December 30, 2009

Wrap-Up Post: 21 Cultures Challenge

At the beginning of 2009, I created a personal challenge for myself called 21 Cultures. Loving different cultures as I do I thought this would be a fairly simple challenge for me. However, I did not even get halfway through it.

What do I think were the obstacles to finishing it?

1) My reading was absolutely ALL OVER THE PLACE this year. Which, in and of itself is not that unusual considering I am ADD and I myself am all over the place. But, not many challenges overlapped and I had to finally come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to complete all of them. This one was one that didn't make it.

2) I was unable to procure some of the books that I wanted to read for the challenge. Either the library did not have them or something. And it seems most of my other culture reading is really based in Asian culture. Most of the books I own were Chinese, Japanese, African-American, Italian, Hispanic, or Indian.

3) I got hung up on select titles I wanted to read and therefore did not substitute as much as I should have. That did not help. There were other books I read that could have counted, had I just allowed it.

4) I got in way over my head with that 999 Challenge. Not only was that a ton of books to read, but I made the categories too diverse. I had a category for Asian Lit, which did not help me meet my goal of DIVERSITY, hello. And I didn't even finish the 999 Challenge anyway.

So, I have learned some lessons from not finishing this challenge. And I did read some great books for it. So it is not a total loss at all.

Here was my list and what I finished. I finished 11 of the 21 and reviewed 10 of them:

AFGHANISTAN: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Jan. 2009)

AFRICA: Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (five stories set in 5 places in war-torn Africa)

AFRICAN-AMERICAN: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage (Apr. 2009)

ALGERIA: The Stranger by Albert Camus

ARABIC: The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights

BURMA: The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma by Thant Myint-U

CHEROKEE: Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney

CHINA: Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong and Howard Goldsblatt

DOMINICAN-AMERICAN: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

HAITI: Away from You by Melanie Finn

INDIA: A Passage to India by E.M. Forster (August 2009)

ITALIAN: I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti (recommended by Rob of robaroundbooks) (November 2009)

JAPAN: Princess Manako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne by Ben Hills (March 2009)

NAVAJO: The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing by Lori Arviso Alvord and Elizabeth Cohen Van Pelt (May 2009)

NIGERIA: A Worthy Legacy by Tomi Akinyanmi (July 2009)

PAKISTANI-AMERICAN: Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah (Sept/Oct 2009)

RURAL AMERICA: Way off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America by Bill Geist

SIERRA LEONE: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (August 2009)

SLOVAKIAN ROMA: Zoli by Colum McCann

SRI LANKA: A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman (September 2009)

SWEDEN: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (December 2009) (not reviewed)

VARIETY OF CULTURES: Christmas Around the World by Mary D.


  1. Even if you didn't finish, you still made a lot of headway, read things from places almost nobody else reads, AND shared it with everyone so we could learn from it too. So I'd say that's pretty good!

  2. You are a better woman than me. Ever since reading and loathing The Joy Luck Club, I have run from mulit-cultural literature. However, this year The Space Between Us was a book club read that I absolutely LOVED. (If you haven't read it - it is a must read.) So, because of that experience, I'm venturing out a little more this year with several on my list including Cutting for Stone which is making a lot of folks top lists for 2009.

    Really enjoying your blog, btw.

  3. I'm doing a similar personal goal this year, concentrating on one country to learn about each month, supplimenting a nonfiction book with fiction, photography, etc.

  4. That's an impressive list, regardless, and a really neat project to begin with!

  5. You rock, Rebecca! Most of these books look fascinating to me. The only ones I have read are A Thousand Splendid Suns and A Long Way Gone.

  6. I think this was a challenging challenge but you did pretty darn good -- give yourself some credit. I think any challenge that results in a few really good reads is worth it.

  7. If you can't do this, with the variety of books you read, I don't know anyone who could!

  8. I agree with RhapsodyinBooks' comment. You really accomplished a lot. Heck, you had a trip to India, you work, you participated in a lot of book challenges and did all those reviews.

    Maybe next time (if you try a cultural challenge again) try for a smaller goal - 10 countries?

    I'm always amazed at how much you get read and reviewed. I'm impressed also at the variety of genres you read. I can't even get myself to read anything non-fiction without falling asleep. It's fiction all the way baby! for me.

  9. Very impressive list! To me, reading is about expanding my world. I couldn't stand to re-read my own narrow corner of the world. Heck, why read if we're not getting something new?
    I like that you challenged yourself! It's only failure if you don't learn from it.
    Yes, by training I'm a teacher :)

  10. This challenge was a wonderful idea, even if you didn't finish. Are you going to modify it and try again? I would be willing to join you if you did!

    I'm starting a Short Story Challenge:

    If you're interested , great! If not, that's ok too!

  11. That's a great challenge. I wish I'd known about it earlier lol!

    Happy New Year to you and your loved ones Rebecca!

  12. I think you did really well! Besides, you want to leave cultures for 2010, right?

  13. I thought you did well considering how many other things you were doing. You have several challenges going-and really good ones too-that you need to take time for. I've posted my wrap up for thi one. This is probably my favourite (and easiest for me) of the reading challenges. Take care.

  14. I think you did quite well and even though the year is over, I hope you continue with the challenge


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