Thursday, November 20, 2014

I get emails all the time with book suggestions.  One of the electronic book apps I use offers suggestions for me, but they are invariably books I read long ago. If it's so easy to know everything about me on the internet, it seems they should score more with books I would love, not that I did (or did not) love.

Every day, one of those emails offers free or cheap eBooks.  Sometimes they don't merit a second glance; sometimes they are classics I have loved for years. Every once in awhile, I'll buy or download one I know nothing about, strictly because of the title, the brief synopsis, even the cover (so there goes that old axiom.)
Suitcase Filled with Nails:  Lessons Learned from Teaching Art in Kuwait  was one I bought with no prior recommendation.  That it combined two of my interests--art and teaching--with the chance to learn something new about a part of the world so unfamiliar to me was a strong point.

Just because a book makes it to my iPad doesn't mean I am certain to read it--not immediately at least. The same, of course, is true about my personal library in general.  I could only hope to live long enough to read all the books I have fallen for--sometimes in a weak moment.  I could stay busy for years without adding anything new to the list.

This book jumped out at me, though, during our long stay in Carolinas Medical Center. I needed to read electronically, to avoid having to turn on an overhead light. There are no nice little reading lamps in most hospital rooms.  Most rooms are so bright they could be seen from outer space.

Wakefield is an American woman--a married woman--who left her home to take a teaching position at a university in Kuwait.  If she'd had a clue about the red tape and human obstacles she would face once she arrived, she might not have gone at all.  Her experience in academia trumps any of the worst stories I've heard here in the States.  Over the course of time, though, she learned to deal with the roadblocks or to fight through them.  As a result, she develops strong bonds with a group of female students, many from affluent backgrounds, trying to complete their educations.

If I've had problems with academic integrity, I know at least that my students are not forcing their families' servants to complete their projects.  Wakefield gives an inside view of the politics of Kuwait after U.S. military involvement. She also shows on a smaller scale how the Sunni-Shiite conflict affects individuals--in a college setting.  I was also struck by some of the irony she revealed in the young women's clothing requirements or at least expectations in a Muslim country.

In the book, she manages to deal with women's issues, animal rescue, academic competitiveness, religion and politics--putting human faces on what are often abstract issues.

Now I'm wondering what other gems I've downloaded that I should not overlook.

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