Monday, 6 January 2014

Books these weeks (6 January, 2014)

Short reviews or comments on books I have finished during these past three weeks. It's been an eventful time - Christmas, New Year, my ankle surgery...
I think I'll start doing monthly summaries from now on and only comment the books that made a particular impression.

The heavyweights:
Naiset ilman maata, 15 kertomusta ("Women without a country, 15 stories")
by Sonja Hellman

15 stories of immigrant women in Finland. What they have in common is that they're all Muslims and that they live in Finland now. Otherwise, they have very varied backgrounds: their countries of origin include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Morocco and Iraq. They have come to Finland at different ages and in different ways (refugee, work-based immigration, marriage), and so their experiences also vary quite a lot. Some have learnt the language and found work, others have had more difficulties. Most have encountered some kinds of prejudice or racism.
This book is important in giving them a voice, a chance to share their experiences. For me, it was an eye-opener. Being a native citizen, I don't usually encounter the difficulties they have had. I want to keep my eyes open, to be aware of these issues, and whenever I meet a person from a different background to my own, I want to see the unique person behind the outward appearance - not a stereotype.

Half the Sky: How to Change the World
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn

What can I say. Another eye-opener.
What made the reading experience especially poignant for me was the surroundings. I ended up reading the first half of the book at the hospital waiting room, in between blood tests, x-rays and seeing the doctors. The second half I read at the hospital ward after my ankle surgery. What a contrast to read about women crawling for miles in search of medical help and dying when they don't get it, when I was receiving excellent care myself.

In the "finally finished" category of heavyweights: 
Usko, tiede ja Raamattu by Tapio Puolimatka. 
This is a heavyweight by size (over 500 pages) and by subject matter: philosophy of science and looking at various methods and basic assumptions in theology and biblical criticism. I had been slowly working my way through this for most of last year and finally finished it during the Christmas break. Interesting, but requires a lot of brainwork from the reader, too.

On the lighter side:
Fried Eggs with Chopsticks: Around China by Any Means Possible
by Polly Evans
Polly travels around China by bus, by train, by riverboat, by mule... I quite liked the book. Her honest acknowledgement of the difficulties of travelling in a culture very different to your own stroke a chord with me:
Eating a fried egg with chopsticks, I thought as I sat on the bus to Nanjing some hours later, bears small-scale similarities to the greater trials of travelling round China as a foreigner. It is frustrating and frequently ludicrous. Sometimes it is funny. Small tasks take infinitely longer than they ought. You look ridiculous, often. But in the end, pride shattered, patience tried and seemingly against all odds, you do in fact arrive. And then somebody comes along smiling and points out the easier route you should have taken.

Minu Kreeka 
by Ester Laansalu
The title means "My Greece": an Estonian tourist guide tells of her life and work in Greece.
I've read quite a few of books in the Estonian "Minu" series, because I enjoy getting these personal perspectives on different countries and cities. In this one, I particularly liked the glimpses into the lives of Greek people and also the stories of discovering new places to visit. The islands she describes sound heavenly. Perhaps one day...

No comments:

Post a Comment