How has reading social justice books and memoirs actually changed me? I become aware of how much I buy or wear or eat that is made by slaves. And I pick something else. We rebudget. We reuse. We find fairtrade. Or second-hand. We support organizations through finances and prayers. Reading stories allows me to better understand God, as a WHOLE God who loves the entire world….. and connect Jesus’s life and commands to me, living today, to my life and our world. It connects the dots, and rustles the whispers of change in my soul.
So here are some books that I have read (and reread) during the last 6 months, on purpose, to become less ignorant. And I’ll likely work through the entire list throughout many years. To allow the Holy Spirit to change my soul and tendencies to instead be more like Jesus.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick = What do you know about North Korea? Well. Whatever it is, this book may change that understanding, or bring it to a reality that you can’t believe. An entire country. But it focuses on the stories of just a few. This one is AMAZING! I won’t say much, but it’s SO worth the read! Yes Yes.
A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier = This one hurts to read. Yes there is some beauty in the story of this family’s life, but it is mostly unspeakable pain. The sad part is that there are still child soldiers all over the world. Child suicide bombers who know no other reality. The blood and the fear and the starvation and the radical genocide. It is vivid. I can’t tell you to read this book because that would be a choice to make on your own. If something inside of you (like me) yearns to better understand the stories of millions of other’s hurting, especially the effect on children, then this book will change you.
Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder = A biography about healthcare in Haiti. But it’s not a dry, sad-sob-story book. I ADORED this book. In the first chapter I was hooked — the storytelling is so vivid and engaging. But more than that it’s inspiring and enlightening. I found myself actually changing the way I viewed my own patient-care and made some changes in my own job! What an amazing read.
Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide by Kristof and WuDunn = This book takes years of research and stories of women around the world and tells it with a startling truth. The labor, trafficking, genital mutilation, poverty…..is not for the faint of heart. It is hard to read, because before the end of the first chapter, you realize it’s not numbers, it was PEOPLE. It is the plait of MILLIONS of women. It is worth the read. I urge you, don’t turn away from the pain. Instead hear their story.
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis = This is the real story of Katie: a 19 year old woman who went to Africa in 2007 and how it changed her life. She starts as a teacher, and then becomes a mother, and then a healer, and then she lives and breathes for these people she now calls her family. I finished this book in one day because I couldn’t put it down. This book is all about loving unconditionally. It begs the reader to love like Jesus, to love everyone, without strings attached and without an agenda.
Little Princes: one man’s promise to bring home the lost boys of Nepal by Conor Grennan = This is a true story about a young man and his decision to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal (out of boredom and wanting his resume to look good). Just when he is ready to return home, he learns the shocking truth that the children have a terrible past. They were taken from their parents by child traffickers and forced to work and fight, and then abandoned in the country. He then tries to do the impossible: find the parents of these children and reunite families. The book focuses on these orphan boys and the culture of Nepal in the middle of a civil war. Rather than being just another heartbreaking book about child trafficking, the author simply wants to tell his amazing story about falling in love with these children. The book has humor, love, and lots of adventure.
And one more. The Locust Effect by Gary Hougen. Global Poverty and Violence. Written by the CEO of IJM with stories upon stories of our fellow brother and sisters across the world. This one is hard. But so necessary for us to breathe reality. May we be so moved to change our lives, impact our community, and thus change the world for the glory of Jesus.