Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Review: The Buddha's Diamonds by Carolyn Marsden and Thay Phap Niem

Authors: Carolyn Marsden and Thay Phap Niem
Published: 2008
Source: Local Library
At ten years old, Tinh is no longer a child. He helps his father every day, going out in the beautiful new family boat to catch the fish that will feed his mother and sister. But he is still only ten years old, and when he fails to secure the boat during a catastrophic storm, it seems that all is lost. As his family and his village start to rebuild, Tinh realizes that the world is still beautiful, even when things are at their worst.
I love books about faith, any faith. Kids can be losing, finding, or living with their faith and I'm all over it. Books with Christian characters dominate the field, although there's a fiesty subgenre of Jewish stories, and books on Islam are as rare as hen's teeth. Buddhism? This is the first one I've found, and it's an eye-opening first exposure to a religion that's about 180 degrees removed from the God/YHWH/Allah-centered religions that dominate the Western world. Given that the copyright is attributed to Carolyn Marsden and the United Buddhist Church, I shouldn't be surprised that the Buddhist storyline is so strong. I'm just glad Marsden managed not to preach. Of course, I may be revealing my ignorance, since preaching and conversion themselves are such strong elements in Western religion.
The Vietnamese setting is also new to me. Everyone mentions "the war," and it took me about half the book to realize that they were talking about the Vietnam War. For some reason, I was thinking of World War II. While Tinh never lived through it, he has lived with the aftermath all his life: an uncle whose leg was blown off, landmines that lurk under the sand.

Unfortunately, the cover is terrible. You can see it up there: not exactly the stuff that leaps off the shelf and into a kid's hand. Still, I hope that with some handselling, the right kids will find this quiet novel a window into a world and a faith that they may have never known, or that may be part of their own story.

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