Archive for May, 2012

May 21st, 2012

In My Father’s Country by Saima Wahab

by Gwen

From the Hardcover edition

*If you have ever wanted to really be immersed in what it means to be a woman in Afghan culture, this is your book.

*If you have ever been curious about immigrants deal (or not deal) with the cultural clash when they come to the US. I don’t mean the red tape, but the women can show their faces, live alone, and receive phone calls from the opposite sex, sort of clashes. Whatever, this is your book.

*If you know nothing about the tortured history of Afghanistan and are wondering why in the heck we are there…this is your book.

*If women’s issues interest you, you guessed it, this is your book.

Saima Wahab’s father was arrested from his home in Kabul when she was three and they never saw him again. What was left of her family was shuttled around to other family homes and even took a tortuous journey to Pakistan until when she was fifteen, she was sent to her uncle’s home in Oregon to get an education.

Living in Oregon meant more freedom, but being in her Uncle’s home meant continual struggles between being American and being an Afghan woman. Conflicts arose in her own psyche, just where did she fit in and whom did she want to honor. She got her education, but was still lost and somewhat isolated from Americans.

Then the Americans invaded Afghanistan and Saima saw her chance to find just what her father had died for. Why had he been willing to speak out and give his life for the people of Afghanistan. What hadn’t she seen when she left her father’s country on the back of a donkey so many years ago. When the opportunity to work as a translator there comes up, she takes it, with some doubts, but tries not to look back.

What follows is the story of not only a people but a personal struggle to find her place in the world. As the fighting becomes more intense, Saima’s personal struggle deepens and she is able to put portions of her fractured identity into words. Should she leave her father’s culture behind or find a way to blend both?

Okay, the book as a whole was fascinating. I have read a few memoirs from women that grew up in the Middle East, but I have never thought of the conflict that goes on in their mind when dealing with two divergent cultures. Throw in the fact that shutting the door on her Afghan-ness would be like shutting the door on what her father had died for, and you can imagine the inner struggle.

So many memoirs you read are along the lines of “life there was horrible for women, then I moved here and I can wear jeans and am so happy.” This wasn’t that, Saima truly loves her country and understands it. What also shows through is that she loves America and understands many Americans. She tries to see herself as the bridge between.

Towards the end though, I have to admit, that I was starting not to like her. She is/was one of the few Pashtun English speakers and we are reminded of this again and again. Instead of say, trying to recruit more, she comes across as this sort of one woman crusade to save her country. Only she can do it and she knows better than any of the military. That semi-arrogance was a small price to pay for all that I was able to absorb.

Got this baby from TLC Book Tours



May 14th, 2012

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham

by Gwen

Mini Farming

This is where I have been for two months.

Last year, I tried veggie gardening for the first time. Sure, I had done tomatoes before and always had fresh herbs, but I carved out a 10 X 12 space and tried pumpkins, watermelons, and cucumbers. It was a success, there are still a few pumpkins left from the harvest.

This year I thought, let’s go big, let’s take over the world with this gardening thing. So, among other books, I grabbed Mini Farming and learned that if I did it just right, I could produce just about everything we need for a year with only 1,400 square feet per person. (Commercial Agribusinesses use 30,000 square feet per person)

That’s AMAZING. I can feed my fam with only 2,800 square feet! (and 1,400 of that is just cover crops for compost) We were ready, I drove everyone (the dog and spouse) crazy with my planning, sketching, seed collecting, little plastic greenhouse creating. Calendars were created with frost dates and planting times and harvest times and who knows what times. There was a whole pad of graph paper involved and a lot of colored pencils.

I also started shopping for chickens and goats. The dog was really on board with that plan, he needs more buddies. The spouse let me go on and on and on with my grand plans, but he drew the line at getting a cow. That was too much, too soon.

You know what? I suck at guesstimating distance and things like just how much 2,800 square feet really is. It’s a lot of space. More than that, it is a lot of flipping digging. A. Lot.

Anywho, while many have been happily blogging away, I have been curbing my enthusiasm to a more manageable level. Mini Farming is an amazing book, it gets you excited, really excited. I was ready to go out there and do it. My suggestion would be just to not go overboard like I did. Going from one successful cucumber and pumpkin year to a full 1/4 acre garden/homestead is a shooting a wee bit high.

I am going to try to get back my reviewing mojo as soon as I can feel my knees and hands again.

Until then, here are some inspiring Gardening books that I have Chewed and Digested so far.