3 thoughts on “The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

  1. Castrodad & Parker says:

    Patricia Castrodad
    This is the story of a story — Alia’s the main character — an intimate and personal life before, during and after Iraq’s war.
    My first reading of the book was very shocking for me. My political and social perspectives about war influenced the meanings that I constructed from the story. I think this story may take different perspectives and that the author, Jeannette Winter, has shared one side of the story.
    My reaction was to put the book down and began thinking about how this story reflected one side of a story or one perspective of a reality — Alia’s story. Questions such as the following emerged: What do other people in Iraq feel or think about this situation . . . war, books, libraries?
    Nonetheless, I do think that in this story, the “beast of war” as mentioned in the book, reflects what millions of people around the world experience on a daily basis and that the power of a courageous woman, Alia, kept the community library and books alive.
    Ann Parker
    This month we’ve been looking at the power of books in peoples’ lives and the extent to which we will go to experience books. So far, those experiences have been positive – people overcoming long distances, isolated areas, extreme weather, and lack of funding to provide children with books. The Librarian of Basra has a different perspective – sometimes we must have the courage to protect books from danger, in this instance, from the danger of war. Throughout history books (and sometimes the people who read them) have faced danger; possessing translations of the Bible was a crime during Henry the VIII’s reign, and books were burned in Germany during World War II. Today many books are considered so dangerous that people want to ban them from our libraries.
    In The Librarian of Basra, books were in danger from being indiscriminately destroyed during war. Alia, the librarian, goes to great lengths to save nearly 30,000 books, moving them from the library to a restaurant and later to friends’ houses. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have a happy ending; Alia is still waiting to return the books to a new library, since, as she feared, the original one was reduced to rubble.
    There are several children’s picture books that focus on the terrible side of human experience, but I think they teach all of us that the human spirit can rise above many challenges. War is a terrible thing, but the courage that it brings out in people is something we can celebrate. Alia’s story is one such celebration.

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