01/23/06 — Worthwhile read: Wiesel’s book can inspire meaningful discussion

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Worthwhile read: Wiesel’s book can inspire meaningful discussion

There are many reasons why Wayne County residents should take the time over the next month to pick up Elie Wiesel’s book “Night,” this year’s Wayne County Reads selection.

First, there is the community aspect. This is a project that is meant to involve adults and children across the county — and one that stresses the importance of reading and books. This is a cause that deserves widespread support, especially if we want to teach our children a habit — and a joy — that will benefit them throughout their lives.

That alone is reason enough to pick up a copy of the book and to have a discussion about it with your friends and family.

And then there is the Oprah Winfrey factor. After all, how can you ignore a book selected by the queen of daytime television for her Book Club? Add to that the fact that her involvement will make all sorts of resources available to understand the book’s message and its importance, and you have all the support you need to get the book read and to have a meaningful discussion about it.

But all those reasons, while intriguing and important, cannot possibly account for the timeliness of this selection and its potential impact.

“Night” is about the Holocaust, a horrible period in world history when millions of Jewish people were massacred because of ignorance and hatred. This is Elie Wiesel’s story — his documentation of his family’s suffering and the horrors in the Nazi death camps.

It is a reminder — the year after the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camps — about why we need to be ever vigilant when power and insanity become the means for corrupt ambition, death and destruction. We should read “Night” so we will never forget.

There will be many interesting discussions that will come from this year’s Wayne County Reads events. And there will be plenty of accompanying activities to help children and adults understand this period in history and the tragedy of the loss that still affects Jews across the world generations later.

But there will be a chance for understanding, too — and an opportunity to reach out and experience a new culture, new viewpoints and a new perspective on how this book can be applied to the modern world in which we live.

Reading and talking about “Night” is not going to be an easy experience. This book is powerful, and its images and message are breath-takingly sad in some places. There will be tears — there should be.

But from this discussion will come a chance for all of us to do something as a community to remember those who did not have the opportunity to tell us their stories. We can make sure their legacy is a message of peace, understanding and a determination never to allow the same horror to happen to anyone else.

That in itself is worth the cost of this paperback.

Published in Editorials on January 23, 2006 11:00 AM