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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

(I know March isn’t quite over, but I couldn’t wait to share my latest crop of reads with you. Enjoy, and happy weekend!)

A shy shadow by the bookshelf

The Chocolate Pirate Plot, JoAnna Carl
The 10th installment in a fun, fluffy mystery series, set in small-town Michigan (the protagonist runs a chocolate shop, hence the name). The mystery fell a bit flat, but I enjoyed revisiting familiar characters (scatterbrained Texas girl Lee, sweet Aunt Nettie and their husbands and friends), and spending a little time in Warner Pier. Nice to relax with, before bed.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam
Vanderkam insists – as do many time-management experts – that we all have time to do everything we need to do. And after reading this book, I’d tend to agree with her. She claims most people have a poor sense of where their time goes, and encourages readers to keep time diaries to see how they’re spending their 168 hours, so we can figure out how to reclaim the “lost” ones. She admits she’s speaking from a privileged standpoint (as am I), but she has lots of practical suggestions for spending your time more mindfully, efficiently and usefully.

Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
Christy recommended the story of the Waverley women, who all have a bit of magic in them. When prodigal sister Sydney returns to their small town, reserved homebody Claire has trouble letting her back in – but they gradually come to trust each other again, and while Sydney pushes Claire to take a few risks, Claire provides the safety Sydney craves. A wonderful family story, with a dose of magical realism.

The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett
I’d been meaning to read this little novella for a long time, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Queen stumbles onto a mobile library on the Buckingham Palace grounds one day, feels duty-bound to borrow a book, and becomes an avid reader. Which of course throws a wrench into her usual packed schedule, and upsets everyone from her husband to the prime minister! Wry, literary and oh so much fun.

The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico, Sarah McCoy
I loved Sarah’s latest, The Baker’s Daughter, so I checked out her debut novel and enjoyed it too. Eleven-year-old Verdita, growing up in 1960s Puerto Rico, struggles to find her place: will she be a tomboy or a proper senorita? Puerto Rican or American? Lovely, lush details (McCoy has family in Puerto Rico and has visited there many times), and a satisfyingly open ending.

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, Nathan Bransford
I read Nathan’s excellent blog regularly (and if you’re interested in the publishing industry, you should too). I enjoyed his wacky middle-grade tale of Jacob, defeater of substitute teachers, and his two best friends, who fly off in a silver spaceship and wreak havoc on the universe. Good fun (and I bet I’d have liked it even more if I were the target audience!).

Reasons to be Happy, Katrina Kittle
Hannah, plain teenage daughter of two movie stars, is struggling to fit in at her chichi new school while her mother fights cancer. She used to keep a list of reasons to be happy (see title), but turns to an eating disorder when all the other reasons seem to disappear. A graphic description of bulimia, but a powerful story of trying to fit in, fight your demons and learn to ask for help. (And that list – which eventually returns – is wonderful. Kittle’s keeping her own list on her blog.)

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand
I tore through Hillenbrand’s latest, Unbroken, and I thoroughly enjoyed Seabiscuit’s story too. A wonderful evocation of Depression-era America – our huge industry of escapism largely dates from that time – and a fascinating story of three men (owner, jockey and trainer) who helped a runty horse rise to fame. Hillenbrand is a meticulous researcher and a talented storyteller. Highly recommended.

An Irish Country Doctor, Patrick Taylor
I loved this first installment in a series about Barry Laverty, brand-new apprentice doctor to crotchety Dr. F.F. O’Reilly, serving the people of Ballybucklebo, Northern Ireland. A cast of quirky village characters (including a beer-guzzling dog and a demon-possessed cat), a pastoral rural setting (though political issues hover in the background), and strong overtones of both James Herriot and Jan Karon. So, so much fun.

The Taliban Cricket Club, Timeri Murari
When the Taliban briefly decide to promote cricket in Afghanistan, journalist Rukhsana (who learned to play cricket in Delhi) begins coaching her brother and cousins to play in the national tournament. Winning will mean a chance for them all to escape to Pakistan and a better life – and for Rukhsana, escaping a Talib minister who wants to marry her. Well written and compelling, and also a tender family story. To review for the Shelf.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
A fascinating nonfiction account of women working as entrepreneurs (in this case, five sisters starting a sewing business in their home) under the Taliban’s rule. (I’d gotten it from the library before the above novel arrived – but these two stories complement each other perfectly.) Lemmon tells the story of Kamila, who starts a business to support her family and ends up providing work for dozens of other women. A testament to the courage and ingenuity of Afghan women.

What are you reading these days?

(NB: I am an IndieBound affiliate. This post contains affiliate links.)

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I grew up taking my education for granted.

Well, not entirely for granted – I always loved school, especially English class, and it was absolutely expected that I’d do well in high school (I did) and then go to college (I did, and loved that too). Thanks to my parents (and my status as a white, middle-class American), I managed all of the above with no financial sacrifice and certainly no social risk on my part. I went on to earn a master’s degree, with a little financial sacrifice – but nobody ever told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t get more education because I am a woman.

However – as you certainly know – there are millions of girls in the developing world who struggle for every single scrap of education they can get. Most of them are expected to marry young, or drop out of school to help their families. Many are at risk for sex trafficking, HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. And all of them would benefit immensely from education.

The good news: there are many programs out there that work with young girls to keep them healthy, safe, unmarried and in school for as long as possible – ideally, until they’re adults who can decide for themselves when to marry and have children, and/or whether to have a career (and what kind). I’m writing this post as part of the 2011 Girl Effect blogging campaign, and the Girl Effect website has linked up with various programs supporting education for girls – but I’d also like to highlight two organizations close to my heart, because they are run by friends of mine: Eternal Threads and Sanctuary Home for Children.

Eternal Threads, founded by Linda Egle, works with women in developing countries, who use their handicraft skills to generate income for themselves, their children and their villages. Their partner in Nepal works with girls rescued from or at risk for sex trafficking, teaching them to knit and sew, and their partner in Thailand works with rescued girls and refugees, teaching them to make jewelry, so they can make a better life for themselves. They also work with women in India, Madagascar and Afghanistan – and they are starting new projects all the time. In just a decade, these projects have made an enormous difference for hundreds of women in the developing world. (And their products are beautiful – check out their online store.)

I’ve written before about my friend Amanda’s project, Sanctuary Home for Children – an orphanage in Tenali, India, which started in 2006 with 30 children and now houses nearly 100. Many of the children are orphans, and others have family members who can’t care for them. All of them are in dire straits financially, and in danger of having to live on the street when they come to SH. About half of them are girls who gain several years of safety, education and good health by living at SH. Several of the girls have now completed their secondary education, or received vocational training in sewing, and all of them have learned to read and had a safe place to live and enjoy their childhood – a rare thing for many girls in the developing world.

I may have taken my education for granted – but I can guarantee you that the girls helped by Sanctuary Home, Eternal Threads, and other like-minded organizations will never do so. Whether you buy products from Eternal Threads, donate to support the work of Sanctuary Home, or simply spread the word about supporting the education of girls, you will be making a real, tangible difference in these girls’ lives.

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