Saturday, March 16, 2013

Library Books

Spoiler alert! If you're in my reading group, be aware that I discuss this month's book - if you haven't read it yet, you might want to skip this blog post...

I love libraries. I love being able to borrow and enjoy a variety of books, from a variety of genres (although I still manage to buy a book or two...). Here are four that I've read over the past few months .

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, tells of Kamila Sidiqi, a young woman living in Kabul, Afghanistan. In September 1996, she had just graduated from a two-year teacher training program, and was looking forward to earning a bachelor's degree and becoming a teacher.

That all changed, as the Taliban regime took control in Kabul. Freedoms that women had enjoyed were curtailed, and Kamila found herself trapped in her home, with her sisters. Kamila's resourcefulness provided the means for their support, as she began a dress-making venture that employed her family, and, eventually, many other women in their community.

I appreciated this insider view of the Taliban, and what their arrival meant for the women in Kabul. I was amazed at Kamila's accomplishments in such an environment. This is a book worth reading!

Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza's book, 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters, was not as satisfying. I'm not sure what I expected - I think perhaps more insights, along the lines of Stephanie Pearl McPhee or the Mason-Dixon ladies - but this book didn't really offer that. The '10 Secrets' came across as introductions to the different patterns, and didn't strike me as particularly innovative or inspiring.

That said, the photography is terrific - lots of color, lots of cute animals, lots of inspiration. And there were some patterns that caught my eye, especially Sivia Harding's Smoked Jewels Hooded Shawlette and Janice Kang's Inside-Out Hat. If I found a used copy of this book somewhere, I might consider buying it for those patterns.

I have mixed feelings about Ron Hall and Denver Moore's book, Same Kind of Different as Me. It tells the story of two men: Ron, who grew up in Texas and became a successful art dealer, and Denver, who grew up as a sharecropper - essentially a slave - in Louisiana. Denver eventually makes his way to Texas, where he lives on the street, and the two meet.

That part of the book was fascinating. Both stories offered insight into worlds I've never know (which is why we read at all, isn't it?).

The book also tells the story of Ron's wife, Deborah. She is the one who has a vision of the friendship between Ron and Denver, and encourages her husband to pursue the unlikely relationship. But, while extolling her goodness and insight, the authors don't give me enough to really bond with or care for her; her presentation is too one-dimensional. I really struggled to finish the book, which got bogged down in describing her fight with cancer and the folks who rallied around her.

I recommend this book as a story of Ron and Denver, and their lives, and Ron's effort to cross societal boundaries and become friends with Denver. But, for whatever reason, I didn't find the spiritual uplift or insight it tried to offer.

The fourth book I'm returning is Jennifer Chiaverini's The Wedding Quilt. This is another "Elm Creek Quilts Novel," most (if not all) of which I've read. I enjoyed the early books, which told of women, from different backgrounds and ages and professions, who came together to establish a retreat for quilters. The blurb on the back of this latest book includes this comment from the New York Journal of Books (from a review of one of her other books):
"Jennifer Chiaverini's strength is not only writing strong female characters but also placing them in interesting lives and times."
I think that was true with her earlier novels, but this book has practically little in the way of plot, and way too much sentiment for my taste. Oh well - can't win them all!

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