Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Books: Afghanistan and Washington, D.C.

#1 -- A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar is a very interesting, captivating, and sometimes awful book. This is Omar's own story of his childhood and growing up years in the midst of war in his country. He was old enough to remember experiencing happy, peaceful life as a young child, then as Russia invades, and then civil war erupts, they suffer through unspeakable atrocities. I lost count of the number of times he faced death and managed to slip away from its clutches. He was witness to some horrendous things, which still haunt him today. I kept waiting for a "happy ending," but knowing the current events and recent history of Afghanistan, I didn't have high hopes.

I loved reading about Afghan life, family life, Muslim life, and getting a look into another culture which we in the west know very little about. Omar's family could be any family anywhere, with the usual sibling rivalries and joys and sorrows, but add to that the struggle to grow up during wartime, and for the parents, struggling to keep the family alive and together. Fascinating book.

#2 -- The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood was a disappointing book. I was hoping for insights into the life and "soul" of the White House butler (made famous by the recent movie), but this book was mostly about the author's meeting the butler, writing an article about him, the excitement after publication of his article, the making of the movie including writing of the screenplay, casting, funding, and shooting. There's also a short history of the role of African Americans in film. The best part of the book was the insert of photographs of the butler and some of the famous people he met through his work.

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