Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two touching books

I've mentioned before that I read a lot of literary fluff. But I do try to read at least one thought provoking book each month. In the past few weeks, I've been on a deep literature kick and wanted to share two nonfiction books that profoundly touched me.

The first is Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine. This book is written for the middle grades, approximately grades 4 to 9. A teacher friend loaned me this book to read and I am definitely adding to to my classroom library. It is the story of a young girl killed during the Holocaust and how her suitcase ended up in a Holocaust remembrance museum in Japan. It is a quick, easy read. You come to know Hana through the stories and pictures in the book. You also learn about the journey this museum in Japan took to find out about Hana and her life. It is very touching story of one little girl and a good overview of the Holocaust. Although I knew Hana would die during the course of the book, I came to know her. She was a beautiful young girl exposed to awful acts and the worst of man kind. The book is not detailed in terms of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, but is good for middle grade readers who want to learn more.

The second book is Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza. This story is much too intense for a younger audience and is definitely meant for adults. It is the true story of Imaculee's survival during the 1993 Rwandan genocide. Imaculee's family was horribly slaughtered during this genocide, along with 1 million other Tutsi tribal members. Imaculee miraculously survived by hiding in a bathroom with seven other women in a pastor's house. More than just a story of the genocide, it is her story of faith and how she came to have a better relationship with God and forgive the killers. Although I am of a different faith than Imaculee, I was very moved by her story and her faith. She taught me important lessons of forgiveness and faith without fear.

I didn't intend to read two books related to separate holocausts when I started out. I picked up the second book on a whim while at the library this past weekend. I had watched the movie Hotel Rwanda a few months ago, and seeing a book on the same subject as that movie caused me to read it. I didn't expect how profoundly reading these two books on similar subjects in a short amount of time would affect me. I came away questioning human nature, but resolved even more to teach my son and any future children to love people of all races, religions, creeds, and nationalities.

Both of these atrocious holocausts happened because of hate. One would think the Holocaust and the killing of 6 millions Jewish people would be lesson enough. I would think it would teach people not to hate a group of people based on their skin color, their religion, their heritage, their life style, or anything else. But that is not the case. Less than 50 years later, another million people are killed in Africa for no other reason than the tribe they belong to. I am sickened and amazed at how quickly hatred can spread. I cannot comprehend how people can turn on another group of people and justify, whether to the public or in their own minds, the annihilation of a group of people. I do not understand how human kind can treat another person in such wicked ways. And I hope I can never comprehend or understand, because then I might be able to become like the people who commit such horrors.

What I can take from these books is knowledge. A knowledge of what hatred and prejudice can do when embraced and spread throughout a society. I hope that if ever faced with such pervasive hatred, I can stand up to it, not turn a blind eye and let it happen. Although I teach English, I actually majored in history. History is one of the best teacher's there is. I hope I can take these lessons from history and stand up for what is right. I hope I can raise Camden and any future children to love all of humankind, despite their differences. I hope that by having read these two books, I can become a better person, more filled with faith and a love for all of God's children.

Do you have a book that has touched you or taught you something important? Share it with me. I want to keep up with this deeper reading for awhile!


Nettie said...

The book that came to mind is unfortunately no longer in print. It is called the Five Branches of Love and shares the experiences of a Mormon pioneer family as they are persecuted by angry mobs, torn from homes which were then burned and tarred and feathered. And how they then fled out west and rebuilt their lives. Another sad example of people treating others poorly because of who they are or what they believe.

Vlyb said...

Great blog...very interesting read! Thanks for sharing those books and thoughts.

I just read "The Cancer Journals" by Audre Lorde, very moving and very intense. This is her personal experience with cancer and the bonds of sisterhood and family that pulled her through.

Carrie said...

What a great post. I may have to check those two books out to read. Books, there are so many that have touched my life. The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the first ones that came to mind. I have read tons of biographies. I LOVE them. They have all touched my life in some form or another. Learning about people is so fascinating.

JD said...

That is so wierd I just posted today about my summer reading list. Thanks for the post and reviews.

I have never cried so hard during a movie in my life as I did in Hotel Rwanda. I couldn't handle a book about it too. I will check out the other one though!

Gabriela said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I am going to check both books out.

Kristen said...

Those sound like great books. I may have to check them out, and have my step son who is going into 3rd grade check out the book for the younger audience.

The prejudice that still remains in this world is an awful thing and it is amazing that it is still around. I'm sure it always will be until the end of time, as sad as it is.

Thanks for the great book suggestions. Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions to offer right now. I just finished a Danielle Steel book and my most recent People magazine. I need to start reading some more important things and less "fluff".