by Sandra Hochstöger and Jessica Grün
Literature is a magical art. You can take a stranger’s story and make it your own, let it inspire you, mess you up or give you insights into new worlds that you could have never imagined. In this spirit, we have compiled a small reading list to share with you who recently inspired us, shocked us, opened our eyes or just provided us with really good escapism. We hope you enjoy our picks!
Miriam Toews – Women Talking
In this novel, Miriam Toews reacts to the real events in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia. Between 2005 and 2009, many girls and women would wake in the morning feeling drowsy and in pain, their bodies bruised and bleeding. At first they thought it was ghosts or demons who attacked them while they were sleeping. Eventually, they discovered that several men from their community had been using an animal anaesthetic to make them unconscious and rape them.
Toews, who herself grew up in a Mennonite community, reacts to these events through fiction. In her novel, the affected women gather in a barn to discuss their options. Negotiating their possibilities opens up an array of underlying issues which define their role in the community. This book is the compelling insight into an act of gaining self-awareness. Those who have been kept quiet start to think about the unimaginable. Is it even their position to ask for change? Are their lives more valuable than cattle’s? Can they doubt their religious believes, which have been traded to them by men, since women are neither allowed nor taught to read? Can they even demand more rights?
Samantha Power – The Education of an Idealist
The Education of an Idealist” is the book for any young person struggling to find a balance between believing in something and doing something about that, for anybody who has ever been told that their idealism is impractical and that it won’t solve anything, for anybody who has ever worked in the penniless industry of human rights and at some point questioned if it all was worth it. That’s because Samantha Power’s memoir is a moving and personal story about all of this. It takes you on her personal journey, from Ireland to America, from Harvard Law School to the Bosnian War, from directing a Centre for Human Rights to the White House. Between learning about American Interventionism, diplomatic struggles at the United Nations and campaigning for a Presidency you get personal stories from breast feeding behind the offices of National Security Advisors and the struggles of holding a steady relationship when your career is constantly taking you to conflict areas. All you can do is lean back and read the story of human rights activist gone US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Julia Ebner – Going Dark. The Secret Social Lives of Extremists.
Julia Ebner is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London, who specialises in far-right extremism, reciprocal radicalisation and European terrorism prevention initiatives. In her new book “Going Dark. The Secret Social Lives of Extremists”, she presents the results of her research and several years of infiltrating radical networks.
Ebner tries to find answers to how extremists recruit and mobilise their followers. How do the most recent technological developments affect our societies? In which ways do extremist groups reflect and exploit these developments, our weaknesses and our longings? By infiltrating radical groups such as neo-Nazis, Tradwives and jihadists, she explores the underlying mechanisms of radicalisation. She discoveres a common pattern of recruitment, socialisation, communication, networking, mobilisation and attack. Ebner gives valuable insights into how extremist groups, hackers, fundamentalists and conspiracists harness technology to spread their world views.
Nadja Murad – The last girl
Nadia Murad’s memoir takes us from her childhood in a Yazidi community in Northern Iraq to when she was 19 years old and Islamic State fighters invaded her village. Back then, several hundred people of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority were massacred and many young women abducted and held as sex slaves. Murad was one of them. She was repeatedly sold, abused and raped by various members of the Islamic State. When she managed to escape after several months of captivity, she was offered to move to Germany, where she now lives. Murad started to tell the story of the genocide against the Yazidis and about what happened to her. She has been honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, which she shares with Denis Mukwege “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Murad’s book gives a breathtaking insight into the gruesomeness of the rule of Islamic State. It is a horrifying and appalling report on the genocide from within and should be a mandatory read to educate people on why it is so important to fight it.
Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race
As a woman of colour and a journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge is used to publically negotiate the status of race in society. Until a point when she cannot take it anymore. She writes an article on “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” – and through it starts to engage in dialogue about racism even more. This book discusses why racism and discrimination go way beyond the individual prejudice. Discrimination structures whole societies, states and institutions and consequently undermines peoples’ lives. Eddo-Lodge shows why parts of societies think that discussing race is not relevant to them as long as they are not directly affected – yet we all are. Her sharp and impressive language demonstrates the consequences of privilege and discrimination, which is not only relevant when we talk about race, but also when it comes to sexism and every other form of discrimination.
Do you like our picks? What is currently on top of your reading list?