Thursday, April 22, 2010

An exploration through literature

Generally I'd like to think that I keep an okay tab of what's going on in the news. But, this hasn't always been the case, and as a result, there are some things I know embarrassingly little about. The conflict in Israel and Palestine is one of them.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of those things you always just know exists but don't think too much about, like we've grown accustomed to hearing about it but without really registering what it still means. We forget that it's a very real part of some people's daily lives. The conflict been going on for so long that it almost doesn't seem to matter how it began—so much has happened in the past 60 years that just keeps fueling the tension between the two sides.

I just watched a documentary called Promises that followed a handful of Jewish and Palestinian children in Jerusalem from 1997-2000. Though these kids lived only minutes apart from each other, their worlds were completely divided. None of them had friends of the opposite culture. Most of them wanted peace. And each of them felt their cause was the "right" one. I loved this movie. Without getting bogged down by too much history or details, the filmmakers were able to illustrate the complexities of the conflict by peering into the lives of kids—individuals who have a voice that is rarely heard on the subject. Sanabel, a Palestinian pre-teen, said it best, with something like, "We didn't choose war. War chose us."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually an issue that I keep running into lately in my literary adventures. My book club selection a couple months ago was School for Love, a novel that takes place in Jerusalem right after World War II and right before the beginnings of turmoil, when both sides were living (fairly) peacefully side by side as refugees from the war. The book didn't delve into the politics too much—it was a character-driven novel—but it got me thinking.

Then I read this review by Amanda at The Zen Leaf on Mornings in Jenin, which inspired me to find some literature on the subject. Then I saw Promises. And today, I saw this story on NPR about Kai Bird's Gate. So I think the forces of the universe are leading me one direction, and I am officially inspired to read about things I know little about.

This illustrates, without a doubt, my favorite thing about books. This is why I think they are so magical. Oftentimes, I don't necessarily feel like I learn anything from the books I read, but then I think, "Well, the phrase 'book-smart' must mean something." And this is it. Maybe I don't get the full picture about every situation, but books give the reader a perspective. It's a glimpse into a way of life that you probably don't live, and that knowledge is priceless. So while I may not be a history buff, I know a little about Mormonism, or WWII, or bird-watching, or what it's like to be of mixed race.

What are your favorite places books have taken you? Is there any subject you really want to explore through literature? I feel like I need to expand the voices I read. Give me some suggestions!

1 comment:

Emily said...

After reading "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts I ended up in Mumbai for a wedding, the whole book + real experience made a strong impression on me and I started being intrigued by indian authors. I recommend "Swimming Lessons: and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag" by Rohinton Mistry and "Untouchable" by Mulk Raj Anand.