#DecolonizeReading2023 Adult Books Filipino Lit Genre Lifespan of a Reader Nonfiction Reading Themes

[#DecolonizeReading2023] A Nobel Peace Prize Winner’s Cumulative Acts Of Courage

"I guess to a lying government, a journalist is a terrorist, setting off bombs that blow up their lies." - Maria Ressa, How To Stand Up To A Dictator.

Myra here.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
  5. Translated or international literature

How To Stand Up To A Dictator (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Maria Ressa
Published by WH Allen (2022) ISBN: 9780753559215 (ISBN10: 0753559218) Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout via Canva.

Last Saturday, I mentioned that I have to let some books find me – even as I still attempt to go through the original #DecolonizeReads2023 list that I have committed myself to reading. I mentioned as well that I may need to come up with my own #DecolonizeYourBookshelf list – that provides greater representation to Southeast Asian authors, for example (sorely lacking in the list unfortunately). If and when I do manage to get around to creating the list, this book will definitely be among my top 5 recommended reads.

The entire book charts Maria Ressa’s entire life trajectory – from her childhood to the present time. It was a fascinating read – especially since I am perceiving it from a gifted educator’s lens. Given her tumultuous family circumstances in the Philippines, her being an outsider as a child immigrant in the US, and a young woman of color in Princeton University – she learned how to push back and use her voice to carve a space for herself where there was none before. She also trusted kind and helpful people who had her best interests at heart – from her American stepfather whose surname she adopted to high school teachers and university professors who recognized her potential.

Her decision to move back to the Philippines at a time of political transition in the late 1980s after the Marcoses have been deposed would always remain incomprehensible to me – because she was not lacking in options, especially after graduating from an Ivy League university. But then again, the Philippines would not have a champion for truth and light had she opted to traverse a decidedly-more-convenient path.

It is clear that Maria Ressa commits to pushing herself – be it learning journalism (and excelling at that) while on the job – or exposing herself so intimately in this book. Yet, she remained matter-of-fact, concise, and action-oriented (probably brought about by her profession) – which can also be borderline-prescriptive. However, the system that she has designed in leveraging on social media to reach her intended audience does work – and inevitably worked against her as soon as Facebook’s algorithms had been perverted and manipulated by those with power and influence.

I valued her unequivocal and unyielding sense of professional and ethical integrity – I can see why she is receiving death threats on a daily basis.

I read with my heart in my throat – especially as she exposed the network of lies and disinformation strategically propagated by the Duterte administration – and which the current Philippine President has also exploited with such systematic and patient cunning.

I told my husband that I am tempted to purchase multiple copies of this book to distribute to family and friends who have been swallowing lies being fed to them – but then again, I doubt if they would even read the book, as it lays bare inconvenient truths that they prefer not knowing. Yet one thing I learned from reading this book is that even while we feel that our actions seem to be an exercise in futility, they continue to matter. It is these cumulative acts of courage that are contagious.

I honestly do not know how Maria Ressa manages to remain gracious, steadfast, and almost-saintlike in the face of utter stupidity, arrogance, impunity. Until the present moment, she is reviled, rejected, dismissed and uncelebrated in the Philippines despite her historic Nobel Peace Price Win – yet, she remains radiant and undaunted. May we all raise and educate more humans to be like her.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 23 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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