Monday, September 14, 2009

Discovering a childhood in Liberia

Let's go from China to Liberia! Our next book discussion will focus on the memoir called The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper.

Here's a book summary:

Journalist Cooper has a compelling story to tell: born into a wealthy, powerful, dynastic Liberian family descended from freed American slaves, she came of age in the 1980s when her homeland slipped into civil war. On Cooper's 14th birthday, her mother gives her a diamond pendant and sends her to school. Cooper is convinced that somehow our world would right itself. That afternoon her uncle Cecil, the minister of foreign affairs, is executed.

Cooper combines deeply personal and wide-ranging political strands in her memoir. There's the halcyon early childhood in Africa, a history of the early settlement of Liberia, an account of the violent, troubled years as several regimes are overthrown, and the story of the family's exile to America. A journalist-as-a-young-woman narrative unfolds as Cooper reports the career path that led her from local to national papers in the U.S. The stories themselves are fascinating, but a flatness prevails—perhaps one that mirror's the author's experience.

We'll be meeting in the Outer Richmond neighborhood on October 11.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The story of a friendship in historical China

This was an insightful glimpse of what women in China went through to earn a higher status as women in their society. The foot binding chapter was the most torturous part of the book making us all question how much do women need to suffer in order to earn a value.

Essentially the whole story focused on the friendship between Lily and Snow Flower and how their lives went in different directions in spite of being matched to become the best of friends. The story highlights the practice of nu shu (women's writing) - a language that is only learned by women to increase their status. The mother-daughter relationship in Lily's life brought a lot of comments about how different it is to what we see now and that daughters were really raised to become wives, which explains not being attached to them.

The writing style was brought up to see if it was intentional to have short sentences instead of elaborated prose and whether the perspective described to us was intentional in showing how disempowered women were in the time of 19th century China.

A highly recommended book that will spark many discussions on the role of women in historical China and how it compares to women today.