Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reading and Re-Writing

I cannot recommend Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption too highly.  It is a horrifying and heartening story that shows with graceful hands how God can bring hope out of some of the cruelest schemes of dehumanisation man has implemented. 

I re-read selections from Granddaddy's memoirs on the train up here to Providence, as I needed to cross-check my friend Irina's Russian translations of the same (a proofing I'd promised before the end of 2011 and never quite got around to).  Reading Unbroken made me appreciate Granddaddy's wartime life even more; although he deliberately edited his own taped reminiscences (for instance, he says that his skipper's nickname was "No-Dirt Callahan" and that it was said in an admiring way--one gets the impression that Dirt wasn't the exact word used), hovering around the edges of his words are echoes of the emotional toll the experiences took, as friends were lost, and he saw broken bodies and exploding bombs and heard wounded men scream. 

I myself have had to white-out and re-write bits from a selection in the 1950s storybook I brought up for my niece and nephew to enjoy: the entertaining tale whose titular character formerly was known as "Little Black Sambo" is now known simply throughout the text as "Sam" and the tiger-outwitting Sam's parents are just "Mommy" and "Daddy".  I take comfort in the fact that only one of the illustrations associated with the story was even mildly racist (and actually totally culturally wrong, given that the action takes place in India, where tigers abound, not the African subcontinent), and hopefully that pre-modern Aunt Jemima-like image of Sam's Mommy cooking pancakes with the tiger butter will not impress itself too deeply on my small relative's minds. 

Given that my niece has apparently believed for years that her father is African-American (she came home from school around Martin Luther King Day to inform her mother that, horribly, in the old days Daddy wouldn't have been able to live with them because of the color of his skin--he's actually a swarthy Portuguese man who looks and sounds like Raymond from the show "Everybody Loves Raymond"), I expect if anything Rita and Brad will identify with Sam and his parents, rather than viewing them as irretrievably "other".

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