I sometimes encounter books which I believe are critical to my development as a human being. These are fiction or non-fiction books that pry open my mind, making me witness to a reality I would not otherwise admit–good, evil, or otherwise.
Today I want to begin a process of sharing some of those books that have so shaped and changed me, and I hope others share theirs as well. I believe that none of us have a chance of becoming fully human by ourselves.
For example, here are two books important to my humanity:
- Killing for Land in Early California: Indian Blood at Round Valley, by Frank Baumgarden. (Wherein I learned that genocide happened right in my hometown’s back yard.)
- Diary of Bergen-Belsen: 1944-1945, by Hanna Levy-Hass. (The author recounts both the daily horrors of the concentration camp, and her ongoing attempts to organize inmates toward fair food distribution and mutual care. I cannot begin to articulate all that I learned from this diary.)
I have just finished another book which I would add to the list of Books for Human Beings:
- War is not Over When It’s Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War, by Ann Jones.
Jones travels through Africa and Asia and finds that, after peace is declared the violence of war still continues–for women. With communities destroyed and economies shattered, lawlessness reigns. In many countries, women are routinely kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered even as they struggle to find basic food and water.
Like Hanna Levi-Haas, Ann Jones does not just describe the horror, she organizes against it. Working with the International Rescue Committee, she goes to communities in Liberia, Congo, and Sierra Leone empowering women to advocate for themselves. How? By giving them cameras and teaching them how to document their lives. Later, she helps organize photography exhibitions that confront local leaders with the violence and terror faced by women and girls.
This book is gut-wrenching, astonishing, and humbling. I think it is a must-read for all aspiring human beings who read English language books as part of their path.
In summary, I offer a line from a song sung by Liberian women in celebration of their photography exhibition:
“Our life can change. We never knew.”
War Is Not Over When It’s Over is my recommended Book for Human Beings this week. Please share yours.