Recommended diversions

Guests of the Ayatollah and Kite Runner

Trying to understand the Middle East? Here are two books — one non-fiction and the other a wonderfully rich novel — that will open some doors for you.

Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, by reporter Mark Bowden, recounts the 1979 takeover of this country’s Iranian embassy in Tehran by Muslim students. The book gives interesting insights into the struggle in Iran almost 30 years ago between moderate nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists. It’s a storyline that is playing out throughout the Middle East today. Incidentally, Bowden says Iran’s current president — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — was one of the students who figures prominently in the takeover.

Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini, and the first novel published in English by an author from Afghanistan. It is a wonderful story about the relationship between two boys from different classes, but an important part of the story is the backdrop. It is set amidst Afghanistan’s tumultuous recent history, including the fall of the monarchy, the Soviet invasion, and the utter hypocrisy and capriciousness of the Taliban.

Now I’m searching for a good read on Iraq. Suggestions anyone?


Family camping

As I’ve gotten older, life has boiled itself down to a few essentials: family, work, and everything else. For Lori and I, family camping remains a favorite way to spend time with our kids. We’re just back from a great trip to Florida’s gulf coast where we swam, biked, canoed, walked, and took part in all kinds of other fun together. By my estimation there is no better way to spend time with children who haven’t graduated from high school.


Jackie Robinson and Don Imus

When Jackie Robinson walked out onto the field on April 13, 1947, to play Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a milestone for race relations in this country. African-Americans couldn’t eat in the same restaurants or stay in the same hotels as whites, couldn’t vote in many states, and were treated as second-class citizens. Robinson didn’t change much by himself, but as major league sports evolved so did the country. While shock jock Don Imus apologizes and tries to save his career after making a stupid racist remark, we — African-Americans and whites — should remember Robinson and countless others who showed by example the right way. It took courage to stand out there on his own, enduring threats on his life along with racial taunts. Too few follow that model these days.

— By Scott McLeod

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