My 10 Most Important Reads in 2021
#10: The Nolan Variations: The Movies, Mysteries, and Marvels of Christopher Nolan by Tom Shore
#9: Think Again; The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
#8: The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War by Louis Menand
#7: In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away by Dionne Searcey
I went into this one on recommendation a bit skeptical over how much I was going to enjoy it (books centered on politics aren’t really my thing), and I found that I was absolutely hooked after the first 20 pages. Author Dionne Searcey is essentially recounting her time as a reporter for the New York Times that saw her uprooting her family to move to West Africa (Nigeria) back in 2015. I think what really helped me personally connect with this story was that she was able to bring us as readers into the politics by way of the very accessible travel and family narrative that frames the story. Her journey into the heart of Nigeria and its political strife is blanketed by these wonderful anecdotal stories that bring us along for the ride into their new found, if temporary, life in a foreign country. We get as much of the turmoil (and her reporting of it) through some white knuckle experiences as we do of the beautiful side of Nigerian culture as well, mainly by centering us within those family dynamics.
The other part that I really, really loved was the way Searcey formulates themes by paralleling the stories she is reporting on in regard to the plight of Nigerian women, and her own experience of learning how to navigate a marraige in such difficult circumstances and in a foreign land, sometimes separated by distance. Her striving to do what she is good at and to place herself in danger’s path for lengthy periods is set in tension with the responsibilities and commitments she him being both a wife and a mother. She begins to understand this part of her life through the stories of the women she meets who are struggling in their own way to find the freedom to become who they are while also balancing their need for relationship and family and responsibility for the other. It’s an intimate way to marry the particular cultural struggle as a complex and universal tension between the autonomous self and our relationship to specific social realities that define our sense of self. The way she writes about these themes allows her to bring her life and experiences from back home in America into the experiences she is learning about in Nigeria in a way that both makes sense of and allows them to be informed by the other (without losing the distinct and very real challenges of the other in the process).
Along with all of that is the writing, which demonstrates excellent flow and pace, reads is an easy read,, and that is chalk full of wonderful moments, be it funny, emotional, thrilling, shocking, or lovely. It’s the whole package