Thursday, May 5, 2016

What to Do in A World Made of Dust

And the war goes on. In Syria, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. Reading the newspaper today and most days reminds me of a quote I found at the beginning of Trinity by Leon Uris. “There is no present and no future, just the past happening over and over again now.” Trinity is a fictionalized history of the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Yet, the persistence of that seemingly never ending conflict bore many similarities to the conflicts in the Middle East.

Day after day, we read about the conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, Palestine and other parts of that region of the world wondering if perhaps the paper reran a previous issue. It seems to be always the same – more tragedies, more deaths that go on with nothing being resolved.  

It was against this backdrop that by chance, I came across A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi. This book was a great surprise. I picked it up from the Skokie Library paperback book sale shelf to take on a trip to Florida. Since I am pretty low-tech, this is how I get my travel reading material. Sometimes I end up reading things I'd never read otherwise and sometimes I read gems. This is one of them.

I had never heard of Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, but now that I've read A Girl Made of Dust, I will look for her other books. The backdrop of the book is Lebanon in the early 1980's during the war with Israel and several factions within Lebanon some of whom sided with Israel and some who fought against them. Ten-year old Ruba and her family spend their lives dodging bullets, bombs, and shrapnel as they try to survive, living their lives as normally as they possibly can. Her father suffers from PTSD due to a war experience and the whole family is thrown into chaos as a result.

Previously, Ruba’s village had been a mixed one of Muslims and Christians who got along with each other. Now most of the Muslims have been banished. Only Ruba’s friend Kareem remains there, subject to jeers and hatred from the other villagers. Without giving away the plot, I recommend this book. It will undoubtedly make you think twice before advocating getting America embroiled in any more wars in the Middle East.

The only good news in all this is that the conflict in Ireland finally did end when two women, one Catholic Mairead Corrigan Maguire and one Protestant Betty Williams Perkins led a movement to end those hostilities. That year, they were the much deserving winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. “There is no present and no future, only the past happening over and over again now.” When is it going to end?

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