I am reading a fantastic book, Coffee Lovers. It is a rather famous little novel called Midnight's Children by (the ever fantastic and infamous) Salman Rushdie. The book has received a surprisingly large number of accolades and awards in its thirty years of publication. The most prestigious of its awards being "Best of the Booker Winners" given to it in 2008.
And while the awards of brilliant organizations and the words of critics mean a great deal to the author, only one review of many convinced me to read this book. On the cover of my copy, a blurb from The New York Review of Books is printed. It reads: "An extraordinary novel...one of the most important to come out of the English-speaking world in this generation."
Notice the reviewer did not choose a word like "entertaining" or "exciting". No, no, no. The reviewer of Midnight's Children thought it was the most important book to come out of the English-speaking world in its generation.
Why? What makes this novel by an Indian Muslim living on exile in Britain the most important to come out in a very distinguished generation of novelists?
The answer is simple. Rushdie presented - with the thought processes, common phrases, societal norms, and stories of his people - his own vast, beautiful and foreign country to an entire world who had never been shown India by a true Indian. He presented India in all her beauty, all her dysfunctional wonder, all her richness of culture and belief.
What Rushdie did was priceless. Sure, I paid sixteen dollars for it, but it is priceless. He built a bridge between two cultures. He did not romanticize his nation. He did not make it into anything more or less than what it truly is. Rushdie is an Indian teaching the western world to love India.
And this most vital of books is recognized as one of the most important in its generation. I choose to believe that we want to know, to love, to understand, and to believe in each other. It is NECESSARY that, as a world, we realize this. We are all people.
I love human faces when their eyes are smiling and they are laughing. But I also love human faces when they are weeping and crying out for comfort and help - for someone to cross over and understand. This is a difficult, fallen, painful world we live in. But we are here to build bridges by writing books, by speaking words, by teaching children, by laughing, and by pouring coffee.
So to our friends, over oceans and across streets, whose worlds are dark today - we are here.
We love you, Japan. We love you, Darfur. We love you, Haiti. We love you, Libya. We love you, Egypt. We love you, Yemen. We love you, Oman. We love you, Bahrain. We love you, Iran. We love you, Mexico. We love you, Afghanistan.
It will be alright. We are human. We are here.
May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.