Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

100 Books by 40: MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN

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Title: Midnight’s Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
Published: 1981

Americans don’t learn about what happens in other countries. This is most likely an exaggeration, but I feel like my teachers covered The Revolutionary War ten times before graduating from high school. It’s probably more reasonable to assume it was covered all three middle school years as well as all four high school years.

The extent of my knowledge of Indian recent history is this. The Brits colonized India as they did much of the world, which explains all the extra vowels in English as written by almost everyone on the planet aside from Americans. And then Gandhi lead peaceful protests and Indian gained independence. And honestly, the only reason I know about Gandhi is due to the popularity of the 1982 Ben Kingsley movie of the same name. (Way to go Hollywood, you didn’t completely shit the bed with that casting as Kingsley is half Indian.)

By the time the movie was broadcast on TV, I might have been eight or nine? I can’t recall. What I do remember was being traumatized by the slaughter of the peacful protesters. I was old enough to process that context, and it drove me to return to the movie as a teenager.

Midnight’s Children is a novel describing the instability that followed India gaining independence from Great Britain. The main character and related characters are fictional, but the political changes and events in the book are real. The prose is lovely. However, having zero knowledge of India’s recent history greatly diminished my enjoyment of this book. Rushdie doesn’t provide enough context around the political events for this woefully ignorant American.

The prose and the narrator’s voice in this book are delightful. It’s play with words, plot, and characters. But the thread that really holds is the historical events, and without knowledge of those bonding with the characters proves difficult.

This American is only vaguely more informed about India’s history. I have, at least, left this experience knowing how little I know about India. I would like to say I will learn more. This book list tho…

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