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Stories don’t mean anything if you’ve got no one to tell them to

August 21, 2009

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I’m currently reading a book called “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight – An African Childhood.” It’s about a white girl who grew up in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe. It’s the third or fourth book I’ve read lately that is a memoir about someone’s childhood. I really enjoy these kinds of books because they are real. I’m becoming more and more convinced that real life is far more interesting than fiction.

The first book I read (and am still reading) was “Reading Lolita in Tehran.” It’s written by an Iranian female who was a professor and eventually quit teaching but started a class that met every week in her home for several years to discuss literature. I haven’t finished it because it’s has a bit too much history and I got bogged down in all the politics. When she was young she grew up in a liberal family where men and women were equal. She lived and taught through the Revolution that has since shoved women back under their veils and into anonymity. It’s fascinating to read these women’s stories and see the lives they fairly currently lead. It makes me feel fortunate to live in a land where I am respected as a woman.

The next book I read was called “Stolen Innocence.” It was by a girl who grew up in the Fundamental Latter Day Saints in Utah and was married to her first cousin, against her will, when she was 14. It tells of her life – one that also started out fairly pleasantly. Her father loved her mother. They went to movies, listened to music, played instruments. Then they came under the rule of the Rulon and Warren Jeffs who eventually became dictators over their souls. Their families were torn apart according to “the prophet’s” whim. She grew up in a culture where plural marriages were applauded. She had about 30 combined siblings. Whenever someone questioned the teachings they were banished and treated as dead. She was taught that when her mother was taken from her father and placed with another man, God changed the children’s DNA so they were actually his children now… It blows my mind what people can be led to believe, but I can somewhat identify. It’s a sad story of her lost childhood, lost siblings, and as the title states – her stolen innocence as she was raped by her husband in the name of the prophet. It makes me feel fortunate to be free of controlling religious teachings.

The next book I read was “The Glass Castle.” This was a story of a girl who grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who didn’t want to be a mother. They lived in poverty and filth much of their lives but were taught to view it as an adventure. Their parents’ taught them to read when they were three so despite moving from city to city in the middle of the night and living in rotting houses with no electricity they were well educated. As a child she always believed in her idealistic father. She and her siblings learned to fend for themselves and stick together. It made me feel fortunate that I never fought my sister over a stick of margarine for a meal.

The book I’m reading right now has the perfect combination of history and memoir. I love Africa and am partial to stories about Africa. She describes the enchantment of Africa – the smells and sounds. She uses words and phrases that I have only ever heard in South Africa. She grew up learning to take a gun apart, put it back together, load it, and shoot it. She tells of war from a child’s point of view. She describes the dry, barren ranches they lived on in such a way that your lips start to get chapped reading about it. She learned to be tough and help round up cattle as a child. She saw death and as I read now is watching her mother have a nervous breakdown after the loss of another baby. It’s a beautiful and sad book. It makes me feel fortunate that I have never lived in a war.

The moral of my story tonight is that I need to read some more cheerful books. These stories are starting to possess my dreams. I cried several times while reading them (in public). I don’t know how people suffer so much loss and still come out alright. It gives a new perspective to having a hard childhood, being mistreated, being poor, working hard, and overcoming a lot.

This is the first time on this trip that I’ve been in the hotel, much less in bed, before midnight. I prefer this over the 3:45 wake up calls, but it still wears on you. I can’t wait to get home tomorrow night.

Currently reading: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight – An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 25, 2009 21:37

    I love the title of this entry. Never thought of that. So true.

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