Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a novel about the universal plight of refugees, no matter where they come from. Although centered around two Syrian refugees the book also touches on the situations and journeys of people that have fled from war-torn areas around Syria. This book tells the story of Nuri and Afra, a couple leading a pleasant and content family life in the populous Syrian governorate of Aleppo before they are forced to leave when the Civil War turns their lives upside down. Christy Lefteri tells the tale of their sail, trek and expedition to safety and how it changes both of them for the better and worse. This also highlights their search for a home untouched by destruction and a night’s sleep uninterrupted by the sound of bomb blasts. But, is it possible to live in normalcy after one has suffered enough to last a lifetime?

The narrator of the book is Nuri. A beekeeper who lives in the dazzling city of Aleppo with his wife Afra, an artist. Christy Lefteri’s descriptions of Aleppo seem quite accurate considering she’s never set foot in Syria because of obvious reasons. I read she gets her inspiration from listening to actual Syrian refugees while volunteering at a refugee centre in Athens. Nuri and Afra are strong, simple yet entwined in a blissful past where pain was nowhere in sight. Nuri seems calm in the midst of chaos, stable. But you can see that he isn’t and that memories of a better time and the frustration of injustice faced by his family still tugs at him beneath that calm. Afra’s grief, on the other hand, is very evident. She is literally blinded by her sorrow. We see a huge change in her persona before and after the war where she was lively, creative and right where she needed to be as opposed to when the Syrian Civil War prevails.

So, Nuri wishes to go to Britain which most people he admits this to tell him it’s an impossible journey. Yet, he is determined to reach his destination despite all odds against him. As they progress through the journey, Lefteri brings out how unimaginable loss changes the way you perceive the world and how difficult it is to adapt to a new life what with the hurry and urgency with which you’re forced to leave what was once paradise behind. Nuri and Afra endure a long journey residing in overcrowded camps, taking shelter under the roofs of NGOs in Turkey and Greece, meeting all kinds of people as exhausted as them and doubting whether Britain will even be worth it.

I read something once, on the lines of how refugees are often treated as if they are taking up space, infringing on another land and stealing homes but probably all they wish to do is go back. To be in the comfort of their own homes. A foreign land where they are hardly treated like human beings is the last place they’d long to be. Christy Lefteri used a beekeeper as the protagonist of her book. She also brought bees as a community to symbolize various things along the story. The bees act as a sort of light at the end of the tunnel in Nuri’s life. Bees thrive in their hives and with others like them. They can also build a home in any given environment over time. A bee away from the hive is often wingless and helpless, all of this much like Nuri and Afra.

The war is a topic that although is the cause of all upheaval in the book, is not mentioned much. I don’t think this is a bad thing because it just shows us that in times of such suffering, do Nuri and Afra even care about the war? Are they more concerned about surviving or who wins? I realized that they aren’t too sure about its causes themselves either. No specific incidents or parties are mentioned and it’s better that way because there’s enough coverage about that in media. I’m glad Lefteri doesn’t give us details because not only is the story alright without them but it’s also a Google search away and it pushes people to do their research about the war.

Final thoughts~ The Beekeeper of Aleppo is an eye-opening and powerful book. It is sad but it wouldn’t have as much of an effect if it wasn’t and it gives you hope and reassurance when needed. The book takes you from Syria to Britain and ties it all so well at the end. Christy Lefteri made good use of her time spent volunteering and managed to cast a light on the unheard stories of Syrian refugees.

“I wanted to set forth the idea that among profound, unspeakable loss, humans can still find love and light and see one another.”

~Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

for podcast listeners- The Book Club Review

The Beekeeper of Aleppo~ Christy Lefteri

Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo (2019)

What’s Trending?

From boxed braids to messy buns, from tie-dye shirts to ripped jeans and from hoop earrings to mismatched ones, fashion has truly seen it all. Since its origin fashion has really evolved. It now has the power to make a statement and is often significant of your beliefs. How you dress defines who you are and even though we may not like it, we are deemed a certain way by what we wear. If you’re a celebrity or someone who’s in the public eye where every move you make is scrutinized, the right outfit can get you to the highest places. However, the wrong outfit can put you on the front page of a gossip magazine. Either way, fashion is a huge part of our lives, of how society perceives us.

Essentially, fashion comes down to clothes and materialistic items, but nothing can be as simple as that. Everything has layers, doesn’t it? Similarly, designers, influencers and other flagbearers of fashion keep us on edge with various new styles and trends. ‘Trends’ especially fuel the fashion industry and are the reason for so much of the waste that it produces daily. Trends have been around since the invention of magazines and digital media which connected the world. It’s a fact universally known that human beings are drawn to fitting in. We would rather dress like the rest than stick out like a sore thumb with an individual style. Most brands veer towards keeping what’s in trend in their stores because it’s what sells!

The word ‘trend’ itself originally meant a ‘general course or direction’ in the 1800s and slowly became used to describe ‘a prevailing new tendency in popular fashion or culture’ in the 1950s. So, trends are incredibly restricting and boring if you come to think about them. For instance, when imitating trends of the 2000s or 90s, only particular items of clothing are taken into consideration and bunched together under the term ‘trends’ when there could be so many diverse and unique styles that aren’t looked at because they aren’t featured in movies, tv shows or magazines because again, they only looked at what was trending.

The psychology of trends comes down to something appropriately described by the phrase: ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. According to research, in the Elizabethan era and the 1600s: a trend often began when a king or queen dressed a certain way. Then, following a trend meant you were loyal to royalty and were well informed of your King/Queen’s words. We see the same pattern today, as following a trend means you know what’s ‘in’ or what’s ‘out’. It reflects upon the fact that you are someone who is up to date on pop culture and ‘keeps up with the Kardashians’.

Trends were also mostly followed by those at the very top of society that is, royals and nobles. There remains to this day in the 21st century, a similar class divide, where your clothes are seen as a symbol of which strata of society you belong to. Royals translate to celebrities, fashion bloggers, people in politics and others who are seen wearing a trend on the front page. Meanwhile, the nobles watch them and follow in their Prada- adorned footsteps.

Trends not only condemn innovation but stifle an individual’s creativity and dictate their self-worth on superficial lines. They also create so much waste in terms of resources and wealth. Trends literally originate from a sense of general direction and change overnight. Trends often make people feel bad about what they don’t have or who they aren’t like. They gave rise to terms like ‘fast fashion’ and ‘conspicuous consumption’. Obsessively keeping up with what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ is letting fashion own you when it should be you dictating what you want to wear. Do you know the saying, ”a human being is a single being. Unique and unrepeatable.”? Trends oppose that in every manner.

Read more about fashion trends and their influence in the links below.

SOURCES:

What Fashion Trends Really Represent

Fashion Trends and the Psychology behind them

Theories Of Fashion

Enjoy not Endure

Why are we so blatantly obsessed with getting our hands on the unattainable? With being the unattainable? Let’s face it, when something’s inherently hard to achieve, it automatically goes higher on the scale of achievements, or when a product is less in number, it automatically becomes expensive and in demand. Like in March 2020, when everyone rushed to hoard essential supplies before the lockdown, and when stores were empty the price of things like toilet paper increased online. But, this isn’t true only to essentials. Take uber-luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci for example; because they’re expensive, few people have them and as a result, they’re put on a pedestal.

The thing is, most brands work this way. Having year-end or 24-hour long sales, or selling limited editions of a product is a great way for brands to draw customers as crowds form endless lines to attain the unattainable. It is because of this obsession, that the economy even works. There’s even a name for the theory- it’s called ‘The Scarcity Principle’. The principle means that humans place a higher value on objects that are scarce and a lower value on those that are abundant. Diamonds are more valuable than rocks because diamonds aren’t as abundant. Not only value but our perception of anything changes with it being scarce as well.

The principle works because we’re wired to think that way, nurtured in a society that lives on this principle. The education system is an example of this: the schools that take only the best of the best and have limited seats, are most people’s first choice. Even in terms of grades, few kids get the highest score and so of course, we all want it. This attitude is what creates the rat race, that never-ending need to get to the top and working to stay there.

If you think about it, the trope in fiction of the ‘popular boy’ going for the ‘only girl that doesn’t fall at his feet’ or even the one where the most eligible bachelor is the one that doesn’t want company in the first place is sort of a product of the scarcity principle mindset. I’d be rich if I had a penny for every time I heard the male lead in a movie talk about his longing for the female lead that’s playing ‘hard to get’.

So, there’s a thought process behind why a ‘one-time-only’ event seems more valuable than an event that happens every week. But, don’t get me wrong I am not condemning once in a lifetime opportunities. Working towards being a part of the crème de la crème and achieving your goal, is a wonderful feeling! However, once you’re at the top your worst fear is going back down. So, you’re doing everything in your power to stay there even when nothing is threatening your position.

Having said that, the mindset has its pros. It keeps a person driven. So, enjoy your accomplishments and keep alive that hope and drive for your goals.

I am of course, no expert and haven’t covered everything in this blog post. Definitely do your own research and you’ll surely learn a lot more about the principle. I’ve provided some helpful links at the end!

SOURCES/ MORE ON THE TOPIC:

What Is The Scarcity Principle?

The Scarcity Mindset

The Psychology of Scarcity

Is That The Only Question?

There seems to be this big, apparently defining question, to which I am always looking for an answer. Or rather everyone around me is. I don’t know if it comes with being a student, or if the question continues to follow you around until you have an answer! You’re probably wondering what the question is. It’s a question that I ask myself every day and each day I seem to have a different answer. This overwhelming question is: Who do you want to be? Have you thought about your career? Why is that the first question we ask a student at any stage of their education? From a young age we’re led to believe that our happiness lies in finding the perfect career path. Why is finding a job equivalent to everlasting happiness and stability?

The question may not seem that scary at first, but the minute the test(s) that will apparently determine your future come close, or you’re about to graduate, it can get pretty stressful. Academic stress is a major reason for suicide, anxiety, and mental health illnesses among a lot of students. It is common to see students stressed and under pressure in a society that believes in keeping students in check by pushing them beyond their limits. Students follow draconian rules and study schedules that leave them feeling depleted and depressed.

Now I may not be the first person telling you this, but it’s okay to not know. Everyone around you might be urging you to find that one perfect job. That if you fall short of this perfection, you are depriving yourself of happiness and not living up to your true potential. ‘’Make the right choice and achieve the ideal grades now and you’re set!’’ they say. I may be wrong but I don’t recall any interview in which a retiree says, ‘’I wish I had achieved a 98% grade point average instead of a 97.5% because that has made all the difference in my life.’’ No, they always seem to say something on the lines of, ‘’enjoy life because it goes by quickly.’’

So, today I am answering this ‘giant’ question, for myself and all my well-wishers. ‘Who do I want to be?’ Well, I choose to be happy! Take each day as it comes, make spontaneous decisions, be amazed by every little surprise that life throws at me and basically, just go with the flow!

Maybe next time you meet me, you can ask me another question. After all, there is more to me, to all of us than what we want to be in the future!

Moreover, as my mom once told me during a ‘what am I going to be!’ panic attack- Nobody has it all figured out, and you certainly can’t figure it out in a day, or a month. The future’s a long time away and of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. (she’s one of the few unique people who lives in the present and doesn’t care about the future) So, relax! Even though this question feels like an ultimatum, I’ve learned from those around me that it isn’t. There are more questions to ask, more to answer. Let’s start the conversation!

OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE TOPIC:

It’s OK To Not Have It All Figured Out

HELP!!! I’M PRESSURED!

Do You Also Have No Idea What You Want To Do In Life?

The Bechdel Test: A Call for Representation

No study of female representation in media is complete without the Bechdel Test. Advocacy for diversity in every field is increasing, as it should. Yet, few understand the need for it in movies. Everybody loves movies, they tell stories that leave us crying, laughing, and always longing for more. They’re a different kind of comfort food. There’s a movie about anything you could name. But, we see a pattern in most of them. A code of conduct that a majority of filmmakers follow.

The Bechdel Test created by Allison Bechdel in 1985 is a test of the representation of women in fiction. Although it can be used to analyze books as well, its original focus was cinema when it was introduced in the form of a comic strip by Bechdel who credited the idea to her friend Liz Wallace and the writings of Virginia Woolf. There are three criteria a work of fiction must include to pass the Bechdel Test:

Do you see how little the test asks for? Note the words ‘at least two named women’ and ‘anything besides a man’. On first reading this, I thought; How hard could it be? We’re in the 21st century! I’m sure 80% of the movies I’ve seen easily pass it. You will be surprised at the number of movies you consider ‘hits’ and ‘blockbusters’ which barely pass the test.

Take a look at the numbers- a report shows that just 33.1 percent of speaking roles in 2018’s top-grossing films. We see an improvement in the 2019 numbers where 45 to 54.9 percent of all speaking roles were women. So, we have two or more women who talk to each other- you’re almost there just one more step and your movie has passed the test. But here’s where most films fail. According to the criteria, these women must have at least one conversation (this conversation only has to happen once for a film to pass) about something, anything besides a man. It leaves so much to the imagination!

A BBC Analysis of the Oscars revealed that fewer than half of the 89 films named best picture passed the test. Why is this the case? Why are filmmakers still struggling to fulfill the most minimal criteria? Besides, if the largest and most influential film industry in the world can’t implement the Bechdel Test in its award-winning movies, how should we expect the rest of the world to follow?

I think the most common misconception people have of the Bechdel Test is that it asks for ‘feminist’ and women-centric movies. But the plot of a movie does not have to revolve around the conversation of its characters. A movie needs to have some reality to it, so why doesn’t the scene cut to the female supporting characters talking about the news, or their favorite show, or even the game last night? Instead of how cute that guy is, should I text him? Women have other things to talk about too, you know.

When it comes to having two named female characters, I think a well-rounded personality is all we’re asking for. Someone who isn’t just defined by that one line they said or the plot of the movie.

Now I’m not saying all films should have the same characters, the same storyline. But a little representation wouldn’t hurt. Diversity makes this world stronger, it’s the sundae and the rest is the cherry on top. There are some great movies out there made by some talented people, but their uniqueness gives them that wow-factor. Although its criteria seem quite normal, the Bechdel Test asks for something different in today’s film industry. I think it’s time we see that change!

Which of the movies you’ve seen pass the Bechdel Test?

P. S- If you’d like the names of some movies which pass the test I’ve included a link under sources.

This is a line from the ‘Carry On’ series by Rainbow Rowell. It’s one of my favorite series and the first place I read about the Test!

SOURCES:

2019 Statistics| Women and Hollywood

2019’s Bechdel Passing Films

What is the Bechdel Test and why are movies still not passing it?

It’s time to move beyond the Bechdel Test

OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE TOPIC:

The Bechdel Test: Is It Still Relevant Today?

Movies I Like That Pass The Bechdel Test