Friday, January 18, 2013

Pretty Birds: 3 down, 49 to go

This year, for New Year's, I decided on a new resolution. Rather than make vague promises about what I would like my life to be in the next year, or changes that I would only be able to keep up for a day, a week at most, I decided that I had too many books. Too many that I had been carting around. There are books in my apartment that have been moved 6 times and never read. To change this, I'd read one new book per week, 52 books total.

Some of you may think this isn't a challenge for me. And in some ways, it's not. I love to read, and I do it quickly. I can start a book on Friday night and finish it by noon on Saturday. But I also use it as my escape. I tend to stay away from books that hit too close to the heart; I want to be moved, but not depressed. Satanic Verses, Skinny Legs and All. Even Virginia Woolf's novels. I can be challenged intellectually, but not emotionally.

But. Many of my books don't do that."Funny, but tragic. You'll laugh while you sob." And I have been a coward in avoiding them. My first two books did not challenge me. One was a fluffy romance, so horribly written it gives me hope of ever being published. The second was The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card. And it was thoroughly enjoyable, but in my usual style.

This week's, though... Pretty Birds follows a young teenage girl in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. The text shows her and her family learning to cope with the horror, to accept the death of loved ones, of innocents. Most of all to survive.

The thing that hit me hardest about this book (except for the ending, which truly was heart-breaking) is that I remember studying this. I was in elementary school when it was a humanitarian crisis. I remember learning about ethnic cleansing and the numbers of dead. And while I can't blame the 10 year old me for not understanding, not really caring, it makes me sad for both myself and the world. Because how many other atrocities go on today, when I can no longer hide behind innocence and youth? Look at Syria. How many innocents have died there, how many starve and plead? And they are not alone. People in countries around the world are suffering. And yet I still don't know what to do. Does anyone, though?

In the book, the people of Sarajevo mock the United States (although not as much as the UN), mourning the lack of interest. No one cares, no one stops the deaths of innocents.

While the book ends with some hopeful signs, I find myself wondering still. What can and should we be doing? Is it enough to donate money. To try and work in something that has meaning, betters the world? How can we change something that has been happening for centuries?

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