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A post that’s not about leaving

Friday, December 2, 2011

If you’re interested, here’s what I’ve read since getting past security at Logan Airport on January 31, in roughly chronological order.

1. Jane Austen.  Northanger Abbey. (February, on Kindle).

  • Why is a time and place so far from my own so comforting?  I think it has to do with watching Sense & Sensibility when we were little, and knowing that Austen is a good companion of my mother, my grandmother, several of my good friends.

2. Steve Reifenberg.  Santiago’s Children: What I Learned about Life at an Orphanage in Chile. (February, in paperback from home).

  • (my question at the time): Why am I stuck in the middle of nowhere when what is really interesting to me is city life, urban poverty, political change, all of which this Steve guy (later founder of the Fundación Patagonia Sur) got to know after he graduated from college?!

3. Daniel Horowitz.  Betty Friedan and the Making of “The Feminine Mystique”: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (March, in paperback from friend from home).

  • Why did I never take a class with this guy when I was at Smith (or his wife, another premier scholar)?
  • What does it mean about me that this kind of book — academic history — is not only captivating, but intensely important to me?

4. Gail Collins.  When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. (April, on Kindle).

  • How did I not know all of this before?  How can I remember it now?
  • What about women, 1995 to present, and the next few decades?  What is left to be done?
  • How does change happen?  Individuals, books, events, organizations?  Where do I fit in?

5. Marcela Serrano.  Para que no me olvides [So You Don’t Forget Me].  (April/May, in paperback from Palena library).

  • How much am I living in Chile (words, references that make sense to me), and how much in Patagonia (urban setting of this novel completely foreign to me)?
  • Is this great fiction or is this airport trash?  Or is it just easy to dismiss because it’s a female author writing about women, relationships, children, feelings, etc.?

6. Jill Lepore.  The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History (May/June, on Kindle).

  • What does it say about me that this kind of book — smart analysis of current events history — is so compelling and important?  Is Lepore just standing on the side talking, or is she doing something?
  • How much am I interested in America (United States)?

7. Nicholas Kristof.  Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.  (July, on Kindle).

  • Why does Kristof think that any contact of first world individuals, students with extreme poverty is a good thing?  Haven’t you ever thought about how complex this is?  Haven’t you ever seen someone posing with brown kids on their facebook and thought, ‘What is really going on here?  Who is benefiting?’
  • Why is Kristof pretending to co-author this with his wife, when clearly he is the narrator?  “I” is always him, so the “we” sounds like he is patriarchally speaking for the two of them.

8. Jorge Luis Borges.  El Aleph.  (July & October, in paperback bought in Buenos Aires).

  • Just when did I develop a taste for this intentionally dense, hard, “classic” fiction?
  • Will I actually read this a second time, at least my favorite stories, like I say I will to understand more?

9. Millie Thayer.  Making Transnational Feminism: Rural Women, NGO Activists, and Northern Donors in Brazil.  (October, on Kindle).

  • What does it say about me that this kind of book — academic sociology  — is so compelling and important?  Would I want this job?
  • Does so much of NGO time really have to be devoted to paperwork, to grant proposals, to dealing with funding?  Would I like working in this environment, either in the US, in Brazil, or elsewhere?
  • What issues are the most important to me, and where do I belong?

10. Jorge Volpi.  El insomnio de Bolívar: Cuatro consideraciones intempestivas sobre América Latina en el siglo XXI [The Sleeplessness of Bolivar: Four untimely considerations on Latin America in the 21st Century]. (October, in hardcover from home).

  • Same question as always — what is it exactly that’s interesting to me?

11. Doug Lemov.  Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (August– October, in paperback, birthday present from my dad).

  • If I loved reading this book, how can I doubt that I want to be a teacher?
  • How good of a teacher can anyone really be with 25 different kids every hour?

12. Pablo Neruda.  Confieso que he vivido (I Confess What I’ve Lived).  (August — October, in paperback from library).

  • How much do I actually like Neruda’s work, and how much do I just like it because it’s about Chile?

13. Mario Vargas Llosa.  El hablador (The storyteller).  (November, in hardcover bought in Buenos Aires).

  •  What do indigenous peoples want in the 21st century?  What is poverty?  What is culutural imposition?  And who gets to decide?
  • What do I do about missing talking about fiction in Spanish?

14. * currently reading * Milan Kundera.  The Unbearable Lightness of Being (December, in paperback left by Liza).

  • (50 pages in) How far is the English translation from the original Czech?

Fiction: 5; Nonfiction: 9. (I never would’ve guessed that ratio for myself before college.  Looks like my tastes have changed since the last time I read so much on my own, i.e. age 14).

Female author: 6; Male author: 8 (including two books by men that are about women, #3 and #7).

US author: 7; Chilean: 2; British: 1; Mexican: 1; Argentine: 1; Czech: 1; Peruvian: 1.

Read in English: 9;  Read in Spanish: 5.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. David Russell permalink
    Saturday, December 3, 2011 10:14 am

    Very interesting. I’d like to talk with you more about the books–and the questions. I like this format. Maybe I should do a similar construct for myself. I–like so many people–do my reading quite privately. This sharing in your post is useful; I and I bet others will pick up some of your choices.

  2. jane Woodman permalink
    Sunday, December 4, 2011 9:20 am

    Wow Margaret – I want to read a lot of these too! Inspiring, xo

  3. Julie permalink
    Sunday, December 11, 2011 11:17 pm

    hey Margaret, this is Julie Olson 🙂 I found your blog – it looks like you’re having a pretty good time in Chile – AWESOME! I really like this post. What a simple way to organize your thoughts about and experiences from each book….I think I’ll copy you! Good luck with the rest of your time in Chile!

    • Monday, December 12, 2011 9:09 am

      Julie, I’m so glad you came across my blog and liked this post. Do you have a blog about your life in Malaysia? And when are you back in the US? Sending you all my best!

      • Julie permalink
        Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:06 pm

        Nope, I haven’t gotten it together enough to start a blog…so props to you! I’ll probably get back to the US at the end of April – and then on to finding a real job. Good luck with the transition back! If we’re in the same place at the same time we’ll need to make sure to hang out! :

  4. Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:14 pm

    I’ll hope to see you then! Have a great end of your time in Malaysia.

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