Recommended reading and viewing

Posted on February 8, 2010. Filed under: New Arrivals, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , |

In the past 10 days or so, I’ve enjoyed a couple of great reads and watched a movie that will stay with me a while.

Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson is the follow-up to Three Cups of Tea, the subject of an earlier post.  Stones into Schools is the story of Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute’s efforts to build schools in the remote Wakhan Corridor of northeast Afghanistan.  The account of the devastation caused by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Pakistan in 2005; the mechanics of getting building materials over treacherous mountain tracks; the courageous locals who assisted the CAI; and the poignant stories of the girls and young women who gained access to education, are among the pearls that make up this remarkable true story.

I read Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard this weekend.  There aren’t many books that manage to draw me in so completely, that when I have to (begrudgingly)pull myself away,  “real life” seems surreal and disconnected. This book was one of them. 

And lastly, I watched Denis Villeneuve’s “Polytechnique”, the English dvd version.  This film was among the Toronto International Film Group’s “Canada’s Top Ten” for 2009.  “Polytechnique” is a dramatization of the Dec. 6, 1989 massacre in Montreal, told from the perspectives of three people: the killer; a female survivor; and a male classmate who witnessed the killings.  Reading reviews of the film is interesting — not surprisingly, the film has garnered both kudos and criticisms.  It is stark, horrifyingly real, deeply disturbing. The male classmate was perhaps the most compelling character — the way the horror and shock of the event was paralysing, and how his lack of action haunted him afterwards.  During the scenes of the massacre, I was struck by the seemingly endless amount of time it took for the authorities to arrive. 1989 was pre-cellphone, and the helplessness and complete vulnerability of the students in this cavernous building was overwhelmingly powerful.

OCL has purchased 2 copies of this film, and I’m on the lookout for dvd releases of all other Top Ten films of 2009.


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Greg Mortenson to appear at the Kitchener Aud

Posted on January 10, 2010. Filed under: Events | Tags: |

Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea, and author of Stones into Schools: promoting peace with books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is coming to the Kitchener Aud on January 28 at 7 p.m.  Book signing to follow his talk.

Mortenson is always a big draw, so if you think you might want to attend, don’t waste time getting your tickets.

For more information on Three Cups of Tea, see my earlier post by clicking on Greg Mortenson tag.

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Recommended; Reading (that’s not a typo)

Posted on October 13, 2009. Filed under: Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , |

Three Cups of Tea: one man’s mission to promote peace one school at a time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

This book has met with much acclaim, and libraries everywhere can’t seem to keep enough copies on the shelves to meet demand.

The publisher’s blurb reads as follows:

Cover of "Three Cups of Tea"

Cover of 'Three Cups of Tea'

“In 1993 a mountaineer named Greg Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoran mountains after a failed attempt to climb K2. Moved by the inhabitants’ kindness, he promised to return and build a school. Three Cups of Tea is the story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools – especially for girls – in the forbidding terrain that gave birth to the Taliban. His story is at once a riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.”

To learn more, visit the book’s website.

Mortenson writes in his acknowledgments: “As a child in Tanzania, my parents, Dempsey and Jerene Mortenson, read fastidiously to us at bedtime by candlelight and, later, electricity. Those stories filled us with curiosity about the world and other cultures. They inspired the humanitarian adventure that shaped my life.”

OCL has a book club set of this title.

Patricia Aldana, President, International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY — an international organization that believes that every child everywhere has the right to become a reader), wrote an article in the June 19, 2009 issue of The Toronto Star, titled “Taliban-proof Afghanistan by teaching children to read”.  In May, two IBBY representatives, including Aldana, attended a Children in Crisis meeting titled “Children’s Books, Bridges between Nations” in Biga, Turkey. Aldana posed the questions: Is it even possible to build a democracy in a nation that has no readers? And how can there be readers after 30 years of almost continuous war?

Schools are a rarity in Afghanistan; as are published materials in appropriate languages.

IBBY is pushing for the development of a plan to bring about a decent public school system and an Afghan publishing industry. To learn more about IBBY, visit the organisation’s website.

For a visual and visceral take on a similar theme, check out the dvd “Blackboards”. A 2003 Wellspring Media production, in Kurdish with English subtitles, this searing film tells the story of a group of male teachers crossing the mountains of remote Kurdistan, going from village to village in search of students to teach. They carry large blackboards on their backs, “sometimes using them as shelter, camouflage and as shields for gunfire”.

OCL has a copy of “Blackboards”.

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