Thursday, May 15, 2014

Crisp and Self-Assured

For my classes on the geography of the Global South, I use a text by Harm de Blij, a prolific geographer who died this spring. The day after he died, I received the latest edition of the book I use, and found that he and his co-authors had dedicated it to Malala Yousafzai.

When I was asked a few weeks later to participate in the reading of I Am Malala with our Honors Book Club, I agreed right away to do so. Our program will be in September, but I started reading the book right away. I am both moved by her story and learning a lot of geography from the background that is recounted in the opening chapters.

I am reading about this brave young woman at a time that the world is deeply concerned about a large group of young women in Nigeria who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram while daring to pursue their education. I have been following this as a story about human trafficking, which it is. But it is also a story about the education of women, as illustrated by the strange interactions among celebrity advocates for their release, Rush Limbaugh's disdain for that advocacy, and Jon Stewart's mockery of that criticism.

Stewart connects the bravery of Malala to the bravery of her sisters in Nigeria. In Too Crisp and Self Assured?, journalist Michel Martin connects the story of those young women to the career of Boston-born Barbara Walters, who is retiring this week. She started her career two years before I was born and is famous not only for her work but for her willingness to advocate for herself, and in turn for women and girls everywhere.

Please give a listen:

Sadly, the next story I read after hearing this inspiring story was that of the firing of New York Times senior editor Jill Abramson, illustrating the persistence of the glass ceiling while predictably bringing forth its apologists.
This is far from over.
Cartoon: Liza Donnelly

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