Category: Books

The Restoration of Dignity (Further Thoughts From ‘Unbroken’)

dignity defiinition

I appreciate all the fun comments and scoop you’ve shared (here and on Facebook) in response to my last post, about April’s Book Club selection, Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand.

I wanted to write a little more, about one passage in the book that stood out to me. I don’t remember another point in the book when Hillenbrand so clearly broke from the narrative to give commentary, as she did here:

“When the guards weren’t venting their fury at the captives, they entertained themselves by humiliating them…

The crash of Green Hornet had left Louie and Phil in the most desperate physical extremity, without food, water, or shelter. But on Kwajalein, the guards sought to deprive them of something that had sustained them even as all else had been lost: dignity. This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind. Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain. Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live…

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BOOK CLUB: Unbroken

b8b63-unbrokenI finally took the plunge and read Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken last month. Since the time it was published in 2010, it seemed everyone and their brother was reading it and raving about it.

I kept putting it off, because I wasn’t sure I could handle reading about the brutality experienced by Louis Zamperini, the subject of the book, while he was a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. I finally caved and added it to my book club this year, so I wouldn’t have the chance to chicken out.

However once I actually started the book, I couldn’t put it down. I’m a pretty slow reader—and I finished it in a week. I did have to skim over several different paragraphs—my heart couldn’t handle everything. But overall, I found the reward worth the risk.

I loved Hillenbrand’s story-telling style. And she clearly amassed a huge amount of background research. I appreciated how she filled in the main story with helpful historical context. Of course, she also chose a fascinating subject!

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BOOK CLUB: A Heart For Freedom

d46b6-chailing

My heart holds a special place for the country of China and its peoples. So it was with great anticipation that I read through Chai Ling’s A Heart For Freedom in March for our book club.Maybe my expectations were set too high, but I felt a little disappointed in Chai’s book.

I certainly found her life fascinating…but I wish her editor had helped her shape her story into a more cohesive narrative.The first half of the book—up through the Tiananmen Square Incident—zips along quickly. And I continued to stay emotionally engaged through her period of hiding following June 4th. But once she escaped her beloved China, she kind of lost me.Ironically, I found her story of coming to faith in Christ and her subsequent calling to ministry a bit lacking.

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BOOK CLUB: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

19daa-autobiography-of-martin-luther-king-jrI’m not quite finished with The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. But I want to keep the book club on schedule, so I’m sharing my thoughts on it today anyway.

His entire story has inspired me so far—as evidenced by the underlined passages on almost every page I’ve read!

What a gift, to get inside Dr. King’s head as he…

…processed his experience as a minority in our country:

“The first time I was seated behind a curtain in a dining car, I felt as if the curtain had been dropped on my selfhood.”  (more…)

BOOK CLUB: The Hiding Place

hiding place“We must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

So implored Corrie ten Boom’s sister as she lay ill as a prisoner at Ravensbruck concentration camp, during World War II. I’m so glad Corrie listened to her sister, and told us their story. What an incredible story it is.

I don’t want to say much more about the particulars of the story, just in case there’s one other Christian in the world besides me who had not read The Hiding Place before. If by any chance you fall into that category, YOU MUST OBTAIN A COPY OF THE BOOK AND READ IT NOW!  (more…)

BOOK CLUB: Gilead

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson just became one of my favorite books of all time.

Reading it was like eating a super-rich dessert: One part of me wanted to consume it slowly, to just hold it on my tongue and savor every bite. But the other part of me relished it so much I couldn’t stop!* Now it will take me a while to digest.

I knew very little about Gilead before I picked it up. I remember reading reviews of it when it came out in 2004. I knew it won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award. I had a vague idea it touched on religious themes. Several friends recommended it.

But it was nothing that I expected.  (more…)

BOOK CLUB: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

744c3-the_curious_incidentAutism: It’s not like you think.

This is one of my favorite autism slogans, because it’s a clever play on words.

On one level, it’s simply saying that those of us outside the autism world probably don’t have a clear picture of what autism really is, or what it’s like to live with. On another level, the slogan specifically identifies one of the central traits of autism: An autistic person’s brain is wired differently than the rest of the world’s. Their thought processes follow different patterns and pathways than the rest of us.

My oldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. This was one of the main factors that influenced me to choose Mark Haddon’s award-winning 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as my November book club selection: I wanted to see if it would help me understand my son better.**  (more…)