Embracing the World
Three Books of Compassionate Connections
How were you first introduced to the wider world beyond your own backyard? I rode on a little boat around the 1964 World’s Fair as audio-animatronic “children” of all races, on teeny replicas of their own countries, sang, “It’s A Small World (After All).” Forty-five years later, the world certainly has changed, but despite all the boundary-shifting and regime-changing, people still reach out to make friends across the borders. Read these two compelling memoirs and use the valuable guide to joining hands in peace and shared enterprise and you’ll be part of a global lovefest to promote our common humanity.
“Only connect.”—E.M. Forster
Behind the headlines about the instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan is another story, told in the phenomenal bestseller by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea (Penguin, 2007). After getting within 600 meters of the summit of K2 to leave a memorial to his beloved late sister, Mortenson was rescued from near-certain death by his guide, Mouzafer Ali, and taken to the Balti village of Korphe. As he recovered, he fell in love with the village, its children and their parents. He promised to come back and build them a school. Mortenson kept his word and, by building more than 50 schools, has changed the prospects for some of the most destitute people on earth. This colorful, compelling account of his and the students’ courage is proof that all of us, in remote villages and in first-world cities, feel the same need to connect. Shakeela, one of the first to attend Mortenson’s schools, looks forward to working abroad: “I’ve learned the world is a very large place and so far, I’ve only seen a little of it.”
A graphic depiction of history in the making
You’ll “see” Iran after the Revolution in a whole new light, thanks to the unusual graphic-novel format of Marjane Satrapi’s memoir, The Complete Persepolis (Pantheon, 2007). The stark contrast in her spare black-and-white drawings is a perfect illustration of the rigidity of religious fundamentalism. All of us can relate to Marjane’s need as a little girl to both rebel and fit in. Imagine fighting that battle in Iran under Khomeini. Satrapi’s escape with her parents to Europe and her return home years later enhance this unique search for a place to belong, a home safe for a woman and an artist.
Put your wanderlust to work
How can you see the world in a more meaningful way? Volunteer Vacations, 10th Edition (Chicago Review Press, 2009) offers profiles of more than 150 organizations running programs around the world (and in the U.S.) that use fee-paying volunteers, some for as little as two days, most for two to four weeks, some for a more extended stay of some months. Helping with scientific research, farming, construction, conservation and historic preservation, teaching, childcare, and more usually involves not much more than the willingness to work hard and be patient. As one of the participants in Volunteer Africa remarked, “I have tested my limits and found new comfort in the mystery of this world.”
A note from Beth Goehring: "I am so excited to write about books for CESLIE-The Women's Network™. Reading is not only a lifelong passion, but it's my job. As the editor-in-chief for a group of book clubs that includes Book-of-the-Month Club®, The Literary Guild®, Doubleday Book Club®, Mystery Guild®, and The Good Cook®, I hear the early buzz about what will soon be hot in everything from autobiography to zoology. In any week, my colleagues and I review hundreds of upcoming books to choose those that really deliver, whether it's with fascinating characters, an unforgettable story, a vicarious thrill, a wealth of useful information or compelling inspiration. Hands-down, the best thing about my job is finding that hidden gem, a novel that wasn't lavished with a huge marketing budget, not for lack of charm or quality, but because of a publisher's limited resources. When I can make a match between one of these unsung heroes and a grateful reader, then I've done my job well!"