FRED HALLIDAY – Britain’s First Muslims: Portrait of an Arab Community

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From the library

Lots of interesting books pass through my hands at the library and this was one of them.  A study of Yemeni immigrants to the UK, I was attracted to it because it talked about people in Birmingham.  Cardiff and South Shields were other important centres and there’s a good longitidinal basis to the study, as we find that these people were very early immigrants to the UK, and how their experiences mirrored those of the larger populations who came later.  Interesting and thoughtful.

GREG MORTENSON (with Mike Bryan) – Stones into Schools

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Borrowed from Bridget via Gill

The story started in Three Cups of Tea continues with Mortensen’s struggles to get schools built in Afghanistan, especially in the remote Wakhan Corridor.  The  book does go over the founding of the charity but not in too much detail, just enough to make the book work as a standalone as well as a sequel.  It starts really with the earthquake that hit Afghanistan/Pakistan in 2005, introduces us to Sarfaz, a tribal horseman who makes epic journies, both in terms of administration and distance, across and around the region, and follows Mortenson’s "Dirty Dozen", the workers on the ground who carry out his vision.

Rather better written than the first book, in a first person narrative that does seem to allow Mortenson to speak through it, this book is also not afraid to face up to failure (will he ever get to the end of the Wakhan Corridor?) or uncomfortable truths, whether about the amount of time he spends away from his children, or about the wisdom of dashing away from the people who need him to accept an honour which will in time help him access more people.  There is also a sufficient amount of detail and thought amongst all the male bonding and rushing around.

A great project, and a good read.

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