Bookworm: From troubling to trouble free

This week’s books run the gamut

Terri Schlichenmeyer
"Inside an Honor Killing" author Lene Wold.

“Inside an Honor Killing”

  • By Lene Wold
  • c. 2019, Greystone Books
  • $26.95, higher in Canada; 224 pages

Your father’s hands were always rough. In your memories, they were nimble, too; enough to fix a doll or thread a hook as easily as holding a fork, and it was never a problem for your little fingers to fit around his. Your father’s hands were calloused and strong but, unlike the new book “Inside an Honor Killing” by Lene Wold, they were not meant for murder.

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She had to lie to set up the interview. Lene Wold knew that, as a lesbian, she was in danger just traveling through Jordan, so she made up a fictitious husband for her own safety. She lied to be prepared, should the subject come up during conversations she had with “Rahman” who, after over a year of effort, finally sat across from her in a small café.

"Inside an Honor Killing" by Lene Wold.

He was a killer, but she knew that he deserved to tell his side of the story. When he was a child, Rahman told her, he witnessed the death of a young classmate buried up to her shoulders in desert sand. The seven-year-old had been raped, he said, but that act brought shame on her family because villagers believed that she had caused it. Stoning her brought honor back.

Rahman wasn’t supposed to have witnessed the killing, and when his mother learned that he did, she packed her things and left, a departure that impacted him for the rest of his life. He vowed that what happened in his father’s house wouldn’t happen in his when he married a very conservative woman and raised two daughters and a son.

Years later, as the younger daughter, 17-year-old Amina, prepared for marriage, she noticed that her 19-year-old sister, Aisha, seemed preoccupied. Only when Amina overheard intimacies and learned that Aisha had fallen in love with another woman, did she understand her sister’s fears: there is no law against homosexuality in Jordan, but it’s a cultural sin that brings shame on a family, and Aisha’s secret couldn’t be held.

And so, pressured by his wife, Rahman acted to restore honor …

There is no way to soften this: “Inside an Honor Killing” is absolutely chilling.

An ice-down-the-spine account of a rape that inexplicably didn’t happen opens this book, illustrating the dangers author Lene Wold endured to get the interviews she needed to tell this story. That, and the how and why of it, are the books’ introduction and while you’re there, Wold also shares statistics that will put you in a heightened state of anticipation, though you ultimately know what happens. Take a quick breath, then, before you plunge into Chapter One, because that’s the last chance you’ll get for air as this story alternates between Arabian Nights and Nightmare on Elm Street, between idyll and magic, and horrors we can only imagine.

This book isn’t one bit easy to read but if you’re concerned about women’s rights or current events, it’s essential that you do. But beware: “Inside an Honor Killing” will stun you almost the minute you get it in your hands.

“This Book is Cute!”

  • By Sarah Wassner Flynn
  • c. 2019, National Geographic Kids
  • $12.99, $17.99 Canada; 112 pages

Awwwwwwwwww! The second you see a puppy or kitten, that’s probably what you say. Aww, how adorable! Awww, you just want to cuddle it. Wow, it must be so soft and sweet. You want one now but awww, “This Book is Cute!” by Sarah Wassner Flynn might be a great temporary substitute.

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It happened again: you were online, looking something up and oh, wow, there’s a meme of a puppy. And another with a kitten. And oooooh, a piglet, and soon, you’ve lost a half-hour looking at cuteness.

You can blame that on your brain.

"This Book is Cute!" by Sarah Wassner Flynn

Nearly 80 years ago, scientist Konrad Lorenz extensively studied what he called kinderschema. That’s a German word that basically explains how babies, with their big eyes, chubby cheeks, floppy limbs, and “roly-poly body,” nudge your brain into creating dopamine, a chemical that gives you those “make-you-melt feelings” when you see something cute. And it’s not just you: children as young as three have been shown to prefer cuteness, and pictures of adorable puppies are proven to help adults improve their moods.

But looking at appealing little faces is more than just a great way to feel good. Cuteness is also big business: think about those tiny dolls or trucks you played with once, or the anime characters you love. In Japan, construction barriers are sometimes made into cartoon adorableness, and you know Hello Kitty makes fans squeal. American sports teams and some businesses have mascots, museums often have delightful displays of miniature cuteness, and vacation destinations may be filled with cuteness overload. Even food can be oh-so-cute.

You can dress up in the latest (and cutest) fashions or put them on your dog. Here, you’ll read about a “career in cute” and real jobs that have cuteness all over them. You’ll see how technology uses cute-science to appeal to users, the size of baby hippos at birth, how cute goes viral, how to get around in the sweetest of ways, and how you can do your best when popping precious in a picture.

“This Book is Cute!” author Sarah Wassner Flynn

Resistance, as it’s been said, is futile: any time you see a video of a puppy or kitten online, you might as well just make yourself comfortable. You’re not going anywhere soon, except maybe to go find “This Book is Cute!”

What else can you say about something that’s absolutely filled with full-color pictures of adorableness?  Only that this book is as easy as the internet is to get lost in, but more fun, since author Sarah Wassner Flynn also includes lots of real scientific information, trivia, and fun facts to get kids curious about biology, technology, animal care, commerce, and other cultures. Yes, indeed, this book is not merely a collection of cuddly cat snaps and doofy dogs – it’s also going to teach young readers. 

Or older readers, of course, because while this book is meant for kids in middle-school and beyond, adults will find it just as easy to fall into. One look at “This Book is Cute!’ and you’ll know it’s awwwwwwww-some.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.