Thursday, December 16, 2010

“Emotional truths can sometimes be conveyed more effectively, more compellingly, through fiction.”

Two weeks ago, I started reading a book series I kept hearing about everywhere; television, bookstores, twitter, facebook and the copies of Entertainment Weekly I get every Friday in my mail box.  At first, I wasn't sure if I'd actually like the story because the synopsis reminded me too much of the reality show "Survivor", which I can't stand, and also because I thought the name "Katniss" was stupid.  And to be completely honest, I was kinda right.  The storyline is similar to Survivor, and the name Katinss is stupid.  However, I'm pretty sure the author realized that because she made sure to include a joke about one of the other characters calling her "Catnip" as a nickname.

But I am glad to say that my assumption of my not liking "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins was wrong.  This series, as my best friend would say, is FUCKING PHENOMENAL! I haven't finished all three books yet, I'm only about half way through the second book, "Catching Fire", but I am already riveted by the beauty and irony of how the story relates to real life.

*SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE SERIES, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER... unless you don't care.*

This is the synopsis taken from the back of the first book:

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see."  

What it doesn't tell you is the people in the outer districts are slaves to the Capitol, starving, and forced to work 14 hour days doing the work the Capitol allows them to do and nothing more.  They are never allowed to leave their assigned District or go beyond the electric fences that keep them inside.  The main character, Katniss Everdeen, is from District 12, the last and least important of them all.  Most of the people in this district are so poor they starve to death, unless they find another way of finding food.  The only way to get hot water is to boil it on a coal stove and having electricity is so rare, it only turns on for a few hours a week. There are people in the districts who work for the Capitol called "the Peacekeepers" whose job is to enforce the rules of the government by publicly beating, whipping and assassinating those who break the laws.  {The irony of their name makes me want to slap someone. "Peacekeepers" who hurt and kill people... I'm sure that was the point, though.}

The people of the Capitol are rich and have more than enough food to feed the whole nation of Panem.  They decorate their bodies with full body colored tattoos, golden sparkling eyeliner, bright pink wigs, and implanted gems under the skin on various places of the body.  And every year they watch children kill each other for their own entertainment, and the gorier the deaths are, the better.  They have parties and gala's where there are never ending feasts, and they even offer a serum that allows you to vomit the food you already ate so you can eat more. The story not only gets the reader thinking, but also appreciating the ease of grocery shopping and having hot running water from the tap.  

How does this remind me of the real world, you ask?  Really, it's not much different.  I consider the USA to be like the Capitol and the starving nations in Africa to be the districts.  And that's taking it pretty far; we could keep it closer to home and compare it to Manhattan  and the Bronx.  Or Beverly Hills to Buffalo CountyThere is truth inside the pages of these books; about how people fight for survival and how the government tries to control the citizens of the world.  How some people have more than others and are often so blinded by lies and deceit, they can't see how poorly other people really live. 
  
Now, I am far from rich.  I have never been wealthy and my family isn't either, but I have a home.  I have heat in the winter and warm water to shower with and electricity to light my house and watch television. And I'm not ashamed to admit I have food thanks to the US government food stamps program.  I'm a single mother who isn't working due to illness and I've applied for disability insurance; something I know not every country in the world has.  I know the US isn't perfect, but I feel that I am lucky enough to have these options.  To have places to turn to when I don't have enough food to feed my son, when I don't have money to buy him the clothes he needs to stay warm, and when I feel like there's no hope left, I know things for us could be far, far worse.   

Every year 15 million children die of hunger.  Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation.  Nearly one in four people, that's 1.3 billion - the majority of humanity - live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people. So tell me, how are these book any different from reality?  We watch people on television compete for money and fame every night, maybe not to the death, but still having to fight, all while making fools of themselves and/or getting seriously injured in the process.  And it's all for our entertainment, and because they know if they want to survive in this world, they'll need money, and a lot of it. 

"The Hunger Games" is truly a wake up call for the world.  An anti war message embedded with the harsh realities of what people have to go through just to survive.  I highly recommend reading, even if you aren't big into young adult books.  It's an amazing story with a powerful message and characters your heart will break for. 


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