Category: literature

summer reading

I’ve been reading a lot so far this summer, or trying to anyways. During school I found it too difficult to get myself to open a book; by the end of the day I just wanted to sleep. Okay midday I wanted to sleep. Okay okay, I was so tired I didn’t even want to get out of bed some days. But, now that school is done, I’ve made it a goal to always have a book on the go.

About a week ago now, I — unsurprisingly — dropped my phone in the toilet. It was the second time I’ve done that, and I sure hope it’s the last. Needless to say I had a few days without the ol’ smartphone.

I was a little worried, considering my shameful phone dependency. It seems whenever I was bored, I was on my phone. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Always scrolling. It got to a point where I would pick up my phone and open up apps out of habit.

I went a day without a phone before I popped my SIM card into my boyfriends old Sony Ericsson. It didn’t have all the conveniences of my toilet-water soaked iPhone, but it allowed for phone calls and text messaging.

Without the distractions of the iPhone apps, instead of picking up my phone, I picked up a book. Paragraph by paragraph I filled up my spare time, rather than picture by status update. It was so refreshing.

It was a lesson learned on my terrible phone habits.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still a millennial, and after a few days I headed down to the mall and got myself a brand new iPhone 5C (which I like a lot). That said, I have taken a good look at my app-scrolling ways, and I’d like to think I’ve made a change. At the very least I’ve cut back. These days, instead of picking up my phone, I opt to pick up a book.

If you’re looking for something to read this summer, here are some of the books I’ve recently read:

photo 3 (4)The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich —  This book inspired the feature film “The Social Network.” It tells the story of how Facebook came to be, through various inside sources. I saw the movie before I started reading the book, and the two were actually pretty similar. I love me some Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake, but this book was very good, so it’s hard to say which I preferred. A nice and easy read, though.

 

 

photo 2 (5)The Parabolist by Nicholas Ruddock —  I very much enjoyed this book. Based in Toronto in 1975, this novel is an interesting mix between comedy, mystery and poetry. Ruddock’s writing style was very unique (I know I shouldn’t use that word), in a poetic sort of way. I couldn’t help being distracted by his use of punctuation — and I liked it. It’s the same story told through multiple characters perspective. Not what I was expecting at all, but in a good way.

 

 

photo 1 (3)A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore —  I’m more of a journalistic, biography type girl, and this kind of book just isn’t something I would normally pick up. It’s about a man who becomes Death. I’ll admit, if I only read the back, there’s no way I would have read it — but I’m glad I did. I actually laughed out loud on multiple occasions. It was well-written and entertaining, and it reminded me that books don’t need to be so serious. I definitely recommend it, and I’m looking forward to reading more by Christopher Moore.

 

photo 1 (3)I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali — My mother recommended me this book. A sad story told short and sweet in 188 pages. The true story is pretty obvious — a different title would have allowed for a little mystery — but definitely worth a read. In 2008, this young Yemeni child was married off to a man she hadn’t even once met. I was so invested in the story from the beginning, I tore through that book in a day. I will admit the writing wasn’t the best, but hey, it was a powerful story.

 

 

photo 2 (3)American On Purpose by Craig Ferguson — I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of Craig Ferguson. Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against the guy, he’s just never attracted my attention in a way that would call me a ‘fan.’ I was skeptical when I started reading the book but was impressed to learn he was a very well-read man himself. He’s a good writer with a hell of a lot of good stories to tell. This funny man’s life is nothing short of entertaining, so if you’re into autobiographies like me, give this book a read– whether you’re into Fergie or not.

 

I’m currently reading Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford and The White Masai by Hermine Huntgeburth, with plenty more on the shelf to go (I’m hoping to get through some of the classics!)

If you have any recommendations, shoot them my way!

Happy summer reading!

 

Advertisements

My take: A Thousand Farewells

As far back as, let’s say the seventh grade, I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

I remember watching the evening news with my parents. It was so exciting to see Canadian reporters all over the world sharing stories to us people back home. Unfortunately, most of the stories were of death and destruction — that just seemed to be the nature of things.

Even so, I was fascinated.

I realized the importance of sharing global stories. I wanted to know what was going on overseas, and I wanted others to want to know, too.

I used to watch CNN reporters like Lisa Ling, and I wanted to be her. When I watch Anthony Bourdain travel the world and report on “Parts Unknown,” I think ‘Man, can I take over your job when you retire?’ And when guest speaker Michel Cormier came to speak at Red River College last semester about his book The Legacy of Tiananman Square, I was captivated by his stories.

So naturally, when I realized we were assigned to read A Thousand Farewells by Nahlah Ayed — a CBC foreign correspondent — for our photo 2 (3)journalism class, I was looking forward to it.

An inside look into a journalist’s experience in a fallen Baghdad? Awesome.

Although the stories in the book are sad and often times unpleasant, they’re important.

As a future journalist and wannabe foreign correspondent, an accurate depiction of what this job entailed was never really clear. I knew that being so close to war would be dangerous and devastating, but I never really thought about all the difficulties a foreign correspondent could face doing the job they loved. Her personal struggles really helped me see the realities of being a journalist overseas, and what that career could look like for me.

She had to make a lot of tough calls, and her safety was often called into question. Is talking to this person when they’re clearly distraught worth the story? Do I leave out pertinent information from my stories so audiences back home will get it? Do I stay in a place where bombs are going off around me?

Ultimately, Ayed had to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, and I appreciate her honesty. Because, it was obviously just me being naive, but PTSD isn’t something you think about when you’re young and dreaming about telling stories abroad.

However, aside from my personal interest in her life story, what made the book such a powerful read were the real-life stories. When a global news story gets covered, that is often what’s missing. The evening news snippets and articles in our local newspaper are quick to show footage and photographs of explosions and give us death toll numbers, but they lack the raw, real-life stories Ayed masterfully shares in her book.

And that is really unfortunate.

As Ayed says in the book, “People are the story.”

Although the dates, countries, religions and history are all important to any journalistic piece, it’s not what makes the story captivating. Ayed reminds journalists people are driven to stories that make them feel something.

And I think that’s why I enjoyed this book. Not only did I learn about the Middle East’s — at times extremely confusing — history, and gain insight into a mysterious possible career, but I felt something.

If the book was missing anything, it was a clear genre. Was it memoir? Was it a history book? Was it a journalistic piece on a series of interviews? I’d like to say she had a good mixture of all three, but some chapters were extremely history heavy — which at times was difficult to follow — and the overall flow wasn’t always there.

And, the only thing I can say for sure that I didn’t like was the timeline. The chapters jumped back and forth, and had she written them in chronological order, it would have been a much easier read.

While I was about halfway through A Thousand Farewells, I took an evening off from reading and watched a documentary on death squad leaders in Indonesia called The Act of Killing.  The film focuses on the story of Anwar Congo and his friends as they helped the military kill more than one million communists in less than one year, in 1965.

The film was similar to the book I left at home, because, like the book, I was unaware of much of the history. However, with the film I was left with a clear understanding of what 1965 Indonesia looked like. Unlike the book, I thought the film did an excellent job of weaving in important dates, names and history.

And who knows, maybe that was because of the difference in media platforms, or maybe it was just the overall complicated history of the Middle East, it’s hard to say.

The film and the book really reminded me how the stories of foreign countries that make it to our TV screens and newspapers more often than not tend to be sad ones. They tend to be stories of death, destruction, human rights violations, political messes, etc. — and both had their fair share of that.

But what the film lacked that A Thousand Farewells didn’t, was the beauty behind it all.

Although the Middle East wasn’t a safe place, bombs were going off, a lot of its buildings had been destroyed, and a sad story could be found around every corner, Ayed came to love it. She was sad to leave. She was affected by it’s people and their stories.

But what I think affected me most about the story is that it reiterated the kind of journalist that I want to be.

I want to be the kind of journalist who can find the beauty in the seemingly un-beautiful. I want to be the kind of journalist who can make those tough calls and put myself in uncomfortable situations. And I want to be the kind of journalist who can share a person’s story and make others feel something.

Because that’s what good journalism is all about, right?

THIN AIR 2013

This year marks the seventeenth annual THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival. This bilingual festival features Canadian and international writers sharing their work through book readings, poetry slams, lectures, and more.

This festival features events that appeal to different audiences, as they vary widely in content and are featured in different locations around the city including: the Millennium Library, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and the Park Theatre. “If you don’t like one, you’re probably going to like the next one.” said Charlene Diehl, the festival Director.

This year, the festival is expecting an attendance of 5,000-6,000 people—a number that’s been growing every year. “I think our real expansion effort is in expanding our audience, not necessarily expanding the festival. I think as an event, it’s a really, really great size,” said Diehl.

If you don’t know where to start, Diehl has some suggestions. “As a point of entry, I would recommend the Forewords show.” This show features Genni Gunn and The Winnipeg Poetry Slam Team on Saturday September 21 at the Free Press News Café. “That evening wraps up with a haiku death match; it’s crazy-fun.”

Another must-see according to Diehl is Columpa Bobb and her Urban Indigenous Theatre Company at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain on opening night. They will be performing excerpts from The Moving Gallery: Beyond Survival. “It’s about the lives of Aboriginal youth in our city, and the challenges but also the resilience of those kids and their efforts to find ways around the roadblocks of drugs and gangs and poverty,” said Diehl. “I think that’s going to be one of those nights where we all just take a big breath at the end of it and say: Wow, that was memorable.”

Jim Nason, a returning writer to the festival, said that he “can’t wait” to get back. “What I know about Winnipeg and THIN AIR is that the entire city is somehow involved—everywhere you go during this wonderful festival (the mall or the street or the library) Winnipeg is about celebrating great literature and having fun. There’s no pretention and there’s a spirit of generosity unlike anywhere in the world.” Nason will be at Red River College’s Roblin Centre on Sept. 26 at 3:00pm reading from his new novel “I Thought I Would Be Happy.”It’s free and open to the public, so be sure to come on down.

THIN AIR runs from Sept. 20-28. To find your way around, an event guide can be found at McNally Robinson or at any Winnipeg Public Library. Inside you will find writer biographies, times, locations and ticket prices.

For more information on this event, check out their website.

 

“Slave”

I just finished reading the novel “Slave,” written by a woman from Sudan named Mende Nazer.

“Slave” is Nazer’s life story. She was born in the Nuba Mountains in South Sudan, where she grew up sheltered from the outside world. One night, when Nazer was around the age of 12, a group of Arabs raided her village — murdering most, raping the women and abducting the children. Nazer was one of the little girls captured, and that night her childhood ended. She was sold to an Arab family as if she was just another object to purchase. She was too young to know any better or to protect herself. The only advice she received from the other slaves she met was to shut up, listen and to do as she was told.

Nazer worked as a slave enduring sexual, physical and mental abuse, as well as poor living conditions, scraps for food, no human affection or outside contacts. She stayed with her owners in Sudan for seven years until the year 2000 when she was sent to live with her owner’s family in London. Nazer remained in captivity until the age of 19 when she finally escaped. In fact, she decided to escape only after she was told by a neighbour that the situation was illegal, and nobody in London was to not receive compensation for their work.

Nazer made it out and is living a safe and healthy life in London. Her dreams of going to school and becoming a doctor may have been stolen from her, but now she is determined to teach others and to shed light on this sad reality.

It’s honestly so sad that this is happening, in the 21st century nonetheless.  How is it that we live in a world where children carry iPhones, people are celebrity-obsessed, it’s the norm to want more more more, AND there is still slavery right under our noses. Wasn’t ‘slavery’ a thing of the past? Apparently not. What we know as slavery or modern-day slavery is very much alive and well.

Why nobody really knows about modern-day slavery is because it IS so hidden. Usually the victims are cut off from the outside world, usually there is a language barrier and usually the victims don’t know their rights. In Nazer’s case, like so many others, she started to develop what we know as Stockholm Syndrome, which is defined as: “Feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.” Since these victims are so isolated, it’s no wonder they start to form some sort of relationship or bond with their captor. Media coverage on slavery is out there, but unless you do your research, you’ll never really know. I will just say that the statistics are shocking and sad. Nazer is just one of the millions who have suffered similar fates, and I applaud her for sharing her story and teaching me.

The fact that modern-day slavery is considered to be a growing crime frightens me. In a world where we know so much, it kills me to think that people can still be so cruel. Furthermore, in a world where we have SO much information readily available to us, it kills me to think that people know so little. Read the newspaper or a book. Watch the news. Take advantage of these outlets. Unfortunately, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to issues plaguing this world, because they can all seem far too overwhelming. Some say it’s better to not know because we “can’t fix it anyways.” In my opinion, we gain nothing from ignorance. Knowledge is power, and the more people are aware of the terror that occurs in parts of this world, the chances of change become much greater.

Most importantly, if there is one thing I can say after reading this book, it is to be grateful. Appreciate the things you have. Appreciate life. Appreciate and cherish freedom, because not everyone can.

 

photo