Readers write: African literature, plastics factory, and more

Letters to the editor for the Jan. 13, 2020 weekly magazine. Readers discuss African writers, plastics factories, leap year calculations, and more.


African literature

Regarding “Rewriting the historical epic: African women writers go big” in the Oct. 28 Monitor Weekly: I found the article particularly interesting as soon as I started to read about Petina Gappah and her research on David Livingstone

Two other authors from Africa could be added to the great list of women you covered. They are Tsitsi Dangarembga, the Zimbabwean author of “Nervous Conditions,” and Namwali Serpell, the Zambian author of “The Old Drift.” The latter book is very much an epic in many ways.

In her research I wonder if Ms. Gappah went to the Zambian town of Livingstone near Victoria Falls (or Mosi oa Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders”) and checked out its modest museum full of “Livingstonia.” I can believe she might have.

Rosalind Hoover
Palm Springs, California

Plastics factory

When I receive the Monitor Weekly, I flip to the “Points of Progress” to give me some hope. The item in the Nov. 25 issue on a reopened plastics factory in Libya did just the opposite.

Plastic products are choking our waterways and devastating our health. The suffering in the developing world is especially acute. The plastics factory in Libya will create 88,000 extra tons each year of a material that only rarely can be recycled and creates huge issues for the communities inundated by the waste. This does not get us to the world we need and deserve. 

We need to do what we can to help countries like Libya create good jobs that work toward a sustainable future for all.

Carol Smith
Bellingham, Washington

Calendar calculations

The political cartoon by Joe Heller in the Nov. 18 Monitor Weekly lamenting the length of campaign season, though clever, got it wrong and understates its message. Because 2020 is a leap year, the calculations are off. His countdown should add one day (that’s 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds). I take no position on the cost of political ads.

Michael G. Brautigam

Scriptural interpretation

It is a shame that more people do not share Karen Armstrong’s understanding of the origin and purpose of scripture, as she expressed in the “Q&A with Karen Armstrong” in the Dec. 2 Monitor Weekly. It is frightening that people treat scripture as a history book, science book, and statute book. Prophets and evangelists would not recognize our use of their words.

Mark Deaton
Oak Park, Illinois

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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