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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai~★★★★★

Author: Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Title: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education And Was Shot by the Taliban
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Non-fiction

Book Jacket: "When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. 
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world." 

Taryn's Review: After a punishment was handed down by a television network to one of its network stars for a comment he made in an interview, an uproar of cries were posted across the internet by some Americans proclaiming that this man's freedom of speech had been violated. The star's punishment was a "suspension" by the network from filming his hit television show (which has since been lifted). My interest in this case was not so much what the man said, but was with the reaction to it. So many people were passionately stirred by what they felt was a mistreatment of this man's rights.

We are so blessed in the United States that at times it is pertinent that we step back and really reflect on the "issues" that pervade our news outlets. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head at point-blank range for nothing more than her beliefs, for articulating her beliefs in the written and spoken word, and for sharing her beliefs with the world. She was fifteen years old the day she was shot. She was riding the bus home from school when a man boarded the bus and asked who Malala was. Malala believes that girls should be educated and she rallied against the Taliban edict that banned education for girls. Sadly, from what I can tell, more people on my social media sites know who the television-network star is who was "punished," yet few  know who Malala Yousafzai is.

"If one man, Fazlullah, can destroy everything, why can't one girl change it?" Malala shared this sentiment with her readers as she reflected on the radio reign in her country by the extremist Maulana Fazlullah. I teared up as I read her thought; what a beautiful and courageous mind she has. There were many times that tears fell onto my cheeks as I read this book. Malala's belief that there are no weapons mightier than pens, books, and education is so humbling to read.

In Malala's short life, she has experienced an earthquake that resulted in the loss of life of 73,000 other Pakistanis. She experienced catastrophe floods that claimed more lives and did more damage than the Asian tsumani, the Pakistani earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake combined. She has lived under military rule, under military dictators, and under Taliban rule. As her family fled their home to seek safety, Malala shed tears over having to leave behind her backpack that was filled with books, severing her from the item that held the education she believes will change the world. Yet her own world is filled with conditions that I, as an American, cannot fathom. Malala asked her father at one point why their leader does not want their people to have clean water and food. After violence and war comes to the Swat Valley, Malala found her younger brother digging holes in the family garden and asked him what he was doing. He responded, "Making a grave." Sobering, isn't it? Malala's father is a champion for not only allowing his daughter to be educated, but for fostering her education and believing in his daughter. Bravo to him for opening schools and bringing education to the Swat Valley.

I urge you not only to read this book, but to take your time while reading this book (and please, let your tears flow). The history of the past fifteen years in Pakistan has been broken down into a very understandable guide by Malala, although I know it can be overwhelming to take in. While reading this history, I felt my anger rise. Why is my country so ignorant to the horrors suffered by those around the world? But Malala's beautiful thoughts and tender spirit reminded me that anger is not the way to proceed. Education is the key. Forgiveness and education is what she preaches and I am so glad I took the time to "listen" in this book. Please, read this book. Also, you can check out Malala's interview with Jon Stewart here.

After reading Malala's book, I am even more inspired to open up the minds of people and spread education. I wish to see outrage on social media sites over the treatment of women, poverty, and violence in the world instead of passions used on a millionaire network-star who said what he pleased without actual consequence. This book blog is a small part of what I can do; I started this blog because I hoped to inspire someone, somewhere to pick up a book. Reading is not just a pleasure, but it is an educational tool that broadens the mind and opens up our brains to allow new ideas and perspectives to come rushing in. People love to debate, yet few pick up and read the words that would make them debaters instead of opinion-givers. I am grateful that my 200th blog post on my blog coincides with my reading of Malala Yousafzai's book. Thank you to those people who have been along for this journey from the beginning and for those who have joined me along the way. In the coming years I hope this book blog reflects not only my love of reading, but also my love of education and my goal to expand myself within different types of contents, research, and opinions. From fiction to non-fiction, from chick-lit to Western Literature, and from U.S. history to world history, there is so much learn. I hope this blog is a place where you are inspirited to learn and share. I can honestly say that 23,239 views on this blog is roughly 23,239 more views than I ever expected to receive! So thank you again, my dear readers, from the bottom of my heart for having visited my blog.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close~★★★

Author: Jennifer Close
Title: Girls in White Dresses
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "Wickedly funny and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses tells the story of three women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love---all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.
Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat miniscule sandwiches and doll-sized cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, dizzy with the mixed signals of a boss who claims she's on a diet but has Isabella file all morning if she forgets to bring her a chocolate muffin. Mary thinks she might cry with happiness when she finally meets a nice guy who loves his mother, only to realize he'll never love Mary quite as much. And Lauren, a waitress at a Midtown bar, swears up and down she won't fall for the sleazy bartender---a promise that his dirty blond curls and perfect vodka sodas make hard to keep. 
With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. These are the years when everyone else seems to have a plan, a great job, and an appropriate boyfriend, while Isabella has a blind date with a gay man, Mary has a crush on her boss, and Lauren has a goldfish named Willard. Through boozy family holidays and disastrous ski vacations, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life." 

Taryn's Review: While reading other reviews for this book, I saw a lot of complaints about the way Close set the book up via telling the story through the lives of different women. Some reviewers said there wasn't a climatic moment in the book. I believe Close wrote the book about the lostness, the weariness, and the frustrations of when life works out against the course you assumed your life would take. I don't think the aim was to have a climatic moment of, "And they fell in starry-eyed love!" or "She became partner at her firm!" The book focused on characters who were trying to forage paths in a world that tells them they are behind, and maybe even flawed, for their detours.

That said, I had issues with the characters in the book. At one point Isabella was set up on a blind date with a guy who she bemoans for being fat. Note that the author also said the guy was drunk for the duration of the date, yet the author chose to have Isabella wail over the fact that this guy was "fat" and "obese." I'm assuming I was supposed to have some sympathy for Isabella, but in real life I would have told Isabella to quit being such a jerk about the guy's weight. Secondly, the author also had one of the characters say in passing that something was "retarded." Personally, I hate when someone uses the word retarded as a synonym for the word stupid and I was appalled to see it in the book, especially since I'm assuming Close wanted me to relate to her characters. Ultimately, I didn't find the characters all that relatable and some of them were downright dis-likeable. And a weird irk was when one of the character's boyfriend campaigned for someone the author referred to as the Candidate. Say Obama! Why didn't she just say Obama? It was very clear that is who she was talking about. Strange.

The book was kind of Sex and the City-ish with whole us-against-them when it came to the single group versus the married group. Close really overdid the brides to make them as obnoxious as possible; I think married and single women alike would dislike some of the brides in this book. I think the book had a lot of promise and Close was on to something with her perspective of late-twenty-something singleness, but unfortunately the book had some flat and unappealing moments. Overall, the book was an easy read to pass the time, but nothing about it stood out as memorable. I don't believe Close is a poor writer by any means, but I don't think this storyline was the right one to demonstrate her talents.