Even though When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson is a fiction, it draws upon her time, with flak jacket and reporter’s notebook, in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. This book is a profound reminder of the abusive power of silencing—for both political or personal reasons—that put human relationships, communities, and even lives in danger. And that silencing did not only happen in Germany in WWII, such as when my husband’s grandfather rowed his two sons out to the middle of a lake to whisper his feelings against Hitler’s regime, but in many areas of the world both historically and currently. Silencing that dehumanizes people can occur in many forms other than the mukhabarat, such as threats, marginalization, discrimination, dismissiveness, push-back, backlash, media propaganda, systemic supremacy, or banning books. In my opinion, people who openly bully others in person or through social media and then declare it’s their right, their freedom of speech, to opine in that form are the very people who are silencers. I loved how the main character was both named Ally and fostered allyship.
My favorite quote:
“Ally wished that more people could see what she did: beautiful waters, and a generous friend. Huda and her countrymen didn’t deserve the suffering inflicted on them. Huda might pray in a different manner than Ally, bake her bread flat instead of leavened, but underneath that, they weren’t so dissimilar. They just wanted the chance to break bread in peace. Ally knew it sounded cliché, but weren’t cliches born from a greater truth?” (p. 180).