The Merging of Two Books Into One

Over the holidays I spent a lot of time in my car driving to and from tailgates. I don’t know if you remember back to New Year’s, but the Falcons were hot, Atlanta was hosting the Peach Bowl and I was…busy. My New Year’s weekend was spent driving back and forth from Atlanta to my in-laws up in the Georgia mountains. It was a loooong weekend (a fun one too!) and since I was spending so much time in the car, I opted to listen to an audio book…then when I’d get some time to relax – I picked up another book…and slowly the books merged into one story…

The first book I grabbed was The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. It’s a fictional story about architect Lucien Bernard set in Paris during World War II. He is somewhat conned into creating “hiding spaces” for Jews and others who were being hunted by the Nazis. Bernard has no feelings – good or bad – for the Jewish people and he didn’t particularly like the Nazis, but he really didn’t want to get involved in anything that could put his family at risk. In the end, his greediness wins out and the story follows him as he saves various people and the inner conflict saving them creates within his heart. It’s fascinating to see the way he rationalizes behaviors as well as the surprising twists that ensue as he tries to set boundaries and continues to be pulled outside of them over and over again.

The second book I opted for was an audio book, recorded on CD, but available via my Overlook app. This true story entitled The Hiding Place is written by Corrie Ten Boom and Elizabeth and John SherrillTen Boom’s family owned a watch shop in the Netherlands The Christian family was strong in faith and were well thought of within their community. The story follows their tale of outwitting the Nazi party when they eventually invade their country and what happens when their eventually found out.

The book is told through the eyes of Corrie Ten Boom and she is not shy of sharing her own thought wrenching questions. Is it okay to tell lies when you know they will save lives? How do you go from witnessing the atrocities of concentration camps first hand and then back to “normal” life. And in the aftermath – how do you go on after experiencing such atrocities especially when they have taken everything you hold precious?  And how in the world do you continue to trust God?

The interesting thing about reading both of these books at the same time is the way they melded together. In The Hiding Place Ten Boom tells of an architect visiting their home to install a better hiding place…one that blends into the surroundings and is undetectable. In The Paris Architect our main character was just such a man. I began to interweave their stories together even though the only thing that tied them together was the setting of World War II and the theme of hiding places. The merging added layers to the words I read continued to come to life. Most fictional stories are based on shreds of truth that are then woven into a story… Reading these together allowed for more depth in envisioning what spurred Belfoure to write the book…was it a story like Ten Boom’s? Now I’ll have to go do some research because, no, I didn’t look it up after finishing the book;)

I was fascinated by World War II as a child. I read a million books on the subject, wrote papers on it and visited museums. These books reminded me why I was so fascinated…the idea that so many people could be swayed to do something so atrocious…the boldness of those unwilling to follow suit…the strength of those who had to endure the atrocity without any choice. I pray to God we never see another day like it, but if for some reason we have to, I pray that God will provide me the same faith, strength and boldness that Corrie Ten Boom had…and I pray I instill that same boldness in my children.

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Great Read: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan written by: Jenny Nordberg

I’ve been reading a variety of books lately both fiction and non-fiction. I picked The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg because I’ve been wanting to learn more about cultures in the middle east as well as issues they may be facing. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this book, in fact, I think I was thinking it was going to be similar to Reading Lolita in Tehran – women helping other women in an underground type movement, but it was nothing like I expected.
It was incredible to see the lengths families would go to protect their reputation, and within that, how culture and society roll with the choices that are made, just acknowledging that these decisions have to be made for the sake of the family, whatever may happen.

There was a lot of discussion last year on what defines gender. Is it parts you are born with or how society defines boy vs. girl? I found it comical as my son was in his toddler/early elementary years because he was drawn to the most random things – favorite color? Pink for a good while. Favorite toys? We had a My Little Pony phase. I’d raise my eyebrows, but roll with it. We saw McD’s one too many times to get those My Little Ponies…and who can blame him, really? I LOVED them as a kid…It even gave me a chance to pull some of MY old toys out of the attic. Everything was a phase. I’ve always felt that if my kid was concerned about his sexuality in elementary school, then I had a problem. Kids are kids…or they should be to me.

But then I read this book…It didn’t change my feelings on how I’ve been handling favorite colors, tv shows, toys, etc. but it did make me wonder how gender as a whole works. I do believe that we are made with certain qualities that tend to “group” us into one category or another – women may be more nurturing…boys more destructible. (That being said, please note that I am fully aware that there are lots of destructible girls and nurturing boys)…but I’ve had my fill of stitches and broken bones that my friends with girls just have not had to deal with! I believe that God intended men to be one way and women to be another so that we could support and care for each other perfectly…and then there was sin which totally jacked up that situation.
In The Underground Girls of Kabul parents in some cases choose their children’s gender based on societal pressure. To have not had a boy by the third or fourth child, a family could be pitied or cursed. It tarnishes reputations, in some cases, leading to job loss.

So, they make their girl a boy.

Let that sink in.

At birth a female child will be born and the parents will say “It’s a boy!” Doctors will nod and go with it. Or at five, the parents will see that issues are piling up as they have not had a girl yet (or perhaps can’t get pregnant again)…so they will call in their daughter, and discuss transitioning them into a boy.
Then wrestle with the fact that one day the girl, who has been made into a boy by cutting their hair short, allowing them to wear pants and run around with other boys, will one day have to turn back into a girl (around puberty) so they can resume another societal norm.

This is an amazing read. Regardless of where you fall on ideas around gender, this book will definitely enlighten on multiple levels and reveal layers of questions with which to wrestle. What would I choose? What if I was the girl having to be a boy? So many questions, but not many answers…amazing that today these are issues that families have to deal with in Afghanistan. Granted it may not be everywhere or commonplace, but I would be intrigued to see the actual numbers if families could admit it without retribution.
If you choose to read this, let me know your thoughts – what did you wrestle with (or did you)? I’m appreciative of Jenny Nordberg for boldly asking questions that are difficult to answer – and seeking the stories from those willing to share them with us.