Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: Tiger Heart

Tiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling, and What I Learned about Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World AwayTiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling, and What I Learned about Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away by Katrell Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced review copy from the publisher via Netgalley.
"Today, our teacher told us about the number zero, which has no worth," she said.
"But put it next to another number, and it makes that number important. The more zeros you add, the bigger the number gets. So know that if you are feeling like a zero, you do have great worth with teamwork."

That quote basically sums up the entire message of the book for me. Katrell Christie's mission of bettering the lives of these girls in Darjeeling, India would be impossible without help.

I've heard of The Learning Tea before. I'm a bit of a tea obsessive, with cupboard overflowing with the dried leaf. I remember finding the website at some point, looking at the tea and considering buying some. I ended up not, only because I am not a fan of darjeeling tea, finding it lacking the depth and subtlety of flavor that I find in teas from China, Japan, and Taiwan. But The Learning Tea stayed somewhere in the back of my mind and when I saw this book on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

Tiger Heart is part memoir, part call to action, part marketing material, and part feel-good "find the good in the world" missive. It's deceptively simple, with clear writing and short chapters interspersed with motivational quotes from well-known thinkers or writers. On the surface, the book is simply Christie's journey that led her to create The Learning Tea, and where The Learning Tea is today. But it's more. It's also the story of one person making a difference -- but not on her own.

I think that's the most powerful message in this book. Unlike another international development NGO founder who was outed to be a fraud after writing several best-selling books, Christie never portrays herself as the hero, single-handedly moving mountains. She's honest in what she doesn't know, what she had to learn. She's humble in her quest, focusing on helping the individuals she can. And she's upfront with her failures.

She could have very easily sensationalized her story, and it was a bit of a shock when I came across this:
I’ve made it through two armed robberies, one attempted carjacking at gunpoint, one knife holdup, and one hijacked train. I was smuggled through a political war zone in the hatchback of a car covered in burlap. I’ve tossed on a burka to be able to ride the train by myself. Throw in a handful of death threats. And then there’s bullying from people who don’t want my low-caste scholars to take seats away from their rich kids at school.

Because Christie, while making it clear throughout the book that it was incredibly difficult and draining to do what she does, never up until that point toward the end of the book, mentioned it was also dangerous.

But the story wasn't about her and her being the hero. It's about the girls who are being helped, and India.

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