Category Archives: Bookster

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

bookster_logoCheryl Strayed first caught my attention before I even knew her name. As the anonymous advice columnist Sugar on The Rumpus, she broke my heart over and over again with her incredible empathy and impassioned style. When she revealed her identity and announced the publication of her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, I couldn’t help but snap it up immediately.

Wild is a hiking memoir in all but the most important sense. The book is structured around Strayed’s 1100 mile trek up the Pacific Crest Trail and her discoveries along the way. Woefully underprepared and overpacked, she came to the end of her hike a physical wreck, battered and beaten, more than half her toenails lost to boots a size too small. Her real journey, and the real subject of the book, was one of spiritual and psychological growth. In well-paced, devastating flashbacks, Strayed reveals the events that brought her to the trail: her beloved mother’s early death and the subsequent implosion of her marriage.

Wild is a steady and assured memoir; Strayed possesses startling self-awareness, but never descends into petty navel-gazing. Her narration is so brave and forthright that you never doubt the veracity of her emotions or the importance of her journey.

Sara D., Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

If our online discussion of Wild interests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us for a live chat with the author via Skype on Thursday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at CADL Haslett & South Lansing.

Bookster: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – Additional Resources

bookster_logoFor those of you who have already read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind I hope some of my posts have provided you with some “food for thought” about various themes in the book. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope my posts have piqued your interest in the book. Most readers that I have spoken with, who have read the book, found it truly inspirational.  It’s been a pleasure to have been your Bookster host for March. For further reading you may be interested in the following CADL books:

Also many things have change since the book was published in 2009.  The author, William Kamkwamba now attends Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  Enjoy this interview with him.

– Eric S., Librarian at CADL Okemos

If our online discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Windinterests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 12 p.m., April 4 for alively discussion at CADL Okemos.

Bookster: Technology and the Meaning of Progress

bookster_logoTechnology and the meaning of progress is another theme that I found in The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, which may resonate with some readers.  Consider the following quote by the author upon his arrival in the United States:

“One of the things I noticed in New York is that people don’t have time for anything, not even to sit down for coffee – instead, they drink it from paper cups while they walk and send e-mails. Standing at a construction site, I watched giant cranes lift enormous pieces of steel into the sky, and it made me wonder how Americans could build these skyscrapers in a year, but in four decades of independence, Malawi can’t even pipe clean water to a village…We always seem to be struggling to catch up. Even with so many smart and hardworking people, we’re still living and dying like our ancestors.”

From this statement William seems to express a level of envy at the material progress he observes on his first visit to the U.S. and consequently seems to be embarrassed by the lack of technological advancement in his own country.  From reading the book what do you think Malawi has that the U.S. is lacking?

To me, it is quite evident in the first sentence of the above quote. We may be technologically advanced in the United States, but we don’t have time for our personal relationships. In the book I was impressed by the strong ties that the author has to his family, friends and fellow villagers. Given what is presented in the book we can infer that although Malawians lack in technological advancement, they are wealthy in terms of the quality of their personal relationships.

I would agree with the author that it would be a good thing for developing countries to have access to technology that will make their physical lives better, especially if it is done in a way that is environmentally sustainable.  However, hopefully this advancement will not come at the expense of devaluing the quality of their strong personal relationships that they seem to have in their culture. Also we in the West can learn from them. Technology is only one measure of progress.

– Eric Stanton, Librarian at CADL Okemos

If our online discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Windinterests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 12 p.m., April 4 for alively discussion at CADL Okemos.

Bookster: The Case for Universal Access to Education

My favorite quote in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is on the last page of the epilogue:

“And I wonder just how many others like us are still out there struggling on their journey….We must encourage those still struggling to keep moving forward.  My fellow students and I talk about creating a new kind of Africa, a place of leaders instead of victims, a home of innovation rather than charity.  I hope this story finds its way to our brothers and sisters out there who are trying to elevate themselves and their communities, who may feel discouraged by their poor situation.  I want them to know they’re not alone.  By working together, we can help remove this burden of bad luck from their backs, just as I did, and use it to build a better future.”

In my opinion, this quote relates to one of the most important themes in this book — access to a quality education. Since we live in a “developed” nation all children have access to a basic K-12 education. However, many would argue that there are serious disparities in the quality of that education across our nation. Nevertheless all Americans do have access to a basic level of education.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in a number of places in the world. There are countless children like William Kambwamba who, through no fault of their own, are prevented from receiving a quality education.  There are several reasons for this, such as the lack of financial resources to pay for tuition and school supplies, gender discrimination and war.

My question to readers is what would our world look like, if all children had access to a quality education and had the opportunity to adequately develop their innate gifts and talents?

– Eric Stanton, Librarian at CADL Okemos

If our online discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Windinterests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 12 p.m., April 4 for alively discussion at CADL Okemos.

Bookster: Hear From the Author on How He Harnessed the Wind

bookster_logoThis month on Bookster we’re highlighting the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Read on for more about the author’s fascinating story:

William Kamkwamba was born in 1987 in rural Malawi, Africa. He lived in the village of Mastala with his parents and six sisters. As a boy, William helped farm with his father, attended Wimbe Primary School and spent time with his cousin Geoffrey and his good friend Gilbert. Although he was just an average student in primary school, he had an inquisitive nature.

One day when he was 13, William met someone in his village who was riding a bicycle with a light attached to the front. He wondered how pedaling the bike generated electricity for the light. When it was explained to him he began to ponder whether a radio could be powered by pedaling as well. These questions, along with subsequent hardships — the 2001 nationwide famine and his family’s inability to fund his secondary education — ironically paved the way for the development of his first windmill to provide light for his family.

Through his ingenuity and altruism, William later went from being a school dropout to a hero in his village, a celebrity within the international TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference community, and an inspiration to dreamers around the world.

Hear from William himself on how he changed his life forever:
William Kamkwamba: How I Harnessed the Wind

Eric headshot_cropped– Eric Stanton, Librarian at CADL Okemos

If our online discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Windinterests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 12 p.m., April 4 for a lively discussion at CADL Okemos.

Bookster: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Tbookster_logohe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is the featured Bookster title for March. I’m Eric Stanton, a librarian at CADL Okemos and your host for Bookster this month.

I was initially drawn to this title because my personal interest in renewable energy my hope that its use will grow in this country. I am especially interested in sustainability and green living.  Some in my discussion group were apprehensive about selecting this title. However, I had heard so many good things about this book that  I encouraged our book group members to give it a shot. I hope you will too.

TheBoyWhoHarnessedTheWind_bookI listened to the audiobook in early February and to my surprise it surpassed my expectations — this is a wonderful book. The subtitle is Creating Currents of Electricity & Hope, and it definitely generates hope. It is not just about another problem in a developing nation, it transcends cultural differences. I believe it’s an inspirational read for anyone picking it up, especially young people. The main theme express the idea that if you have good intentions, work hard and remain steadfast in your efforts, you can become successful regardless of the obstacles in your life.

Eric headshot_cropped– Eric Stanton, Librarian at CADL Okemos

If our online discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind interests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 12 p.m., April 4 for a lively discussion at CADL Okemos.

Organized Labor and Farmworkers’ Rights

bookster_logoWith the national media covering the changes in laws affecting organized labor, I thought it was interesting to read about the farmworkers’ struggle to form a union Barry Estabrook’s  Tomatoland.

I found the chapter, “An Unfair Fight” fascinating. We have already read about some of the hurdles migrant workers face when they arrive in the United States. Many are in debt before they even begin working the fields; they must endure harsh conditions while producing enough to keep up with payments to human smugglers. If they are not lucky enough to earn sufficiently, their families are threatened with violence by the very people who promised a better life. Some are even kept locked in sweltering cargo containers . . . enslaved.

Even workers who live a freer existence in Florida face an extremely high cost of living in Immokalee (and other similar agricultural centers). Rents that would afford us a comfortable house or apartment in Ingham County, pay for a filthy mattress on the floor of a rotting trailer, shared with a group of strangers — all this while earning between $10,000-$12,000 a year.

“There are these really terrible, dramatic slavery examples, and then there are less dramatic, but still incredible oppressive circumstances that, in effect, amount to forced labor that are extremely common and, in fact, close to the norm.” – Mary Bauer, Southern Poverty Law Center

Who is there to attempt to improve these conditions? Enter the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its leaders.

Did anyone else have thoughts about this chapter on labor organization or organized labor in general? I challenge you to read this chapter without forming an opinion.

kevinpCADL– Kevin P. Bookmobile/Outreach Librarian

If our online discussion of Tomatoland interests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 6 p.m., March 11 for a showing of a food documentary at CADL Downtown Lansing.