January 1st, 2015
Sometimes we read for the language – its beauty and poetry. Sometimes we read for the knowledge – the perspective and insight. Sometimes we read for the inspiration – the imagination and make-believe. Then sometimes, all the stars line right up to where you are in space, time and morale, and reading is no longer merely pleasurable or formative or inspirational, but a spiritual experience. And that’s how I’d describe my reading The Poisonwood Bible now.
To the same extent in which the novel has allowed me escapism, it has also given me reconciliation. Through the words of her characters, Barbara Kingsolver articulates the simplicities, intricacies, humor, and ironies so relevant to my own (Toubab*) perspective of everyday life in Ngaye M̩kh̩, Senegal, West Africa that her writing has me mentally snapping my fingers every few pages. Yet beyond that, her words have, in their own mysterious way, revealed to me aspects of life here that I’ve begun to take comfort in.
I suppose in circumstances like these, it’s only natural for us to immediately seek comfort in things that remind us of home: the glorious wifi sign on the top left corner of my iPhone screen, locals who speak some English, granola bars from home, big festive family reunions that are not unlike the kinds we have in Malaysia et cetera. But soon, you realize that finding solace in these things could lead to worse homesickness in the long run. You quickly learn that those big festive family reunions only serve as garish reminders that you are not really with family-family, that granola bars are a finite source of comfort, that same language” doesn’t always directly correlate with “same wavelength” and that the wifi sign is painfully unfaithful.