“Boys”

January 5th

Bookcase at Cape MacLear

Books

Book label

Whenever I travel, I love to browse — snoop, really — bookshelves. You can tell so much but what people have read, what’s bookmarked, underlined, well-worn and what has obviously been abandoned mid-chapter. At the lake cottage, I found a tiny bookshelf with books left behind by previous visitors.

I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was to find the 1950s library rules glued to the inside cover of one novel, but I am. Worthy of sharing, but still very sad nonetheless. There are epic novels to be written about the “boys” and “natives” who were denied the pleasure of reading. Even more depressing, while the colonizers have long since been run out, there are few public libraries today in Malawi. The state of public education is so poor, most folk are illiterate.

The good news is, I’ve made several delightful new friends who are working in Malawi and Tanzania for international NGOs on a variety of projects, including literacy. So, let’s hope the label alone is a relic in this southern African nation. May the joy of libraries one day return to beautiful Malawi.

(Really, how can a country progress without access to quality education and books?)

~k

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2 Responses

  1. Wow! That library slip explains a few things to me. Why? Back in the mid-70s I was a new high school teacher-librarian in an Australian town that had a high Aboriginal population. I was home for Christmas and my South African-born grandfather (an Afrikaaner) asked me if I lent books to ‘the darkies’, as he referred to them. I was shocked. Shocked that he’d ask such a question, shocked that he’d even think that what he asked was an acceptable thing to do, and even more shocked at his term for Aboriginals.

    Whatever respect I had for him died pretty much at that instant. I’ve never forgotten that question. And that library book slip just brought it all back to me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    –Rhonda

  2. Beautiful post Kelli…

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