Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for May 6th, 2014

Orphan Train

Posted by nliakos on May 6, 2014

by Christina Baker Kline

Thanks to Daniela W-L for lending me this engrossing novel based on the orphan trains of the 19th and 20th centuries in America. Niamh Power immigrates to America from Ireland, only to lose her parents and siblings in a tragic fire. She is sent to Minnesota on an “orphan train” and finds herself little more than a servant or slave in two placements, one worse than the other, until her luck finally changes. . . . More than eighty years later, she awakens the memories of these transformative life events as she goes through an attic full of papers and keepsakes with the help of Molly, a rebellious half-Native American teen who discovers that the rich old lady is similar to her in ways she could never have imagined.

(Summer break is beginning and I am heading to McKeldin Library tomorrow to gather a boatload of books from my “to-read” lists! Watch this space!)

Posted in Fiction | Leave a Comment »

The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

Posted by nliakos on May 6, 2014

by Lesley Hazelton (Riverhead Books 2013)

Like many people, my knowledge of the life of the Prophet of Islam was limited to a few very vague bits: I knew he had married an independent businesswoman for whom he worked, and I knew that there had been a “flight” from Mecca to Medina. So I was ripe for this biography of Muhammad from veteran journalist and writer Lesley Hazelton. Hazelton wrote the book with people like me in mind: not Muslims, not even believers, necessarily. She makes very clear what is fact, what is historical/cultural background, and what is conjecture about the life of this man who actually changed the world. Drawing on the histories of ibn-Ishaq and al-Tabari as well as the Quran itself as her primary sources, Hazelton weaves the story of Muhammad’s life from conception to death. I learned about his early years as a goatherd, the diverse society in which he lived, the pre-Islamic beliefs and practices which became incorporated into Islam, his transformation from outsider to ultimate insider, and much more. Many thanks to my student Munerah for giving me this book!

Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction | Leave a Comment »