She Would Be King by Wateyu Moore is an amazing and touching story of three gifted teens: a girl named Gbessa exiled from her village in Liberia for fear that her red hair and dark skin is evidence of witchcraft; and two young boys who end up in Liberia after escaping slavery in the Americas. Together they set out to protect the indigenous population of Liberia against slave-trader and European settlers. Its set in the 1800s, peppered with magical realism and told in beautiful language.
On the other hand, Dream Country by Shannon Gibney, is the story of a Liberian boy who gets into a bit of trouble in America so he is sent back to his relatives in Liberia. But more than that, it is the story of his ancestors and their fight against slave-traders and former African-American slaves taking up their territory and forcing them into servitude. The language in Dream Country is harsh and real, and the realities portrays can be overwhelmingly sad. But both stories are equally thrilling and mesmerizing. They are two different points of view of the same historical period and stories that will entertain you and educate you at the same time.
I had very little knowledge of the history of Liberia, aside from the re-settling of African Americans and had never thought about the impact it must have had in the local communities. This has open my eyes and allowed me to differentiate the fairy-tale story about freedom for African Americans in Africa that we have been told, from the harsh reality of conflict between settlers and indigenous people. If you loved She Would be King, you will love Dream Country. I encourage you to give it a try.
“While God’s plan is straight, the way of achieving it is not” – Antonio Iturbide, The Librarian of Auschwitz.
A few back a group of book enthusiasts who use #bookstagram on Instagram as a platform to share out common love of all things bookish (aka the Dallas Bookstagrammers) got together for a fun lunch. We were able to put faces to Instagram handles, make new friends and swap some books. From that meeting, a new book club was born. The book picked for its first meeting was “The Librarian of Auschwitz” by Antonio Iturbe. This is the story of a 14 year old girl who serves as the secret librarian of the kids ward in Auschwitz and it is mostly a tale of survival and coming of age. It is based on a true story and turned into a movie.
Now, I had a long list of reservations when it comes to this book: I don’t like YA, I am not big on historical fiction, I don’t like to read English translations of Spanish books, I don’t like war stories, I don’t like stories of genocide and I try to avoid reading white-male authors unless they have won a literary award. Basically, this book just needed to be a romance to be the anti-thesis of what I like to read. So.. as a compromise, I decided to listen to the audio-book on my commute to-from work, and I have a very long commute. It was more likely to entertain me that try to read it, where my mind will start translating it into Spanish and thinking on how I’d translate it myself.
What do I think you ask?
Well, I find the bits about life in the camp interesting and I think I have learned quite a bit I didn’t know about the family ward and the gas chambers. BUT:
- The characters are one-dimensional, like a cartoon
- It’s filled of cliché inspirational quotes I’ve heard a million times
- It’s so predictable that I feel I could finish the narrator’s sentences
- Zionism, not cool
- I feel like I’m talk down to, like I’m a toddler. The narrator is 14 not 8, she could handle a more adult tone.
- I don’t feel comfortable with typical stereotypes of Jewish and German characteristics
The audiobook narration is entertaining. I would have probably DNFed the book already. But the fake accents make me feel uneasy. Is it politically correct? I don’t know.
Have you read it or listened to it? Thoughts?