I picked this book up because I had heard good things about it on a Catholic forum I frequent. I was not spiritually ready for it. This story of a PorI picked this book up because I had heard good things about it on a Catholic forum I frequent. I was not spiritually ready for it. This story of a Portuguese missionary in 1600's Japan cut me to my core. I always thought I would never betray my Catholic faith if I lived in different times, but after this book I see in a deep way that this is false bravado and cannot be taken for granted. "Silence" was like the opposite of all the martyrs' stories I've grown up with, but I still feel closer to God for having read it. At the time the book takes place, the Japanese government was intent on getting people to apostatize in order to avoid making new martyrs for the faith. Thus, Christians were tortured until they gave in. This book gave new meaning to the phrase "lead us not into temptation" in the Lord's prayer, and weirdly humiliated me in a good way. Because every human being has to reckon with the silence of God, I can see why "Silence" is meaningful to non-religious people as well.
I took forever to read "Silence" because I was dreading the violence that I thought was coming. I had seen reviews that said it was very violent and disturbing, but it really was not. The violence is removed and not graphic, and I wish I would have known that before reading it. Also, the stories of the Japanese martyrs who refused to renounce the faith despite brutal torture were inspiring, even while the main theme of apostasy was humbling. Highly recommended....more
With all of the controversy over refugees and our place in the Syrian civil war, I decided it would be good to actually read a bit about Syria. I haveWith all of the controversy over refugees and our place in the Syrian civil war, I decided it would be good to actually read a bit about Syria. I have always enjoyed reading books about people from the Middle East, but I have never actually read a non-fiction book about the history of the region.
Syria and the surrounding region was a part of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 until its dissolution after WWI. Up until then, the Arab people in that region were all one people. France and England divided the region in the aftermath of the war and placed arbitrary borders to separate Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. This caused divisions of both families and ancient trading partnerships, and these divisions were obviously very unpopular among the Arabs who actually lived in the region. In order to receive some compensation for their losses in WWI, France was made the imperial power of Syria and Lebanon, while England was the imperial power in Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. Lebanon was made a country specifically to protect the Maronite Christians who lived there, and these Christians were generally in favor of French colonialism. Syria is a religiously diverse country, with a Sunni majority and substantial Shiite, Christian, Alawi, and Druze minorities. The French played these groups against each other in order to maintain their rule. During the imperial period, Arab nationalism began to gain prominence. Many religious minorities, including Christians, took part in this movement.
The French left Syria after WWII following much strife in the region. Israel was made a state in 1948, and Palestinian refugees flooded the borders of Syria. During this time Arab nationalism was high, and it was unclear whether Syria would remain its own country or whether the Arab world would unite and disregard the arbitrary borders set up by the imperial powers. Therefore, the creation of Israel was a great insult to the whole Arab world and destabilized the whole region by creating a huge refugee population. From then on it was not politically tenable for any Syrian leader to be seen as too cozy with America. Israel showed its total military dominance in the 6 days war in 1967, where it also took a region of Syria called the Golan Heights. This region is still under Israeli control, and Syria still claims that it should be returned.
There were several military coups from the end of WWII until Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970. Hafez al-Assad’s reign was brutal and corrupt, but it also provided stability to the country and improved the lives of many of Syrians. He was a member of a religious minority, the Alawis, and strategically placed other Alawis in high positions. However, he tended to use Islam as a political tool while insisting on a secular state. This caused resentment from the Sunni majority, and mosques were the main centers of political dissent.
The current president, Basher al-Assad, is Hafez’s son. His older brother was first in line to take over for his father, but he was killed in a car accident. Basher al-Assad was studying in London to become an eye doctor. His wife was born in London, but her parents are Syrian. When the Arab spring demonstrations began and regimes across the Middle East were thrown into turmoil, it seemed as though Syria would not join suit. However, an incident where two children were tortured after writing childish, anti-establishment graffiti sparked a wave of protests that spread throughout Syria and resulted in the current Civil War.
There were several main points I learned that made me really glad I read this book. Firstly, I knew before that Syria used to be 90% Christian, but I never really thought about what it means that it is still 20% Christian. That is, Christians and other religious minorities were able to survive for millennia in some form, although I am sure they have been very persecuted. Still, the people in Syria are more religiously diverse than the peoples of Europe were historically. Secondly, I was obsessively against the U.S. providing arms to the rebel fighters when the war broke out, even before ISIS was a big concern. I now understand better why we did it. There actually were groups that were fighting for greater freedom in a more secular way, it wasn’t just like we were giving arms to terrorists. Obviously, it did not work in retrospect, but I no longer blame the U.S. the way I did before. Finally, I never understood the depths of the problems that Israel created in the Arab Peninsula. I’m sure I still don’t, but I do understand them better now. All in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a more in-depth look at Syrian history....more
This book is difficult for me to rate. On the one hand, it gave me a different perspective on North Korea, which I appreciate. I think I can see NorthThis book is difficult for me to rate. On the one hand, it gave me a different perspective on North Korea, which I appreciate. I think I can see North Korea's perspective now, and I feel this ability is a unique skill in America. The main point that stuck with me is that North Koreans have such a communal mindset that culturally they see "freedom" as a communal quality. That is, "freedom to be Korean" or "freedom from foreign oppression". In this sense, they see themselves as the free country and South Korea as the enslaved country. Obviously this is a generalization, but I thought it was a cultural insight I had not heard before. Also, it presented the history of the Japanese oppression in Korea from the North Korean perspective, which I had also never heard. I am really interested North Korea, and documentaries and articles get really repetitious. This book presented a side I had never heard before and was thus intellectually refreshing.
On the other hand, I am not sure how much I trust the author, and I feel like I need to read something critical of North Korea to "remind" myself about what I already know. The author seems to gloss over the great evils of North Korea and instead treats them as a totally legitimate country run by an eccentric. He even gives an example that seems to condone their gulag system as comparable or better than the worst of the American prison system. Little things like that, plus constant digs on the American right, really revealed an agenda beyond just educating the reader. Overall though, I'm glad I read it and enjoyed the unique peek at another culture. ...more
Man, I've been rocking the graphic novels lately! Thank you Albuquerque library for allowing me to read really expensive books for free! This 600+ pagMan, I've been rocking the graphic novels lately! Thank you Albuquerque library for allowing me to read really expensive books for free! This 600+ page tome was often beautiful, but in many ways it was the exact opposite of the Gene Yang books I have been reading recently. The book takes place in a fictional Muslim country and follows the life of a girl who is married off at the age of 9 and then captured as a slave at the age of 12.
The side stories in this book are beautiful explanations of Arabic writing and stories from the Quran. I liked these and found them wonderful. The main narrative was engaging, but it was also quite pornographic. I think Craig Thompson really liked drawing the main character naked, and there are ample opportunities given that she spends much of the book as a prostitute. What really turned me off to the book though was the weird pedophilia moments. The main character is sexualized as a young child in a way that portrays her as a willing participant rather than a victim, and I am really just not okay with that. Overall, I wish I would not have read this book. ...more
I picked this book up after reading "Boxers" by the same author, and it blew me away. I loved it. This graphic novel follows three separate stories, oI picked this book up after reading "Boxers" by the same author, and it blew me away. I loved it. This graphic novel follows three separate stories, one of a Chinese-American boy raised in a predominantly white school, one of an all-American white boy with an cringe worthy Chinese cousin, and one that is a Christian twist on Journey to the West. This book somehow managed to be culturally eye opening, spiritually uplifting, funny, sad, heart-warming, and it only took an hour or so to read. Highly recommended....more
This book is one of those life-changing books you don't come across too often. Not really that well-written: her writing kind of reminds me of a high-This book is one of those life-changing books you don't come across too often. Not really that well-written: her writing kind of reminds me of a high-school student writing a very long essay. Still, when you read her story you can't help but silence the critic within yourself and just really, really admire the author's ambition and her love. I almost wanted to put it down because it was challenging me to be a better person, and who even likes those kinds of challenges? In the end I finished it though, and I'm really glad I did so!...more