Read Brown by Kamal Al- Solaylee. This is a riveting read. The first 3 words of this book by Yemeni-born Canadian professor Solaylee are “Brown. Like Me.” The book is a fascinating account of accepting having brown skin and a trip almost around the world to discover what being Brown means to people. This is not a folksy account. It’s a political account. It begins with his 9 year old self watching the film Oliver! in his Saana living room. He loves Oliver Twist and even identifies with him — but Solaylee’s race gets in the way. Decades later, he goes to the UK to try to understand “British values”, then to France to look at the real Paris. He interviews undocumented Mexicans in Arizona, USA and the terror they live under — threats of deportation, losing their homes and children, and even death.
He journeys to the Philippines to investigate brown people who are literally “at the world’s service” — working as maids, nannies or (if male) construction workers worldwide. He attends a college program in Manila which boasts hours of classroom instruction in proper bed-making, and smiling through 18 hour-days of domestic drudgery. For me, the most interesting chapter is about being Brown in Canada — post 9-11. He writes about the case of Algerian born Mohammed Harkat — who is in his 18th year of house arrest in Ottawa– for a crime no one can name, and which he never did. This is all the old school official secrets act turned upside down by anti-terrorist claptrap. He examines what happens to Muslims, and how people even in Toronto arguably Canada’s most “multiracial” city turned on a dime against Muslims — in the wake of every pronouncement from the US. He talks about former PM Harper’s legacy, and Trudeau’s timidity. This book is a must-read.
I just watched the film The Snows of Kilimanjaro — and it’s nothing like Hemingway’s book. This film is about a laid off union activist in a town on the French “Riviera” — it’s a breath of fresh air and even made me feel hopeful. After a robbery gone wrong, four victims took very different paths to settle their fears and satisfy their consciences.
Both the book (I read it as an e-book) and the dvd are available at the Hfx library.