Challenging reading

4 Aug

I’ve forgotten how much I’ve missed reading for fun. It’s so nice to pick up a real book (I haven’t gone to the dark side of the Kindle or the Nook yet, but maybe someday…) instead of looking at a computer monitor. This summer I’ve made a dent in my stack. No matter how many I read I am continually adding to my “Read this next” list.

Two books (well, technically a book and a series) have made a big impact on me this summer and provided me food for thought on my walks and lunch breaks.

First, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s about a woman challenging her societal role in Jackson, MI, in the 1960’s. She interviews black maids, some who even work for her close friends, to write a book about their lives. Many of them raise white children who later grow up to be racist.

The book really opened my eyes to that time period. It was well-before I was alive and my parents and grandparents did not have maids or any similar experience. It was so risky to offer even simple comforts to the wrong person. It also blew my mind how people with so much wealth can stand to watch someone suffer in poverty.

Civil rights was such a charged time in American history. I always wonder, if that had been my period, would I have stood up for what’s right? What about my parents? My friends? Just like Skeeter (the writer in The Help), the actions and attitudes of the people surrounding me would have a huge impact on my own feelings.

It’s not totally a dead subject though, there are human rights violations happening all over as well as inequality. Am I doing my best to do the right thing? I know there are people around me suffering, I need to do better. So much to think about.

The other big hitter on my reading list this summer is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It’s sci-fi, which is not me at all. I generally like books that I believe, which means they take place in real settings. I didn’t expect to like these, but they are blowing my mind.

Without giving too much away, the story is about a girl named Katniss who lives in a futuristic oppressive society where America is today. She is forced to be a tribute in a reality TV-type show where she will try to outlast other kids from other districts. Basically, she’s in the woods just hunting and being hunted.

In the meantime, her government is oppressive and her family is starving.

It gives the reader a glimpse of adolescent life in a warring area. I can’t imagine growing up with the stress of providing for my family and living in constant fear of the government. My heart aches for kids growing up in situations like that. Even when the war is over, youth have lost their childhood and naivety after such an awful experience. Growing up in a generation affected by war can affect a child for the rest of his or her life.

Collins created masterful characters that feel as close as my own family. There is a love story and a little sister to tug on the heartstrings.

I can’t decide if they are children’s books or not. They are written simply and are easy to read. On the other hand, the ideas are complex and very political. Collins’ voice comes through in her portrayal of the government, especially evil President Snow.

Up next? Maybe Bossypasnts by Tina Fey, just to switch it up.

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