I have been told that Batswana don't read. They have even gone so far as to create programs and initiatives aimed at getting the communities excited about reading but they have, for the most part, fallen short. So you can imagine my surprise when a friend of mine in the village, Lovey, came over one day and expressed her interest in reading. She said that she loved to read and asked if I had anything that I thought she might enjoy and that might challenge her. I handed her Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, which I had recently re-read. I explained to her that it was about American missionaries coming to the Congo in the 1960s and it chronicles their journey there and how it ends up altering their futures. I told her that it had a different meaning for me now, after coming to Africa, than it did when I read it in high school and that many of the themes resonated with me. She left with the book, intent on finding out what I meant.
...Two days later, she told me that she wasn't sure she liked it.
...Three days after that, she told me she couldn't put it down.
...And, just a few hours ago, we had our first book club to discuss The Poisonwood Bible.
This had to have been one of the most amazing book clubs I have ever had. It was beyond interesting to hear her thoughts on the book, to listen to her talk about how her world view changed as she read, to understand her perspective on the issues, and to candidly discuss how the book affected each of us (both from an American and an African point of view).
She said she started out taken aback by certain things that were pointed out by the author, which had caused her initial judgment. Then she realized that everything she read was true but that she was so used to it that she didn't recognize it, which captivated her and caused her to think about where she came from. Because of this, she opened up to the story and the characters and grew compassionate, not only for them but also for me and my fellow PCVs in Africa who are adjusting to this new culture and way of life. This made her fall in love with it all. After this analysis, we discussed our individual perceptions of the book and then of each of our home countries. We spoke on how it feels to be in a foreign land and completely out of your element. And then we talked even more about overcoming obstacles and growing up and how situations can lead you in the most mysterious and magical directions. It was a unique experience that opened both of our eyes to new perspectives and a whole new level of understanding.
We are picking our next book club book tomorrow. I couldn't be more excited.