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Other Hot Book Discussions > Middle East book discussions *multiple spoilers possible*

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message 1: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
Wasn't sure how to start this thread if anyone has a better idea I'm totally open.

Meg and I were discussion books about the region of the Middle East on the Book Challange thread but didn't want to spoil books for anyone there so we are moving it here.

There is a chance for multiple books from that region being discussed so spoilers might pop up. Maybe it would be good to put the name of the book(s) you are discussion in your message at the top so people can know to skip over it or not?


message 2: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
I'm going to post a list of books I have read on the region and a list of the ones I want to read just to get things rolling on discussions.

The Bookseller of Kabul(Afghanistan)
A Thousand Splendid Suns(Afghanistan)
Three Cups of Tea One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time(some Afghanistan but mostly Pakistan)
The Kite Runner(Afghanistan)
Kabul Beauty School An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil (Afghanistan)
My Forbidden Face Growing Up Under the Taliban - A Young Woman's Story(Afgahnistan
Persepolis 1 The Story of a Childhood (Iran)

TBR
Reading Lolita in Tehran A Memoir in Books (Iran)
The Punishment of Virtue Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (Afghanistan)
The Forever War(Iraq)
Things I've Been Silent About

So what have you read or want to read?
I would love to discuss any of these books and love recommendations on what youve read.


teri (Quinceberry) | 537 comments I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Kite Runner, and Kabul Beauty School and would love to discuss any of those. I want to read Reading Lolita in Tehran.

I love the idea of discussing books we've already read!



Tera wrote: "I'm going to post a list of books I have read on the region and a list of the ones I want to read just to get things rolling on discussions.

[b:The Bookseller of Kabul|9838|The Bookseller of K..."





Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments The only book that I didn't read in the read list is my Forbidden Face.

My first discussion in the read pile would be to talk about the role of women in each of those books. I think it is a pretty powerful and dominant theme. Does that sound doable?


message 6: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
I think that's a great idea Meg. I think you are right I think an overriding theme of all the books is the story of women, well maybe not Kite Runner so much.

I thought that 3 cups of tea was wonderful in addressing the need for education, of girls in particular. In other books there is a clear line between those women who had some education and those who had lived so long under impressive rule that they had none and never remembered a time when they did. When you know more you want more.

Many of these stories reminded me of the occasional kidnapping story you hear about- A child is kidnapped and through fear and manipulation and over time they begin to live and function in the disfunctional world the kidnapper has created for them. Even when a window opens for them they are too conditioned or fearful to take the chance. Their spirit is broken and they have become an object to control and own rather than a person.


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments Well in Three Cups. One of the things that bothered me so much in that book was the role his wife played. I felt that he should have never gotten married because their life together was so minimal. He was barely home long enough to have a kid and then he was off again. It bugged the crap out of me! Here he was going off to make the world a better place for women, through education, and yet his personal life was not dedicated that way. This book bothered me in a lot of ways.

As for Thousand Splendid Suns. The role of women there was horrific. The way the first wife was taken from her family and thrown into that horrible marriage. Then when the second wife came around, another horrible, abusive relationship. The only salvation that they had was the friendship/love that grew from their plight of abuse. This is furthered by a country that gives all rights to men to treat wives this way and the men are never wrong. It sickened me. So, I felt almost the same way in Bookseller. Things going relatively well, until he decided he wanted someone younger and what he perceived as better. Then everything went wrong. The more I read about the culture and how they treat their women the sicker to my stomach I get. It is no wonder they keep their countries backward, and do not educate their women, because if they did they would never get away with keeping their women supressed.


Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments Great discussion by the way, and very well expressed I think too you two.

This is one of the major reasons I have not read ANY of these books. Domestic violence is near & dear to my heart, and I get very angry when women are mistreated, so I've stayed away. But I've thought about pressing forward.

Should I?



message 9: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
I agree Meg but she atleast knew what she was getting into to. I mean it's not like he was a banker before they met. I also felt like she believed in the work he does (last I read he still is dedicated to the same goal and travels around for it).

Laura I would say yes because I think we are better served with more knowledge of what is going on in and around our world than not. I'm not sure if I would start with 1000 Suns though if violence is hard for you to read. That was the toughest of all I think. The Bookseller of Kabul of My Forbidden Face might be better to start with.

Here are some questions that I am sure are born out of being raised a totally different way, almost like I have the luxury to ask such questions.

But ....
How does this happen? Is it religion? The men believe it is their right not only because the law of the land but the law of their religion.
Is it power? Do they know it's wrong and the desire for power is too much to hold back?
Is it fear? Are they afraid of women? Of the emotions that women are able to arouse in them? Of their abilities?
Then why? Why do the women allow it to go own? Why do/have countries around the world allowed it to go on? Had we not been attacked on 9/11 would the women in Afgahnistan still be living in the burka?

Could something like this happen in our/your country?

Is there a way to help their battles? How?


message 10: by KrisT (last edited Mar 21, 2009 01:02PM) (new)

KrisT | 553 comments I have read Kabul Beauty school (afghanistan) 4/5
(It seemed that she was not organized to keep it going)
3 Cups of tea (india) 3/5
( I agree I didn't get his time away and his marriage at all)
Kite Runner 4/5and 1000 splendid suns (afghanistan 4.5/5
( I liked 1000 so much better. I felt connected to the characters and I could feel the hope in the story. It was much more moving to me than Kite Runner which seemed a bit indulgent of the author by injecting so much of himself into the supposed hero of the story when he really wasn't a hero in my eyes.)
Boots on the Ground by Dusk is a nonfic modern day story on the war (afghanistan) 4.5/5
Forgotten Fire (armenia genocide) 4/5 this is a Ya book about the holocaust there.
Inheritance of loss (india)2/5
I didn't like this and have very little memories of it.
When I was a soldier (Israel) 3/5 this is a Ya book on how when you reach a certain age, the boys and the girls (this one is about a girl)are automatically taken off to do their time in the army. Eye opening.
The Blood of flowers (persia) 3/5 this is a historical fiction about rug weavers.
Burned Alive by Souad (palestine)4/5 this is a nonfiction about one woman that was basically sold to a husband who mistreated her and her escape...very shocking. Most people who read it think it is not true it is that horrific.
The Storyteller's Daughter by Shah (kabul)4/5 another nonfiction about an afghan american girl who has heard all about Afghanistan from her father and wants to go back to see if his stories were true. Pretty good.
Soft spots (Iraq) 3.5/5 another nonfict modern war story about a soldier coming back home after his tour in Iraq.

Caravans A Novel of Afghanistan by james Michener (afghanistan) 4/5 this is really good if you want to go back to the country in the 60's I believe. An american girl marries an afghan that came over to go to school in the US and then she leaves him for a desert wanderers life. I found it really interesting.

The white tigerby Adiga (india)3.5/5 modern day India only God can help us from this if this is what it is really like.

Q and A or Slumdog Milliaire by Swarup (india) 4.5/5
Sort of the flip side to the modern day story told in The white tiger. Here the main characters learns positive things those his life is just as rough.


those are good questions Tera. I don't know that we can know the answers because we don't know the exact history of those cultures. I 1000 splendid suns if they were caught they would be sent to the judge who was always male and no matter if the man was in the wrong it was the woman who paid.

In Caravans there is a scene when the young american ambassador witnesses a woman being stoned for her sin of being with another man. He tries to find out why there is no real trial that it is just up to the people to take the next step...stone her or stone her to death?? crazy stuff.

It takes two to tango so why is it that neither the husband or the man that the woman was with up for any punishment???



Sheila  | 2396 comments Mod
Interesting questions Tera, and I don't think there is any good/right answer to all of it.

Personally, I don't think it is fair to lay the blame on the faith of Islam, per se. I just found the following in a Time magazine article:
"For his day, the Prophet Muhammad was a feminist. The doctrine he laid out as the revealed word of God considerably improved the status of women in 7th century Arabia. In local pagan society, it was the custom to bury alive unwanted female newborns; Islam prohibited the practice. Women had been treated as possessions of their husbands; Islamic law made the education of girls a sacred duty and gave women the right to own and inherit property. Muhammad even decreed that sexual satisfaction was a woman's entitlement. He was a liberal at home as well as in the pulpit. The Prophet darned his own garments and among his wives and concubines had a trader, a warrior, a leatherworker and an imam."

I think the problem lies in how religion has progressed over time. The same article also states:
"While it is impossible, given their diversity, to paint one picture of women living under Islam today, it is clear that the religion has been used in most Muslim countries not to liberate but to entrench inequality. The Taliban, with its fanatical subjugation of the female sex, occupies an extreme, but it nevertheless belongs on a continuum that includes, not so far down the line, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and the relatively moderate states of Egypt and Jordan."

It also says: "Part of the problem dates to Muhammad. Even as he proclaimed new rights for women, he enshrined their inequality in immutable law, passed down as God's commandments and eventually recorded in scripture. The Koran allots daughters half the inheritance of sons. It decrees that a woman's testimony in court, at least in financial matters, is worth half that of a man's. Under Shari'a, or Muslim law, compensation for the murder of a woman is half the going rate for men. In many Muslim countries, these directives are incorporated into contemporary law. For a woman to prove rape in Pakistan, for example, four adult males of "impeccable" character must witness the penetration, in accordance with Shari'a."

But is this just a problem in Islam? I think that there are similar things that happen in many Christian faiths, especially in the more extreme Christian faiths. Not all Christian faiths see women as being equal to men. So is it a problem of religion, or is a problem of extremism/interpretation of religion?

As to why do women allow it to happen...why do some abused Christian women here in the US not leave their abusive spouses? Why do some women stay with abusive men to the point of being killed? Fear?

As to the Burka, is that just another example of extremism? Some Christian faiths require their women to wear plain dresses and cover their heads with hats, and not show their ankles or their wrists, and wear no makeup, etc. Is that any different?

So you ask, could something like this happen in our country? I think maybe it is already happening.

Okay, not sure where I am going with this. Just thinking in print....

Here is a link to the Time article:
http://www.time.com/time/world/articl...







message 12: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
Those are great points Sheila. It does seem wrong to label the their abuse as a finger of religion. I think youre most correct in calling them extremist with religion, clearly not all practice as they do. I guess my question wasn't so much is it their religion but are they using their religion as a sheild to do these things. Even though they are manipulating it they still do all under the umbrella of their religion.

Why? Like I said to me it almost seem like the Stockholm Syndrome to me. They (they the women there and here) become conditioned by means of torture and fear and mind games until they succomb.

I think that is the thing I liked about 3 cups of Tea. His mission was to bring education to girls. He saw, and I believe, that education is the key for societies living in a repressed situation. Not individuals because we know that abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age or creed or social position. The abuse to these women is a regional thing, the entire land is dominated and controled by abuse and devaluization of women.


KrisT | 553 comments What I don't get about devaluating women is that they know that they have to have women to procreate. They need those little soldiers to keep coming along. With that in mind alone you would think there would be more respect.

I wondered when you said 'stockholm syndrome' Tera, the women who have tried taking off the burkah but actually prefer it because they feel protected by it. Partly I think it is because if some other man so much as looks at them through a brick wall they can be in trouble. I get how they would rather be invisible but that is its own prison isn't it?


Kat (A Journey In Reading) (AJourneyInReading) | 390 comments This is a great discussion. I have read

The Kite Runner
and picked up 1000 Splendid Suns today at the library.

I also read.... Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.... not too long ago. It is a true story of her life raised with strict Muslim beliefs, very descriptive parts of things that "must be done to women". It tells the story of her leaving and seeking asylum in the Netherlands, being disowned by her father and how she "found out what happens in the real world". Very interesting book.

I have several more on my TBR list and I am enjoying them greatly.

Kris, in Infidel, she made that very comment about wearing the burkah, because she felt safer doing it at times.


teri (Quinceberry) | 537 comments KrisT wrote: "What I don't get about devaluating women is that they know that they have to have women to procreate. They need those little soldiers to keep coming along. With that in mind alone you would think t..."

Well...I think a case could be made to could equate the burkah with the 1950's housewife's home. It also kept her "safe," - a velvet mousetrap.


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments I think that we have to recognize how strong their religious beliefs are as to their position in society. Also, remember that they were women that were not educated and you just accepted your fate in life.

If you remember, in Reading Lolita, the viewpoint was a lot different. These were women doing things that were considered terribly wrong that could be punished by death. But, they were educated, and more cognizant of the fact that life should not be that way. Education plays a huge role in understanding what is right and wrong.

Growing up in a society where it is and has always been that way, you don't understand that people from around the world have it different. Also, remember, that if you didn't adhere to what the man in the house did or said, it could be punishable by death. And, for some reason, they were afraid of death. I think if I lived that way, I would welcome death as my only means of escape.

I wonder, if the internet comes to these small areas, what changs will take place, as well as getting educated.


Dolly (DollyA) I want to thank everyone for some good book ideas from this thread. Some I had heard of, but a couple I hadn't, I look forward to reading them. :)


Julie | 1 comments I just happened upon your group this morning. I'd like to suggest a memoir, Sharon and My Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries by Suad Amiry.

She's a modern, educated Palestinian woman who is a great storyteller who writes with humor and irony about living under Israeli occupation. She is powerful and vulnerable at the same time. Gives you another perspective of women in the middle east. She has a new book coming out called No Sex in the City about women in the PLO.


KrisT | 553 comments Meg said:If you remember, in Reading Lolita, the viewpoint was a lot different. These were women doing things that were considered terribly wrong that could be punished by death. But, they were educated, and more cognizant of the fact that life should not be that way. Education plays a huge role in understanding what is right and wrong.

I think that education makes a huge difference too. However, is it a difference for the good or for the bad. We of the modern women today think automatically any education is for the better. But remember the old adage "ignorance is bliss". The women in Reading Lolita in Tehran were educated or working on it and wanting a better life. But it put them more at risk at home which also put their families at risk. If they are educated enough to know their life is wrong, the customs are wrong and possibly their religion is wrong in some ways then what do they have? They have to get out and get away. If you notice the books that are coming to light are really books about women but if the men don't change will it ever stop or change. Can they remain safe long enough to get away after their schooling and hope for a different life while deserting their families behind them?
I would like to find a book about the men of these countries seeing that it is not how it should be and what they can do about it. Is there such a thing at this day and age?


Kathy I just joined this group today and enjoyed your discussion. I've also read "Sharon and My Mother in Law" by Suad Amiry, and highly recommend it. Have just finished "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit," an excellent biography. Below are the links.

Both are personal stories by two women, one Jewish/Egyptian and the other a Palestinian, in different times and places in the modern Middle East. Each is part of a larger story of displacement, migration and the power of politics and place to shape our lives in ways that we cannot control.

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit My Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World
Sharon and My Mother-in-Law Ramallah Diaries


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments Thank you so much for the recommendations and the links,added to my TBR.

One more thing about Reading Lolita, you do get a glimpse of some of the men in that book. One woman's brother brought her there all the time, risking his life and believing in what she was doing. I thought that was pretty powerful.


Sheila  | 2396 comments Mod
I was just looking through my latest issue of Time magazine while I ate lunch, and came across an interesting article regarding all the things we are discussing here. I found it online also, so if you are interested you can read it here..

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/art...


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments Good article Sheila, thanx!


Maria | 92 comments ok - I haven't read below discussions as to try to avoid the spoilers! But I was wondering if i could jump in to ask question about what you all would consider your favorites from the Middle East. I'm really interested in "visiting" there particularily Iran and Afghanistan. I have heard mixed reviews about "Bookseller of Kabul" and also of "Reading Lolita in Tehran". I've seen Kite Runner and Perseopolis movies - so they aren't currently at the top of my list to read.
Any great books to suggest? Thanks :-)


message 25: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
Kite Runner is great.
Thousdand Splendid Suns even better (but more emotionally charged)
Both of those are fiction

Non fiction I liked the STORY of 3 cups of tea but hated the style in which it was written.

Really I wouldnt NOT recommend any of them. I thought all of them were good in their own way even though i would get angry at the people for various reasons I still found the stories informative or interesting or both.


KrisT | 553 comments Maria I agree with Tera on 1000 splendid suns. It is terrible and deep but hopeful too. I think you will really like the women.


Maria | 92 comments ok - i decided to not worry about spoilers and just to skim below posts for books! Great ideas - TY!
And will definitely pick up 1000 splendid suns


Kat (A Journey In Reading) (AJourneyInReading) | 390 comments Reading 1000 Splendid Suns now...... LOVE IT!

Has anyone read The Septembers of Shiraz???


Jennifer W | 1458 comments I read the Kite Runner last year and enjoyed it. 1000 Splendid Suns is on my TBR list, which I may get to after my vacation (so I can deal with the heavy topics after I spend the week full of fun fluff reading). I too read Infidel, which is set mostly in Africa. Hirsi (the author) *does* blame most of the horrible treatment of women on the teachings of Islam. I think that was the 2nd hardest part of the book (after the descriptions of what actually happens to women) for me to read, because part of me believes there has to be a place for the world's major religions, but if she's correct in her assessment of Islam, maybe it shouldn't be around...?? I can't endorse something that endorses abuse of women. It raised a lot of tough questions for me.

I borrowed (but will have to return before reading) The Bathhouse about women imprisoned in Iran. I thought I'd get to it because it's short, but I've been too busy lately.


Vinny | 4 comments Good evening everyone - I am so sorry to have stumbled across this site so late - I see I am very behind in the posts but hopefully can catch up. I have a whole shelf of these books on hand and am working my way through one by one. I finished Michener's "Caravans" which showed me just how little the Afghanistan country has (as a net progression) come since the time of which he wrote. I am currently halfway through Chayes' "The Punishment of Virtue" - I have to admit, although it's a good book with many great points, I'm having a tough time reading through her bravado.


Vinny | 4 comments I'm also about to start "Not a Good Day to Die" regarding Operation Anaconda.


KrisT | 553 comments Vinny, I just read Caravans last month to and you are so right. It seems to almost be almost lost in a time capsule.


Nancy (NE) | 1092 comments Two other books - not as recent, but very good neverthless: "Nine Parts Of Desire - the Hidden World of Islamnic Women" by Geraldine Brooks - and
"Do They Hear You When You Cry?" by Fauziya Kassindja, which takes place in a West African country, but is also traditional Muslim.


Deb (dragyonfly) | 23 comments I just started a book called "Princess", by an annonymus daughter of a prominent Saudi family, the book was written by Jean Sasson, but told to her by the native born daughter of royalty.
So far it is very good. It was published in 2001.
She states she is taking a big risk by voicing the real goings on behind the veil.


Kate | 103 comments I would suggest "The Language of Baklava: A Memoir" by Diana Abu-Jaber. It is about a Jordanian-American girl who grows up straddling the two countries. It also has amazing recipes for Middle eastern cuisine. Warning - it will make you hungry!

I would also suggest "The Cry of the Dove" by Fadia Faquir. Salma has committed a crime punishable by death in her Bedouin tribe. She had sex out of wedlock and became pregnant. Despite the insult it would commit against her people, Salma has the child and suddenly finds herself a fugitive on the run from those seeking to restore their honor. Salma is rushed into protective custody where her newborn is ripped from her arms, and where she sits alone for years before being ushered to safety in England. Away from her Bedouin village, Salma is an asylum-seeker trying to melt into the crowd, under pressure to reassess her way of life. Just as things settle, the need to return for her lost daughter overwhelms her, and one fateful day, Salma risks everything to go back and find her.


Jennifer W | 1458 comments I read Cry of the Dove,too, but I didn't really "get" Salma. I wasn't convinced, I guess, of how miserable she was while living in England.


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments I would read the language for the recipes alone, I love baklava!


Pam (pamelaprev) | 18 comments The Blood of Flowers: A Novel by Anita Amirrezvani is about a seventeenth century, 14-year-old Persian girl who loses her marriage prospects and dowry and consequently her value. She enters into a sigheh – a three-month marriage contract – that her husband has the option to renew if he so chooses. It is a haunting story about a woman who is financially dependent on extended family, is eventually cast into poverty, and is viewed as insignificant by society. She bravely rises above her circumstances to make a life for herself and her mother. This is a very good read.


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments Sounds like a terrific book, another one for my never ending TBR pile!


KrisT | 553 comments Pam I read Blood of Flowers too. I thought parts of it were really interesting and others parts only so so. The 3 month contract was killer. I don't know how they got by doing that. Those girls could be tossed out and their reputation ruined. And wasn't this the story of two friends/or not, vying for the same man? Someone was going to be ruined.


Pam (pamelaprev) | 18 comments Yes. Two friends were married to the same man. One had a three month contract and the other had a conventional marriage contract. The friend with the three month contract explores ways of sexually inticing her husband - leaving her friend in a lackluster marriage because she was too timid to become more agressive in the relationship.




KrisT | 553 comments Yes that is right. I knew I had only a vague memory of what happened. Thanks


Deb (dragyonfly) | 23 comments i finished Princess and it was really good. It was a story about a young girl who was born into Saudi royalty and was somewhat rebellious, and dreamed of being an agent of change in her country. Her story told to the author and annonymity was perserved to protect her children and family honor due to the revealing nature of the story. It was very enlightening. I plan to read the other 2 books in the trilogy.


Dolly (DollyA) I know this is a little off topic since I'm asking about a movie version, but has anyone seen the movie "Slumdog Millionaire"? I have had this book on my to read stack and I still plan on reading it. The movie was good. I'm just curious if anyone knows if things are that rough over in India as the movie portrayed? Any thoughts? Any opinions on the book version? Thanks


Sheila  | 2396 comments Mod
I just watched "Slumdog Millionaire" last night. Good movie. I have not read the book though. I have read news stories though that say that how life was portrayed in India is pretty accurate, and in fact the children that play the youngest ones in the movie are actually from the slums of India, and still live with their families in the slums of India. Just googled and did find this story about it. I'm sure there are others..
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/stor...


Dolly (DollyA) Thanks for the information Sheila. That is interesting, but it is hard to see people having to live like that, it sure is a tough way of life isn't it? I do plan to read the book version of this, and I also want to read Kite Runner.


Sheila  | 2396 comments Mod
It is very sad to see that people have to live like that. I'm going to have to look into the book for Slumdog. I also want to read Kite Runner, in fact I just ordered it a few days ago on Paperback Swap on a 3 books for 1 credit deal. I'm becoming a paperback swap junkie!


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments How do you find those deals! Good for you. I know you won't be disappointed with Kite Runner.


Sheila  | 2396 comments Mod
After one sender on PBS offered me a 2 for 1 deal when I ordered a book, I started looking around. If you click on "Community" at the top of your PBS page, then on "Discussion Forums", then look for "Book Bazaar" under the discussions. Lots of people list great deals under this book bazaar section. Some offer 2 for 1 credit, some 3 for 1 credit, some 5 for 2 credit, some just say make an offer. Some offer "unpostable" books free with any order. You can then browse the bookshelves of the person making the offer (like you can browse a buddy shelf) then you just order one book and send them a private message telling what other books you want. Seems many people there are trying to clear off their shelves, and are willing to send multiple books for one credit, since sending media mail the cost of postage for extra books going to one person really isn't that much more. Many people have shelves with nothing that interests me personally (lots of kids books, or lots of romance novels, etc) but sometimes you can find great things. I got The Kite Runner, The Deep End of the Ocean, and Angry Housewives Eating BonBons all for 1 credit, then in another deal got Memory Keeper's Daughter and My Sister's Keeper for 1 credit, and just today ordered When God Winks, Bridget Jones Diary, and a book on Shelter Dog Stories that I wanted all 3 for 1 credit. Plus it feels good to get a deal!


Meg (megvt) | 2842 comments That is awesome! Thanx for sharing this.


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