Discussing The Giver’s Relevance in GIFs

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South African schools don’t really study The Giver by Lois Lowry as prescribed reading, so I finally read it last weekend. I had been putting it off for years but it is such a quick and easy read that I could read it in an afternoon.

Guys, I had so many thoughts about it afterwards. On GoodReads I gave it a pretty high rating, BECAUSE THERE WAS NO “QUESTION-MARK” OPTION! I have never felt so conflicted about a book before. Okay, maybe once before, in Lord of the Flies, after that whole thing with the rock happened. That was unnecessary.

So my thoughts went something like this:

THIS PLACE SOUNDS AMAZING. THIS IS A UTOPIA. CAN I LIVE THERE? GET ME A REAL-ESTATE AGENT, STAT! 

Because seriously. Everybody gets the job that suits them best? Awesome. Everybody has access to the same things? Fantastic. It’s like the whole idealistic Marxism thing EXCEPT IT ACTUALLY WORKS. Which it never would in real life because of power-hungry people and stuff.

And then, in the back of my mind, this tiny voice asked, “I wonder how Lowry is going to ruin this for us?”

And BAM! No colour. No memories. But – but… history is one of my favorite things!!

As a dystopian novel (now remember, this is a Middle Grade book published in 1993) it was pretty wonderful. I thought Lowry’s writing was lovely and descriptive and gripping. Stylistically, it was good. I enjoyed reading it.

But I was also annoyed.

I don’t like biases and propaganda. I realise that there is bias and propaganda in most anything we see or read or hear, but The Giver is BLATANT. Lowry makes it pretty clear that she equates Sameness with socialism/communism, and so she draws the parallel of evil. This isn’t really surprising because she was born in the 1930s so war and the Cold War were her childhood milieu. The thing is, the parallels are almost TOO easy to pick up on (much like in Animal Farm). The difference is that Animal Farm, to my mind, illustrated the progression of history, whereas The Giver tried to give history qualities it never had.

I should probably reiterate:

I REALLY LIKED THIS STORY! I just didn’t like… some other stuff.

So my biggest issue is that Lowry presents us with a false dichotomy. In The Giver, there is Sameness, and the only way for order to be maintained is to eliminate difference and therefore also eliminate colour and pain and pleasure. And making babies is bad. And euthanasia happens all the time. Because duh, that’s totally what socialism is all about!

The presentation is as if these two are inseparable – which we know is not the case since the Bastion of Democracy in our world is known for her Big Brother-esque behaviours these days.

I don’t think that The Giver is a bad book to read, but I do think we have now reached an age in World History where we should realise that the capitalism vs. socialism debate runs deeper than our shallow arguments; and that it is simply not as black and white as we may have been taught in school. It is not the way of life in The Giver that brings about trouble, it is the choices individual leaders have made – which could have been made by ANY hypothetical governing system.

On the subject of false dichotomies (and here it becomes less political and more airy-fairy) I don’t believe this whole “you can’t have pleasure without pain” trope. You can’t have peace without war? Bullshit.

There is no such thing as cold. There is only the absence of heat energy. If you do not know warmth, you will not understand cold; BUT you do not need the cold to understand warmth. It is NOT a two-way street.

Therefore the idea that we must somehow prefer a world without love because it will also be a world without hate and terror is way too simplistic. I love colour and I love music and gosh, I adore the beauty that is the diversity of our world and our cultures but I would never, EVER try to impress upon anybody that it somehow makes up for the presence of suffering. 

IT DOES NOT.

As for the movie:

I liked it. It didn’t reek of a political message as much – it was made to be one of those dystopian movies we’ve come to love-and-hate. It still has the same underlying dichotomies but they’re a little less blatant. Some minor changes are made that don’t really affect the plot much, but better the progression of the movie and the understanding for those who haven’t read the book. And the kids are older when they get their assignments, which suits me fine because seriously, twelve is too young for that ish!

Have you read the book? Watched the movie? Tell me what you think! Agree with me! Disagree with me! Tell me stuff!

I MET MARIA PHALIME! *fangirls*

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This will be quick because I have my Paediatric cases tomorrow and I am far from ready. Last night I had the fantastic opportunity to attend an event hosted by the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, where CityPress editor Ferial Haffajee intereviewed Maria Phalime. In case your memory fails you, Phalime wrote Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away, which I reviewed here.

Phalime was kind enough to offer the Safe Working Hours for Junior Doctors group some tickets to her talk, and I was one of the lucky people to grab one. (If you’re interested in the campaign, we still need more signatures! We hope to reach at least 2000 before taking it to Minister Motsoaledi. The petition is here and the Facebook page here.) Continue reading

TTT: Should I Read More?

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I have a reading idiosyncrazy idiosyncrasy. When some readers really enjoy a book, they tend to devour everything by that author. Me? I STAY AWAY. It hasn’t always been like this – the reason I have read tons of Jodi Picoult and Karen Kingsbury. I think it started in university when I realised I don’t have time to read everything I want to read. So now, when I have read a book that I absolutely adored, I actually willfully stay away from reading another work by the same author. I think partially it is because I don’t want to ruin my experience, but also partially because I want to read as many different voices as possible, and not restrict myself.

so many books

So although today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is “Ten authors I’ve only read one book from but NEED to read more”, I’m asking: SHOULD I read more of these authors? Continue reading

Visiting Haiti through “Because We Are”

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Ten-year-old orphan Libète has been hardened by the daily struggle to survive in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most infamous slum. But when she and her best friend, Jak, discover a young mother and her baby brutally murdered in a nearby marsh, it’s unlike anything she’s encountered before. Though initially shocked, the adults of Cité Soleil move on quickly from the event; after all, death is commonplace in this community. Undaunted, Libète takes action with Jak in tow, plunging herself into a dangerous, far-reaching plot that will change her irrevocably and threaten everything she holds dear.

It seems I’m on a streak of reading thrillers that don’t entirely conform to the genre – although my ‘fraidy pantsness is not exactly complaining. Continue reading

Book Review: Broken Monsters

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Broken city, broken dreams

In Detroit, violent death – along with foreclosure and despair – is a regular occurrence. But the part-human, part-animal corpses that have started appearing are more disturbing than anything Detective Gabriella Versado has ever seen[...]

[...]Broken Monsters lays bare the decaying corpse of the American Dream, and asks what we’d be prepared to do for fifteen minutes of fame, especially in an online world.

Lauren Beukes is pretty much on my auto-buy list (I mean, if I had the means to have an auto-buy list). I own most of her books, including her out-of-print Maverick, and Broken Monsters will soon be added. Continue reading

Ten Harry Potter Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

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I’m twisting today’s TTT topic in honour of Harry Potter Month! How’s that for killing two birds with one stone. These are the ten characters from the Harry Potter World that I would want with me on a deserted island. We assume that they don’t have broomsticks with them and that they can’t apparate from the island or transfigure into a sea creature to swim away… because that would just be too easy.

ten hp characters Continue reading

Harry Potter And The “Occult”: How Reading Was Almost Ruined For Me

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Last week I wrote about how much the Harry Potter books meant to me as a young reader – and to some degree, still does – but this week I’d like to write about how this lovely part of my childhood was placed in jeopardy.

As is wont to happen, there are groups of society who easily condemn anything that is popular as evil. I attended a conservative primary school, which was very vocal about its ideas of right and wrong. They declared things to be “evil” with striking regularity.

Heh… couldn’t resist.

Continue reading