Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Telling the Truth, Slant

This is new for me - I've finished a goal I set for myself with time to spare. Instead of procrastinating, instead of calling up my mom or a friend to meet for lunch, instead of catching up on the finale of "Grey's Anatomy," I chose to finish the task I'd assigned for myself. Now, this should be impressive to no one except myself; grownups do this every day, right? They don't need a supervisor breathing down their backs or some instantaneous positive feedback.

Practice and repetition makes habit, and I'd like to develop good habits. Clearly, all this talk of multitasking has me hyper-focused on how I conduct myself. Ultimately, of course, I want to apply these good habits--discipline--toward writing. Can I move forward with my plans given my current schedule? Is there room if I just become more disciplined? Or do I have to cut something out?

Tomorrow I'm leading a library book club discussion of one of my absolute favorites, The Poisonwood Bible (read about George Rede's experience with the book here). Kingsolver is the kind of writer I'd like to emulate - a distinct and informed voice, an engaging story that is at once personal and universal. The story follows a baptist minister, his wife, and their four daughters as they travel to the Belgian Congo to spread Christianity. The first time I read it, I had just completed a course called "Africa on Film." We watched Raoul Peck's "Lumumba" about that nation's first democratically elected leader; Patrice Lumumba was imprisoned and murdered, and evidence suggests the complicity of the United States. His election, capture, and death--and the politics behind these events--provided the backdrop of the Prices' stories. Having learned about it made Kingsolver's story all the more interesting to me. (Click here to watch a short "preview" for it; the embed feature doesn't seem to be working).

Rereading the book, almost ten years later, I'm able to make a different sort of connection. The female Prices learn (some more quickly than others) that their knowledge and experiences in Georgia don't mean a thing in the Congo. The seeds they planted, the food they cooked, and the way they treated one another do not easily translate. The girls and mother are able to adapt, whereas the father remains steadfast in his belief in a certain kind of God and in his ideas of what is right and wrong. I compare his unwillingness to change and his inability to learn about and love the community in which he finds himself to my dad's journey in Kenya. Instead of imposing change on a group of people, my dad became friends with them, immersed himself in the customs, the values, and the needs, which are as varied there as they are here. They work together to meet those needs. After almost three years of living there more than here, Africa is a part of him.

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