Sunday, November 24, 2013

On Reading

I just finished a book today that I really enjoyed. It's one of those books that pulled my interest so much that as I got about halfway through it, I just had to finish it. So, after a leisurely breakfast at a local restaurant, I settled in on a cold Sunday afternoon, wrapped a blanket around myself, and just continued to read.

I was so absorbed in the characters and the situations they were in, I forgot it was cold and dreary outside. The book was "Hidden in Paris," by Corine Gantz. Granted, I love anything to do with Paris, but it's more than that. Ms Gantz is a wonderful writer and her characters were interesting and complex - and the way their lives intertwined with each other made it an engaging story. Her characters developed and grew, and the ending was satisfying without being too predictable. I enjoyed it and it was definitely one I had folded a few pages back on for quotes I like to write down in my journal later - which I always do upon finishing a book.

After I put it down, it made me think of someone I once worked with. She would quite often say she didn't read and that no one does anymore. She was actually proud of this. Perhaps people read differently than they did before (there are millions of Kindles and other electronic readers sold each year, as well as people reading on their computers and Smartphones), but people are still reading. We also still have many crowded bookstores for the people who still love paper books. I am generally around intelligent people of all ages who love to read, and when I have mentioned this comment people have generally been as puzzled by it as I was. I am also a writer, and any good writer should be reading to fuel their creative juices, as well as for inspiration. 

But reading is more than that. Reading is a way to learn about other lifestyles, other cultures, other places. It is a way to continue learning, to be drawn into a story, to be in a different country, understand different backgrounds, and to be pulled out of your own life and into an entirely different one. I find it sad to not do that. Although I love movies, it isn't the same as the imagination and education you get by reading a good book. To never have that escape or intellectual stimulation closes you off to so much.

To each his or her own, of course, but I've been reading since I was a little kid, and I can't imagine not doing it at all. Even in the busy lives we all lead now, there are just too many things you miss out on by not pulling out a good book. Besides, it keeps your mind sharp and young. Why limit yourself that way?

This weekend I was in my favorite bookstore, Magers and Quinn, which was busy, as usual. One of the fun things about bookstores is not only checking out books, but observing the people who are in there. As I looked for my next book to read, I observed two teenagers going through the stacks and marveling at the titles. There was a lot of: "But, have you read this one? It's so awesome," and "I can't wait to get to that one." 

I smiled to myself as I headed toward the counter with my next book, where the salesclerk assured me that I had made a great choice. Yes, people most definitely still read - old and young alike. And, although there might be some that don't, it's ignorant to say no one does.  Because, no matter what the medium of choice is, there's just as much excitement and joy in it as there always has been.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Young Woman's Courage to Fight for Education

When I was growing up, it was just understood that I would go to college. With the exception of my mother, everyone in my family got a college education. As a kid, you don't often realize how fortunate you are to have that kind of support - especially as a woman.

My mother was born in a different time. She still had regret in her eighties about not going to college. She is gone now, but I always wished she would have gone later in her life. Her father told her no woman needed to go to college. I'm so glad times have least for the most part.  And we just don't have the same obstacles here that women face in other parts of the world.

When I first read about Malala Yousafzai several months ago, I realized what a shining example she is of someone who not only had a father who believed in her, but he did it in a country where that just isn't done. His courage was clearly passed on to his daughter. Although they had made some strides with education in her country, it was taken away. When she fought for it publicly, she was almost killed.

In an article in the BBC News Magazine, it is obvious the support she had from her father contributed to her own bravery:
By the time Malala was born, her father had realized his dream of founding his own school, which began with just a few pupils and mushroomed into an establishment educating more than 1,000 girls and boys.
This was Malala's world - not one of wealth or privilege but an atmosphere dominated by learning. And she flourished. "She was precocious, confident, assertive," says Adnan Aurangzeb. "A young person with the drive to achieve something in life."
"For my brothers it was easy to think about the future," Malala tells me when we meet in Birmingham. "They can be anything they want. But for me it was hard and for that reason I wanted to become educated and empower myself with knowledge."
She is an extraordinary young woman, wise beyond her years, sensible, sensitive and focused. She has experienced the worst of humanity, and the best of humanity - both from the medics who cared for her and the messages from many thousands of well-wishers.
Women need to continue their fight for their rights to an education everywhere. There are even difficulties in the United States when it comes to poverty or obstacles being thrown in by people who are threatened by women who are more educated, outspoken, and powerful in business and politics. But, in the case of Malala, it is even more important. Because she is fighting as a very young woman who is also in real danger. She is wise, tough, and knows the fight ahead of her. For that she should not only be admired, but be honored as well.