Welcome to “12 Summer Gems,” part 2! Each day, through Friday, we’ll tell you about books and DVDs that will wake up your summer—and prepare you for a more creative, compassionate autumn. All are great for individual reflection and small-group discussion.
PLEASE, help us make the most of this series! Some of the authors and filmmakers we’re recommending this week depend on people like you—our readers—not only to purchase their work, but also to spread the news to friends. These 12 were chosen to highlight books and films you might not discover without our help. PLEASE, consider picking something this week for yourself—and tell friends via Email and Facebook.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Buddha, Korkoro
DAVID S. REYNOLDS’ Mightier Than the Sword
We are not alone in recommending Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, by American Studies scholar David Reynolds. The New York Times published an extended review about the book’s significance. We actually consider this more than a book—we consider it part of the dramatic rewriting of what Americans thought we knew about the Civil War era. There are countless examples involving all aspects of that turbulent era—but, simply within the realm of racial politics, a great deal is changing in our assumptions about the Civil War’s legacy. One example is the work of historian David Blight in Race and Reunion, completely overturning our previous nostalgic memories of Memorial Day. Another example later in the racial legacy of the Civil War is Daniel L. Buttry’s resurfacing of Freedom Rider stories in Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
In his new book on Stowe, Reynolds invites readers to turn their assumptions on end about Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Stowe’s influence on our history. I’m now Editor of ReadTheSpirit, but as a Baby Boomer who majored in literature and writing in the early 1970s, no professor even suggested we should read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Now, we recognize that this best-selling 19th-century melodrama ranks with Dickens and even surpasses Dickens’ ability to spark real change. You’ll enjoy Reynolds’ book, including its sprinkling of black and white illustrations. It’s great for group discussion. Want more on the woman behind the incendiary book? We published an article headlined “Harriet Beecher Stowe burns brightly in bicentennial”.
LAMA SURYA DAS’ BUDDHA STANDARD TIME
STRESS! That’s the No. 1 issue I hear people talk about as I travel and meet with groups nationwide. There are many branches on the tree of stress: stress over our financial meltdown, stress over aging, stress over our little children (and our adult children and our parents, as well)—and even stress over whether any of this daily stress makes any difference in the long run. That’s why we’re recommending, Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now. Lama Surya Das, a popular American-born Buddhist teacher, has written a dozen books over the past two decades about Buddhist wisdom. In his newest volume, he zeroes in on stress as a function of our limited Western conceptions of time. The West has produced marvels of technology and production, he acknowledges, but we’ve also confused life’s core purpose with our competitive use of time. We may think “time is money,” but time is far more precious than that, he writes. Of course, it’s silly to assume that any 200-page book can suddenly impart the wisdom of a life-long spiritual journey. You won’t whirl through this book and close the cover as a Buddhist sage, calmly facing every challenge that lies ahead. But, think of this as good summer retreat for the mind and heart. Think of it as a tune up for the engine of the spirit.
Kino-Lober’S DVD KORKORO (BY OLIVIER MASSET-DEPASSE
For many years, Tony Gatlif has been giving us vivid glimpses of Romani (or Roma or Gypsy) life in Europe. I’ve watched The Crazy Stranger a half dozen times and love it every time. Gatlif is French-Algerian-Romani, now in his 60s, and he has used his melding of cultures to throw open windows on the lives of Romani people. His storytelling is vitally important because of the deeply rooted racism still encountered by this community across eastern Europe. In the new Korkoro, a word that means freedom, Gatlif finally dives into the crucible of the Holocaust, when as many as a quarter of Europe’s 2 million Romani were murdered. If you’ve never seen a Tony Gatlif film about the Romani, you are in for a shock! He surprises us at every turn. As the film opens, we see the iconic Holocaust image of barbed wire—but soon the wind blowing on the wire plucks a lively Romani tune. Every situation in life must be turned into the music of movement in Romani culture. Next, we see that core principle vividly in the jingling and jangling of a Romani caravan. It isn’t a spoiler to tell you that, yes, this ends as Holocaust films do end, although once again Gatlif surprises us by leaving the final demise of this lively family of 15 men, women and children until after the final titles. In fact, Korkoro may have set some kind of record in Holocaust movies for a lack of Nazis. Oh, the Nazis are omnipresent, but this film mostly focuses on French collaborators. Despite the obvious conclusion of the story, Gatlif gives us scenes so wonderfully alive with color, music and humanity that Korkoro might be called his Romani hymn recalling and celebrating the countless lost families.
Care to read more on Holocaust books and films? Read our Holocaust Educational Resources page, which has a particular focus on media for teachers, writers and small-group leaders.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.