Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: Stones into Schools (Mortenson)

Title: Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Author: Greg Mortenson
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 379
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Challenges: Women Unbound (13), POC (24), MUS Moms book group
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Summary (from the inside flap): Over the past sixteen years Greg Mortenson, through his nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI), has worked to promote peace through education by establishing more than 130 schools, most of them for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The story was told in...Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson's philosophies about building relationships, empowering communities, and educating girls have struck a powerful chord.

In 1999, Kirghiz horsemen from Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor rode into Pakistan and secured a promise from Mortenson to construct a school in an isolated pocket of the Pamir Mountains known as Bozai Gumbaz. Mortenson could not build that school before constructing many others, and that is the story he tells in this dramatic new book.

Review: I have rated this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars, not because the writing is the best or because I loved every word of what I read, but because it is so important, interesting, captivating, and sincere.

The truth of the matter is that I didn't read every word of this book. I'll admit that the passages about the history of the region, the warring factions, etc just aren't my thing so I skimmed them. But, I read the rest with rapt interest. I am so intrigued as to how Greg Mortenson and his colleagues work with the local leaders, families and children to make these schools a reality. They are up against insurmountable obstacles, but don't seem to let that detour them. The descriptions of travel in Afghanistan and Pakistan alone are enough to tire one out!

Educating a community in secular schools seems like such a simple and obvious solution to religious fanaticism, yet Mortenson is one of the only (the only?) one doing it. What I wish everyone could read is the descriptions of the Afghan men living in remote villages who so badly want their daughters educated. It is a far cry from the images we see in our media. The dedication of everyone that Mortenson has working for him as well as the people who help to build the schools is very impressive and humbling. It makes me think about what I have done to better my community. Yes, I am a teacher, a librarian, a mom, and a good community member, but when did I last go beyond myself and truly make a difference in the life of someone who was not my charge or my direct responsibility?

How do you feel about the idea of helping in your own community or a community far away?

10 comments:

By Book or By Crook said...

I read Three Cups of Tea and I was in awe of all he accomplished. I really am not that interested in reading this one though. I just feel it will be too much like the other one.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Book or Crook--Stones is definitely more of the same as Three Cups of Tea, but it is in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. I do recommend reading, it, but wait a year or so and that way you aren't sick of the topic. It's been a couple years since I read Three Cups of Tea so I found it inspiring all over again.

Diane said...

I listened to the audio version of Three Cups of Tea, and the reader (think it was the author) turned me off a bit, so I was not planning on reading this book. After reading your excellent review, I may reconsider, but get the book instead of the audio. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Helen.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Diane--it's so sad how a disappointing reader can wreck a book. A friend of my mom's got to go to a small group event with Greg Mortenson and said he is really interesting and inspirational in person

Aarti said...

I have Three Cups of Tea on my shelf, but I admit I don't really feel compelled to read it. I like the idea and the work Mortenson has done, but I heard he isn't a very engaging writer, so I can't bring myself to read it quite yet!

Aths said...

I have been looking forward to your review! I will definitely be reading this, but I do have a feeling that I'll be skimming passages too, but since it's important, I will still go ahead!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aarti--you won't read the book for it's writing. It isn't bad, it just isn't the reason to read the book. I liked Stones better than 3 Cups

Aths--Skimming is fine with me if it keeps me going through the parts I find interesting and important!

Booksnyc said...

Thanks for the review of this one - I loved Three Cups of Tea mostly because Greg's dedication and story were so insipiring. I will definitely pick the one up too!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Sounds like how the first book was written Helen - great story but not the greatest writing.

I am all for helping out my own community as well as others. I have went to Honduras at least once a year since 2004 helping out in two different communities - one being for homeless children, and the other working with children and families who live in the dump of Teguicigalpa. I will make this trip as long as I am able.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Booksync--definitely an inspiring story and helps me to better understand the people of Central Asia, which is also a good thing!

Sheila--Going to Honduras is great! It must be very rewarding. I think programs like Greg's work well in Central Asia and wouldn't necessarily work well here. Each country/region certainly has it's own culture that needs to be adhered to...