reading lately

One of my bestest friend’s gave me a pre-Tanzania ‘African’ goodie bag for my birthday, which included ‘A Guide to the Birds of East Africa‘, a novel by Nicholas Drayson. Now to be honest, I read the title and may have groaned a little (sorry E!) but it turned out to be the most charming delight of a novel.

Set in Nairobi, Kenya, it is a funny little love story, following Mr Malik’s valiant attempts to win a bird-watching competition, and thus the right to ask Rose Mbikwa to the Hunt Club Ball. Rose Mbikwa is both the object of his affections and the leader of the local Tuesday morning bird walk. It was light and easy-to-read, making it the perfect novel to carry around Tanz and an a welcome distraction from our internal inflight entertainment (The Gods Must Be Crazy 2 and highlights from the last decade of Celine Dion concerts – and yes, I use the term ‘highlights’ very loosely).

Another novel consumed on Tanzanian soil was The Shack, by William P. Young. I know I know, this was the ‘it’ book from about six months ago and I’m rather behind the times, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this equally easy-to-read tale.

If you haven’t caught up in all the hype about this book, you should know that Young presents the Trinity as: God – a big African American mumma, Jesus – a Middle Eastern carpenter and the Holy Spirit – an Asian mystical being. Personally, I really don’t think Young was trying to force the idea that God is female or even human at all (there is a lot of gobbledegook about the theology and accuracy of his metaphors on review pages right across the internet). Rather, his unique character choice becomes a literary tool to challenge preconceived ideas about who God is.

Now God and I go way back. He knew me before He created me in my mother’s womb, though I was a bit slow on the uptake and didn’t start getting to know Him until later years. It’s funny though, all the little stereotypes or misconceptions that can unknowingly slip into our understanding of the Creator of the Universe. I appreciated The Shack for providing a few thoughts about some of  the ideas we take on, and why, but how this may not be the real God at all. Delightfully thought-provoking.

And lastly, just finished rereading an old favourite – Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait and Andrew Thomson. All jokes about the provactive title aside (yes, funny looks on the bus etc), this is the one book I’ve probably recommended to the most people. A true story, it follows the adventures and friendship of three UN workers in the midst of the 1990’s most horrific war zones. Cambodia, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda and Liberia, they are all in there. It’s fast-paced, heartbreaking, powerful and eye-opening.

I reread it whenever I’m hit with a particular bad case of itchy feet, when I’m sick of uni, when I can’t find anything else good to read. So yes, I’ve almost memorised pages by now.

I’m not ready to let the youthful part of myself go yet. If maturity means becoming a cynic, if you have to kill the part of yourself that is naive and romantic and idealistic – the part of yourself you treasure most – to claim maturity, is it not better to die young but with your humanity intact? If everyone resigns themselves to cynicism, isn’t that exactly how vulnerable millions end up dead?

– Kenneth Cain

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