For years I worked for a non-profit organization that did work in developing countries with poor communities. We helped communities build schools, taught women basic reading, math and business classes. I left the non-profit world with a sour taste in my mouth. This is partially because I got pushed out of my position when I got pregnant (my boss fired the next girl who got pregnant too--highly illegal, I know, but not worth the fight) and partially because the last couple of months/year of work were marred with shrinking budgets, lots of stress and a boss who, I swear, was taking lessons from Michael Scott. I don't know that the work we were doing was making a difference. I was in charge of designing our programs and providing the information for donor reports. I know what we were saying to the people who gave us money and I know what was really happening and those two things were not always the same. I know what we were trying to do but I question if we were really accomplishing it.
In his poem, In Memory of W. B. Yeates, Auden wrote,
"Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen"
I feel that way about non-profit work (Now, please don't get me wrong I'm not saying that non-profit work shouldn't go on...there are lots of organizations that I love and I show my love with financial support). I got into non-profit work after living in Ecuador. I came home and ached for a way to help the people I love. But seven years later Ecuador has her madness and her poverty still.
One of the things I liked about Little Bee was the way it explored the complex theme of helping people and charity. When Little Bee finds that Andrew has hanged himself she thinks, "Of course I must save him, whatever it costs me, because he is a human being." Recognizing that if she calls the police they will send her back to Nigeria and certain death she then thinks, "Of course I must save myself, because I am a human being too" (Spoiler alert. She does not save him. p. 194). Helping other people is hard. It is often inconvenient and sometimes seems to be in direct opposition to helping ourselves. I liked that in the book people didn't always help one another and their efforts were sometimes misplaced and even though they thought they were helping other people they were really helping themselves. Sometimes we don't help those who are around us. Sometimes we are not charitable. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we are.
Esteemed bookclub member Rachel, said, "I really liked "Little Bee" for the narrative voice (particularly in the first 2/3 of the book), but I didn't love the storyline itself. I've found this to be the case with some of the Pulitzer winners as well." I agree with that. I loved Little Bee. I loved Sarah. But I didn't like the story as much as I liked them.
Ok, that's all I got.
What did you think?
And, what book are we going to read next? Does anyone have a book out there on their night stand that they are dying to finish?