In the summer months, I try to catch up with recommended reading from some of my friends. These are usually books outside of my areas of concentration, but books which my friends think will greatly benefit me. Therefore, I found myself reading two different books that had very little to do with one another. The first book written by Alfred-Maurice de Zayas is entitled A Terrible Revenge – The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans and the second is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s What‘s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America.
I read my books so that I cannot sell them back. I make notes, I underline in all sorts of ways and note the places where I strongly disagree with the author. One of the books I bought and therefore I could do all of the above. The other book was loaned to me and I could not do all of the things I do normally do. In the past, on a couple of occasions the temptation was too great and I made all sorts of notes and then I bought a new copy for my friend. This year, considering my limited book allowance, I could not afford that luxury.
In reading what makes me upset is the publisher’s decision to use endnotes versus footnotes. An endnote means that the author concludes that as a reader I am not concerned about how they reached their conclusions. A footnote helps me to see their reasoning; while endnotes make me rebel against the decision of the author and the publishers to go the cheaper and “easier” route.
The first book mentioned above (A Terrible Revenge) was written about a period that I am familiar with because my parents and grandparents talked about it and I learned about it in school. In addition to this, our family has intermarried with Germans and we have relatives living in Germany. Yet the specificity of the topic in all of its awfulness has drawn me to finish the book as fast as I could. What the author succeeds in doing is demonstrating that this specific group of Germans existed in silence until recently because very few historians were willing to acknowledge their horrible plight. It was only as these types of atrocities were committed in more recent days, that some of the people who have been through these atrocities and survived were encouraged to start speaking about them. There were places in the book in which the continuous raping of women for weeks made the reading almost impossible to continue.
The second book to a degree is an academic advertisement. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is seeking to show the parallels that exist between the American and the Islamic political structures under the rubric that what unites us are the Abrahamic connections. The Jews, the Christians and the Moslems have their beginnings in Abraham. As such, they are cousins.
The imam presents some solid connections, however in places he has to force the issue. There are three main issues that are being discussed in scholarly circles these days – revisiting the facts of the Crusades, the impact of Islam on the Renaissance and the impact of West on the Islam in the 20th century. Even though there were many pages in which I wrote my questions and the disagreements with the imam, his captivating point was successful. He challenged me over the fact that I do not have any Moslem friends, nor since I moved in this area have I visited any of the local mosques. Thus I have decided that within a short time I will visit a neighborhood mosque and see if I can develop a neighborhood friendship with an imam. Perhaps by creating this friendship, I will be able to get some of my questions written in the margins of the book answered in a collegial and fraternal environment.