Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Reading

Photo by Jeff Widener (The Associated Press).
Various people have often complained over the years about the lack of education on important events in history. I remember my Dad, specifically, a number of times commenting on the Halifax explosion and how we don't learn that stuff in school. My knowledge of the Halifax explosion is thanks to a CBC commercial which aired when I was a kid (CBC ran Heritage Minute commercials about points in Canadian history). Basically I knew that there was a ship that exploded many years ago and killed lots of people.

No, we weren't taught that in school. Perhaps some of us were. But how many of us would retain that information (or similar info) when it was presented at a time when we simply weren't interested?

A number of people will recognized a photo of a lone figure standing infront of a line of army tanks. Fewer will be able to connect that same photo with events at Tiananmen Square. Fewer still will be able to tell you how it ended.

The photo is recognizable to me. I remember seeing it, again on TV, in a montage along with other iconic pictures like those of Martin Luther King Jr. Somewhere along the line I connected it with Tiananmen Square. I couldn't tell you anything more about the events, what happened or how it ended.

So many points of history are just a vague idea hanging in the air. Somewhere out there something happened. This is the name and this is the iconic phrase or photo to go along with it.

How many of us know the story behind it?

Not that any one story would be complete. But do we have any idea? Any version more than just a snapshot or a phrase?

A Heart for Freedom” is one such story. The story of a young Chinese woman, a student, full of ideals, though at the same time learning she was too naive. Longing for the China she, and her fellow students thought they had. Full of patriotism, enthusiasm, and solidarity they embarked on a mission to reform China. A peaceful demonstration turned into a violent tragedy.

Not one to remember dates and numbers, I will at lest now be able to recall the events that have taken place. At least from one perspective, as there are many. “A Heart for Freedom” is a riviting story written by Chai Ling, the woman on the forefront of the Hunger Strike which lead to immense repercussions. I am one for reading true stories over fiction. I find it so much more fascinating knowing that these people and situations were and are real.

It would be easy to write a synopsis of what happened and the events that took place. But then you may be tempted to think that now you know the story. Not that it would be easy to know the whole story, if that is even possible, but I encourage you not to be dissuaded from finding out for yourself.

There are many stories in history that many of us know little or nothing about. Maybe the story of Tiananmen Square isn't the one for you right now.

But this is the book that I picked up this summer.

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