Guns, Germs and Steel

Every once in a while, and all too seldom, I come across an book that takes me to a new vantage of understanding. Maybe it opens up a new field of knowledge I’d never discovered. Maybe it answers a question that I’d been unable to answer on my own. But these books are real gems, the sorts of things that I mull over and chew on because there are so many good and useful ideas inside.

Guns, Germs and Steel is one of those kind of books. In this case, it answered a question that I’d been wondering for a long time. I’d phrased it like this, “What is up with Africa?”

Africa seems to be perennially fucked. They seem to be cyclically starving to death, they seem to have massively corrupt and uncaring goverments. They always need water and medicine.

Other places don’t seem to be starving to death all the time. Why Africa? What’s the real roots of the problem?

GG&S deals with that. And they deal with an even bigger issue: why the peoples from some areas conquered other peoples in different areas.

THAT is another question I wonder about.

Why did some peoples colonize and others BE colonized?

GG&S breaks it down into some really practical and understandable elements. To generalize: some people were better fed. And they were better fed because they had better food around.

Some PLACES had better food available than others. As enticing as it is to consider the people group to which I belong as superior, there are actually circumstantial and incidental reasons having to do with LOCATION that makes one group successful over another.

That’s a real, practical and effective argument against racism as well. Another advantage to reading this book!

It won a Pulitzer, as well it deserved. I would hope that this book would go on to be read by students and others for years and years to come.

To me, it was not hard to read. As technical as some of the subject matter became, the author made it very relevant to the reader.

Also, it gave me some new trains of thought about how to manage the future. We are all in this together, all of us humans from all over the world. We inter-relate a lot, and it would be best to understand the past so that we can make wise decisions about the future.

I can hardly stop talking about this book to all the people I know. It was very exciting to read it.

Member of the Wedding

It’s tough when you are twelve. Nothing you liked to do when you were younger is interesting anymore, and you are not allowed to do anything else yet.

Frankie is dying to leave her town, longing to get out and do exciting adventurous things. Her brother is in the army, and she adores him for the adventurous life she is sure he is leading.

And when he comes home to introduce his new bride, that is only one more adventurous romantic thing that Frankie is dying to be a part of.

That’s the main thrust of the story’s action. But the relationships between the main characters (Frankie, Bernice, and John Henry) are more important than Frankie’s delusions.

Bernice is the black cook. Her life, revealed in little peeks, has been far from dull. She cares very much about Frankie and her little cousin John Henry. She is very sympathetic to Frankie and tries to help her every way she can. John Henry gets the short end of the deal in the end.

It’s funny, too, how they all end up acting like kids. That happens! Adults, like Bernice, get drawn into the logic of the children. If you spend that much time around kids, you do start to think like them.

Frankie is trying so hard to be the grown-up that she doesn’t know how to be yet.