A story of Morocco is the choice

Book club

February 20, 2003

An interview with Virginia Pausch, 10-year member of Word Weavers book club.

What are the demographics of your group? I think seven out of the 12 are former teachers or media persons or librarians. Everyone's retired. Two of our members are docents at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and one is at Walters [Art Gallery]. It's all women.

What book are members reading this month? This month, we're reading a fairly new book, Stolen Lives: 20 Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi. [It's] ... written by a member of the royal family in Morocco. ... The author now lives in California, but she was a member of the royal family which was imprisoned by the ruler at that time [1972], who was her uncle, and spent 20 years in the desert as a prisoner in effect. And this book has received a fair amount of attention.

What books have stood out in the past couple of years that members especially liked? Gifted Hands by Ben Carson. Gifted Hands was very important to us because it is about the story of an impoverished boy becoming very successful ... and it's, of course, local. He did, for a time, live in Howard County. We were very impressed with his humanity and his ability to get things accomplished.

Was there a recent book that has led to an interesting discussion? We were impressed just last month with Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. We were not very knowledgeable about horse racing, and we were so impressed with the various roles of all the people who contribute to the success of the winner. We were very surprised at the abusive treatment of jockeys. ... Jockeys just led miserable lives. Now this was before the time of great strength of labor unions. Sometimes their living conditions were terrible, and, of course, their fight with weight loss was always a problem. And there was no security in their jobs no matter how successful [they were].

One of our most provocative discussions ... [was] about Candide [by Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire]. We try to read at least one classic a year. Candide was very popular for its time, but the things that were made fun of in that book, - a satire. We don't find as things to laugh at today. ... They seem so ridiculous now: racism jokes or mistreatment by race. It seems that was part of the problem in some of their treks through South America. It was true to the time. ... We simply pointed out that our concepts about treatment of other people have changed a great deal in the last 100 years.

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