(photo from MediaBistro.com)
So I finally finished a book for pleasure. It’s been so long since I’ve read a good book! Anyway today I finished Outcasts United by Warren St. John, a story about the Fugees, a refugee soccer team from Clarkston, Georgia. The book was very exciting; the play by plays of the soccer matches really had me on the edge of my proverbial seat. And of course, the story of the team is a heartwarming one. A Muslim woman from Jordan (Luma) came to the US to attend college, but after she graduated, did not want to return to the restrictive society of her home. So, she decided to stay in the US, alienating her parents in the process. However, after a few years in the United States, her career was going nowhere and American opportunity did not seem to be paying off for her. That is until she happened upon the small town of Clarkston, an unexpected haven of refugees from all over the world. Long story short, she started coaching a refugee soccer team that has grown immensely since its inception and has faced all sorts of obstacles and has had equally as many triumphs. I would definitely recommend it, it’s a good read. But the book brings to mind an important issue for African Americans, and that is the African American and African relationship in the United States. I found myself angry several times when reading. The author describes on more than one occasion the dangers of Clarkston, and these dangers are always associated with African Americans. Or “poor people”, which in this case we can deduce meant African Americans (at least that’s what I got from it). And while the author went into great detail describing emotional and psychological reasons for the refugees’ bad behavior, he didn’t seem to acknowledge that similar issues might also be plaguing the black American community. It seemed, from my perspective, that the African American youth in this story were described as inherently bad and criminal. It was obvious in the book how the coach (Luma) felt towards these youth. Anger, distrust, fear just to name a few. But it all brings up an interesting discussion about the relationship between the two groups. There is clearly distrust on both sides. I think it has to do with one, two disadvantaged groups fighting for the attention of those in a position to help them. And two, I believe it stems from society trying to group the two groups together, when it is obvious that there are so many differences. In any case, I definitely think it’s something to think about. And I definitely recommend this book. The story is, if nothing else, incredibly inspiring.
I came across an article today from Clutch Magazine that challenged the way I think about literature. It first recognized three black, female writers who are nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction (Congrats!). But then it went on to discuss how fiction is often gendered and racialized. It gives the example of a white male who writes a book about family during World War II. His novel is classified as “literature”, but a black writer who writes a novel about family during an African civil war is writing a “war story” or a “black” novel. And similar things occur when a woman writes a novel, or a Muslim or whoever. I’ve always recognized in the back of my mind these differences, but have never taken the time to really think about what they mean. It’s something interesting to think about. Discrimination really exists everywhere you look.
So this is so completely random but today as I was walking to the courtyard to enjoy a little reading in the sunshine I saw a homosexual, interracial, couple walking with their dogs. I didn’t think anything of it and went to sit down on an empty bench. But a few minutes later I stopped reading and realized something: I didn’t think anything of it. It was not that long ago when a gay couple would have prompted a second glance from me. Especially a black-white gay couple. But today, all I saw was a happy couple enjoying the sunshine with their pets. When exactly did this shift occur? I haven’t acquired any new gay friends, or determined to make a conscious effort to change my way of thinking. But maybe this is just a small testament to the ways that society is changing. What used to be “taboo” to many people is now just a part of everyday life. Or at least it is for me. And now it has me thinking, what else about me has changed? Concerning the way I think? This little moment came completely out of nowhere but now that it’s on my mind, I’m trying to figure out what other ways my thought processes have changed over the years. Can you think of any instances where you have changed as well?
Instead of spending my Friday night partying or going out with friends (which I rarely do anyway :/ ), I stayed in to enjoy the free online movie service I get from Netflix. I came across this documentary, God Grew Tired of Us, and decided to give it a try. It’s the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I first became acquainted with the Lost Boys’ story in high school when I read What is the What, by Dave Eggers. That book was also eye-opening, but it’s a book, and is totally different than seeing and hearing the story with your own eyes. Seeing the Lost Boys’ become accustomed to life in America made me realize how many things I take for granted everyday. Their story also made me realize how insignificant my problems are. Not to say that the things we deal with everyday are not important; but I think sometimes we can get so caught up in little things, without realizing there is so much more out there for us to put our primary focus on. It was also interesting how the Lost Boys’ viewed our culture here in America. One part that really struck me was when some of the guys were talking about Christmas. They asked what the meaning of Santa Claus was, and why we had Christmas trees. In Africa they said Christmas is “mainly celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, that Jesus Christ is going to be born in our heart. So we have to prepare ourselves spiritually.” For most Americans Christmas is about preparing our wallets and opening our hands to receive gifts. Anyway, it was a pretty good film with a truly inspiring story. I hope you get the chance to watch! :)
These pictures are long overdue! Here are some shots from the cherry blossom festival……