The date was November 22. Two days after I took the audience at
UMaine's Got Talent by storm with my poem Silver Foxes I got to ace
Millers Analogy Test. Then I walked downtown to volunteer at the
library. Only my friend Janette Landis was about to stop by the Front
Porch Books Christmas party and wondered if I'd join her.
Front Porch Books is in a cozy sun lit room over a garage.
Going there is more like visiting a friend than going to a store. And
once a year when they add fancy cookies and hot spiced cider. Yowza!
I wasn't planning to buy anything. I had very little cash on me. The
place is browser friendly. But there it was set on a little easel
with a ray of sun lighting up its cover, the book of my dreams,
Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel. I actually
had my credit card on me because I needed it as standardized test ID.
I gave in to temptation and violated my cardinal credit card rule:
use only for medical, dental, and vetinary emergencies.
Of course such a book had to be saved for just the right time.
Tonight, December 30, the house is cozy and warm. I've served supper
with no more chores to hand. Lights are sparkling on my lovely
Christmas tree. My Eugene gave me some of his prime chocolates filled
with caramel and nuts. We're talking divine providence here.
Material World lives most excellently up to its promise. It is
the fruit of an ambitious endeavor--an attempt through photographs and
revealing statistics to capture some of the people we share this earth
with and get us thinking about the gap of possessions and
opportunities between the rich and poor societies we live in.
"It is tempting to say that these photographs speak for
themselves. Yes, they do, but only if the reader looks care and
keenly at the wealth of detail presented on every page, noting the
different landscapes, the dwellings, the family sizes, the dress, and,
above all, the dramatic array of each family's material goods, large
or small, laid out in front of the house. Finally, there are the
faces of our fellow human beings, expressing pride, sadness,
weariness, curiosity, and all the other emotions that the camera can
If you're anything like me, you'll find Material World
captivating. You get to meet "average" families in 30 countries as
they work, go to school, worship, play, and celebrate special events.
It's like a trip around the world unmarred by obnoxious tourists and
overpriced souvenir shops.
However, if you're anything like me you will also find it
disturbing. The family picture in Bosnia, for example, includes two
armed U.N. soldiers who are not kin. You see very young children
playing sniper because that's what they've grown up seeing. Families
in countries like Etheopia are desperately poor. In a very telling
two page spread titled toilets of the world some countries don't even
show out houses.
Menzel wrote the book out of a conviction that in an
increasingly interconnected world it's important for people to learn
about the lives of folks in other countries. He closes it with a
quote by Albert Einstein. "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can
only be achieved by understanding."
Truly those are words to live by.
On a personal note, I take a day between writing a review and posting
it. Somehow that makes spelling and grammar errors easier to see.
Well I have had the most delightful day possible. I spent it with my
daughter, Amber, and her fiancée, Brian. Amber and I crafted. She is
very talented. And we all ate together. That was the Christmas
present I asked for and the best they could give me. :)
A great big shout out goes out to you, my readers. Have a safe and
happy new year.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod