June 13, 2023

Subject:  A book set in the Middle East

The Collaborator of Bethlehem and A Grave in Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees  

These are the first two books of a mystery genre about Omar Yussef, a teacher of history in a school in Bethlehem.  He is well thought of but has a knack of putting his nose where it is not necessarily wanted when problems arise.  In the first book it is because a former student is accused of a murder he did not commit. In the second book, he becomes the head of a UN sponsored school in the Gaza Strip when the old headmaster is killed. The books are interesting in the fact that they draw heavily on what life is like in that section of the world.  The author was a correspondent for years there and writes with knowledge of the area. The madness of the political situation in that part of the world is enlightening. You begin to understand the bewildering headlines on the nightly news and newspapers.

These books will be donated to the Grover Beach Community Library

The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan, Folk Tales of Iran by James Morier

Just that, folk tales from Iran.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

The biographical tale of a young Iranian woman who is married and comes to the US with her husband. She receives her education here. She later gets divorced and goes back to Iran. This takes place from the 70s to the 90s. The time of “get rid of the Shah,” the coming of the Ayatollah brings a change that were not expected to many. The Shah was trying to bring his country into the modern world. The Ayatollah ruled that there is only one brand of Islam.  Where Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was about an exploited child, in this book Iran went back to child brides, wearing a burqa and being submissive.

The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi

A life in books about the author when living in Washington DC.  

Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi

Our Reader recommended reading this book first as the author gives a background which explains many of the answers to what is found is the other two books. (Note: not all of her books were read by the same person.) There is a reckoning of whether a country is governed by a religion or secular. There is also the fact of heritage of more than one religion. All effects your outlook and lifestyle.

This book is being donated to the Grover Beach Community Library.

This led to discussions of when Britain was a colonial empire, they did not prepare the countries for independence. Who would replace them?  Since most of the Middle East was colonized by England or France, those countries were used to borders, not tribal areas and there was much confusion. People who once lived in an area now found themselves thrown into a forced relationship with a former enemy by a larger entity. which had to have a border where none had been before. Their traditions were changed and the cause of much confusion.

A Café on The Nile by Bartle Bull

A historical novel about when Britain and France were trying to take over Egypt. Our reader was not finished with the book but found it interesting to find the basis for the current history of Egypt.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

A well-known author teams up with an activist for a book about the science of transitioning and transgender.  Picoult is known for her in-depth study and detail of any subject she takes on. This book is no exception as the two take on a subject currently under scrutiny in TV, press and online. 

This book is available at the Grover Beach Community Library.

Fran Strauser