The True American

A few weeks ago, deep into my reading slump and looking for brain food, I flipped through TED.com and found a talk given by Anand Giridharadas titled “A Tale of Two Americas, and the Mini-Mart Where They Collided.” He told the compelling story of a young man from Bangladesh working at a Dallas gas station, and the white man changed his life forever with a rifle full of birdshot. After listening to the speech, I had to order the book from the library. Not only was the story incredible, the fact that it was literally so close to home–I just had to read the whole thing.

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I was not disappointed. The author/narrator of this true crime (for lack of a better genre) story is relatively silent. You know who is telling the story, but as he states in his Author’s Note–he tries to stay out of the picture. This story isn’t about him. It is almost documentaryesque in form because of that.

This creates a very informative and involved picture of multiple points of view:  Rais (the victim), Mark (the shooter), and their families and friends who were involved afterwards.

Why is this such an interesting story? Some guy shot another guy at a convenience store. We hear about that all the time. There’s a few differences.

First, the shooting itself. This was only a month after September 11, 2001. Mark was enraged after the attack and in his words, became a “white terrorist.” His hatred for Arabs caused him to shoot 3 men, Rais being one of them (and the only survivor.

The second half of the story is what Rais does after he heals. I mean this guy is just…Captain America, basically. Seriously, if anyone deserves to wear that shield, it’s this guy. I’m not even going to tell you. At the very least, watch the TED talk. I would encourage you to read the book. It’s going to change your perspective on some things, I promise.

In this day and age, we really all need to think a bit more like Rais.

The Horse Healer

There is something so romantic about the horse–the way they move, their spirit, the bond we form with them. More than any other animal, the horse is interwoven into our stories and history. We needed them to work and to travel, but not only that they have been our partners and friends.

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Such is the bond told in The Horse Healer. Diego and Sabba are almost soulmates and have a grand life adventure in Spain during the Crusade era of the late 1100s.

I found the subject matter of this book extremely interesting. It is historical fiction, and while the main character was made up–the events and royalty/nobility are based on real people. The story is also extremely culturally diverse. Toledo, which is where much of the plot takes place, is the “City of Three Cultures,” and there is a constant battle between the Christian and Muslims (Moors), especially, as that is the main focus of the book. There is some reference to the Jewish circle, but it is mainly pointed at business.

One thing I did find particularly intriguing is the group of Muslim soldiers called Imesebelen. They were extremists, as explained by one of the Moor characters, and the description he gave echoed so closely to our modern day description of ISIS. I just found it so interesting that even back in early history, Christians misunderstood the violence by those  extremists so badly that it caused a whole prejudice of a culture. And it is still going on today…when we have access to way more information.

I did find the book a little rocky as far as writing style. Sometimes it would be really great and fun and easy to read, other times I’d be really confused or bored. Great subject matter though, and something I’d like to research more.

One more note about this–It comes out April 14, and the original publication is in Spanish! The ARC I’m reading has been translated into English.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #44:  A book that was originally written in a different language

Disclaimer:  NetGalley provided this ARC in return for an unbiased review.