Deep in the heart of the dusty Kenyan desert a train of heavily laden camels wind their way slowly through the bush.
The camels’ panniers are stuffed to bursting, not with grain or medical supplies, but with books of every imaginable variety.
Mididima is a nomadic settlement so tiny that it ia almost invisible. Into this remote world comes an unexpected wealth of literature – tips on surviving an avalanche, the adventures of Tom Sawyer, vegetarian cookbooks: all are eagerly devoured under the blazing Kenyan sun.
Volunteer Fi Sweeney, her heart filled with passion and possibilities, is surprised to discover that the project divides friends and neighbours. To Kanika, who reads every book she can lay her hands on, the Camel Bookmobile brings hope. But to some it represents the inevitable destruction of a fragile way of life…
The Camel Bookmobile came to me as part of a book ring from Chimera from the Book Club Forum & I decided to use it as my selection for the USA, for my Global Reading Challenge. The book is about Fi Sweeney, an American Librarian who has volunteered to go to Kenya to operate the Camel Bookmobile project, which takes books into the far deserted recesses of Kenya, providing a traveling library for people who otherwise would not have the oportunity to read books. The book is also about the tiny community of Mididima: a nomadic community, some of whose citizens can read & were educated in the Distant City, others who were taught to read but are not “book educated” (as in they never atteneded school)& still others who are illiterate and look upon the Camel Bookmobile as the degrading of their culture.
I have to admit that I was really torn about this book. The Camel Bookmobile does exist & that is what made me so torn. I am an avid reader & really do believe that books are vitally important to a modern society, but the people of Mididima are not a modern culture. They are a culture rich in tradition – tradition which is handed down to them from elders to the young & I have a hard time believing that books like those mentioned in The Camel Bookmobile have any place in a place like Mididima. (Like Snow Sense: Staying Alive in an Avalanche – This IS Kenya, after all.)
At the same time I think that anyone who wants to should be given the opportunity to read as much as they want & as varied a choice of books as they would like. So, I guess the real issue is this: Is it possible to introduce something like books to an ancient society, like that in Mididima without destroying their culture, without upsetting the delicate balance that exists within their society?
In a nutshell, that’s the 2 sides to this book and I guess you will have to read the book to see what happens.