Book Review: An American Family by Khizr Khan

‘An American Family’ is literally one of the few Advanced Reader Copies or ARCs that I finished reading within days of receiving it via NetGalley.

I was curious to read the story of Khizr Khan. He is the Pakistani-American man who stood proudly at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 to take Donald Trump to task for his criticism of John McCain and Muslims during the U.S. Presidential Campaign.

Not only does Khizr describe his own struggle to achieve ‘the American Dream’, from sleeping on park benches to working multiple jobs, he also manages to become a voice of the 2nd or 3rd wave of original Pakistani men who had to leave the newly-minted nation to find work and stability in the Arabian Gulf countries and beyond. This entire generation or two, both men and women born in the early 1950’s to late 1960’s, all chased a better standard of life for their families and themselves, often by being exploited as skilled and unskilled labor in the Middle Eastern nations like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia.

I highly recommend this book for millennial Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans to read to understand life from the perspective of our parents, aunts, uncles and mentors.

 “I wasn’t leaving so much as I was going forward”

“The billionaire’s playground that Dubai would become was light years away, but it was obvious even then that the emirate was making a frantic leap forward.”

Read my book review on Goodreads.

 

Book Review: Generations by Flavia Bondi

Flavia’s simply-drawn characters leave room for the momentous topics being discussed in her graphic novel ‘Generations’. She skilfully tackles familial estrangement, conservative attitudes towards homosexuality, and even the main protagonist’s quarter-life crisis – all while enveloping the reader into the folds of Matteo’s family.

Read this for one reason, if nothing else: the remixing of the classic analogy of the apple & the tree.

Daring Greatly

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Excerpt From: Brene Brown. “Rising Strong.”

Taking a page from Edhi’s Book

A few years back I set upon reading Abdul Sattar Edhi’s autobiography, A Mirror to the Blind*, with my highlighter and black pen in hand.  As a Pakistani who has witnessed the extent of Edhi’s humanitarian efforts in action, from fast-responding ambulances to the ever-present cradles at the donation centres, I thought there was little about him that hadn’t become folklore.

13590326_1010126859037163_8249178195416169058_nI was mistaken.

To learn about Edhi, in his own words, is to learn about Pakistan and Karachi with new eyes. His sleeping on the bench outside the very first Edhi Centre, a simple room in Mithadar to his tireless devotion to his mother ; at times such immense acts of humility were casually remarked upon by Edhi that it made me feel ashamed.  Ashamed that the rigmarole of everyday life has taken me so far away from the basic tenets of my religion, that which is based upon community service and peace, that I only take part fully every year in Ramadan. It is during Ramadan that I sense at least some degree of satisfaction, ‘yes, I have given my all to my community’, yet even that is illusory and I know it.  True service is constant, sustainable and hidden.

One of my favorite quotes shares Edhi’s mother’s advice about giving charity explains the hidden concept best:

 “In the holy month of Ramadan she collected other Memon ladies and made bundles of foodstuff, which she sent me to drop through the windows of poor people or needy relatives. All the while her soft whispery voice echoed behind me, “It is charity only when your left- hand does not know what the right has given. When the respect of the receiver is foremost.” 

When news came of Edhi Sahib’s passing, it was a shock. Not only because it seemed that his guidance will always be there but also because in some ways his service had made him larger than life. In life, Edhi had become a legend.  In death, Edhi has become a template for  human development and selfless social work. 

It feels as if we have been given an opportunity, as Pakistanis, to give back to our communities without the shackles of prejudice and intolerance.  The next time a living being is in need, ask yourself, What would Edhi do? and set forth without a moment’s hesitation. I will do the same.

*(This book is meant to read and re-read.  I can not do justice to it with a hurried review. If you haven’t put it on your ‘to-be-read’ pile, do so now.)

 

Unlikely Ingredients

“The success of the Pilgrim was exceptional, but not her greatest achievement. Ruth Douglass had arranged her life so that she answered to no one, certainly to no man. That was a feat few women could claim. If indeed there is a recipe for everything, Ruth had created independence out of unlikely ingredients. And if it had cost her more than she had intended to pay, she did not say so.” 

An excerpt from a book I’m reading over Eid break titled American Cookery.

About LLF 2016 & ’Love Letters’ the Play

The security situation leading to a change in venue and the shift from Alhamra to the Avari Hotel’s grounds ended up making a quite a difference for this year’s Lahore Lit Fest.  Not only was the trademark art exhibit missing, there was a distinct shortage of wares and cultural activities to engage LLF-goers not attending the on-going sessions. I wonder why the Rafi Peer crew were no where to be seen. Their exhibit in the main hall, with a plethora of colourful puppets on display and a variety of publications describing events at the Peeru’s restaurant and theatre, was sorely missed. 

Where were the LLF volunteers providing pamphlets and booklets with the programs printed? The LLF stamped mugs, tees and tote bags? The yearly special edition of Newsweek Pakistan with stories dedicated to the event.   The offering of books were adequate with Readings and Liberty Books having the widest variety available. However the smattering of complementary stalls were quite sad. Aside from the Desi Writer’s Lounge, the other stalls were boring or had little to offer. Speaking of which, where were the folks from The Missing Slate?  This being the fourth year of it’s existence, it may seem a bit extreme to sound so nostalgic, but this gives credit to the organisers who managed the earlier events effortlessly.

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A.R. Gurney’s ‘Love Letters’ was performed by Rehana Saigol and Imran Aslam on Saturday, 20th February at the Lit Fest. Looking a vision in her sparkly dangly earrings and ruffly black dress, Saigol effortlessly transformed into the sensitive yet witty Melissa, the heroine in the duo. Aslam aptly played the responsible yet love-lorn  Andy Lad the Third, whose persistent letter-writing wins the heart and soul of Melissa.

The musical interludes that punctuated sessions of letter-writing were tastefully selected – punctuating the innocence of childhood kinship or heating up the beginnings of a lustful affair-  with the musical stylings of the greats such as  Elvis Presley and Diana Ross at service. Arif Mahmood’s photos were sweet additions to the tenderly enacted romance on the LLF stage, documenting Melissa and Andy’s interactions from the cradle to the grave.

The seating capacity for the play underestimated the demand for live theatre as the organisers hastily lined up chairs to fill up the back of the hall.   Even then, another three hundred LLF goers we20160220_195732re barely kept outside the hall, with youngsters asked to sit up on the carpet , front-row, to empty chairs for adults. 

I hope the play organizers have understood the enthusiasm for live theatrical performances and will stage such performances on the regular, preferably at more easily-accessible venues.

Love is in the Air! Love for Books!

happy20books
Freshly Printed Books + Flowers = Springtime 

All the books listed below are on my wishlist for Spring 2016. Seriously.

Education & Leadership 

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times– Eric C. Sheninger

Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator  – Dave Burgess

Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools – Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

best-management-and-productivity-booksEducation & Technology

The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning – Tom D. Whitby, Steven W. Anderson

The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader? – Steven W. Anderson

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom – Sylvia Libow Martinez, Gary S. Stager

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Education & Psychology 

Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day – Jonathan Bergmann, Aaron Sams

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning – Peter C. Brown

The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-being in Teachers & Students – Daniel Rechtschaffen

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

4/5 Stars

notebookdeskLove,love, LOVE how Elizabeth Gilbert gets what’s f*cked up with our perceptions around creativity! This is an engaging read, without the ‘holier-than-thou’ overtones most guides have. In fact, it reads more like journal entries than a ‘self-help’ book, and that’s perfect. Those guides are last things we need crowding our bookshelves.

Yeah, so do read this. You might hate it, but it’ll get your backburner on overdrive and kick you out of complacency.

Are you on Goodreads? Let’s “connect”. *grin*

Selections from Aya de Leon’s”On Pandering, White Women as Scapegoats, and the Literary Industry as a Hand-me-down”

“I don’t disagree with James about the phenomena he observes: a literary industry with white women in gatekeeping roles and with white women set up as the archetypal consumer to be pandered to.

I do, however, disagree with the implied notion that white women are the powerful and designing force behind the institution.

In reality, the literary industry has been forged by a patriarchal system that decides what would be in its own interest for women to want, tells women that they want it and then sells it to us.”

“For many years, people have been asking, “are books dead?” The answer is no, they have just been passed to women like a hand-me-down. The infrastructure and implicit values in the literary establishment guarantee the reproduction of patriarchal values, as Vaye Watkins so clearly identifies. The women in the industry have all grown up in this society, have all been schooled in what makes a “big” and “important” book. Women’s concerns are consistently belittled.

We have a canon of “great literature” that dates back for several hundred years and is etched in stone. So the addition of a Toni Morrison and a Junot Diaz and a Maxine Hong Kingston and a Sherman Alexie can be grafted on as branches of the tree, or perhaps more like leaves. Branches? Leaves? Whatever. The industry’s roots are grounded firmly in Europe and White America and men’s voices. Vaye Watkins said, “I have built a working miniature replica of the patriarchy in my mind.” The literary industry is the same: fully imprinted with the values and preoccupations of the patriarchy. Once that’s firmly entrenched, it’s safe to leave the girls in charge.”

Read the entire blog post by the effortlessly brilliant  Aya de Leon on her blog:  On Pandering, White Women as Scapegoats, and the Literary Industry as a Hand-Me-Down  .