Book of the Month: Schindler's List

It is the last day of the month, and I'm DESPERATE, yes, desperate to post a book of the month for this month, because this year is about consistency. Okay so this book is a classic. It is an award winning historical fiction novel that tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member who then becomes a hero when he saved more than one thousand Jews from concentration camps all over Germany and Poland. I feel like it is such an old book that most people already know this very unusual story of humanity. Now while this book is an historical fiction, it describes actual people and events with some fictional events and dialogues added by the author. I think we should all read this book, particularly in this era we live in where it is sooo incredibly easy for hate to creep in. It is so easy for hate and bigotry to become normalized.

I think there is something to be said about how flawed a man Schindler was: habitual drinker, philandering, and at first, a profiteer. The BEST part of this story is how undramatic Schindler's act was. But this was someone who eventually spent practically all of his money and energy saving Jews from death.  He also wasn't motivated by an unrealistic idealism or this egoistic "I am meant to save the world" sense that a lot of modern day activists have. Modern day activists can be VERY narcissistic and think saving the world is a job for them and them alone. It's a false sense of perfection that feeds their ego. Additionally, we are now very unforgiving and carping; we demand nothing but perfection from our heroes. In real life, it is not so black and white; lots of shades of grey.  It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"True heroism is remarkably sober very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost." - Arthur Ashe

The interesting part is, I think it was the subtlety and stealth of the act that made it successful. Indeed, after the war, Schindler is not particularly seen as some virtuous man, and the last years of his life were not particularly exciting.

Something that would make this book particularly poignant is the despicable violence of the Nazi party. I mean, that's old news for sure, but I also don't want it to be glorified or again, normalized. Another reason I can't stand slave movies. I believe in telling these important stories but I also don't want these heinous acts romanticized or some person making so much money off other people's history. In this case, one of the Holocaust survivors, Poldek Pfefferberg, inspired (and I think, sought out) Keneally to write this book. So every time I read about the gas chambers the Nazi party members employed, random murders for sport, and enslavement, I still flinched and marveled at how despicable man's heart can be. So those little miracles were breaths of fresh air in the middle of all that wickedness.

All of that being said, this is not an easy book to read. It is tedious, and frankly filled with some unnecessary narration and details. If it wasn't historical, I am not sure it is a book I would read. Now the author is award winning, and of course prolific, but this book read like he was trying too hard. I really try to make the books of the month easy books to read, so I apologize. But you should still read this book for everything it symbolizes. For the reminder that in the midst of pain and hate, you can singlehandedly choose love; for the reminder that sometimes you don't need giant strides to make an impact; for the reminder that even laws can be unjust and callous; for the reminder that your own activism doesn't have to be piercingly loud to matter; for the reminder that the quest for equality of all kinds is more than throwing buzzwords around, and more about your actions and choices; for all of these and more, please read this book. And if you absolutely can't, then watch the movie.



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