Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Of Beetles and Angels

Of Beetles and Angels tells the story of how Asgedom lived the American dream: from a refugee to becoming a graduate of Harvard (with a full scholarship). I read this book right before reading Infidel so it was interesting to see these two very different Africans describe their upbringing and their eventual life in the West. Although Asgedom's family is Christian, I would still consider this book secular.

Asgedom was born in Ethiopia. His family was actually well-off as his father was a local doctor and hero of sorts. But the wars in his home country forced his father to leave and eventually the whole family became refugees in Sudan. From there they discovered an opportunity to come to America through an organization called World Relief. Sponsored by a family and a local church, they settled in Wheaton, Illinois. Much of the story describes their assimilation into this very foreign and sometimes overwhelming country. Throughout, Asgedom's father encourages Asgedom and his brothers and sister to do well for themselves.

I appreciated Asgedom's hard work in not just surviving but thriving. His father was obviously a profound influence on his life. Even though the book is dedicated to his mother, Asgedom's respect for his father is what really comes across. I would be interested in reading Asgedom's book for teenagers: The Code: Five Secrets of Teen Success.

The one thing that drove me crazy in the book was the way he wrote everything his father said in capital letters. It was like his father was constantly yelling. I still don't understand why he used that technique. This was something the editors should have corrected. I found myself beginning to develop a headache every time I read his father's long speeches.

What did this book have to do with my faith? The title suggests that Asgedom treated all creatures well because some may be angels in disguise. I really did not see that in the book. He did come to realize, I think later in life (perhaps while writing this book) how many “angels” he encountered in his life. But I did not see him treating everyone like an angel. It made me wonder how well I treat other people. Do I see them as angels in disguise? Or even a God's beloved children? Or do I see treat others as means to an end/obstacles/potential enemies/rungs on my success ladder?

I recommend this book – would be a great book for a book club or small group that wanted to discuss immigration.

Happy reading!


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