I found Hannah Brencher’s blog when I was a college student with a broken heart. It was as if she was sitting with me and listening carefully; she knew exactly the words to help me heal. I remember reading excerpts from her blog aloud to a friend in our dorm room one night. She looked at me like I was crazy. I realized she didn’t get it. The weight of these words.
Those early blog posts gave words to confusing feelings I held onto as I sought to grow and heal. Hannah Brencher’s words helped me to find my own voice. Her beautiful poetic prose assured me that God can be found in the words we write; I needed that message. That truth sits with me every day still.
Over the years, I’ve deeply enjoyed growing with Hannah’s works. Some seasons I keep up with her writing more than others, to be honest. But she’s like a Taylor Swift song or the Jonas Brothers. Always there for me.
We’re well past the heartbreak years – praise God – and we’re now in a place of learning how to be disciplined, consistent, and pushing forward into all that God has for us. I’m here for it.
When Hannah announced a new book set to launch, named Fighting Forward, I was stoked. And now that I’ve read it, I can confirm: it’s no coincidence God planned this book for this season.
Divided into sections of essays, Fighting Forward reads like notes of encouragement from a friend. It’s the guide you need to overcome hurdles and start new rhythms. Hannah’s writing is as beautiful as ever, her honesty refreshing, and her practical steps for reclaiming truth and fighting forward are life-giving. Hannah’s storytelling disguised as lyrical, poetic prose will give you the words you need to describe your struggles. Her wisdom will give you to the steps you need to make a change.
I wanted to share with you 3 quotes from this book I absolutely loved, and how they’re carrying me into another week of life and ministry:
“What do I love enough that I am willing to keep stepping into that love when the feelings fade or morph into something I don’t understand just yet?”
Just because my feelings are different now than they were last year doesn’t make the calling any less valid. I’m still in the positions God has put me in. I still have a responsibility to be a loving wife. A humble friend. A patient teacher. A willing writer.
None of these places are new to me anymore. And although the initial excitement has worn off, His calling has not. At the start of every day, I keep showing up to these places. And at the end of the day, I know that’s real love.
“At the end of our lives, I don’t think we will compare to-do lists or stack our accomplished goals in a pile to show off. We won’t even really remember those elaborate gestures so much as we will remember people – what they said to us, how they made us feel, how God used us to stitch fight songs back into the hearts of others when all hope seemed lost.
Note to self: the to-do lists and goal setting are meant to grow you into a stronger person for the sake of loving others better. If all my to-dos and goals are centered on me, I’ll never be satisfied. Everything is used to glorify Him in this life. And His way of doing that seems to be loving and taking care of people well.
“And then you take those small things and put them on repeat. Discipline stacks up, and those results will come with enough time and enough daily application. Eventually, your feelings of being overwhelmed will start to fade and you’ll miss fewer days and all the small things will morph into habits. And those habits will set you up for rhythms. And those rhythms become anthems you know by heart. And those anthems have the potential to power you into such greatness you cannot even fathom right now.”
One of my hopes for this year is to establish a healthy, life-giving morning routine. It can be overwhelming to wake up late to my alarm again and think, Okay, tomorrow I’m going to read, write, pray, and exercise every morning.
Discipline doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t mean immediately waking up into the big things. That’s a recipe for shame and shortcoming.
Discipline is taking small steps every day. She says, “Small things on repeat.” And when you break it up like that, you grow. Change happens. Your brain gets clearer, your body strong, and your will more confident every day.
Because this book is divided up into small essays, I had intended to read a chapter each day. However, I loved it so much I read it over a week. I hope to read it in smaller chunks in the future because there’s so. Much. Here.
You could really read it either way and multiple times and gain new insight from it every time. Hannah writes the depths of truth in a way that is beautiful and accessible to all.
Over the last 8 years of following Hannah Brencher, I’ve learned so much at the foot of her teaching; Fighting Forward is no exception. She is a master storyteller, preacher of truth, the friend to sit with you over coffee, and the cheerleader to help you go for that first run.
If you’re in need of a pep talk. If you need to be reminded that you have a purpose that does not require your perfection. If you need to kickstart healthier routines and rhythms. If you want to be assured that the hurt you feel isn’t wasted – these words were written for you.
Grab a pen and a notebook. Be ready to mark up this book. It’s a good one, and exactly the message we need to propel us into living on mission in 2021.
“God is great not just because nothing is too big for him; God is great because nothing is too small for Him.”
The Circle Maker, page 113
I mark up my books. Mostly with underlines, sometimes with a star or asterisk to the side. It drives my husband crazy, but it helps me to learn. It helps me to not miss the message woven in the writing that I most need to hear in that season of reading.
Without a doubt, the book I’ve marked up the most recently is Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Inspired by a first-century BC man who drew a circle of prayer in the middle of a drought and refused to leave until the rain came, Batterson describes a method of prayer that completely circles around and through our requests. The book, which is an entire testimony to the prayer walk of Batterson and his congregation, introduces believers to a different mindset to prayer.
Now, I need to pause here.
The premise of the book is not to literally draw a circle and to sit in it while you pray. Actually, it’s a book about persistence and patience. It’s about perseverance and boldly seeking a heavenly kingdom, even here. The book invites us to participate in a walk with the Lord marked by bold and faithful prayers, and requires a kind of stubborn faith that is dedicated to the practice of praying until the end.
I almost couldn’t stop underlining, and there’s so much that could be said about this book. But for today, let me leave you with 3 main takeaways.
001: “It takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert.” Circle Maker, page 86
I think one of the woes of living as a sinful human is that prayer is hard. It just is. It’s hard to find focus, to sit down to it, and to be faithful to showing up to it. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a believer who admits to having a perfect prayer life without any flaw.
Taken from research on world class athletes, musicians, and writers, Batterson brings up that it takes 10,000 hours to develop world-class mastery. Drawing from the implied practice and determination it takes to get there, he makes the point that prayer is the same.
No, it’s not about logging hours. It’s not that when I reach my 10,000th hour of prayer that I’ll be some expert. No, not even close. But he is saying that a solid prayer life takes time. His point remind us, “It is a habit to be cultivated. It is a discipline to be developed. It is a skill to be practiced.”
This gives me hope. I’m just as broken as the person who seems to pray so effortlessly and often, and the difference between me and that person is simple. They’ve committed themselves to the practice of prayer. That’s it. They’ve taken the plunge of faith it takes to show up to pray to an unseen God every day. They have stretched their patience, focused on the Lord, and continued meeting with Him.
They practice prayer. And it’s not always easy, but they do it in anyways.
And you know what, anyone can get in on that. The only failure in prayer is to stop praying. Establishing a prayer rhythm isn’t happenstance, and that means that all of us have the power to start healthier prayer habits and approaches even today.
002: “When you know you are praying the promises of God, you can pray with holy confidence.” Circle Maker, page 91
Did you know that conservative estimates say there are more than 3,000 promises in Scripture? And because of the work of Jesus, those promises belong to those who believe in Him.
James 1:5, ours.
1 John 1:9, ours.
Psalm 37:4, ours.
Romans 8:28, ours.
Did you hear that? God made Scripture. God made incredible promises. And we have permission to approach Him with those promises.
Some of the Christians I most respect and look up to have talked about praying Scripture right back to God. Hey, if He wrote it then surely it is the most reliable set of words we can read back to Him. Batterson coins it as “God’s grammar.” It’s His own language and set of terms. Why wouldn’t we bring that up in our talks with Him? Not to mention the words He promises are beautiful and plenty to sustain us.
We can read our way through the Bible, but prayer through the Bible plants its words deep within us. We learn how to cling to His promises by heart when we’re speaking those words back to Him, counting on Him to come through with it. My faith in Him heightens when He answers. And He will answer because He’s God and it’s not in His nature to break a promise.
003: “You’ll never achieve the goals you don’t set.” Circle Maker, page 176
Something I started praying about and seeking earlier this year are goals for the coming years. I sat down more than once to my Bible and a composition book that I’ve deemed as my Life Goals journal. This inspiration came from the He Restores My Soul podcast by Jani Ortlund, where she unpacks the value and how-to of casting vision.
One of the final chapters of Circle Maker, “Life Goal List,” could have not have come at a more appropriate time. Just like Jani, Batterson also unpacks the value of setting goals, why it’s important to prayer, and 10 steps for writing them down.
In his goal-setting guide, Batterson walks us through the practical elements of a good goal while above all recognizing that the chief end of a good goal is make God’s name famous. Not only does he give us practical steps for setting a good goal, but the entire list hinges on prayer. Beginning, middle, and end.
The rest of the book aside, this chapter alone was enough to remind me that we are not made to live on auto-pilot. We have been given opportunities and imagination that we’ve barely tapped into. One of the greatest opportunities of goal-setting is getting to marvel at the goodness of God to not only let us dream so big, but to provide incredible ways for those dreams to unfold. The bigger we pray, the more God’s name is magnified when He answers.
Batterson’s passion for prayer is contagious. He believes deeply in the power of prayer, and loves to tell the stories of how the Lord has provided for him; it’s evident on every page.
If you are looking for encouragement as to why you should be praying more and creative ideas on how to do that, you will enjoy this book. Batterson shares some incredible, specific stories in which the Lord came through for him. I loved reading his narrative on how he prays, and was moved to believe that anyone can do this. It just requires practice. Anyone can pray with this level of faith. You just have to start and see it through.
If you are looking for a highly academic, scholarly discourse then this is probably not the book you want to read. Certainly we can all glean some inspiration from this work, but I think it’s important to come in with this mindset that this is ultimately a narrative of one man’s testimony of how he has seen prayer make a difference in his walk.
I have to add that caveat because I think it would be very easy to be disappointed by this book if you come in with the wrong expectations. Instead, I encourage you to start with this simple question: what does a life of prayer look like and how can I practice it?
Much of what Batterson describes are practices and rhythms that I have heard other Christians I look up to say and do. And I feel like if I have heard this message, or similar to it, from the mouths of multiple, well-trusted people, then I can listen to Batterson’s message too.
The heart of Circle Maker is that 100% of the prayers we don’t pray don’t get answered, and if we want something to change, we have to do something different. Batterson’s message is simple: try a new thing. Try a new prayer model. Try a different mindset. Whatever it takes to get closer to seeing the kingdom of God unfold in our world, try it.
Ultimately, are any one of us going to damage ourselves further by praying more? Are any of us going to waste our time by finding different ways to refresh our spirit in Christ? Is anyone really going to be reprimanded for coming to God and saying, “This might look crazy, and it’s sacrificing new portions of my energy, and I feel a little clumsy about it, but it’s worth it because I just want to be nearer to You.”
I’m deeply indebted to historical fiction as an entire genre, and owe a hearty thanks to some of these books that have reintroduced me to the wonder of storytelling this last year.
Among these more recent, great historical-fiction reads is Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. Set in Italy near the end of World War II, this tale sends readers on a journey through the eyes of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager.
Pino. The boy who led a Jewish underground railroad movement and acted as a spy for Allied forces. Pino, the unsung hero who helped end a World War and lived most his life after quiet about it.
Pino Lella is only a teenager when Nazis overtake his home Milan. As the hand of the German forces grows stronger in his community, Pino is sent to live at a Catholic convent in the mountains.
Just after arriving to the convent, Pino is asked to lead Jewish refugees on secretive, strenuous hikes through the dangerous passes over the Alps and into the safe zone of Switzerland. For months, all though the winter and beyond, Pino operates this underground railroad leading dozens of people to safety over the treacherous passes of the mountains.
When Pino is summoned back home to be drafted for service, his family forces him to join German efforts in order to ride out the nearing end of the War. He protests at first, but what he soon discovers is an opportunity to serve as a spy for Allied forces as Pino becomes a personal driver for a Nazi general.
In this remarkable journey of courage and hope, Pino Lella affects the entire trajectory of the War by daily putting his life on the line for a cause bigger than himself. He falls in love, fiercely protects, and never gives up on the good that can be found in the world.
Here’s the Wild Thing: It’s a True Story
Beneath a Scarlet Sky was born after 11 years of extensive research by author Mark Sullivan, who estimates that 80%-90% of the story true. Over a decade of study, interviews, and simply being in Pino Lella’s presence culminated into this book. This is a treasure for us as there is a not a lot of written documentation of World War II in Italy. Who knows how many stories we’ve missed; even for Mr. Lella, his story had gone untold for decades.
This is Why I Love Historical Fiction
We can pick up a history textbook if we want to learn about WWII. But, there is something about storytelling that affects our brains in totally different ways. Suddenly we’re not just reading facts and summaries crammed on a few pages, but we’re in the story too.
We’re on our way to the market, walking past Nazi generals with guns in hands and swastikas banded. We’re knocked to the ground, covering our ears at the ear-splitting sound of explosion around us. We’re hiking snow trails across the Alps, leading refugees to safety. Suddenly, we are the refugee, fleeing for safety while wearing a target on our back.
I gained more empathy for the effects of WWII in this book than I ever did reading countless textbook pages. By delving into Pino’s story, I met Nazis and Jewish refugees. My tears fell at the weight of it all, and I rejoiced at the victories. No longer was WWII a black and white stain on our world’s story, but it became this nuanced tapestry made up of real people who fought for its end in indescribable ways.
You can’t learn that in a textbook. It takes the patience of hearing a story to gain that sort of understanding.
Retracing the Steps: a Guide for Reading
As I read, I retraced the steps of Pino by looking at maps and searching photos. I found what I believe is the Catholic convent he lived in (or dang close to it). I saw the lake he led his underground railroad around. I saw his home city, and the cathedral that represented hope and safety for him. I saw the same streets where Pino Lella fell in love, wept, witnessed atrocities, and fought for restoration.
With each discovery, as I looked at each picture and Google earth image, I thought, “He was there. He stood there. He stood up for his country and for peace there.”
This is another beautiful opportunity historical fiction grants us. I created a Pinterest board of photos and links that I found helpful while reading. For me, it made the reading so much richer as I really delved into Italy in WWII. If that sounds fun and nerdy to you too, check out the board to see some of the sights referenced in the story.
Final Word: an Excellent Five Stars
If you look for them, you’ll certainly find the critics of this book. But as far as I’m concerned, this was an excellent read and I plan to keep it on my shelf and recommend to others for years to come. Mark Sullivan honored the story of Pino Lella with his careful crafting of this quiet hero’s journey; he did the world a service by sharing it.
I will admit: it wasn’t Sullivan’s writing style that captivated me. I wasn’t drawn to this book because it boasts incredible dialogue or beautifully moving poetic style. Actually, what drew me in was the unavoidable message at the center of every page that every breathe we have left is a breath of purpose.
Even the ordinary breaths.
Pino Lella thought his story was ordinary. Plain. Not worth rehashing. But here is the truth: there are no ordinary days that don’t make a difference. He showed us that the most remarkable stories happen by taking one step after another, making decisions one at a time. We could be living in the middle of a World War, saving lives and communicating critical information, and never realize the impact we’re making.
Pino Lella’s story promises us that even in the darkest of days love is there. His story is evidence that there is more good at work than bad. Don’t get me wrong – times are tough. But, we have a choice to make. We can either be victimized by it, or fight courageously to see the good.
Every step we walk has the power to change the entire trajectory of someone’s future. Let’s dare believe that. And as we take our steps, one after the other, we follow that young Italian’s example. We continue –
to have faith,
to do what is right,
and above all,
find the strength to believe there is good woven in every day
I do not have a great relationship with technology.
I either surpass my screen time limits for social media, or I just avoid social media altogether. I’ll attempt to take notes or make lists on my phone, but then get tired of looking at the screen and revert back to paper – making a mess of keeping multiple things in multiple places. I take too many pictures, attempting to get the right angle, and then waste time trying to muddle through them later. I usually feel more like a social media stalker than I do socialite. And I usually leave a long day at the office with groggy eyes from staring at the screen for hours.
But, I’ve also been able to use my phone to reserve books at the library and find my way without getting lost. I’ve often taken out my phone to document a sunset or a coffee date with a friend, moments that will later go in an album. I’ve heard wonderful sermons, songs, and podcasts that have changed an entire day for me. On the days when I do make the calls I know I need, I always feel encouraged.
Technology has been both good and bad for me. A blessing and a curse.
Technology is a language I am struggling with.
If I’m very honest, I struggle with knowing how to use technology to the glory of God.
I often feel like a slave to something I barely understand. I see the ways its value, but I also see its power over us. Like, I feel so overwhelmed by my usage, and fear that I am wasting it. Wasting the resource, and wasting my time on it.
It’s 2020. I – we – cannot avoid this conversation. We have a responsibility to seriously consider the tension of technology in our lives, because it is has woven itself into every piece of our lives, and is changing the way we live. So better get to it: how can I wisely use technology, in a way that doesn’t consume or beat me?
What if the solution I’m looking for is to deeply rest and reset by turning it off?
What if we really could just…turn it off? What if we could step away from the demands of notifications, the onstream of emails, and the never-ending roll of newsfeeds? Relinquishing my screens sounds both simple and seemingly impossible.
Tiffany Shlain, a filmmaker in California, understands this tension all too-well. She believes that developing a healthier self and relationship with technology is that simple, yet seemingly impossible answer: turn it off. For 24 hours every week.
No cell phones, not even for GPS or music. No TV shows or movies. No reminders or emails. And in the place of rings and notification pings, is a quiet that has allowed Shlain and her family to invite friends over for dinner, go on hikes, read books, journal, and ultimately, reset. Every. Single. Week.
It’s wild that such a simple action is a bold approach, but in her novel 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, Shlain takes us on the journey of unplugging one day a week and the extreme benefits she has found over the years. She digs into the science behind tech’s affects on us, and outlines how to use it better.
It was easy for me to enjoy this book, because I am very curious about healthier boundaries and screen time limits. I couldn’t mark enough of this book. One, because it’s the library’s copy and I wish I had my own. Two, because every page had something to say. A couple weeks after reading it, here is what is still sticking out to me:
One. We’re Addicted and Our Brains are Literally Changing
I hate to be the one to break this news, but every engineer behind our screens – every app, every service, every little icon and notification – is designed to “monetize our eyeballs.” We are literally placed on an endless loop that is made to make us lose track of time and place. Like slot machines and nicotine, our desire for stimulation has been fed the overwhelm, instant feed of the web and still feels lacking. How did they do this? Because they know how addiction works.
The developers behind our screens have not intended to make us our healthiest and best selves, although they’ll market that because it sells. The more time we’re on our screens, the more money they get. And they’ve got us because we just can’t look away.
We are no different than an addict and the web is our dealer. Our addiction to screens, like any other addiction, rewires us. It changes our attention span, our level of focus, our memory. It affects the way we connect with others, down to our ability to even maintain eye contact. Shlain gets into a lot of the research and study behind this in 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, and it blew me away.
This takeaway is big for me, because it re-centers me. It reminds me that my usage of technology, if left unchecked, will produce damaging effects to my life goals and relationships. Shlain writes,
“The human brain is constantly developing. Everything you do and experience is reshaping connections in your brain, strengthening some connections while weakening or pruning others. This also holds true for your online life: every link you follow, every post you read, every comment you make, is shaping the wiring of our brain.”
The freakiest part about this is not only do I suffer, but my relationships do too. When I constantly choose my screen over faces, I am saying that my screens are more important to me than connection and community. Deep in my soul though, I know that’s untrue. It’s up to me set up a different routine though.
Two. Deep Rest Comes in the Quiet
Shlain’s anecdote for the busyness of tech is the quiet of solitude. In one of my favorite chapters of the book, she gets into our deep need for silence, arguing that the best way to control our technology is by making its silence a part of our life’s rhythm.
When we make “silent sanctuaries” for ourselves, we are giving our brains the time to process the overstimulation of notifications, conversations, podcasts, lectures, music and everything else we’ve heard. Literally, we are making healthier bodies that will live longer and stronger brains that will continue positively developing. Shlain delves into the science of how people who rest in the quiet are literally healthier.
Lower blood pressure. Better memory. Longer lives. And all it takes is turning off the noise, and being brave enough to let my mind wander.
I didn’t know this, but I shouldn’t be surprised. God wants us to sit in solitude and quiet with him. Of course our bodies would feel tremendous health benefits when we obey that. Of course God knows us best, and knows that the noise of the world is damaging when it’s all we hear.
I crave his solitude. I really do.
I worry for us all, that we would become so encumbered on our screens that we would rob ourselves of the healthy minds and bodies Christ has given us. I really feel for the church. I fear that my Christian brothers and sisters will grow to love our screens so much, that we will forget how to hear the voice of God and feel his presence in our lives. I fear that we could forget how to sit in solitude with a God who can easily feel far away, and that with every phone pick up, we will distance ourselves further from him. I deeply fear that we would forget how to pray fervently and be students of the word, because we could let our addiction to screens overtake us.
Three. Everyone Needs This
Here is the craziest thing: Shlain is not a Christian. She’s of Jewish descent, but does not practice. She doesn’t read the Bible or claim any relationship with Jesus. But she has picked up on something that is wired in the very depth of our souls, and that is the need for rest. Not just sleep, but deep, soul rest. She has taken an element of Jewish culture – a Sabbath, which is a day of rest – and made it set a part. She’s consecrated it to the renewing and healing of her body by trading in the noise and busyness for solitude and community.
This speaks volumes to me. This confirms that God has designed us to be off one day every week. He’s made us to work and create and hustle most of the time, but then to have a time to reset. He’s made us to take note of our limitations.
Not just Christians. All of us.
I used to think that taking a Sabbath simply meant not working, which could include watching Netflix, Instagramming, playing Tetris (literally the only game I have on my phone). Then, several months ago, I started turning my social media off on Sundays. I’m not always perfect at it, but what I discovered is how much richer my days feel when I’m not looking at an endless roll of everyone’s highlight reels.
And as I go deeper still, I’m learning that rest requires more than doing nothing. It requires positioning ourselves to receive what is good for us. Things like dinner with friends, hiking a trail, journaling about the week, praying – those small acts strengthen our souls in ways that picking up our phones again cannot.
I know how it feels to take a day’s hike to an incredible lookout over a river, or the warmth of curling up with a good book. I know how loved I feel when I sit with a friend, and she never once picks up her phone, because the conversation with me is enough. Seeking intentional quiet is good for our bodies and souls. I know why; this is the plan.
It’s 2020. We’re all humans. None of us can avoid this message because (1) we all use technology and (2) we’ve all been made by a God who set designed these patterns within us all the same. We might be at different journeys and levels of understanding, but none of us are excluded from the need to rest and the implications of our tech-filled society.
Final Thoughts: I Highly Recommend
At some point during reading this book, I realized that my habits make up my life. If I want to live a creative life, I have to make space for that. If I want to spend less time on my screen, I have to set limits for that. If I want to be real with people and live in community, I have to practice it.
And none of those goals will be achieved by refreshing the scroll again or binging Parks and Rec.
I have deep concerns for where we are headed as a society on screens; I have deeper concerns still for the church. We were made for more than life on a screen. 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week showed me that my concern is well-founded, and gave me a blueprint for how to begin the arduous process of change. This book showed me that the lingering desire to do more in my life than stay on a screen, and to find deep rest to recover weekly, is not crazy; it’s innately woven within me. Within us.
If we’re not careful, we’ll live on auto-pilot. We’ll consume, but won’t create and when the time comes to sit, we won’t know how to. We’ll run ourselves dry to the bones, but friends, we were made for something so much richer. The book reminded me of that, and put words to a feeling I’ve not been able to describe.
I’m not yet on a 24/6 lifestyle yet. I am moving and preparing myself to get there though. 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week has been my launching pad, a guide of sorts to help me begin the process. Even if you’re not quite ready for that radical change in lifestyle, I highly recommend this book.
You might surprise yourself with the ideas that come to you when you choose to turn off the tech for a day.
Here’s the first thing to know about The Matchmaker’s List: it’s not a holiday rom-com.
Wanting to read some sweet, Christmas funnies, I searched for a few to put on hold at the library. The Matchmaker’s List popped up in my searches, and I’m ashamed to say, I judged the book by its cover.
As it turns out, the white specks on the cover are not snowflakes. They’re just dots. And the red flowers the men are holding aren’t poinsettias. They’re just flowers.
Believe it or not, I had read the synopsis. But even so, I refused to believe it wasn’t a holiday rom-com. “The Christmas and the snow will be here somewhere!,” I told myself, holding out hope for a Christmas love story.
The *Not-So-Holiday* Story
In this story of learning to love and self-honesty, author Sonya Lalli takes readers on a journey of a 29 year-old bank analyst, Raina, who has made a deal with her Indian grandmother, Nani: if Raina isn’t married by her 30th birthday, Nani gets to arrange a marriage.
In a race against the clock, Nani chooses suitors from all over the Toronto Indian community to pair with her granddaughter. However, with each date, Raina finds herself more frustrated. And what Nani doesn’t know is that Raina is secretly holding on to hope for a man she loved (and still loves), wanting to believe that he might be ready to love her too.
Oh, and she’s internally battling with the tradition of her Indian culture too.
Throughout the journey, Raina asks hard questions. Why does she have to marry to be happy? Why does her Indian heritage leave no space for her opinion or space? What if this isn’t what she wants? Who even is she, apart from the marital expectations placed on her?
In The Matchmaker’s List, as Raina pines for a man she keeps waiting on to change, watches her best friend’s mom plan an elaborate Indian wedding, navigates the confusing dynamic of her family relationships, and of course, goes on multiple dates, Raina discovers that maybe love and life really does happen in ways that are not always arranged or planned. And maybe that’s okay.
Shout Out to All the Immigrants Making it in a New Home
One reason I chose The Matchmaker’s List as my next read – despite my reluctant doubts to believe it had nothing to do with snow or Christmas – was because of the opportunity to learn more about Indian culture and customs.
Lalli does not disappoint as she describes the textures and scents of the culture across multiple pages; I loved those moments. So often, I felt myself cooking beside Nani or sitting in her living room with tea. I heard Nani talking to the other women, and could picture myself wearing a sari in the beautiful big to-do of Raina’s best friend’s wedding.
And with each beautiful description of the culture, I saw the sacrifice that immigrant families make to come to a new home. I felt the effects of their children growing up on a different continent, and the confusion of generationally integrating in a new home.
How do you honor your history and culture, while also making a home in a new, totally different place? felt like an underlying question throughout.
The book hinges on Lalli’s description of the tension mostly between Raina and her Indian community. As a granddaughter being raised by traditional Indian culture in a progressive, large, Canadian city, Raina’s internal conflict in The Matchmaker’s List is probably a tension felt by all immigrant and refugee families resettled: seeking to make a better life, in a new home, while still honoring their heritage.
I enjoyed Lalli’s perspective into this confusing, messy, and under-told perspective of the immigrant and refugee story.
But, It Felt Like My Home
The Matchmaker’s List is not only a unique glimpse into Indian culture, but it also resonated familiar feelings of love for home within me too.
Although the underlying tension of Raina’s relationship with her Nani was the center of the plot, I adored their relationship. I love Nani like my own granny, and understood Raina’s desire to meet her expectations and make her proud. Actually, Raina’s gentle love and understanding of her grandmother convicted me, making me wonder if my love for my own grandmother’s mirror a level of grace like Raina’s.
I did love Raina and her grandmother’s relationship; their love was evident, and honestly, probably a testament to the close familial ties in Indian culture. Reading that from an individualist, American worldview was refreshing.
I Know Relationships are Hard, But…
Lalli did a wonderful job at painting images of all of Raina’s relationships. With Raina’s transient mother’s sudden coming and going, the clash with her best friend, the guy that she didn’t expect to fall for – Lalli captured the complex nuance of relationships.
She agreed with us that living with people is hard. But she also showed us that it’s beautiful and worth it, and requires hard honesty and unconditional love woven at the center of those complicated relationships.
With that, Raina came from a messed up family. Oddly, I appreciated that. Reading some of the flashbacks of her life, key points that shaped her, I was reminded of how deeply specific moments root within us – growing with us past childhood and well into adulthood. We are truly shaped by people and experiences. And not just us, but our entire worldview and outlook.
However, despite whatever childhood trauma and confusion she was going through, Raina was pretty unkind to others in her life in the novel. She really hurt a lot of people by lying to them, keeping truths from them, ignoring them, refusing to own up to her mistakes. And it messed up some relationships. She had damage to fix.
She did eventually make her wrongs, right. I applaud Lalli for that. I saw a lot of redemption in those relationships. But I just wonder how different it could have been if she had been brave enough to stand up and tell the truth in the first place, instead of waiting months to gather even more courage to own up to her mistakes.
And Oh, Yes, The Perfectionism
“She reached for my hand, and as he slight brown fingers interlocked with my own, that’s when I realized that in my silence, I was being complicit. I realized how much I truly loved this vivacious, slightly insane little woman, and what I would do to be the only person in her life never to break her heart. I would go along with it. I would live up to her expectations, and that promised I made to her two years ago – brokenhearted and desperate for my life to make sense once again – that if I wasn’t married at thirty, I’d let her make the arrangements for me.”
Sonya Lalli, The Matchmaker’s List, page 13
Probably the aspect that Lalli touched on that most resonated with me was the teaching of perfectionism. She delves into the pressure put on us, especially children of unfortunate situations, to rise and be better – in this case, better than her mother. While I don’t completely agree with Lalli’s execution of this topic, I did feel the weight of the pressure she was describing.
Raina had lived her whole life trying to be perfect, and never disappoint anyone. It took her until her 30th birthday to realize how absurd this was, and to see that actually, in her efforts to not disappoint anyone she’d actually created an even bigger mess.
Life is all about living and learning. Making mistakes and growing. We’re going to let people down. And Raina had let the pressure of believing she couldn’t for so long. I was so sad to see Raina live in this mindset. Humans are not created to be perfect, and in a lot of ways, Raina tried to be the God and Savior of her own story; it didn’t work.
I was glad to see Raina peel back her scales of perfectionism and fear, and by the end of the book, be honest about who she truly is. But man, was it a frustrating journey watching her get there.
Let’s Find a Better Argument Than “Tradition Sucks”
Although Lalli delivered on her description of Indian culture, I did not sense any deep love or appreciation for the culture as a whole. Actually, I felt a sense of shame and frustration with this community. This was disappointing because I thought there could have been more said to pull the reader into a deeper understanding of Indian culture, and there could have been redemptive qualities stated. Instead, by the end of the book, Lalli seems to state through Raina: my culture is wrong and outdated, and it needs to change. She only wanted to focus on the negative.
I’m not sure what to do with that. I think the “tradition sucks” argument is old and worn out, and cheaply done. But that was the premise of the whole book. I would have loved to have seen a more well-rounded, mature approach to disagreement. Instead, I read frustration and low-key complaining throughout.
And honestly, maybe I am working through this personally too. I know that loving people does not mean always agreeing with them, and I am not claiming that Indian culture is perfect. I don’t understand Lalli’s response to her community, and tradition, through Raina though. I’m still grappling with that.
Major Eye Roll at the “BIG LIE”
Another thing I was frustrated by was the “big lie.” I’m not going to spoil it for you. But there is a huge lie that Raina allows her grandma to believe, and in turn the entire Indian community in Toronto, believe. When the lie is first mentioned, it seems so small. But soon thereafter, the entire plot of the book hinges on this lie.
I really struggled with that too. The lie itself is ridiculous, and disrespectful. I felt that it did not make for a strong plot, and I was actually really surprised to find the lie continue growing and getting bigger. What Lalli wanted to esteem with this lie was actually cheapened by it. She seemed to make a mockery of a topic that the whole premise of the book is to accept.
The Final Word: Staying at the Library (For Now)
I loved the peek into Indian life, and stepping into the shoes of an immigrant’s granddaughter. I loved seeing Raina work through hard choices. I saw redemption in Raina’s self-discovery and relationships.
I think what I’m ultimately struggling with here in The Matchmaker’s List is that Lalli and I have vastly different worldviews.
We have different beliefs on who should marry, and how situations should be handled. We disagree on what it looks like to respect others, and how to be “true to yourself.” We have different levels of respect for submission and tradition.
Sonya Lalli and Brianna Persinger are very different. But I’ve had to settle with this: it’s okay. It is good to read literature and see life from many different angles.
If your experience reading this is like mine, you won’t pick up many quotes to jot down on the back of your bookmark. You’re going to relate more to relationships between characters than you will to the characters themselves. You’ll raise your eyebrows at some of the comments and situations in the book, because you know you’d write it very different. But, you’ll try to understand where Lalli is coming from. You’ll just respectfully disagree.
Read it, because we can not wear out the reminder that everyone is fighting battles that we – that even they – might not yet understand. We all need to remember what unconditional love and respect looks like in relationships, and we certainly need to develop a deeper empathy for the nuanced struggles of the immigrant journey and acclimation.
Although Sonya Lalli arrived to those conclusions different than I would have, I appreciated her perspective to arrive there in some fashion in The Matchmaker’s List. I’m glad to have checked this one out from the library, but am going to leave it there for now. Perhaps I’ll check it out again later, and see what refreshed eyes feel about it then.
Say You’re One of Them | Author: Uwem Akpan | Genre: Fiction
Paperback: 361 | Publisher: Back Bay Books (2008) | ISBN: 978-0-316-08637-0
“It was a time just to be a human being and to celebrate that. What mattered now was how to get people to lay down their weapons and biases, and how to live together.”
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan, page 254
This book is not at all what I thought. But it had Oprah’s Book Club sticker on it, so I shouldhave expected it to pummel my heart to pieces.
In a collection of 5 short stories, Akpan guides us through an emotional journey of life as an African child in the trenches of war and conflict, running and genocide, slavery and street life. Told through the perspective of children, Akpan places us in kid shoes walking through adult situations.
In a genius, moving work, Akpan has fictionalized some of the most real, complex conflicts plaguing the African continent. In doing so, he has placed us directly into places we only see in clips on a screen or read brief headlines about.
For those of us who are hundreds and hundreds of miles away, he has made these situations real through the art of storytelling. And I both hate him and love him for that.
A Writing Style That Honors His Culture
Akpan has a unique style, and each page flows poetically. His stories have given me a higher caliber for the fiction I read. Some of the most recent ficion I’ve gotten into suddenly feels lame compared to the way Say You’re One of Them reads.
Also, if you’re interested in world languages, this one is for you. Akpan has written true to the language of the people in his story. The dialogue can be tricky to follow, as its written in broken English and certainly doesn’t follow an accurate grammar. But, the speech is true to what we might actually hear if speaking to a nonnative English speaker.
Plus, Akpan has sprinkled in plenty of phrases and words in the heart language of his characters. Which certainly makes for a more interesting read, but is also more difficult to follow at times. I love that he has chosen to honor his fellow Africans by letting us into their own language.
I Expected Happy Endings
I guess I thought this would flow through one cohesive story, or at least that each chapter would relate to one another in one way. I was several pages into the second “chapter” before I realized that there was no connection between that “chapter” and the first.
Instead, I had just read a story. And the ending to it surely didn’t feel complete. I was still looking for the ending from the first “chapter” while I was reading the second, which I eventually realized was not a chapter but a whole different story in and of itself.
This was hard to grapple with. Man, I love a good happy ending with some kind of resolution. However, this book did not deliver that. In fact, none of the stories have an ending that you’d hope for.
But I can’t blame Akpan for that.
He is simply telling us about real situations on the African continent. As hard as it is to stomach, we have been waiting for innumerable conflicts to find closure for generations; they just haven’t yet.
I Left Feeling Both Completely Built and Torn
As a Westerner living in a developed world, reading through a lens of nearly uneducated children living in total poverty was hard.
I was inspired by the resiliency of the kids, but also emotionally depleted to witness their struggles. Their innocence reigned brilliantly, and though I celebrated that, it was heart-wrenching to see that same innocence violated.
I rooted for the kids, and felt a sense of pride when they succeeded in a small victory. I soon realized that these small spurts of victory were always quickly followed by a harder to defeat.
I was amazed by the conditions in which these families live in – huts, limited food, no shoes on their feet or vehicles to drive – and felt challenged to live on less too. But then I felt their loss when what little they had was taken away. I saw what riches can do to a person, especially a poverty-stricken person, and was confused about it.
Especially in the Largest Refugee Crisis in Modern History…
As a person who works with refugee families every day, I have to say: this book is profound because of the perspective it gives to the background of a refugee.
A refugee is a person who has fled their home based on well-grounded fear of persecution, war, genocide, or natural disaster. Usually because of things out of their control, such as race, ethnicity, religious or political preferences. It’s easy to skim through that definition, until you let it sink in, and start really considering what the journey of a refugee looks like.
Especially as the U.S. commits to bringing a record low number of refugees into the States this year, I believe reading the stories of fleeing is more important now than it has ever been. I don’t have to clarify this, but I will: there is a gross misunderstanding of who a refugee actually is.
Refugees are not the enemy. They are the targeted, the unwanted, the hated, the ones pushed aside for the selfish, horrifying gain of others. They are, really, people born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Refugees are the vulnerable, making decisions from a place of survival without the time, energy, or resources to consider thriving.
And when unprotected children are placed in this number of chaos and terror, and when we read the story of kids running away totally alone from something they don’t even understand, it creates a different kind of compassion within us.
It’s a compassion that moves with an urgency to see justice against their enemies (who are really our enemies too), and a passion to bring them into a fold of protection. To guard them, and restore them back to believing that they are valuable and welcomed. Have some of the world’s children ever heard that?
No, I can’t solve all the world conflicts and I can’t help all the millions of refugees displaced from their homes now. I can’t even help the thousands who will flee their homes today alone. I don’t mean to be rude, but I doubt you can either.
But, what we can do is seek to understand their story and make it known. I can tell the stories of people who have courageously left, and made impossible decisions just to take a few more breaths. I can tell you about the resiliency of the most vulnerable people in the world today, and through their journeys, show you just a glimpse of their passion for life and desire for safety.
Sometimes the most powerful, and honest, form of advocacy is storytelling.
In Short: Read It, but Read with Wisdom
The dialogue and language barriers will force you to read this more slowly. Be okay with that. Honestly, it’s a blessing because these stories are too emotionally difficult to rush through.
Every story shook me, some more violently than others. Akpan spared us many details, but still painted a picture of what it feels like to ride a refugee bus or to watch a sister fall into prostitution. He illustrated what could possibly lead an uncle to sell his family into slavery, and what it truly feels like to be a Muslim on a bus full of Christians and wizards.
We think we know about these things; we don’t have a clue.
I left each page feeling emotionally spent. When I finished the last story, I was grumpy. I gave Travis short and snappy responses, and was acting like a brat for at least an hour on a road trip with my family. Then it clicked: I have to process this. I have to give myself time to settle these feelings, and to recover from this book.
It was a hard read.
But, it’s important too. I applaud Akpan for giving us a glimpse into lives we can barely imagine. Say You’re One of Them is beautiful, stunning, awe-inspiring – it’s all of this, and more, because of the voice it gives to the unheard voices and the untold stories.
And these small – yet not so small – voices unify us with a passion to create a safer world for children to live in. I’m going to meet my own refugee kids at after school today a little more gently and compassion filled, because Akpan has told a story of their history that they’ve yet to understand. The journey to that realization is not easy, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit that has changed my perspective.
I thought I understood the journey of a refugee, but I didn’t have a clue. Thank you, Uwem Akpan, for penning these hard words. I am better for it.
Amusing Ourselves to Death | Author: Neil Postman | Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback: 184 | My Edition’s Publisher: Penguin Group (2006) | Original Publisher: Viking Penguin Inc. (1985) | ISBN: 978-0-14-303653-1
If you need a wake-up call to the ways that entertainment
has reshaped our culture, and continues to infiltrate every part of our
society, this is for you.
If you need to confirm your weary suspicions that media is
crazy and is making us crazy, this is also for you.
Neil Postman in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death,
argues how public thought and conversation has been misshapen in an era of show
business, constant entertainment, information overload, reliance on technological
media, and ultimately, led us to an addiction us to our own deadly disease. Speaking
to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Postman describes how we are ruining
ourselves and our society with our addiction to being entertained.
Yeah, it’s a lot.
It’s a heavy read, and it took me several weeks. But, I think this is important for us to consider. We cannot deny the fact that our entire society has been completely infiltrated by entertainment, technology, and media.
Have we made it through the year 2019 yet? Just barely. Have
we survived next year’s presidential election? Lord, help us.
It Got Me Thinking…
Postman’s argument is not simply that TV is bad. Instead, he illustrates to us how vastly different communication has become in recent decades. Taking each chapter to discuss a different avenue – specifically politics, education, news, and religion – and how TV has changed these spheres, his overarching theme is that TV is deteriorating those spaces because it is not suitable to relay this information and to give room for conversation to follow.
In short, modern day America has become so addicted to entertainment, that we won’t even receive the news and politics and education without it.
But what if those pairs can’t coexist?
When we choose to use the screen to relay all of our news and politics and education and religion, we are choosing to receive it in a way that entertains us, and only widening the gap between our ability to have a thoughtful discussion and our desire to always be entertained. This book makes us wonder how entertainment has changed the difficult conversations.
“Television, as I have implied earlier, serves us most usefully when presenting junk entertainment. It serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse – news, politics, science, education, commerce, religion – and turns them in to entertainment packages. We would all be better off if television got worse, not better. ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Cheers’ are no threat to our public health. ’60 Minutes,’ ‘Eye-Witness News,’ and ‘Sesame Street’ are.”
postman, pages 159-160
He says that we are teaching ourselves to love TV – not the information. We are a society of people who are being taught that if it’s not entertaining or pleasurable to me, then I don’t want to hear it. So, the only way that we receive information is by getting it in little pieces crammed between advertisements. There is no cohesion, or connection to its context. There is not background or even time for a full argument, to discuss all of its implications.
Just like our addiction to scrolling and seeing dozens of photos and bits of information in a mere minute, so is our reception to news. Just tons of tiny bits, and no glue to hold it together. Not to mention, no time to make sense of it all.
One of the most alarming chapters to me was Chapter 8 “Shuffle
Off to Bethlehem.” In this chapter, Postman discusses religion and TV. And it’s
On our screen, we have witnessed profane events and have sinful memories etched into our brains; it’s difficult to use our screen for a sacred event. I can easily turn my screen to a Preds game or Netflix. It’s no problem to click over to Instagram. What about that space is suitable for my worship? What have I truly consecrated and given up in the total adoration for the Lord that I claim to love, when I give him a bit of time between my scrolling and watching? When I rely on my screen for spiritual refreshment, I will always be let down, because there are always apps waiting on either side of my worship, rushing me back.
I should also note that Postman doesn’t claim Christianity,
or any other religion in the book. But even as he writes from a secular mindset,
he sees these problems – perhaps more clearly than my religious friends can. That’s
“The problem, in any case, does not reside in what people watch. The problem is in that we watch. The solution must be found in how we watch. For I believe it may fairly be said that we have yet to learn what television is. And the reason is that there has been no worthwhile discussion, let alone widespread public understanding, of what information is and how it gives direction to a culture.”
postman, page 160
By the way, in case you didn’t catch it above, this book was written over 3 decades ago. And he is spot. On. In a prophetic tone echoing from its original creation in 1985, Postman has presented us with a detailed warning that we are on the way to our own disaster. His message has not lost meaning over these years. Instead, it’s clearer and more relevant now than ever.
As I read, I thought of my own screens. No, for me it’s not cable television anymore. But it is Twitter and Instagram, Netflix and Crowd City. It’s mindless scrolling, wasting time numbing my brain and believing every headline I read. And after the last couple years our nation has seen, as we mock a president’s ridiculous comments on social media and receive risqué headlines that barely give us the story, who can argue that we don’t have an entertainment problem.
Actually, if I’m honest with myself, I have a hard time stomaching the news because it does feel like a joke. I can’t take the most serious news I will receive seriously, because of its packaging. And of course, the way its packaged and delivered alters the message altogether. It leaves me to wonder – what can I trust?
From a Christian, to a Christian:
Coming from a Christian worldview, brothers and sisters, we have to consider this topic. As Christ-followers, we should desire to be the most present, intentional people in all our conversations – no matter how big or small. But how often does our media get in the way of our presence? How many time have we worshipped our media and entertainment? How often do we let it rob our memory of the dignity of a person?
If the world cares about education, politics, religion, how much more should I? I know our Maker, and I know what he says about the value of people. He has dignified our position, and I call him a liar when I’m not engaging in these conversations.
Most of all, my pride is reigning when I choose entertainment first. I am saying that how I feel is more important than the person or conversation at hand. This is a woe of 2019, but that doesn’t excuse us from the damaging affects of our phones.
We would all do well to seriously consider our relationship with media, and to question our addiction to entertainment. And for that reason alone (and because I love ya and don’t want to see you waste your brain power), I believe this provocative, bold book is well worth the read.
Don’t fall asleep on this one. Put on your brave face. Brace yourself for impact. Grab a cup of coffee, and settle in. This is good. Difficult, but good.
“I know what it’s like to tell yourself a lie so often that it becomes the truth.”
A gossip app. An unlikely bunch of people in the same room. A death. Surprising friendships, breakups, and hook ups. And people searching to clear their name, even when it means admitting to the secrets they thought would stay buried. Karen M. Manus, in her YA Mystery One of Us is Lying, weaves high school stereotypes into a surprising story of belonging, changing, and fessing up by way of a framed murder.
When a group of students are put into detention, they think
their biggest problem is proving to the teacher why they aren’t supposed to be
in there and how there’s been a mistake. They have no idea that in minutes,
when the creator of a rank student body gossip app, Simon, falls over dead,
they will become murder suspects attempting to prove to the law and the
watching world that they didn’t do it.
The only problem is that the law is determined to prove one
of these kids guilty. And the media eats the case, following the kids around
and updating the world on the latest happenings in the case without regard for
what might actually be true.
Also. As if warding off the media and fighting the justice system isn’t challenging enough, high schoolers are mean and these murder suspects have their peers to deal with too, so there’s that.
You think that throughout the story you are reading about
kids solving a murder. And you are. But what you are truly uncovering in this
tale is people owning up to the truth, falling in love, and dealing with the
firsthand sting of the media and how crazy the public is for a juicy story.
As with any YA thriller, I often find myself thinking while
reading, “Okay, but would this really happen? Also, how old are these kids
anyways? Because this is not what my life looked like at 18.”
I usually expect that in this genre. For the sake of keeping the pages turning, I can look past that. I can put my creative hat on, and play along with the author’s story; I was happy to do that for One of Us is Lying. The story felt more believable than others I’ve read.
Although I didn’t particularly feel connected to some of the
characters and some moments that were supposed to be monumental felt
unsurprising, I found this book to be a low stakes, easy read. There’s nothing
too heavy – well, other than solving a murder – being dealt with, and you know,
life is hard enough. Sometimes I just need a page turning story to follow
without much thought.
Certainly, if you wanted to heavily discuss socio-economic
status and the justice of the law, there are plenty of conversations that you
could start using this book. However, I took this opportunity to read a story
and to make a few quick points about life in the 21st century.
“She’s a princess and you’re a jock,” he
says. He thrusts his chin toward Bronwyn, then at Nate. “And you’re a
brain. And you’re a criminal. You’re all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”
Each character enters the story with a predictable
caricature. It’s the same ole’ status quos we’ve been simplifying the high
school experience into for decades. But as we dig a little closer, we see that
there’s more to everyone than their positions and titles. And even further, we
find that everyone has lied in some way to get and maintain their placement.
It’s interesting how willing we are to live in the darkness
of a lie we’re not even happy about, when walking in the light of the truth produces within us a
richness we would have wanted sooner.
But I have to say: each of these kids, from the princess down
to the criminal, own up to their story. They do. When their hiding is exposed,
they take it. Honestly, I think that was the most surprising part of the story
because I only recall a handful of people in my own life with that kind of
When they fessed up, they changed. They weren’t bound to
their lies anymore, but were placed fully in the open where they were free and
had nothing left to lose. Not even their reputation, and to hell with it
anyway. Once they had the guts to leave the relationship or admit how they
really got the passing Chemistry grade, they were formed into a bolder, more
honest, more intriguing version of themselves.
No one is perfect, and things begin to change once we believe
that. Not only of others, but of ourselves too. (Also, side note, the criminal
was the most honest guy in the whole story. Take that for what you will.)
“I stand and hold out my hand. She gives me a
skeptical look, but takes it and lets me pull her to her feet. I put my other
hand in the air. ‘Bronwyn Rojas, I solemnly swear not to murder you today or at
any point in the future. Deal?’
‘You’re ridiculous,’ she mutters, going even
‘It concerns me you’re avoiding a promise not to
Okay, the love story. The classic rich girl falls for the
poor boy tale. The one where she stays up late on the phone when she should
have been studying, and he stops selling drugs. I’m really doing it an
injustice because it’s way more adorable on the pages.
It’s an innocent love story between two murder suspects, and
I couldn’t get enough of it. Manus keeps it clean, and uses the two to help
each other grow out of who they thought they had to be. I appreciated that.
“Like we’re some kind of hip high school murder
club without a care in the world.”
It’s, like, really freaky how much we lean on the media to
give us the truth today. We esteem it and follow it, as if it can do no wrong.
But as Manus shows us, it can do so much wrong. For starters, it followed these
kids around. Reporters waited after school and surrounded their homes. And for
what? To get the latest report on a story? A story that people attached to, and
treated like a reality show? Not cool.
And the fan base. Oh, my word. The public following the media
reports were taking sides and picking teams of who they thought the murderer
was. Suddenly these kids had fan pages on Facebook, and had to stay away from
Twitter to avoid people’s comments.
It was like everyone watched a 5 minute report, and were suddenly
experts on the nuances of the whole case. Suddenly there was no regard for the
humanity of the people involved, and the embarrassment, confusion, chaos they
were feeling. There wasn’t substantial support or encouragement offered to the
suspects. The case, as a group of kids fought for the truth to be found and to
save any hopes for their future, became trivialized; the watching public waited
to see who would fall next like it was some kind of TV show.
It’s a mirror to our society’s response to news today. We hear the news and genuinely believe that the media just wants to help us and help everyone. We do. We follow it. We worship it to the point that the implications of what we’re hearing is totally detached from what really happened, on the altar of being in the know and hearing a good story. We don’t even consider that what we believe might be wrong.
It’s not that we just form opinions about stories in the
media, but we state those opinions like fact. And really, assuming that we
could possibly grasp the whole story – with all its sides, humans, and moving
parts involved – in a matter of minutes is the most prideful thing we could do.
I can barely remember to put on deodorant in the mornings, much less solves a crime case. One of is Lying reminded me to humble myself, and not assume I know everything when it comes to people and stories. What you see is not the full truth; everyone carries baggage that we might not ever get to see or understand.
Everyone is motivated by something, and this book shows us
that some motivations are better than others. With all that said, don’t believe
everything ya hear, kids.
And while you’re at it, go check on your people. You might
think they’re okay, but they might be battling demons and need helping finding
the light again. Be the light.