On Thursday evening the library's book group discussed Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, by Geraldine Brooks. Australian born Brooks, now an award-winning fiction writer, spent seven years living and working in the Middle East as a foreign correspondent. Instead of allowing herself to become frustrated by the limited opportunities for a woman reporter in a part of the world where men hold all the power, she decided to focus much of her research on the women themselves. Her balanced analysis neither attacks nor apologizes for Islam, shedding light instead on the wide variety of experience in the lives of Muslim women. While there are occasional glimpses of hope, most of what she writes is bleak. Women who have tried to create a more equitable society within their Islamic communities have faced harassment and exile. According to Brooks, the origins of Islam, which actually gave fifth century women more rights, have been corrupted. "I looked everywhere for examples of women trying to reclaim Islam's positive messages," Brooks writes, but there were few to be found.
"At some point every religion, especially one that purports to encompass a complete way of life and system of government has to be called to account for the kind of life it offers the people in the lands where it predominates," she says. Incidents of disenfranched, socially isolated, genitally mutilated women in Islamic countries "come to us from deep in left field. We, as Westerners, have no coherent way to think about them. We shrug. Weird foreigners. Who understands them? Who needs to? And yet...I found that the background noise of Islam remained always there, in the distance, like a neighbor hammering. And eventually I accepted that it was neither possible nor right to ignore it." (p. 227)
Reading and discussing the book gave us a deeper understanding of the lives of Muslim women. "Where do we go from here?" one member asked. "Baby steps," was the answer. We can reach out to and support one another, and we can learn more by talking, reading and exploring the diversity of our own communities. Check out some of these titles from your library's collection:
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. NY: Free Press, 2007.
Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea. New York : Penguin Press, 2007.
Osama [DVD] / United Artists; written, directed and edited by Siddiq Barmak. Santa Monica, CA : MGM Home Entertainment, c2004.
Voices of resistance : Muslim women on war, faith & sexuality. Edited by Sarah Husain. Emeryville, CA : Seal Press, 2006.
The swallows of Kabul, by Yasmina Khadra. New York : Nan A. Talese / Doubleday, 2004.
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books, by Azar Nafisi. New York : Random House, 2003.
Kabul Beauty School : an American woman goes behind the veil, by Deborah Rodriguez ; with Kristin Ohlson. NY: Random House, 2007.
Possessing the secret of joy, by Alice Walker. New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Here she is...our favorite zombie. Halloween was a lot of fun at the library, especially for teens who planned and executed a very successful Halloween party. Twenty-one teens, 14 adults, and 9 children attended the party along with library staff members Anne Murphy, Jackie Collins and Mary Campbell. Mary’s husband, Steve Purcer, made himself very popular with the boys when he produced a cauldron of dry ice for them to experiment with. The mummy contest was a particular highlight, with huge quantities of personal hygiene tissue coming into play. Prizes for best costumes and a kitty litter cake topped off the Friday night after hours program. The teens enjoyed themselves and were already asking “what’s next?” and “can we do this again next year?” The photo is of Anne Murphy, Teen Librarian, in Zombie fashion. She is holding the book Brain Surgery for Beginners. Mary