Sarah's Picks: Books

March 2012 Recommendation
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 
by Maya Angelou. 

So, I'm trying to branch out and read more literature-esque stuff, while still remaining in my favorite "memoir" genre. I'm still working on her book, but I'm enjoying reading Maya's first hand accounts and recollections of racism from the inferior player and displacement. I value the transformation of Ms. Angelou as she's learning to see "humanity" through her traumas and hardships, rather than "black" and "white." I'm constantly amazed that we, as humans, create our own hierarchies, and am heartbroken by the amount of suffering and pain we inflict on... each other. I feel that if I can learn about and better understand another's pain from a few years ago, I'll be better in going forward, recognizing where my perceived "rights" and [obviously] elevated status as a white, American come into play in my everyday life--in America and abroad.

February 2012 Recommendation
The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls

This is one of the only books I read in college that was... for fun. And it's turned me on to memoirs in a big way. What I most love about this book, especially now, is just recognizing the strength of the human spirit--the depths and flaws of the heart--and the mobility that's sometimes attainable. Mobility has been a strong lesson I've taken with me from the desert--how my life is one of dynamic stages, whereas, for most women of the world, that isn't the case. But at any rate, this one is an American story and I would really consider it a must-read.

January 2012 Recommendation
The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch 

I totally cried and cried over this one on airplanes going to and from Wisconsin this holiday break. I think it's a really special and quick read. It's putting my new year in perspective in some ways.


December 2011 Recomendation
The History of Love
Nicole Krauss

Great book telling three different yet connected stories. And c'mon. It's been translated into 25 languages. You need it in your life (and it will show I'm not actually that intense/depressing in my book selections). This one is a great and quick read. :)

November 2011 Recommendation
Azadeh Moaveni

Great book on identity and how, in the end, we're all searching to belong, yet often find that we're usually an outsider. Azadeh is a young, rockin' writer and does an outstanding job of showing how she's "in the inbetween"--both Iranian and American, yet neither or "not enough" when she needs to be. Also a great glimpse into what it's like to be a woman in this world. And I just love the title :).

October 2011 Recommendation
Dreams of Trespass
Fatima Mernissi.

She's incredible. This is her earliest year's memoirs of growing up in a Moroccan harem, where she learned to open or "trespass" closed doors. She's now holds a doctorate and is one of the premier professors and scholars on gender in MENA (Middle East and North Africa). I used a lot of her work in my master's thesis--she's pretty audacious and her writing captivates me. I was assigned to read this book for a Cultural Anthropology class in college and it turned me on to studying Arab cultures and Is. for the last six years.

September 2011 Recommendation
Mornings in Jenin
Susan Abulhawa

Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.

 August 2011 Recommendation
Hinds' Feet on High Places
Hannah Hurnard

Hinds’ Feet on High Places remains Hannah Hurnard’s best known and most beloved book: a timeless allegory dramatizing the yearning of God’s children to be led to new heights of love, joy, and victory. In this moving tale, follow Much-Afraid on her spiritual journey as she overcomes many dangers and mounts at last to the High Places. There she gains a new name and is transformed by her union with the loving Shepherd.

July 2011 Recommendation
Erwin Raphael McManus

In Soul Cravings Erwin McManus shows readers how our need for intimacy, meaning, and destiny point to the existence of God and our need to connect with Him. This book will deeply stir readers to consider and chase after the spiritual implications of their souls' deepest longings.

June 2011 Recommendation:
The  Alchemist
 Paulo Coelho

This enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom points Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transformation power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts

May 2011 Recommendation:  
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel is the eagerly awaited story of the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished -- and sometimes reviled -- political superstar and champion of free speech. With a gimlet eye and measured, often ironic, voice, Hirsi Ali recounts the evolution of her beliefs, her ironclad will, and her extraordinary resolve to fight injustice done in the name of religion.

Raised in a strict Muslim family and extended clan, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries largely ruled by despots. In her early twenties, she escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim immigrant women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Even though she is under constant threat -- demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from her family and clan -- she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter.

April 2011 Recommendation:
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.

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