Often while I work I listen to audio books. I am able to get through so many more books than I would if I tried to read them all. This is multitasking of the best kind. I think painting or quilting must engage a different part of my brain than listening to books, making both activites completely enjoyable at the same time. Often I like loosing myself in fiction while I work, but these books have been on my reading list for some time and each of them have been fascinating.
This is the amazing autobiography of a woman born into a family of desert nomads in Somalia. She spent her childhood moving from country to country as a political refugee. Circumcised when she was a girl, educated by Muslim imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia and forced into an arranged marriage with a stranger from Canada, she ultimately ran away to Holland while in transit to her new husband. As a refugee there, she attended college and eventually became a member of Parliament.
Ayaan has spent her adult life trying to bring awareness to the enslavement, abuse and murder of women in Islamic society that exists even here in the west. She believes the most fanatical interpretations of Islam, create “a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation.” Because of her outspokenness, she has lived with death threats for years. You may remember a few years ago when the film maker Theo VanGogh was brutally murdered in broad daylight after making a short film with her.
Another thing that she talks about in the book is the tribal, bigoted, clan culture of the Mideast. This really makes you think about how futile the US role in Iraq is. These groups hate each other, but hate us more, it would be impossible for the US to bring peace to this area. It is naive and elitist thinking on the part of our government to think they can resolves this.
After 9/11 she said, “I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. . . . And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war.”
I have always been fairly open minded about Islamic religion, believing that the fundamentalist thinking of the terrorists behind 9/11 and other tragic events were extremist thinking. Evidently the passionate hatred of the west reaches far beyond Al Qaida.
This story was first mentioned in Freakonomics. Gang Leader for a Day is a fascinating inside look at a Chicago crack-dealing gang by, Columbia University professor Sudhir Venkatesh. As a first-year doctoral student at the University of Chicago, Venkatesh’s first interaction with the Black Kings was when he was sent to the projects with a multiple-choice questionnaire on poverty. After being held hostage over night in a stairwell, Venkatesh had the guts to return to the projects a day later to talk to these young men again, without the clipboard. Eventually he was accepted by the gang leader, a college educated man who found himself unfairly passed over for promotions in the corporate world and chose to return to the Robert Taylor projects on the south side of Chicago. Vantakesh spent 7 years getting to know the neighborhood dealers, crackheads, prostitutes, pimps, squatters, activists, police, and officials. He was able to observe the gang as they operated their crack-selling business and learned the gang’s complex organizational structure comparing it to many top corporations in this country.