30 Day Book Challenge: Day 20

Woo!  Two thirds done with this challenge, and I’ve managed to post every day for the last 20.  [pats self on the back]

So.  Today was another one I have been thinking about for a while.  Because I wasn’t sure how to answer the question.  Really.  In the end, I decided on a book that taught ME about these things, and decided that would have to do.

A Book I’d Recommend To An

Ignorant/Racist/Closed-Minded Individual

This is one that I’m still not even sure I’m making the right decision on.  I just know that when I was a kid, Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself was the first book I read that dealt with topics like the Holocaust, segregation and small-mindedness in general.

You guys have read this one, right?  I mean, I’m assuming that most of the women reading this went through a Judy Blume period at some point in their lives.

Anyway, yeah.  This book was what caused me to go looking up information on antisemitism, separate water fountains and bordellos (um, yes – I learned about whore houses from Judy Blume, shut up).

A few years ago, I was watching something with my oldest and the Holocaust and Anne Frank were brought up.  I think he was just 10, and explaining what was being discussed was a difficult conversation to have with him.  I tried to be as gentle about it as possible, but it still made him cry.

I feel kind of bad that I had to learn all that stuff on my own.  I mean, I did a ton of reading then (more than I do now, can you believe it?) and I suppose I could have asked, but I remember being so incredibly depressed learning what humanity is capable of.

I know there’s not one book that would change anyone’s point of view (which was why my post for yesterday kind of sucked), but this book kind of guided me to learn about things I probably wouldn’t have until much older.

I think that’s why it was the one I came up with for this topic.  It’s not like reading about a little girl who thinks her neighbour is Hitler in disguise is going to cause anyone to weep from the scales being removed from their eyes, but as a kid it kind of did that for me.

[shrug]

Since I’m terrible at making a decision on this one, what would you recommend?

25 thoughts on “30 Day Book Challenge: Day 20

  1. Humans can be incredibly cruel and heartless. They can also be amazingly generous and caring. I feel we need to know about both sides to get a better understanding of our fellow beings and humanity as a whole. I know there are people who say that what’s surprising about the holocaust is that it doesn’t happen every day everywhere, but I disagree. We possess a deeply rooted sense of compassion and fairness and it’s only when we end up in a climate of fear and oppression we (sometimes) break away towards the dark side.

    *ponders*

    Sorry, what was the question again?

  2. I can’t even remember when I learnt about the Holocaust…it mustn’t’ve been too traumatising. But, growing up, the impact and realisation dawned on me. I guess Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’ is amazingly tender, and yet it painted that terrible time in a light that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since. That’s why it’s one of my favourite books. Also, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’…

    I’m sorry; I never went through a Judy Blume phase. I’m going to assume that’s a good thing, in my case. ;)

  3. Tough call.

    I think of Vonnegut’s books, due to the inherent humanity of the characters. They tend to be strong in the literary sense(well defined, relatable, clearly articulated), but humble & they make mistakes and learn from them.

    Given the Holocaust theme, Slaughterhouse Five is the obvious choice. Cat’s Cradle was one that got me pondering class & religion. I’m not convinced these books would change minds that are defiantly and fundamentally entrenched in a particular ideology, but if there is a hole in the fence, some compassion might be able to sneak in.

  4. Ouch, this one’s a toughie.

    I actually finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank the other day. Being the diary of a teenage girl, it was actually quite mundane in places. It wasn’t until it suddenly ended that I realised why it’s such an important historical piece. There’s a bit at the end that explains what happened to her, and I ended up re-reading her last entry to try and make sense of it. Then you realise that it doesn’t make sense, and it left me feeling angry.

    The Wikipedia entries for Anne Frank and her family are really interesting. There’s additional info from witnesses who were in the same concentration camp as she was. But it feels kind of weird reading it.

    So, I would be tempted to nominate her book for this… but then you read about all the efforts by various Nazi sympathisers to have it declared as being a fraudulent document.

    • I think I first read The Diary of a Young Girl RIGHT AFTER I read this one, and it just broke my heart.

      I grew up pre-Wikipedia, so I had to do all of my reading out of encyclopaedias or using the card catalogue. THE HORROR.

  5. I’d recommend the Bible. Not to thump on and use as justification for hating, but to actually read. The Old Testament is enlightening in regards to the history of both Judaism and Christianity, and the New Testament has this crazy notion about loving everyone as much as we love ourselves.

    But unless the person wants to change their mind, the only way a book might be useful is if it’s a really big book that you can hit them over the head with.

    • It makes me sad how few “Christians” actually read and take away the important lessons that are in the Bible.

      You know I’m not talking about you, but we’ve had this discussion before. It really sucks that people can’t just get along.

      • Truly.

        Who knew that immigration was covered back in the day of Moses? People think all Muslims are scary because the Koran talks about killing infidels? They’ve clearly never read the Old Testament. I could go on for days. But I won’t.

  6. Love this post. I also credit Judy Blume for opening my eyes to a lot of issues. I grew up in a VERY small town, my parents didn’t talk about important things and I was a sheltered kid. So blah blah, enough about me. I think you picked a great book.

    • I think it’s fairly obvious that’s why so many of her books have been challenged, really. Small-minded people don’t particularly care for the thought of children getting “ideas” from books, right?

  7. Oh, Judy Blume. She really wins. She taught me about a billion things as a kid. Weirdly, my favorite was “Tiger Eyes,” but for the life of me I can’t remember why. I just remember taking it out of the library over and over and OVER.

    • I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I really want to see that damn movie. Everything I’ve read has said that her son did an incredibly good job with it (and it was one of my favourites of hers, too. <3) so I have my fingers crossed.

  8. Now I’m curious to pick this one up. The books that make you ask questions and start to explore truth on your own have so much merit. I researched the holocaust on my own too, but I’m glad you were able to sit down with your son and talk about it, even though it was difficult.

    • She’s said before that it’s the most autobiographical of any of her work. I can see that.

      It’s about a year in the life of a little girl right after the end of WWII, I haven’t read it recently, but it definitely left an impression on me.

  9. Oh yes, I remember Sally J. Freedman! I also really liked Just As Long As We’re Together — maybe because, at that age, I could relate to the feeling of drifting apart from old friends. And I also went through a bread-smothered-with-butter phase, and in turn, criticisms about weight gain.

    Another book I liked, which referenced Judy Blume at one point, was Kathryn Lasky’s Memoirs of a Bookbat — it’s about a girl who grows up hiding her favorite books from her religious-fanatic parents. She calls herself a bookbat because “there was nothing wormy about reading” (or something like that :) ). In retrospect, it was pretty heavy-handed with the messages — there was a young character who declared, while playing with her dolls, “We hate [insert a whole string of people her parents taught her to be prejudiced against],” and when the protagonist asks why, the little girl responds, “Are you a communist?”

    Still, it’s a good book overall.

  10. The Giver. I’ve never read a book that gave me a shock like that. There were two moments I can remember vividly, with a little heart-stopping jerk – the moment with the apple, and the moment when Jonas finds out the truth about Release. It’s not set in the “real world,” but I even as a kid I was so hyper-aware of the fact that people were completely capable of behaving as they did in the book – and it was the awakening to our willingness to look the other way that was terrifying to me.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the strange and terrible beauty of being human recently, maybe in part because I’ve just moved to a city that is simultaneously so full of stunningly wonderful things and so full of poverty and misery and hopelessness. It always feels like I have to choose whether or not to believe the world is actually dark and full of horrors, and moments of joy and compassion are only very sweet icing on a very bitter cake, or whether the the world is actually inherently good, and all the darkness is just a very bitter icing on a very sweet cake. As GK Chesterton says, “Bad is so bad, we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good, we feel certain that evil could be explained.”

    But I think the hardest think for me to wrap my head around is that I’m pretty sure the world is just actually both. Not a battle, just a coexistence. There’s something both painful and wonderful in that.

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