Books That Explore Human Resilience
By Sarah Lundy, Ana Matute, Amy Wright, and Zoe Doyle
Many people across the world are currently enduring periods of adversity that feel almost insurmountable. Those of us watching from the sidelines feel helpless as the people of Ukraine, Palestine and Afghanistan experience violence, and the LGBTQ+ community is denied a voice with the proposal of anti-gay bills in the US. In the midst of this pain, the human spirit has the remarkable ability to remain resilient. For some, writing is a way to express and find some light in the darkness. We wanted to share stories of people who have experienced hardships, and survived, to spread some hope in this difficult period.
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai (with Christina Lamb)
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban is the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai, a powerful book on the activist’s fight for women’s education. Beginning with the moment Malala was shot by the Taliban for standing up for her right to an education, the book goes on to tell insightful stories of life in the Swat Valley before and then during the rise of the Taliban, and the events that follow. Malala’s huge passion for girls’ education makes this a truly inspiring and important read when you realise how much she has achieved at such a young age. I Am Malala has become a modern classic that is both educational and eye opening, and is a true story of human resilience and courageous determination from the girl who was prepared to fight for the right to have an education.
Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
This novel is a memoir by Reinaldo Arenas about his years in the communist Cuba while Fulgencio Batista and later Fidel Castro were in power. After fleeing from his country, Arenas will tell what was untold. Page by page you will feel the heartful nostalgic voice of Reinaldo as he tries to explain what an exile is. We learn how writing about traumatic experiences can be a self-reflective process, and how it can evoke such strong feelings of admiration in those who go on to read it.
Even though the life of Arenas was frequently plagued by censorship, he has inside him a determination, that is outside the norm. He considers himself as someone who is disruptive to the dictatorship. Reading Before Night Falls is an experience in itself that explains what being hegemonized is and how it feels to those whose lives are directly affected.
The Poetry Pharmacy by William Seighart
When terrible and terrifying events, like the situation currently unfolding in the Ukraine, take place, many of us can find it hard to concentrate. The news is constantly pulling our attention as we try to give our undivided focus and respect to the atrocities happening. It feels wrong to look away for too long. In times like these, some of us find poetry to be an antidote and a healer. If you need a few small words to push you forward, a few words to give you hope, or to summarise the complex emotions you may be feeling, The Poetry Pharmacy by William Seighart may have something to help. William even includes a helpful piece at the front of the book that discusses the best way to read poetry. He describes the act of repeating it to yourself like a prayer, a beautiful way to allow the words to really sink in. Additionally, the book is also available as an audiobook if you want to quiet your mind and float away on the soothing verse.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
While current world events have weighed heavy, reading the inspiring stories of individuals who have surmounted their hardships can provide a beam of hope. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir recounts her coming-of-age experience amidst the volatile political climate of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We follow Satrapi on her journey from childhood to adolescence amidst all the changes around her. From a young Satrapi confused by the violence and rules set by the regime; to her schooling in Vienna, separated from her family and experiencing the trials of adolescence; and, finally, her return to post-Revolution Iran. Although the memoir deals with difficult themes, the choice to use a graphic format helps to soften the intensity somewhat. Like Maus, a graphic novel that was recently, and controversially, banned in Tennessee, the graphic format lends a fictional element to real events while also adding a powerful layer of storytelling. Throughout the novel is suffused with Marjane’s satirical humour and a story that is hugely relatable to many more than first assumed. It is a highly personal account of life in Iran and an honest exploration of her culture, faith and country.