if i had to pick a time to have been laid-off at work, it probably wouldn't have been the week before christmas. that said, however, not having a job in cold, dreary january hasn't been so bad. it's an ideal month to spend time at home, under a quilt, in stretchy pants and big sweaters. so, since i've had eight hours a day freed-up, i've had some time to read. i'm currently lost reading malcolm gladwell's genius (i'm a little behind the curve there), but i've also read two books lately that are just outstanding. like total must-reads:
the help by katherine stockett
this story follows two groups of women in 1960's mississippi - the white, affluent socialites in town, and the black women that work for them. it was an exceptional story in general - told from three different alternating perspectives - but really made me think about the way southern society viewed race differences, even 100 years after the civil war was over. it's shocking that our country had such a backwards way of thinking for so long. the story was very real and engaging and actually quite entertaining, the characters were extremely well-developed, and i found myself pretty sad when it was over.
a thousand splendid suns by khaled hosseini
this book may just be the most depressing book i've ever read. if you're looking for a breezy beach read, this isn't it. i actually didn't want to read this book at all initially. middle-eastern culture doesn't really interest me much. however, it was my book club's monthly pick, so i started reading like a good sport. and i'm so glad i did. the book may have been depressing, but i was so intrigued. the story follows two women in afghanistan from the early 1970's through present day, and the political turmoil, the war on terror, and oppression they endured. i learned a great deal about afghanistan's history and i'm fascinated, again, that in our day and age women are so oppressed, and that it's something that is just accepted as a cultural norm in many middle-eastern countries. (this book doesn't really take a political stance on the war on terror, just outlines the realities of the rise and fall of the taliban.) i pulled an almost all-nighter reading because i just couldn't put it down. and while the book itself is heart-wrenching, you can rest assured that it does have a happy(ish) ending. you'll be glad you read it - trust me.
as you can see, these books had some clear similarities and while i often stick to lighter leisure reading, i'm so glad that i picked up both. i think it's so easy to turn a blind eye to injustice - especially when it's halfway around the world and we're not the ones being unjust or oppressed - and these books both reminded me that injustice isn't just something that happened years ago or that happens in foreign countries to faceless people. it happens every day, all the time, all around us. ironically, in the midst of reading both of these books, i had a job interview with the international justice mission, an organization that seeks to end many forms of present day injustice, and quite frankly, is awesome. i didn't get the job (boo), but it was another reminder of how important it is to move out of my comfort zone to speak for those who don't have a voice. it is my sincere hope that the Lord's plan for me allows me to do this as i continue my career. and hey, since it's so cold and icky out, why don't you pick up one of these books? you won't be disappointed.
image via laauraa.deviantart