Apr. 2nd, 2011

pauraque: bird flying (Default)
[personal profile] pauraque
This is a broad and wide-ranging introduction to Islam, and assumes the reader has no prior knowledge of the subject. (I didn't, so that worked for me.) A lot of time is spent on the origins and ancient history of the religion, including the cultural background of the region and how the very earliest Muslims lived and practiced their faith.

The middle section, after Muhammad's death but before the modern face of Islam had really arisen, kind of lost my attention. Too many names, dates, and battles, and I wasn't sure how it all fit together in the bigger picture. Aslan is knowledgeable but his style is pretty dry. I felt like asking if this was all going to be on the test.

Things picked up more when he got into discussion of the divisions between Sunni, Shi'a, Sufi, and their own subdivisions, and modern attempts to create Muslim states and how they've gone about it differently. This is where it really shows, though, that it's just a general introduction. It seemed he took on more than he could do justice to in a short-ish book. A number of interesting topics are brought up but then given only cursory treatment.

Aslan himself is a liberal Shi'ite, and he definitely puts forth his own views, not only on what Islam is, but on what it *ought* to be, religiously, culturally, and politically. I don't think arguing one's own position is bad -- it's certainly better than pretending to be neutral when you're not -- but again, the book seemed like it was being too many things at once. Is it a quick historical overview for beginners, or an argument for Islamic democracy, liberalism, and pluralism? It's both, and in a way that ultimately didn't read as cohesive for me.

tags: a: Aslan Reza, Iranian-American, Muslim, subject: Islam, genre: non-fiction
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
Cathy Freeman, Born to Run: My Story (2007)

I picked this up at the library because it was a prominently displayed book by an Aboriginal author in the children's section. I've picked up quite a few that way - I believe the librarians must deliberately highlight them, which is nice.

This autobiography won the West Australian Young Readers Book Award in 2008. It's aimed at primary school students and would, I imagine, be quite accessible for any sporty kid.

For the benefit of non-Australians, Cathy Freeman is an Olympic winning runner and the person who lit the Olympic torch in 2000. Naturally what she talks about is her training, her racing and her life. She seems to have been incredibly happy all her life with a wonderful Mum, great step-Dad and inspirational coaches. I vaguely remember some kind of hoo-ha at the Olympics because she did a victory lap with both Aboriginal and Australian flags but that is not really touched on, as her focus is on how she achieved her goals.


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