Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Original host was Marcia at The Printed Page, but now on blog tour, with Rose City Reader is hosting during the month of January.
This week's loot:
- The Dressmaker of Khair Khana; Gayle Lemmon (Harper Collins) -
In 2005, Lemmon went to Afghanistan on assignment for the Financial Times to write about women entrepreneurs. When she met a dressmaker named Kamila Sediqi, Lemmon (once a producer for This Week with George Stephanopolos) knew she had her story. It's an exciting, engrossing one that reads like a novel, complete with moments of tension and triumph, plus well-researched detail on daily life in Kabul under Taliban rule. When that regime descended in 1996, it brought fear, violence, and restrictions: women must stay home, may not work, and must wear the chadri—a cloak, also known as a burqa, that covers the face and body—in public. After Sediqi's parents left the city to avoid being pressed into service, or worse, by the Taliban, it fell to her to support the family. Her story is at once familiar (she came up with an idea, procured clients, hired student workers, and learned as she went) and wholly different (she couldn't go anywhere without a male escort, had to use an assumed name with customers due to the threat of being found out and punished, and could fit in work on the sewing machine only when there was electricity). It's a fascinating story that touches on family, gender, business, and politics and offers inspiration through the resourceful, determined woman at its heart
- To a Mountain in Tibet; Colin Thubron (Harper Collins) - The mountain path is the road of the dead,� writes Thubron (Shadow of the Silk Road) in this engrossing and affecting travel memoir that transcends the mere physical journey. In the wake of his mother™s death, Thubron sets off to Mount Kailas in Tibet, a peak sacred to one-fifth of the world™s population and the source of four of India™s great rivers. Kailas has never been climbed: the slopes are important to Tibetan Buddhists who say the mountain™s guardian is Demchog (a tantric variant of Shiva). Along with two guides, Thubron embarks on a pilgrimage that begins in Nepal and crosses into Tibet, recounting not only his arduous journey but also the political and cultural history of Tibet and the West™s continued fascination with its mysticism. Along the way, he observes pilgrims of various religions converging on Kailas and the myriad monasteries, most of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt decades later. It is the poignant evocations of his mother and sister (who died at 21), interwoven with his profound respect for the Tibetan culture and landscape that make Thubron™s memoir an utterly moving read.
- Monique and the Mango Rains; Kris Holloway (sent by a friend) -
This tender, revelatory memoir recalls the two years Holloway spent as an impressionable Peace Corps volunteer in the remote village of Nampossela in Mali, West Africa. It centers on her close friendship with Monique, the village's overburdened midwife. When Holloway (now a nonprofit development specialist) arrived in Nampossela in 1989, she was 22; Monique was only two years her senior. Yet Monique, barely educated, working without electricity, running water, ambulances or emergency rooms, was solely responsible for all births in her village, tending malnourished and overworked pregnant women in her makeshift birthing clinic. With one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world, these Malian women sometimes had to work right up until and directly after giving birth and had no means of contraception. Holloway especially noted Monique's status as an underpaid female whose male family members routinely claimed much of her pay. Monique shared her emotional life with Holloway, who in turn campaigned for her rights at work and raised funds for her struggling clinic. Holloway's moving account vividly presents the tragic consequences of inadequate prenatal and infant health care in the developing world and will interest all those concerned about the realities of women's lives outside the industrialized world.
- The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters; Timothy Schaffert (purchase) -
Schaffert's heartfelt debut features two young misfit sisters left alone to run a junk shop in rural Nebraska. Mabel and Lily Rollow (21 and 18, respectively) have inherited the jumbled store from their grandmother, who left their small town a few months earlier. This latest act of neglect opens the childhood wounds of their father's suicide and their mother's abandonment, the phantom limbs through which they feel very real pain. The sisters draw strength from each other, but are as different as they can be physically and temperamentally; seductive Lily is kittenish and quixotic, while heavyset, bespectacled Mabel is the sensible one. The girls do agree on their mutual object of affection, 19-year-old Jordan, the cheap wine-swilling "cute ruin" who likens his preoccupation with suicide to "having a crush on a mean girl." But he falls for Lily and the lovebirds embark on a road trip to the Southwest to find the girls' mother, leaving Mabel alone to run the shop and exorcise her demons (a process that involves visiting a brain-damaged, former glue-sniffing addict rumored to communicate with the dead). Though the emotional terrain is familiar, and Schaffert occasionally overexplains his characters, the wistful coming-of-age story is solidly crafted and enlivened by quirky, Gothic touches and gentle humor.Hope you received some interesting loot last week.