Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Having Perspective: Or "I Got a Whole Lot of White American Girl Problems"



A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS is the second book by Khalid Hosseini, who also wrote The Kite Runner, which I have read yet but will since completing this book. His writing is poetic, almost soothing to read, even as you’re reading about such horrific monstrosities. There were parts I was basically reading through my fingers because it was like watching a horror flick for me. This book came out in 2007, so as you might notice, I’m clearly not on any bandwagons or following anyone’s book clubs very quickly, but always better late than never. Quite frankly, I think the Universe was having a bit of a laugh at my expense because the last eight days have been less than my favorites in my life. In fact, if there comes a point where the Counselor and I are looking at my life on an iPad, I’ll be like, “Just skip those days. I’d rather not remember them if it’s all the same.”

But then I read this book, and what I’ve got is White American Girl problems.

The main character of this book is Mariam, and this chick has problems. So while I was pissed about my job and righteously thinking up ways to send my resume all over God’s green earth, I’d read this and go, “Well, at least I don’t work there. Under the Taliban.”

And it made the work week slightly more bearable. I at least didn’t go around with signs and saying, “You’re oppressing me!” because you know, if you want to be comparative about it, I’m clearly not. I may be a bit misused, but clearly, if it’s a real problem, I can find a new job—and that’s totally allowed in this country, so long as you can find another. Eventually I hope they’re not so thin to the ground and I can find something better. I’m not stuck in a house I’m never allowed to leave, being beaten and denigrated daily, and making rice for an ungrateful asshole.

Then my relationship bubble burst, and that just degraded a whole other aspect of my life and I was feeling sorry for myself, poor betrayed heartbroken creature I am. And then I thought, “Well, at least I didn’t have to live like Mariam and her marriage. I can move on or do something; in her country, that’s not the option.” Which I basically thought every single time we had to be in her POV and her husband decided to be his usual garbagy self.

It’s a story about how you know if you’ve lived a good life, no matter how horrific its circumstances were, because that’s one of the conclusions Mariam draws: she loved and was loved by the important people in her life and her life mattered. So again, not a bad thought to be reminded about while I was having my white girl problems.

Anyway, I totally recommend it. The writing is absorbing; the plot is absorbing; the characters are memorable. I think I will always remember Mariam as a heroine. And the last line of the book made me sob—so you know that’s a good book. I mean, it was a “happy ending” of sorts, but the expense at which it came was so great…you just seem to appreciate it all the more. I think we should all read more of these kinds of books so we can all keep our white girl problems in perspective.

What do you read when you need to put your life in perspective? Anything memorable where you went: DAMN, I don’t have problems like that, Thank God….

18 comments:

Marnee Bailey said...

t’s a story about how you know if you’ve lived a good life, no matter how horrific its circumstances were, because that’s one of the conclusions Mariam draws: she loved and was loved by the important people in her life and her life mattered.

I need to read this book just for this. This sounds amazing. I'm going to the library today. I'm going to pick this up.

Hope things get a whole lot better for you soon, Fran.

Terri Osburn said...

This is much the way I feel about The Fault In Our Stars. It's a sad but hopeful ending that makes you realize your life isn't so bad and you're glad you're life is just a little better for having read the book.

But I still don't know if I could read this. I'm leery of reading something that would make me so angry. But you don't make it sound worth the ordeal. I might have to try the library as well.

MsHellion said...

Marn, they will. I just need to cry it out first and be ready to move on instead of just stand here and hope for things that never was. The sort of thing your average heroine has to deal with before she finds her happy ending, right?

MsHellion said...

Terri, I still didn't feel that about about that particular book. But I really hated the author character--I despised him--so it made it difficult to fully embrace the message, you know? But clearly a book deserving of all its talk that it cause so many emotions, too.

Maureen said...

See, I'm the author who would rewrite this book so the chick finds Iron Man's old suit and kicks butt.

Maureen said...

And I swear, I'll get Steph on your résumé tonight. This last week was a blur.

Janga said...

I haven't read this book, but I understand how reading about a different culture or even a different slant on your own culture can alter your perspective. I've been reading a lot of nonfiction sources about African American women authors and the racial and gender discrimination they faced.

At the same time, one's own pain can be overwhelming even if it is relatively less than someone else's. I think Emily Dickinson's poem about pain rings true for most of us at certain times in our lives.

Pain -- has an Element of Blank --
It cannot recollect
When it begun -- or if there were
A time when it was not --

It has no Future -- but itself --
Its Infinite contain
Its Past -- enlightened to perceive
New Periods -- of Pain.

irisheyes said...

It's so funny you write about this today, Hellie. I was discussing this issue with my daughter recently. She is old enough now (has been for a while actually) to have very passionate and pointed opinions about the world around her. She had to read a book about a muslim girl and her life and was outraged, horrified, etc. etc. She kept wanting to tell me about it and I kept saying I don't want to hear it. And she accused me of sticking my head in the sand. Then I had to enlighten her about all the horrors and atrocities I was passionate and enraged about when I was her age. And the fact that I OD'd on it all. I really need the HEA's at this point in my life.

I love what you say about having American White Girl problems, though. I have said that a time or two to myself when things get a little out of hand. I grew up with a mother who liked to downplay EVERYTHING!! And to tell me to thank God for what I had instead of complaining about what I didn't. It took years of therapy for me to learn how to constructively learn to let myself feel sorry for myself, throw a pity party and pull myself together and get on with life. It's a talent, believe me. LOL I'm almost 50 and I still wrestle with "woe's me" and "wow I'm lucky to be where I am at this point in my life". I lean more towards the "wow I'm lucky..." side of things so I think I'm getting there. :)

MsHellion said...

Mo, I like your ending better. Although there was definite moment of satisfaction, I would have liked it better if she lived the sweet life HEA. Which apparently life isn't like and this is in the literary section. *LOL*

I appreciate it. If these yahoos around here think I've forgotten my work problems entirely, they're out of their effing minds.

MsHellion said...

Oookay, for whatever reason, it ate my response to Janga.

I'll try again.

Janga, you always know exactly the right Emily Dickinson poem that fits a situation...or just the right poem that fits any situation. It's a gift I treasure about you.

There was an article I read recently about afghan poems, couplets, written by women--orally--and written down by this other woman who translates them. The article was so haunting--the women so brave, funny, a little defiant (I love that about them), and thriving. The very definition of a writer. I salute them.

MsHellion said...

Irish, it is definitely a balance. You have to allow yourself time to grieve your disappointment, but not stand in the road until life runs over you. *LOL* Stop crying long enough to see that life is still beautiful. Or the Desiderata, as it were...I love that poem. I like to say that one to myself a lot. It's grateful while still allowing for the disappointments that hurt all of us.

irisheyes said...

Yes, exactly. That's one point I left out - I think it's a process, just like grieving. I suppose the older we get the more practice we get at following that process, unfortunately. :( I think that was the hardest lesson for me to learn - it's okay to allow myself a little pity, but then it was time to put it all in perspective and move on.

I love that poem also. My sister has a poster with that poem hanging in her bedroom. It has followed her everywhere through her life. I think I remember seeing it as a child and it's still hanging in her bedroom today.

MsHellion said...

Irish, yes, but the more practice we get, the more we still want to rush through some of the processes because they're not as desirable. Like the crying jag stage. Or the insane "Why didn't you TELL me I was ruining my life?" stage. (Pretty sure they all did, sweetie. Ad nausem. It's only ruined if you wallow in it.)

irisheyes said...

Right! For me, it was not being able to have the "pity party" stage. I had to skip right from getting slammed to "I'm just lucky to have food in my belly, a roof over my head and clothes on my back" stage. You HAVE to go through all the stages or you have a whole slew of other issues you have to deal with along with the original issue that slammed you in the first place.

That's the one thing I have to say for getting older - you do get wiser. Wouldn't trade that for all the tea in China!

MsHellion said...

Sometimes you have to cycle through various stages over and over before it settles. I'm not a fan of that either.

Maureen said...

I really believe that the sufferings of others does not negate the truth of mine. Period.

irisheyes said...

Another super important truth to be acknowledged, Maureen. And another concept that took years of therapy to grasp! LOL

MsHellion said...

Amen, Mo, amen to that!

Still, there's a certain...joy? satisfaction? reassurance?...that someone is suffering more than you. I'm not sure...but I seem to enjoy others suffering more than me (in FICTION) but then get a HEA, if possible. Which is a sort of therapy. Be the best heroine you can be and everything will work out all right in the end. Stuff like that.