Monday, April 13, 2009


So, back to that post I was going to write a while ago. The one that has nothing to do with Congo and nothing to do with my sewing project. Because I do occassionally exist beyond those two realms. Or at least I hope I do. It is not that I don't enjoy Congo or enjoy SHONA. It is because I do. Sometimes the people and places we love can become our very existence. But there is a larger world out there. And perhaps that is why I enjoy reading so much, because it takes me somewhere else, and introduces me to other people and places who can steal my heart and attention. And I think that is good to remember. Because it is a big world out there.

Here are a few of the books I have read this year:

The Zanzibar Chest (Aidan Hartley): The book is written by a guy who grew up in Africa and spent much of his life trying to get back to it and find his place in it. He become a journalist/war correspondent for many years, and now lives with his family on a farm in Kenya. The book is an interesting view into the lives of war correspondents and I found it interesting to learn about the conflict in Somalia (from his point of view). He also covers the genocide in Rwanda, but I did not appreciate his treatment of that topic. Overall I found it a quite interesting read.

Quote: "Sitting among that family, I longed to stay in the bush and not return to the towns of Africa where people were killing each other. I decided that my father had led a better life than I. He had chosen to live among simple people out here, whereas in the noisy years of my twenteis I had grown fasincated with all that was wrong with the world."

The Color of Water (James McBride): This book is written by a black man who only as an adult realizes that his mother was white and Jewish. Chapters in the book are split between narrating the lives of the son and the mother. The son is lost, on a quest to find his identity. But what makes the story pop is the mother, who single-handedly put her 12 children through university through sheer determination. I started this book at least 3 times before I got into it, but in the end I really enjoyed it. The honesty in the depictions of both mother and son are striking.

Quote:" I had to find out more about who I was, and in order to find out who I was, I had to find out who my mother was"

Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates): I guess you all have seen the movie or atleast ads for the movie. The story is of a young couple who move to the suburbs, and struggle and fail to find meaning in their lives and in their marriage. I found it a bit dark, even for my tastes, and wished it offered something more than a pretty bleak view of the world.

"We've got to be together in this thing, haven't we."


alain rafiki said...

Hey Shona!I am glad for the tour I just made in From Congo. Cheers!!!

Last week (April 16th to 18th), I have been to Kiwanja (Rutshuru, Norht Kivu, Estern Congo) for a mission.
When I visited the hotel I lived in two years ago, GREFAMO Hotel, I nearly fell in tears. Rebels have passed by and let their signature of atrocity, destruction and sorrow... The hotel was now laying in ruin, burned by bombing and and all kinds of fire arms...

I realised then that life is no longer easy nor better in villages as could the young guy in the novel think.

shona congo said...

Hey Alain, thanks for visiting!

Indeed, in North Kivu life is neither easier nor better in small villages. It is the people in those villages who continue to bear the brunt of the war, while in urban areas like Goma we have at least some measure of security. It takes only to count the refugees who have flooded to Goma to realize the scope of fear and loss which has been inflicted upon people in rural areas. And it continues to this day as villages have been taken by one side and then another in recent months, it is indeed the villagers who suffer most from both sides. Despite the fact that the often have little part to play in the war, except as victims.

The quote from "Zanizibar Chest" was in reference to the journalist's time in Somalia, and I think his time as a war correspondent in general. And the sentiment was not that life was easier or better in rural areas, but rather that the people were better. As a journalist he spent his life rushing from one hot-spot to another and saw the massive publicity that gun-weilding thugs were given as they wrecked havoc upon their countries and their people throughout Africa. And I think in the end he regretted the power and attention that these thugs are often given, while regular people who do nothing more than try to sustain their families from day to day,fall into the background.

Brooke said...

We're about to have our first "black man" born to a "white mother." I'm sure his story will be much different from McBride's growing up in Brooklyn some years ago, but I did enjoy McBride's telling and the issues he brought out that we are also sure to face, in some way. Your prayers are appreciated!

shona congo said...

Brooke! Congratulations! How exciting!

I also found the issues of race that Mcbride brings up quite interesting. But The funny thing about "the Color of water" is that in the end what I came away thinking about the most was not race at all. AT least for me, what I couldn't get out of my head, was the power of that mother, the strength of her character, and the way that has shaped her family against all odds. I couldn't help thinking about what a cool family they have surely grown into. As Mcbride writes...
"Mommy's children are extraodinary people, most of them leaders in their own right. All of them have toted more mental baggage and dealt with more hardship than they care to remember, yet they carry themselves wiht a giant measure of dignity, humility and humor..."

Indeed they did face many struggles and we will keep you in our prayers as there are still many issues that you all are bound to face. But I have full confidence that you're going to be wonderful parents and your son's life will be richer for the experience. Many Congratulations to you both!