Question of the Day: Am I going to let the rain spoil my time at the Southern Festival of Books? Answer: No, put on your bright yellow rain slicker pull out your rain boots and open your mind to the authors. My biggest challenge with the book festival is choosing authors.
The title of Anand Gopal's book No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War through Afghan Eyes comes from a Pashtun proverb: There are no good men among the living and no bad men among the dead. Gopal was living in New York when The World Trade Centers were brought down by Afghan terrorists. After seeing the devastation and loosing friends, he gave up his studies in Physics and went to live in Afghanistan to get an answer to his burning question why? He grew a beard, learned the language and spent the next four years traveling and interviewing cross sections of the Afghan population.
What Gopal learned was that American got Afghanistan wrong. They ignored attempts by top Taliban leaders to surrender, trusted the wrong people and backed a corrupt regime. America wanted to see Afghanistan in black and white instead Afghanistan is gray: today's ally is tomorrows enemy. It is a country which has been at war for thirty-five years. Allegiances are based on survival, the country has no infrastructure. Afghanistan is a very complex country with extremely complex issues. Gopal explained Afghanistan in a way I had never heard it explained. CPSAN was taping his talk for Book TV and I went to hear him speak out of curiosity. I'm so glad I stepped outside my comfort zone of reading.
While I was waiting to hear Emily St. John Mandel talk about her latest book, Station Eleven. I listed to Marja Mills talk about what it was like to be the next door neighbor of Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mocking Bird. Harper and her sister, Alice have longevity in their genes--Alice is 103 years old! Harper has often been quoted as saying she never thought her book would have such a long lasting impact. Can you image being the next door neighbor to this set of sisters?
Emily St. John Mandel takes her writing career down a different path in her fourth book, Station Eleven because she did not want to be type classed as a mystery writer. She challenges us to think, to re invent our world after an apocalyptic event. What would you miss the most?
Ishmael Beah, what a journey. He was born in Sierra Leone, forced to become a boy soldier in the bloody brutal civil war, was adopted and moved to New York, became an ambassador for Human Rights and wrote the New York Times best selling book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. His book has been published in forty languages! He's 34 years old! It was fascinating listening to him talk about his first return trip home to Sierra Leone, finding his Grandmother and explaining to his American teachers why he didn't have a report card. Another eye opening mind expanding author.
The Great Santini, The Lords of Disciple, The Prince of Tides, South of Broad and The Death of Santini, do any of those book titles ring a bell? They were all written by Pat Conroy. Story Creek Publishing is Pat Conroy's latest adventure in the literary world--he has become the editor and publisher to first time authors.