Thousand Hills

Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. Read by Paul Boehmer. Tantor Audio, 2008.
Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008.

Reason read: April 22, 2000 Paul Kagame became President of Rwanada. He is credited for bringing an end to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

Kinzer had one simple motive for writing Thousand Hills. It is an amazing untold story that needed to be shared. One the one hand, it is the condense biography of a remarkable man who, born into poverty and nearly killed when he was only two years old, rose in military rank to single-handedly lead a rebel force that ended the largest genocide in Rwanda. On the other hand, it is the telling of a nation struggling with a metamorphosis of epic proportions. After the holocaust, Paul Kagame insisted on bringing Tutsi and Hutu together, demanding that murderer and victim work as one to repair relations.

Author fact: In 2008 Kinzer went on C-Span BookTV to talk about Thousand Hills. The video is over an hour long and still available for viewing on the C-Span site.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).


Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


White Man’s Grave

Dooling, Richard. White Man’s Grave. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

Reason read: this explanation is a little convoluted: Dooling was born in Nebraska. Nebraska became a state in March. Nebraska has nothing to do with the plot of White Man’s Grave.

When Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Killigan goes missing the people in his life react very differently. His father, Randall, a high powered bankruptcy lawyer, throws money and power at the situation, hoping he doesn’t have to get his hands too dirty with his son’s failings.  Meanwhile, best friend, Boone Westfall, does the exact opposite. He throws himself headlong into the West African world of witch doctors and supernatural voodoo. Interestingly enough, the voodoo comes to Indiana. Randall receives a strange package; a bundle of black rags soaked in what looks like human blood. And that’s when the hallucinations start. Meanwhile, across the world the Liberian rebels are taking over Sierra Leone, corruption is leaking out from every corner. Secret societies of leopard men, bush devils, human baboons and witches prevail. In the midst of it all one question still remains, what happened to Peace Corps volunteer Michael Killigan?

Confessional: I got a little weary of the repetitive descriptions of gory witchcraft. Everything was matted in hair and blood and teeth.

Two quotes to quote: “His wife was terribly calm, almost formal, which told him something was terribly wrong, and she didn’t want to tell him on the phone, because she was afraid he would lean out of the clouds on Olympus and throw lightning bolts at her” (p 18), and “Randall held his breath and mastered a rogue emotion, which threatened to bolt from his stables and make an ass of him” (p 242).

Author fact: The photo Dooling used looks a little like Matt Damon. Another Dooling trivia: he lived in Sierra Leone in the early 1980s.

Book trivia: The cover of my edition of White Man’s Grave is creepy. A baboon with bleary eyes stares out from on top of a man’s muddied torso. The man is holding a bowl of bones and a picture of a man. Underneath the man’s torso are bare legs, one wearing a sneaker, the other barefoot. None of these images are proportional to the other so the overall effect is very disjointed and disturbing.

Nancy said: Nancy includes White Man’s Grave because it is one of two satirical novels about the culture clash in Africa.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African Colonialism” (p 14). As an aside, this is the first book I am reading from this chapter. Isn’t it amazing? After almost 18 years of reading I finally chose a book from “African Colonialism.”


Marching with Words

The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:

Fiction:

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber (AB) – in honor of the start of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling – In honor of Dooling’s birthplace (Nebraska) becoming a state in March.
  • Roman Blood by Stephen Saylor – in honor of Saylor’s birth month in March.

Nonfiction:

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.

Series continuations:

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to continue the series started in January for Stark’s birth month. This will end the autobiography.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts (EB) – to continue the Donovan Legacy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Early Review:

  • Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves

Poetry:

  • New and Collected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz – in honor of National Poetry Month.

If there is time:

  • Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute – in honor of the birth month of William Oughtred
  • Which Witch? by Andre Norton – to remember Norton (who died in the month of March).
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis in honor of Reading Month.

War Child

Jal, Emmanuel. War Child: a Child Soldier’s Story. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

Reason read: Sudan’s civil war ended in January.

Jal is a typical boy, revering the warriors in uniform who stand before him and looking up to the fighter pilots who banish the enemy from the sky. As a small child he dreams of joining the military to fight the good fight. What is different about Jal is that he is not a pampered American boy playing with G.I. Joe dolls in the backyard in suburbia. Jal is a seven year old boy in war-torn, desert arid Sudan; his family is always on the run from the guns and violence. As he witnesses the deaths of family and friends, Jal’s reverence and admiration for the military grows until, from a place of hatred, comes the desire for violent tortuous revenge. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, a commander in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Jal hungers to go to school to be a soldier. His singular focus is to kill the enemy; and kill them, he does.

Don’t let the simplicity of Jal’s language fool you. His story is tragic and harsh. His manner might be sparse but it is straight an arrow, truth-telling writing. Consider this phrase, “gulping down pain like hot knives…” (p 86).

Quotes I had to quote, “Fear will always win against pain, and all I had to do was run” (p 32), “I knew I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees and beg a jallaba for mercy” (p 136), and “I had lived with hatred for so long that it was part of me, bleached into my bones and scarred onto my heart” (p 212).

Author fact: Jal becomes an accomplished rapper. He mentions War Child in this video for Amnesty International (around the 3:20 mark). The fact Natalie Merchant is also in this video is purely coincidental! 😉

Book trivia: Don’t expect photographs of young Jal toting an uzi or an AK47. His words are description enough. As an aside, Jal’s story prompted me to see the documentary about him and seek out his music.

Nancy said: Nancy said she could go on for pages “about the terrifyingly sad political accounts of bravery, pain, atrocities, and, unaccountably, hope, as they appear in recent nonfiction about Africa” (p 8) and mentions Jal’s book as an example.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa the Greenest Continent” (p 7).


Nod to November

What happened in November? I finished physical therapy. But really, PT is not finished with me. I signed up for a 5k in order to keep the running alive. As soon as I did that I needed x-rays for the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my hip and groin. Like stabbing, electrocuting pains. Diagnosis? More sclerosis and fusing. Yay, me! In defiance of that diagnosis I then signed up for a 21k. I am officially crazy.
Here are the books finished for the month of November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB/print)
  • The Edge of the Crazies by Jamie Harrison
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Series continuations:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher (finally finished!)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel
  • I Will Bear Witness: the Nazi Years, 1942 – 1945 by Victor Klemperer

Early Review for LibraryThing: nothing. I jinxed myself by mentioning the book I was supposed to receive. Needless to say, it never arrived. So I never finished it. Ugh.


Mrs. Pollifax on Safari

Gilman, Dorothy. Mrs. Pollifax on Safari. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1977.

Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

Note: This may be my third Pollifax book but I’m actually skipping the next two in the series, The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (#3) and A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax (#4). Mrs. Pollifax on Safari is actually #5.

Lovable Mrs. Pollifax is back! This time she has traveled to Africa to go on safari. Her mission is to take lots and lots of pictures and oh by the way, find an infamous assassin. Acting as the CIA’s voluntary grandma spy, Emily Pollifax, albeit with bumbling charm, befriends every strange character she meets in the hopes one of them is the elusive and deadly Aristotle. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Gilman mystery if something didn’t go according to plan. This is a quick read, but highly enjoyable.

As an aside, this is not a spoiler but, but. But! Gilman gives Pollifax an umbrella to carry throughout her journey through Africa. Because the umbrella/parasol is mentioned a dozen times I thought for sure it would be used as a weapon, contain a secret clue or something significant. In the end, Pollifax gives the umbrella away without incident. Oh well.

Laugh out loud lines, “If I can find someone to water my geraniums, yes I could go to Africa for the weekend” (p 8). Who does that?

Author fact: Here’s what I got from the back flap of Safari: at the time of publication Ms. Gilman lived in Maine! How cool is that?

As an aside, in 1977 the clothing store “Abercrombie’s” was a good place to go for outfitting an African safari wardrobe.

Book trivia: Like the other Pollifax books, Safari is short. This one is barely 180 pages long.

Nancy said: Nancy calls Mrs. Pollifax on Safari “lighter fare” and describes the plot. She ends the chapter by saying the rest of the story is “pure fiction” (p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the ever so simple (and obvious) chapter called “Zambia” (p 266).