On my shelf: Upcoming lectures

“The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I’m really looking forward to diving into this book. I actually got two of them for Christmas. “The Thing Around Your Neck” is a collection of short stories by Adichie, who is from Nigeria.

I was first introduced to Adichie when I read the book “Gods and Soldiers,” an anthology of contemporary African writing, which showcases the myriad styles from across the continent, including both fiction and nonfiction.

She is speaking in Portland as a part of the Portland Arts & Lectures series on May 3, 2012. For tickets go to: http://pcpa.com/events/chimamanda-adichie.

“Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese.

Speaking of the Portland Arts & Lectures series, I should give a shout out to “Cutting for Stone,” which was one of the more gripping novels I read last year. “Cutting for Stone” tells the life story of two twins, who were born to a nun at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. The boys grow up through political upheaval in the country to both become doctors – one in the U.S. and one in Ethiopia.

Along the way, Verghese, who is a doctor, skillfully provides details that only a medical expert could. Let’s just say the end has the type of serendipitously brilliant conclusion that happens so very rarely in novels.

I saw him speak last year in Lake Oswego, and one of my colleagues wrote about the lecture here. For tickets to the April 12, 2012, lecture in Portland go to: http://pcpa.com/events/abraham-verghese.


On my shelf: Two journalists

It’s been a month or so, but I scored a couple of good finds at Border’s going-out-of-business sale. The last weekend the store was open I stumbled into a half empty store with blazing yellow 80 and 90 percent off banners. Here are two books that I got:

“The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe” by Peter Godwin

I just started reading this, and it’s really good. I love me a good journalistic book on an African leader. Godwin writes with some authority having grown up in Zimbabwe. To report for this book, he goes where other journalists couldn’t have gone as he interviews people (some off the record) and recalls the events after Mugabe lost the 2008 election.

“Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” by Roxana Saberi

The main reason that I picked this book up is because it is written by Saberi, a childhood role model of mine. As a teen growing up in North Dakota, I was a fan of hers when she became Miss North Dakota in 1997. As an Asian American in a primarily white state, I was excited to see another Asian American (Saberi is Japanese and Iranian) win. When I found out that she became a international journalist, I had even more to admire about her. So, I’m excited to see what her memoir reveals about the woman and her experiences being imprisoned in Iran as much as it does about her country of origin.

‘Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness’

Last week I bought an early copy of the newly released “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” by one of my favorite writers, Alexandra Fuller. I am very much looking forward to sinking my teeth into this one because on Monday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. she will be at Powell’s in Portland on her book tour. Since it was a book reading a few years ago that first introduced me to Fuller’s work, it will be a treat to see her again.

In “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness,” Fuller revisits Africa and gives us a prequel to her first book and memoir, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.” In it she makes her quirky mother Nicola Fuller the star of the narrative, and I’m sure it will be equally insightful and humorous. Fuller has a way with words making the ordinary seem extraordinary and shining light and meaning on universal issues.

I reviewed her book “Scribbling the Cat” last year. Read it here.

The Plundered Planet


Last night I heard Paul Collier speak on his latest book “The Plundered Planet” at Mercy Corps’ Action Center here in Portland. I haven’t read it, yet. Audience members received copies last night, but I’ll share my thoughts from the lecture anyway.

I am still mulling over his suggestion that there is a middle ground between romantic environmentalists and plundering opportunists. Bridging the expertise of economists and environmentalists, Collier proposed that future generations might find it more valuable to transform natural assets into other assets than to preserve them as they are.

For example, if you live in a poor society, it might make more sense to you to find some reasonably healthy way to extract oil from the land because it might help you get out of poverty. In contrast, future generations of Amazonians likely would hope that today’s society preserves the rainforest lifestyle that they have enjoyed for centuries.

Collier then talked about how poor countries can manage their natural resources – much of which is undiscovered. He explained links in a chain of events that can lead to healthy extraction of natural resources and shared prosperity for nations in poverty.

He then delved into those natural assets that are international – the oceans, atmosphere and the Arctic – and don’t really belong to anyone (or really belong to everyone). Considering that today’s technology is rapidly advancing, the discussion is timely because many of the earth’s natural resources that humanity has not yet discovered may be extractable in the near future.

Collier proposed changing the questions in discussions such as: which nations have the right to emit carbon emission? Perhaps, nations need to think more globally as the outcome of emitting too much carbon will affect us all. Instead, international standards should be set and nations can choose their own ways of regulating those standards, he suggested. Then citizens in their respective countries would be responsible for holding the governments to account.

Much of what he discussed was theoretical, and I haven’t read a prescriptive book like this in a while, so I am looking forward to digging in some more. I’ll share more thoughts when I finish the book.