As you may know I’m working towards my goal of reading literature from every country. I’m not going in any particular order – I find that I become fascinated with certain countries/regions almost randomly, or sometimes because of external influences, but certainly not in alphabetical order.
My current focus is Azerbaijan. When I started, I knew nothing about this small former soviet republic. In case you know as much as I did when I started, it is located in the Caucus region and it’s borders include Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and the Caspian Sea. And, although I’m by no means an expert, I feel like I have learned SO much. All thanks to one book in particular – Ali and Nino.
This fictional love story is set in pre-war (WW1) Azerbaijan and tells the tale of a Muslim man who falls in love with a Christian woman. Through their courting, marriage and continued relationship, the reader gets an intimate look at so many struggles that define what it means to be Azeri – Islam vs Christianity, (and not just Islam, but Sunni vs Shi’ite) East vs West, old vs new, tradition vs modernity…..
What made this book so wonderful for me was how much I learned about the cultures of the region, without feeling like I was being taught anything. The struggles that the two characters go through in their own relationship are inherently cultural. And through those struggles we get glimpses into real life in pre-war Baku. By getting to know and care about the characters and their daily lives and struggles, you get a better appreciation for the bigger picture. I’ve begun reading my next book, Azerbaijan Diary, by reporter Thomas Goltz, and I can’t imagine reading it without first gaining an emotional sense of the place from Ali and Nino.
Ali and Nino is exactly why I love reading books from around the world. I hope I can find equally fascinating, enlightening and education books from other countries as well!
A couple of weeks ago I came across a job posting that caught my eye. It was exactly what I want to do, and I was very well qualified for it – except for one thing: you had to be fluent in Azerbaijani.
Hmm. Don’t think I’ll be able to fake that one!
As I talked myself down from how *perfect* that job would have been, and how *perfect* I was for it, I realized how much I don’t know about Azerbaijan.
So, it became the focus of my World of Books reading list! And, wow, I have not been disappointed! I have had a great time with literature set in the area and have learned so much! And that is exactly why I have this crazy goal!
The first book I didn’t technically read – I listened to it on CD during a drive from Ohio. The book is Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon.
If you’ve never read anything from Chabon, you must. His prose is wonderful – the kind that makes you sit up a little straighter and fall in love with words all over again. And listening to Andre Braugher read it makes it especially delectable!
The story itself is set around 950 AD, and only partially in Azerbaijan. The plot takes the main characters on both sides of the Caspian and Black Seas. I can’t say that I necessarily learned specifics about the culture or lives of Azeris, but I definitely got a solid feel for just how central the region is – at the crossroads between East and West.
The story itself is wild and wildly entertaining. I will surely pick up more work from Michael Chabon. It was a great introduction to the region, if only because it was fun and gave a general sense of things, albeit 1000 years ago…
Due to the unprecedented nature of the 2008 election, communities of color are being actively sought after and their role and influence scrutinized by the media and political pundits. In an effort to add depth to the national conversation about the important role these communities are playing and will continue to play in ’08 and beyond, the Center for American Progress Action Fund is bringing together noted experts from the Asian American, Latino, Native American, and African American communities to discuss how these communities view this process, how they are working together to advance a common agenda, and about the role voters of color will play in November and beyond.
Click here to follow the live blog of this event.
Live blogging continues here!
I am very happy to report that I’ll be attending the Intercultural Management Institute’s conference on March 13 and 14. I am looking forward to many interesting panels and workshops.I’m also excited to try live blogging for the first time. I’ll be using www.coveritlive.com ‘s application. I hope you join in!
To follow along, click here.