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Monday, 29 June 2015

Stories Never Told

This is not a book review, because I hate most book reviews. Books are meant to be read and enjoyed, not analysed to death. So why bother talking about these books at all? I enjoyed them and hope that others may too and god knows, writers need all the publicity they can get.

Her Mother's Ashes is a collection of short stories by South Asian women. Perhaps, because I could relate so easily to these stories, or perhaps, because the stories are so well written, I read each story with the eagerness of a young child unwrapping a surprise gift.
The story I liked the best, however, was "Love in an Election Year" by Tahira Naqvi.
It is sad that, other than Bapsi Sidhwa, none of writers are vastly read or acknowledged.

This week, I read The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. The book is a harrowing tale of POW's used as slaves to build train tracks through the Burmese rain forests during the Second World War. It is a love story, a tragedy, beautifully told. It repeatedly made me think back to The Railway Man by Eric Lomax which I read last year. Same time. Same space. And the heart wrenching reality that both books touch upon, fleetingly, that only the white soldiers and officers who died serving the Allied forces have their stories told, tributes paid, and their memories kept alive. To heck with tributes, Eric Lomax speaks of how when after the war, the British searched for, dug up, and properly buried their fallen soldiers and officers, it was only white men who were dug up and buried, all the rest of darker skin tones who served the Empire were left in their unmarked graves.
My paternal grandfather served in Burma and my maternal grandfather served in North Africa during World War II, but no one knows their stories, not even their own families.
History is the telling of stories, but there so many stories that are never told, so many voices never heard, so many writers never read, and eventually, we all just turn to ash and dust underfoot. But before we go, we must make the effort to tell our stories and take the time to listen to the ones being told.

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