Why you should care
Because the Trump administration just gave us a chance to get more literate!
So you’re a World Traveler or a Fancy Businessperson jet-setting between Dubai and New York, Cairo and San Francisco, Abu Dhabi and London. And now, oh dear, you’ve become a Grouchy Businessperson whose important laptop-iPad-or-other-large-electronic-device-related work has been interfered with thanks to new security measures.
What will you do without your
NSA-tracker laptop blinking its blue-and-white light at you for eight to 12 hours as you cross oceans?
Perhaps you can read a book. It will have to be a hard copy, since Kindles are banned. They are, after all, large, scary pieces of equipment that allow people to carry with them, anywhere in the world, entire libraries of documents and treatises — like the U.S. Constitution, or Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches and Other Stories.
When times look bleak, remember Russia
As you sink into your plush economy seat, sipping refreshing bottled water, you can at last escape reality by immersing yourself in the melodrama of a faraway nation. Leo Tolstoy’s slim page-turner Anna Karenina is a delightful romance about two prominent individuals whose love appears to be incompatible with the society in which they live. In this case, we are talking about a married woman and a sexy bachelor — who probably boasts Vladimir-ian abs — not two leaders of countries generally assumed to be uncooperative. In both cases, as you would imagine, there is a lot of hunting, some shirtlessness and everything ends well.
It’s always sunny en route to the West
Sunjeev Sahota’s Booker-short-listed The Year of the Runaways is a cheery depiction of how easy it is for immigrants to cross borders. All one has to do is fake a marriage or spend one’s family’s life savings on a visa or sell an organ or engage in prostitution. Once ensconced in the embrace of the West, with immediate family members safe in their graves or unreachable in a village far away, one can enjoy working construction while locals jostle to get a gig hauling cinder blocks in a bleak, gray town, only to lose out to the immigrants who, by the way, flew first class on Qatar Airways to reach their new home.
Or you could check out Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, which also depicts the beautiful paths that refugees take to reach their destinations, the peachy views and comfortable air-conditioned rides:
later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
You can take the Arab off the plane …
But you can still take an Arab book onto a plane! In Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh, Saudi women use the Internet to talk to men, flirt and have sex, which basically makes it like the end of Sex and the City 2, when Carrie finds out that beneath the burqa, all women just want Manolos. The extreme readability and relatability of the book might cause Westerners to believe that we’re all humans just trying to make it in this sad and lonely world, so consider brown-bagging the cover to avoid being seen with this radical text, which was banned in Saudi Arabia and could soon be banned in a country near you. Also, at some point, one of the Saudi characters flies to London. The revised edition will have that inaccuracy redacted.
For the family
If you’d like to keep your kids’ minds pure in these dark times, hand them Suzanne Collins’ optimistic The Hunger Games trilogy, in which children compete for a very big prize in a televised contest. Some even volunteer to play! The novels teach young people that athletic-slash-gladiatorial competitions — like presidential elections — are meant to be entertaining, distant events, with no real-world consequences like wars, failed diplomatic relationships or love triangles, since neither reality television nor cable news ever did anybody any harm.