Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Born Into Brothels

When I began working for Habitat for Humanity, the world became a different place. I have never stepped foot outside the United States, but through the photos and videos on Habitat's website, I was able to see what the world looks like in the slums of Eastern Europe and Asia, poor villages of Guatemala, and devastation in Haiti. Stories of families without homes and drinkable water touched my soul, and reminded me to kneel in prayer and give thanks for the life I have.

It's easy to forget those images, when you don't see them every day. Tonight I was reminded again, when I watched Born into Brothels, a documentary about a group of nine children who grow up in Sonagachi, the largest red-light district in Kolkata, India. The idea for the documentary began with Zana Briski, a photographer who initially traveled to Sonagachi to work on a project about the women in the district. She ended up focusing on the children, though, teaching them photography. The connection she made with the children through art inspired her to help them get into good schools, and she didn't stop there. She organized a nonprofit organization called Kids with Cameras, and by exhibiting and selling the children's photographs, she is able to fund their education.

There is one child in the documentary who is a phenomenal artist. He is so good, in fact, that he was nominated to attend a weeklong photography conference in Holland. He describes one of his photos as sad and full of pain, but "We have to look," he says, "because it is truth." That's how I felt about this documentary. It's rated R for language, and some parts were so sad that I cried. But it is a documentary about things that need to change in the world and the amazing results that can be achieved when we try.

This documentary has increased my desire to help others. I wish I could do more, but I will feel a little better if I get you to watch it. Watch it.

Thing I'm thankful for: everything

Monday, June 27, 2011

Men and Eyeliner

Generally speaking, men shouldn't wear eyeliner.* There are only three men in the world who can pull it off:

1. Johnny Depp

2. David Bowie

3. Ewan McGregor

*It was time for a silly post. The list itself, however, is not silly.

Thing I'm thankful for: appropriate levels of physical affection

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Books

Growing up, I didn't have many friends. Mostly I played with my sister Lexia, but when my family moved to Georgia, she basically abandoned me for cheerleading and parties. She'll get mad at me when she reads that, but it's true. It's also okay because thankfully, I loved to read. Throughout middle school and most of high school, reading was what I did on the weekends. My mom would often take me to a local book shop called A Likely Story (Isn't that clever?), and she would let me pick out one or two books. (Looking back, she really should've taken me to the public library instead. Buying books is expensive!) I'd read the books that weekend and eagerly anticipate the next weekend with it's accompanying set of books.

Perhaps that's why I have really enjoyed reading young adult fiction lately; it reminds me of my pre-adolescent years, when I read books in one long sitting. That's exactly what I did with Matched and The Hunger Games. I started both books in the evening and read through the night. I felt like such a kid. I thought my mom would burst into my room at any moment and tell me to "Turn the light off, and go to bed!"

But that's what those young adult books do -- they suck you in!

Having read both Matched and the first book in The Hunger Games series, I can tell you that both were good books, but I liked Matched much better. Part of that is probably because I read it first, but in general, I thought Matched was a smarter book. The stories are basically the same: teenage girl grows up in a dystopian society and begins to question her society's government. (Also, she has to choose between two love interests.)

I was pleasantly surprised with the world that author Ally Condie created in Matched. She gave us reasons why the world is so repressed and controlled -- as technology flourished, general knowledge diminished. People were living longer, but living less. Think Gattaca, here. (Actually, that's a fairly good comparison.) What I loved most about the book was that at the heart of it was a Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night. Just think -- in a world of 140-character tweets, abbreviated text messages, and high-speed grammar, Condie introduces a piece of literary history into her young adult novel. I thought it was brilliant. Also, Condie raises some interesting questions about agency in this story, which I loved.

In The Hunger Games, on the other hand, Suzanne Collins only tells us that there was a war a long time ago, and it resulted in one controlling Capitol and its surrounding districts. We really don't get much information beyond that. And I can't quite buy the kids-killing-kids plot in this book the way I can in The Lord of the Flies, for example. I do like the chapters about survival, though; they remind me of Hatchet, a young adult book I can really get behind. Still, I was a bit disappointed when I finished the book. Perhaps the second and third books of the trilogy will resolve some of my questions about how this society became so oppressed.

Bottom line: If you read only one dystopian novel this year, let it be Matched.

Thing I'm thankful for: work

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Best Library Card

Yesterday, I finally got an Austin Public Library card. I've had so much time to read this summer, and I love it! I had some other errands to run, so I told myself I'd only stay at the library long enough to get the card. In true Sara fashion, however, I underestimated the amount of time I would spend at the library. I stayed for about an hour and went over and over in my mind which book I would check out first. I finally made a decision and went along my way. The thing I keep thinking about, though, is the beauty of the APL card. Truly, have you ever seen such a pretty card for a library? It's wonderful!

Thing I'm thankful for: free blues concerts at Zilker Park!