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BOOKS & THE CULTURE How to Read a Map of Hope Lessons from Fifty Years of Women’s Struggles BY ROBERT BONAZZI A MAP OF HOPE: Women’s Writing on Human Rights. Edited by Marjorie Agosin. Foreword by Mary Robinson. Rutgers University Press. t first glance, A Map of Hope may strike one as a curious title for an international anthology of women’s writing on human rights in the twentieth century. I must confess that a more cynical title came to mind immediately A Bloody Map of Despair and it seemed, even on second thought, to offer a more accurate guide to our fractured globe. But while such a phrase may evoke the horrors of modernity, it does not characterize the viewpoints from which these seventyseven authors perceive those horrors. Rather, editor Marjorie Agosin, herself a permanent exile and activist poet, has uncovered a rich vein of hope in the slag heap of geography, and has sounded a deep humanity in the silence of history’s brutal inhumanity. This powerful chorus laments the innocent victims of violence in the key of compassion; cries out for equal justice without committing injustice; and sings a healing song of selfhood and sisterhood free from the false notes of sanctimony and self-pity. Their complex vision of hope resides in survival itself, in the determination to remember the past and in the courage to resist all forms of oppression. Their hope is our hope, alive in the necessary act of bearing witness with truthfulness. “We cannot lie in our books and we cannot lie in any of the things we do, “insists Natalia Ginzburg. “And perhaps this is the one good thing that has come out of the war.” Her reference is to the generation in Italy that endured Fascism and survived World War II. She recognizes “an unbridgeable gulf between us and the previous generation,” because the “dangers they lived were trivial and their houses were rarely reduced to rubble.” Truth-telling became the watchword of the wartime generation unlike their parents, who “would like us to lie to our children as they lied to us.” But she “cannot do this to children who have seen terror and horror in our faces.” Truth may be the first casualty of war, as the old truism claims, but the real casualties are people. And the ironic inversion to this truism is that during war many found it necessary to falsify their ethnic and religious identities in order to survive under Nazism. Susan Rubin Suleiman’s Hungarian family worked as caretakers on an estate in Buda, where she received a new name at the age of five. “My name was Mary,” she writes. “My mother whispered to me every morning not to forget it, never to say my real name, no matter who asked.” One day she was questioned about her mother’s maiden name. “Her maiden name was Stern, a Jewish name. I knew that name, it was my grandmother’s. Luckily for us, I didn’t know what ‘maiden name’ meant.” Millions of others were not so fortunate, of course, and were summarily shot or shipped to concentration camps. The most beloved victim of the Holocaust, Anne Frank, is represented here by the final pages she recorded in her touching diary, just before being captured in Holland. There is also a vivid chapter from An Estate of Memory, Ilona Karmel’s novel of women in a labor camp, which reduces the story of Schindler to the rank of German apologia and male hero-worship. “Pedazos,” from the cover of A Map of Hope Liliana Wilson-Grez NOVEMBER 12, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27