Saturday, April 5, 2008

Responses to First Three of Seven Questions

1. Do you have a question we could ask the author? It may be about the book, or its characters, or the actual Camel Bookmobile in Kenya, or why she wrote the book, whatever. (Masha, we would be very pleased if you choose to add your own comments and questions to our discussion.)
How much of the book is factual? Was the rule of one book lost actually used to eliminate stops on the library's rounds? What impact has the camel bookmobile had on the lives of the people?

2. Fiona Sweeney had found that "the assumptions people made about one another were invariably wrong" (p. 11). If you struggle (as Shirley is struggling) with whether Westerners should disrupt the lives of people like those in Mididimi, ask yourself about Fiona's assumptions, and also about the assumptions made by some of the Kenyans: Mr. Abasi the librarian, the elders who believe it is "far better to learn to read animal scents on the breeze or the coming weather in the clouds" (p. 15), Neema's brother-in-law Elim who believes that "the hours you waste staring at pages ... is a rotten sin" (p. 33). Then compare their assumptions with what the teacher Matani thinks: "How the Camel Bookmobile offered the only chance of survival for this collection of half-nomads with only one toehold in the future" (p. 39).
Mr. Abasi's beliefs illustrate the assumption that it is best to stick with what is known and what is practical rather than venturing out to the unknown. Elim's belief turns the struggle between old and new into a religious/spiritual conflict--if something is different just label it a sin. Matani's belief seems to be the realistic one from the western perspective. At least he is a person from within the group who is trying to effect change rather than someone from the outside trying to make changes.

3. Jwahir, the teacher's wife, thinks the books are "for the foolish or misguided of Mididima" (p. 48), but even she found something good about Library Day. What was it? Do you agree with her assumption that it's a good thing?
Tsk! Tsk! Jwahir's discovery of something good about Library Day is hardly the builder of happy families. In a way though, maybe destroying one's family while bringing change may tie in with the concept of changes being made through book learning as opposed to traditional oral learning.

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