A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton (Viking, November 2013) is not truly a world history story. It is, however, a look at how maps and history are intricately related. Each map throughout history tells what is important to the learned in the era in which it has been created. Likewise, each map contributes to how the subsequent generations continue to interpret the world. (more…)
I have been reading a number of picture books that are either non-fiction or nearly that! Sometimes the best ways to learn about something are through a fun story. These books fill that need.
The stories of Elizabeth Smart and Stephanie Nielson are not that similar. Yes, both had a hard year that they wrote about in a memoir, and both are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). But there the similarities end.
Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bed at knife point as a 14 year old and raped repeatedly before being reunited with her family 9 months later; Stephanie Nielson is a mother who was burned on over 80% of her body, and yet lived to experience the pain and joy of rejoining the world afterwards.
But despite the differences in their stories, both memoirs celebrate the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity. Reading the two books at this time of year seems just right. It’s helped me appreciate the blessings I do have and to prepare myself to enjoy this next year of my life as well as I can. The human spirit is strong in the face of adversity.
After all, a lot can happen in one year. (more…)
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick (published by Penguin 2007) is about far more than the arrival of the “pious” pilgrims in the New World in a ship named Mayflower. Rather, Philbrick’s tome delves deep in the history of the Plymouth Colony. The facts shared seem to be essential in understanding both the first years of cooperation with the natives (natives with names familiar to many, such as Squanto, Massasoit, and so forth) as well as the more unfamiliar subsequent conflicts as a part of King Philip’s War, which left the land mostly stripped of it’s native population, due to war deaths, enslavement from the English settlers, and land purchase from the settlers. Philbrick writes an engaging story that brought the tragedy of dissolving friendship and cooperation alive for me, four hundred years after it happened. (more…)
Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam by Sambul Ali-Karamali (published August 2012 by Delacourt Books for Young Readers) provides a practical and personal account of what it means to be a Muslim in America. Relating her own personal experiences growing up as a Muslim in Southern California, Ms Ali-Karamali manages to speak to young adults in both a practical and a friendly tone as she explains the difficulties and complications that arise from being a part of a commonly misunderstood religious minority in America.
Although the book certainly remains a personal account throughout, with the additional weight of the author’s educational training (she has a J.D. in Islamic Law), Growing Up Muslim also speaks with authority about the complicated facets to being Muslim. She describes basic Islamic beliefs (including various ways of interpreting and living those beliefs), as well as the difficulties youth and children may have in living their religion in a country where others do not seek to understand or simply are ignorant (such as those times when she was fed pork, not realizing it was pork until after she had eaten it).
I have read a number of books about Islam, and I’m always eager to learn more. As a part of the Judeo-Christian majority that makes up America, I must admit that as a child and teenager I was pretty ignorant to both the tenants and the practices of Islam. Given the amount of time I’ve studied Islam in the past (including a brief Islamic culture class I took while living in Jerusalem more than a decade ago), I wouldn’t say Growing Up Muslim revealed anything new or surprising to me. But it was still highly valuable and intensely interesting to me. What it did provide me with was a distinct personality giving voice to difficulties. Ms Ali-Karamali’s stories reminded me how real her challenges are in America today — but it also reminded me how similar childhood is for American kids, regardless of religion.
While I don’t think teenagers today are as unfamiliar with Islam as I may have been three decades ago, given the highly charged political situations around the world, misunderstandings may be much more rampant. Sambul Ali-Karamali’s book paints a clear picture for youth today of what Islam means for a young Muslim in America. In some respects, I think a practical explanation of Islam like this is a necessary read for American youth today: they must seek to understand the other religious traditions they will most certainly encounter regularly throughout their lives.
I highly recommend Growing Up Muslim.
Note: I received a digital review copy from the publisher via netgalley.com for review consideration.