Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Desert Flower by Waris Dirie

This is the story of Waris Dirie, a Somalian nomad who ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage with a much older man, found her way to London, where she worked as a maid in the Somalian Embassy and then at MacDonalds before becoming a supermodel and then a UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. It's an amazing book, full of life and a passionate commitment to women's rights along with descriptions of female genital mutilation that will convince every reader that this is a practice that ought to be banned everywhere. It is not something that can be respected as a cultural practice, it is gross mutilation of women's bodies that can cause lifelong suffering if the woman doesn't die in the process.

Female Genital Mutilation has been banned in Egypt and is decreasing in many African countries. Unfortunately it is still carried out in some African communities in some countries outside Africa.


The Waris Dirie Foundation

FORWARD - Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Incorporation of Baxters

The Incorporation of Baxters was the Union of Bakers back in the days when Dean Village, was an industrial powerhouse of Edinburgh, full of mills. The first photo shows what looks like a large oven (now filled in) with a plaque for the Incorporation above it; the second photo is a different angle on the same building and the last photo shows a smaller plaque for the Incorporation that is found on the bridge at Bell's Brae in Dean Village.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna is the story of Harrison Shepherd a Mexican American writer who is born in the USA but grows up in Mexico. He works for a while with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, round the time when Trotsky is living with them.

Shepherd then moves to the US, becomes a writer and gets caught up in the anti communist witch hunts after the second world war.

There's a lot I loved about the book, the writing is excellent and the issues raised by the book are thought provoking. Specially the contrast between the relationship between art and politics in Mexico and in the US. Then the fact that Shepherd writes historical fiction that has disguised relevance to the times he lives in, presented in a historical novel that has (disguised) relevance to the times we read it in (issues round censorship and in scapegoating groups we're suspicious of).

I like the way the book is put together, diaries, fictional reviews of Shepherd's books, letter and newspaper articles. Though I am aware that this may not work for all readers.

I'm always uncomfortable though when real characters from history are shown in fiction intereacting so closely with fictional characters that effectively history is rewritten. Shepherd didn't exist, so the stories that centre round him and Kahlo, Rivera and Trotsky aren't true, though those other characters are real and have real stories.

Overall though it's an impressive book and well worth reading