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Books you must read – By Shelja Agarwal

The Unexpected Spy: This book by Jessica Anya Blau and Tracy Walder is the riveting story of Walder’s tenure in the CIA and later, the FBI. In a high- security, steel–walled rooms in Virginia, Walder watched Al-Qaeda members with drones as President Bush looked over her shoulder and CIA Director George Tenet brought her donuts. She tracked chemical terrorists and searched the world for Weapons of Mass Destruction. She created a chemical terror chart that someone in the white house altered to convey information she did not have or believe, leading to the Iraq invasion. Driven to stop terrorism, Walder debriefed terrorists-men who swore they’d never speak to a woman-until they gave her leads. She
followed trails through North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, shutting down multiple chemical attacks. It breaks the ideal shackles of the image a woman has in general!

Not without a flight – the autobiography: This is a book by Helen Zille; a long-awaited one! This is one of the most fascinating political stories of our time. Zille takes the reader back to her humble family origins, her struggle with anorexia as a young woman, her early career as a journalist for the Rand Daily Mail, and her involvement with the End Conscription Campaign and the Black Sash. The book documents Zille’s courageous fight against corruption and state capture and her efforts to realign politics and entrench accountability. It describes a mother’s battle to raise children in the pressured world of South African politics.

This child will be great: Memoir of a Remarkable life by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s First Woman President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, moved to the United States to further her career at Harvard University and returned to Liberia. She was the 24 th president of Liberia (2006-2018). In this stirring memoir, Sirleaf shares the inside story of her rise to power, including her early childhood; her experience with abuse, imprisonment, and exile; and her fight for democracy and social justice. It is also the story of an outspoken political and social reformer who, despite danger, fought the oppression of
dictators and championed change.

The palace of illusions: This book by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of the most wonderful creations. This book is a narration by Draupadi (also known as Panchali) of her life featuring the epic Mahabharata. Panchali, the character is so beautifully and remarkably written. Unlike her earlier depictions as someone who was meek and vulnerable, one who had to have five husbands, one was violated in front of people and was witness to much more distress; here she is anything but a victim. She is fierce and
rebellious, one who dares to question the mainstream patriarchy. While she is married to five men against her wishes, she learns to make this fate her strength. She craves for a man other than her husbands, but also loves them dearly. She is extremely vindictive but even more repentant and apologetic. Far from women of those times, she endorses empowerment. She has the courage and acumen to participate in administrative functions, has a heart to dream, and strength to persevere. All in all, Panchali is a representation of many emotions, seamlessly weaved together by the writer.

We are ok: This book by Nina LaCour is such a brilliant and heart-warming story of two friends trying to figure out their relationship while grappling with an unforgettable past. The story is essentially about a young girl Maben who leaves everything from her past life, including her best friend Marin, after the death of her grandfather, her only family. As the story unfolds, we get to know the reason behind Maben’s actions while Marin tries her best to help her best friend reignite their damped friendship an restart her life with a renewed spirit. The book cuts across a motley of themes- loneliness, family secrets, strength of true friendship and pain through loss. It is a devastatingly beautiful piece of art which will leave you with a warm heart yet overwhelmed at the same time. The book is a reminder of
how essential it is to have guidance and stopping us from getting lost in the dishelmed maize of our thoughts. It beautifully portrays the essence of a strong relationship and how it helps one rebound while being mercilessly pulled down into an unfathomable quagmire of boiling emotions.

“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know”- Alberto Manguel

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