Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Personal Project: Learning About Russia

At any time, I am usually reading three books. I have my daytime book, my audio book for daily car travel, and my bedside nonfiction, which is usually spiritually inspiring or instructive. In the past, I've enjoyed pre-sleep wisdom from The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg, The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idiby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian by Paul F. Knitter and special favorites Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna by China Galland and Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambhala Classics) by Sharon Salzberg. Without going into a laundry list of my spiritual beliefs, I'll just say that learning to be a kinder, more compassionate person is very important to me. This brings me back to books.

For my recent beside spiritual reading, I chose Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Borzoi Books) by Karen Armstrong. I certainly recommend it, and admire the way that Armstrong suggests that you learn about compassion in action in history, as well about educating yourself about those different from you, now. I apologize that I don't have the book in hand at the moment, but I can tell you that one of the steps mentions that you may adopt a foreign country and learn about it and its people. You can read their stories, listen to their music, celebrate their holidays and follow their news. I thought it over, and I’m choosing Russia. For one thing, I was born in the 1960s and I'm sure that most of my view of Russia was shaped by the Cold War. Russia was the Soviet Union and its people were Communists and a threat to the USA. Russia was the spies Boris Badenov and his crony Natasha from the cartoon " Rocky and Bullwinkle," the Beatles song "Back in the USSR" and villains from James Bond movies. But also, it was fascinating, the "Land of the Midnight Sun", with folktales of Baba Yaga and her house on chicken feet, glamorous Faberge eggs, and the tragic massacre of the royal family in 1918.

Although I have learned a better balance of information since my younger years, I am still admittedly quite ignorant. So, I plan to focus on learning about Russia for six months or so. I know that I can only find out a very modest amount in that time, but it will be more than I knew before.

Where to begin? As a former children’s librarian and lover of picture books, an easy in for me is reading illustrated fairy and folktales from Russia.

Other reading:

• Russian literary classics

• Novels about Russia

• Novels by Russian authors

• GLBT experience in Russia

• General nonfiction about Russia

• Nonfiction Russia travel books

• Nonfiction history books

• Art books

• Other cultural arts: dancing, music, handicrafts

• Cookbooks

• Poetry

• Fairy and Folktale collections


• Fiction movies

• Movies in Russian

• Documentaries

• Travel


I’m basically clueless here. Without research, I’d say:

• Russian ballet

• Classical

• Russian Gypsy Music

Language learning:

• Databases: Byki and Mango

Other activities:

• Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis

• Russian restaurant

• Current news

I plan to write here about the resources that I use. I welcome any input and suggestions!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is supposed to be quite a good restaurant, although I have never eaten there (and the menu is very meat-centric): http://www.myvodkabar.com/

I also like Boris Akunin, especially his Erast Fandorin books: http://www.boris-akunin.com/


Guinan 1990?-2009

Griffin ?-2010