January 2017 Book Club Selection

Unbowed
Maathai, Wangari*: Unbowed: A Memoir (2006)

* 2004 Nobel Peace Prize

Discussion: Monday, January 16, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Paul and Susie Robillard, 5405 NW Deerfield Way in Portland, 503-430-1776. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Publishers Weekly: Maathai, a 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, presents a matter-of-fact account of her rather exceptional life in Kenya. Born in 1940, Matthai attended primary school at a time when Kenyan girls were not educated; went on to earn a Ph.D. and became head of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi before founding Kenya’s Green Belt Movement in 1977, which mobilized thousands of women to plant trees in an effort to restore the country’s indigenous forests. Because Kenya’s environmental degradation was largely due to the policies of a corrupt government, she then made the Green Belt Movement part of a broader campaign for democracy. Maathai endured personal attacks by the ruling powers-President Moi denounced her as a “wayward” woman-and engaged in political activities that landed her in jail several times. When a new government came into power in 2002, she was elected to Parliament and appointed assistant minister in the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources. Despite workmanlike prose, this memoir (after The Green Belt Movement) documents the remarkable achievements of an influential environmentalist and activist.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

December 2016 Book Club Selection

I am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala*, with Christina Lamb: I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World (2013)

* 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Discussion: Sunday, December 11, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Jane and Mike Waite, 7008 Kansas St in Vancouver WA, 360-314-4117. Please note the date change! Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Library Journal: On October 9, 2012, the teenage Yousafzai was very nearly assassinated by members of the Taliban who objected to her education and women’s rights activism in Pakistan. Currently, she lives in Birmingham, England, under threat of execution by the Taliban if she returns home to Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Through this book, however, she can continue arguing for her beliefs. Named Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times, Lamb has been reporting from Pakistan for 26 years and seems like just the right person to help Yousafzai tell her hugely significant story.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

November 2016 Book Club Selection

In Order to Live
Park, Yeonmi, with Maryanne Vollers: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom (2015)

Discussion: Monday, November 7, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Anne Kimberly, 4261 SE Alder St in Portland, 503-234-4094. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Kirkus Reviews: The latest in an increasing number of narratives of escape from North Korea. Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister. The trauma underlying Park’s story begins in her hometown of Hyesan, North Korea, just across the Yalu River from China. There, the state-supported economy had collapsed, leaving the people to fend for themselves. The author survived the famine of the 1990s thanks to the black-market trading of her enterprising parents. In an oppressed, heavily censored society where one is not allowed to think for oneself and “even the birds and mice can hear you whisper,” the police hounded the family and eventually nabbed the father for smuggling. Rumors that North Korean women could find jobs in China lured the women to agree to be smuggled across the river, where rape and hideous exploitation awaited from the hands of a network of Chinese human traffickers. In a fluid narrative facilitated by co-author Vollers (Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw, 2006, etc.), Park offers poignant details of life in both North Korea and South Korea, where the refugees were largely regarded as losers and failures before they were even given a chance. An eloquent, wrenchingly honest work that vividly represents the plight of many North Koreans.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble