I picked up Masha Hamilton's The Camel Bookmobile(HarperCollins, Apr.), because she always shows how people in other cultures live out their daily lives. This fascinating and thought-provoking novel is about a young American woman who goes to Africa to be part of a literacy project and rides a camel to remote areas, taking books to people who've never seen a car or used electricity. The rule is that if the books aren't returned, the camel bookmobile will stop coming. So there's some suspense when a boy won't return a book and the onus is on the village to get him to return it. It was also fascinating that some people in this nomadic village felt very strongly that the books could destroy their oral tradition. It really got me thinking about whether the Western way of looking at things is always the right way—and that's just one of a number of great questions the novel offers for book clubs to discuss. Reminiscent of Reading Lolita in Tehran, but easier to read.
Volume 254 Issue 13 03/26/2007