Read the World

reading the worldBack in December, I wrote about my plans to “Read the World.” The challenge is to read a book from every country in the world in one year.  That seemed pretty unrealistic since I would have to read something like 4 books/week, each from a different country.  Me being me, I decided to do it my way, reading 4 books or so a month.

Yesterday I finished books 4 and 5.  One was an audio book so I “read” those overlapping other books.  Anyway, here’s my list:

  • Afghanistan: The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future by Fawzia Khoofi
  • *Belgium: The War within These Walls by Aline Sax
  • *France: Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, Greg Salsedo
  • *Norway: My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvin Torseter
  • *The United States of America: The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The starred books are children’s books.  What have I discovered so far?  First of all, finding a book from Afghanistan was not easy.  Books about Afghanistan?  Easy peasy.  From?  Not so much.

But this book alone taught me why from is essential.  Fawzia Khoofi is Afghanistan’s first female Parliament speaker.  Yes, in spite of what we think we know about Afghanistan, she is a female political leader.  The speaker is elected within their house of Parliament.  Although there are some women, they are a tiny minority which means that the was elected by men.  By.  Men.  We don’t know half of what we think we know about Afghanistan.  And because of that I suspect that we misinterpret 90% of what we see.

One of the things that I loved about this book and about The War within These Walls, which is about the Warsaw Ghetto, is that neither of these books is about victims.  They are about wolves.  Not sure why that impresses me?  How do we normally think about Jews in World War II?  Women in Afghanistan?

Neither book downplays the negative but both highlight the strength and courage of people showing that they have not been beaten down.  Pretty awesome stuff.

I do question that so many of the book translated into English from Europe are about WWII in general and the Jewish experience in particular.  Is this also the lions share of what is published in Belgium and France?  I have no clue.  Or is that simply what is chosen for translation?  Again, clueless.

I have four more Read the World books here in my reading stack and they kind of drive the point home.

  • France: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi about the revolution in Iran.
  • Germany:  My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve which is about WWII and the Jewish experience.
  • Lebanon: A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached.  War but not WWII.
  • The Netherlands: Soldier Bear by Bibi Bumon Tak which is about WWII.

Hopefully I can balance these with a few books that aren’t about war.  Anyone have any recommendations for books originally published abroad?