truly wish that Esi Edugyan had written her novel Half-Blood Blues 14 years ago!

I love jazz and I love the blues.  I remember in while I was in high school I wouldn’t let my Dad listen to the smooth jazz station because I told him it was imitations, weak imitations, or something real.  Instead, I made him listen to the crackly jazz station from Toronto that played REAL jazz.  I also loved the blues.  I ended up taking a guitar class my last year of high school to fill some open credits.  For the class, we had to research a famous guitarist and I chose Eric Clapton, Slowhand.  To this day, I still love listening to jazz and blues and any band that throws back to these classic styles I enjoy as well.

clapton

Source: http://www.last.fm/music/Eric+Clapton

Throughout the novel, Edugyan moves slow.  The narrative is smooth, yet there are moments that shock you and pull you back into the slow unwinding of the story.  Sid, Chip, and Hiero are jazz musicians during World War II and somehow they end of playing together in Europe.  Other members of the band disappear because they are Jewish or forced to stay in Germany while these three flee to Paris with the help of Louis Armstrong.  It seems surreal, yet Edugyan shows the pain and the suffering, the uncertainty and the fear through not only their interactions with each other, but also through their music.  As we learn more about these characters, we start to understand more of this period of history from a different angle: Hiero’s father is an African soldier brought up to Germany, and so he is a mixed-race German.  Sid and Chip are Americans, over in Europe touring and happen to get caught up in the war, yet are paranoid that they will disappear next because of their skin colour.

jazz

Source: http://www.nj.com/entertainment/music/index.ssf/2008/05/a_jazz_party_to_remember.html

Edugyan is able to share some insights into Europe at the outbreak of World War II from a different angle and I truly enjoyed her style.  She took something horrific, and brought it into the world of jazz, much like America was doing to protest against the Jim Crow Laws and extreme racism.  At one point in the novel, Louis Armstrong wants the guys to play a German song as a show of defiance.  Armstrong feels that it is necessary, and something that he can do to protest and bring attention to horrors of what was happening in Germany.  Like in every generation, it is the artists who stand up and bring truth to the public.  It is the artists who risk everything to share what is right.  As I reflect on the US election and the pain and division in most of the Western world, I can’t help but believe that it will be the artists who bring us back to our humanity.

freedom

Source: http://digital.inplaceofwar.net/various-political-messages-through-art

“I guess mercy is a muscle like any other. You got to exercise it, or it just cramp right up.” (Esi Edugyan)

“Do no be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)

music

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/SaraRivers13/music-saves-lives-33/

 

“Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight”: both sides now

My cousin lent me Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller. What an adventure! Fuller tells the story of her adventures as a European girl growing up around different acreages and cities around Africa. Loss of family members, fear of rebels, a mother with mental illnesses, and every thing in between made Fuller’s story hard to put down, and hard to believe at times!

24687

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24687.Don_t_Let_s_Go_to_the_Dogs_Tonight

I found it interesting how the colonial connections to Canada were there in the book.  At one point, Fuller writes about how King Lobengula of the Matabeles in 1888 was tricked into surrendering mineral rights to the British South African Company (Pg 150).  Suddenly white settlers were moving in and Africans were given places to live, reserves (Tribal Trust Lands).  So it seems the work they did in Canada to move European settlers onto Aboriginal lands helped them in doing something completely similar in other areas of the world, especially Rhodesia.

African_map

Source: https://period6-5imperialism10.wikispaces.com/home

While I was reading Fuller’s book, by Dad lent me the memoir of another African, this time a man who survived being a child soldier: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.

a-long-way-gone1

Source: http://gcc.concernusa.org/uncategorized/a-long-way-gone-inspired-song/

Beah’s story is heartbreaking.  He lost his family through extreme violence and didn’t have the option of moving around and finding a new place to set up, like Fuller’s family.  Beah ended up roaming around Sierra Leone looking for ways to stay alive, yet was recruited into the government army.  He was given drugs, training, and weapons. At 16 he was rescued by UNICEF, yet he didn’t see it as a rescue until much later when he had healed from the physical and psychological damage.

One of the things I found interesting was the use of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  While teaching Julius Caesar last year, I found that many countries in Africa have claimed Julius Caesar and perform it often.  The message of freedom, of fighting for democratic government, and of putting other before the self in politics speaks to several African countries struggling to get free from European control.  Here is a video of Brutus’ speech and then Antony’s speech.  Amazing and challenging!

I have to say that reading these two memoirs back-to-back was very interesting.  What Fuller didn’t notice and only saw as a threat to her life, Beah lived and suffered through.  From a European view and ability to leave, to an African view of destiny and hopelessness for change.

Thank goodness for UNICEF and all those working to end the recruitment of child soldiers.  Yet we still have a long ways to go if the reaction to Omar Khadr is an indication of National public opinion.  Yet there is hope: Mr. Khadr is now able to play soccer, get treatment for his eye sight, see his family, and begin to live a life that has nothing to do with war.

omar-08569904.jpg

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/omar-khadr-free-on-bail-vows-to-prove-he-is-a-good-person-1.3065692

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?” (Psalm 127:3)

“When I was a child, my grandmother told me that the sky speaks to those who look and listen to it.  She said, ‘In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion.’  That night I wanted the sky to talk to me.” (Beah, Pg 166)

88423464-children

Source: https://www.saddahaq.com/yemens-list-of-shame-child-soldiers-and-death-of-innocents