We continue with our Zoom book meetings – definitely not our preferred way to meet but still wonderful way to keep in touch and discuss family, life in a pandemic and, of course, books. Karen’s presentation is attached below (Note: Videos will not work in PDF format)
Thoughtful words from Jill:
Thank you Karen for such an interesting and in depth research. I once again, learned a lot from the Liberia history to the amazing hope, fortitude, love and above all survival of just one family.
While perusing one of the reviews, I felt this paragraph was quite apt for our present time, as for then. ” Those starving right now for physical contact with loved ones outside their immediate homes, will find special resonance in Tutu’s parents’ eventual reunion in Sierre Leone, when they wiped each other’s eyes and hugged for a long time”.
Another quote I read by Wayetu Moore, I found profound but also sad. ” Such is the danger of deep love, however beautiful, dying lingers close behind”.
And from Moira:
Thank you Karen for hosting a thoughtful discussion and for all the work you put into your presentation. I’m sorry we could not view it together however I hope you’ll send us the links and we can watch the videos ourselves. It’s interesting how many of our books have dealt with racism in some form; The Known World, Washington Black, The Dragons, …, Between the World and Me, Small Island, Ragged Company, Indian Horse , The Book of Negroes, The Help, (?)to name a few. As a white, fairly privileged white woman I am saddened, shocked dismayed etc at the cruelty toward people of colour but I can never fully appreciate the depth of their feelings of displacement and their sense of not belonging or being accepted. After reading, I am left with hopeless feelings about what CAN I DO? I want to take action but I don’t know where to start. Being aware and being educated is no longer enough. Jeanne writes about this in her weekly messages which is in fact, taking action. Cheers to Jeanne!Apologies for the outpouring, but this is what resonates with me after reading many of these novels.
And Bev continues with this dialogue:
Moira, I too struggle with what can I do?
I have found the book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson to be both challenging and provoking. In her epilogue she writes:“Human beings across time and continents are more alike than they are different. The central question about human behaviour is not why do these people do this or act that way, now or in ages past, but what is it that human beings do when faced with a given circumstance?
None of us choose the circumstances of our birth. We had nothing to do with being born into privilege or under stigma. We have everything to do with what we do with our God-given talents and how we treat our species from this day forward.
We are not personally responsible for what people who look like us did centuries ago. But we are responsible for what good or Ill we do to people alive with us today. We are, each of us, responsible for every decision we make that hurts or harms another human being. We are responsible for recognizing that what happened in previous generations at the hands of or to people that look like us set the stage for the world we live in and that what has gone before grants us advantages and burdens through no effort or fault of our own, gains or deficits that others who do not look like us often do not share.”
She encourages us to develop a radical empathy for those who must endure the indignities we have been able to avoid because of our privilege. To see and connect with the person in front of us. To reach across and act when we see a person treated unfairly. She likens it to the flapping of butterfly wings that shifts the air and builds to a hurricane across the ocean.
Jeanne has found a wonderful way to provoke us into rethinking, being aware, and sometimes acting.
It can be more personal in our daily lives. So small things. A small example and I know you too do this. I tip my delivery guy extra. I would really like to see essential workers paid a living wage and having benefits and getting their covid vaccinations. Actually I often wonder what skills and professions they had before they arrived in Canada. So as well as personally trying to pay appropriately for services I bug my local MLA, Doug Ford or whoever else. I will vote accordingly. I read and share ideas probably with like minded but maybe it might trigger something. Butterflies?
And from Laura:
Thank you Karen for your review of The Dragons, the Giant, the Women. You facilitated the discussion in a thoughtful and patient manner, in a way that I wish I were better able to do. Everyone contributed insight and observations that helped me have a better understanding of the messages of Wayetu Moore: the impact of her family’s harrowing experience in Liberia, their magical escape, and her oddly synchronous lived experience as an immigrant of colour in Texas, U.S.A. (where violence lurks but is mostly implied in a class structure and social rules that must be adhered to).
Moira and Bev, I enjoyed reading your notes, and they mirror my own dilemmas about complicity in perpetuating the systemic underpinnings of racism and classism. My first steps have been to seek ongoing personal awareness and sharing of knowledge, but I definitely struggle with meaningful action beyond that, so it’s helpful to hear your thoughts. And, Jeanne, your weekly notes also show how you are working your way through these issues and proposing actions that I appreciate hearing. I’m very grateful at this time to have the diversion of a shared book and a group of friends to work their way through it’s meaning. This past year has shown how much I really need it.