I'm going to be honest here. Reading the book The Middle of Everywhere was a really difficult assignment for me. I actually cried several times while reading stories about the Iraqi sisters and others who faced unbelievable challenges. There were some sections of the book that I never finished reading because I felt like such a horrible person for being so naïve about all of this pain.
I think that the discussion on the book was incredibly helpful when it came to sorting out all of my emotions surrounding this topic. I'm sure that the rest of the class would be surprised to learn that I was incredibly moved by all the things that everyone else had to say. I loved that we started by discussing questions in a fairly informal setting, getting to hear everyone's thoughts about the different stories and how they applied them to their own lives. I also appreciated being able to write some of my opinions out on the wall because I process my thoughts better when I can put them into writing. I liked the fact that every question was a comprehension question with a deeper meaning attached to it. It gave me a chance to process all of the things that I'd read in a more analytical setting while at the same time it forced me to dig a little deeper and think about how each section of the book could relate to my life.
I discovered a lot about myself in the past week, both while reading the book and through the in-class discussion. I learned that I have a pretty good life. I have a new perspective on American complaining, and I want to make an effort to stop contributing to it. I have never had to deal with the poverty, violence, and loss of family that the immigrants in Mary Pipher's book experienced. I have no right to feel sorry for myself. Ever.
I also learned a little about the importance of faith. My faith has never been tested in the way that the faith of these immigrants was tested. They had nothing: no home, no family, and no food. But in the midst of all their tragedy, they still managed to find hope, as Jessie said in the discussion.
I learned one important thing that has nothing to do with immigration. I realized that I love group discussions. I NEED them. Something in me craves to learn what goes on in the heads of everyone else when they read the same words that I've read. I learn more from discussing a book with a group of very intellectual individuals than I do from the book itself. And now that I've admitted that this part of me exists, I'm hoping that I can embrace it and never again fear an Honors class discussion.