'Anne Shirley had the same ability to put her foot in her mouth as I did'

Anne Shirley had the same ability to put her foot in her mouth as I did

Talking books with Mehvash Peerbhoy, English teacher, The Millennium School, Dubai

Published: Fri 8 Jun 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 8 Jun 2018, 2:00 AM

What are you reading now?
I've been reading Haruki Murakami's Dance Dance Dance for over a month now. It is my first Murakami, and I was quite excited to begin. However, progress has been slow due to other commitments, so my bookmark has not moved as often as I would like.
A life-changing book?
Every book you read adds to your repertoire of wisdom in some way, but I would say the Harry Potter series had the biggest impact on the person I am today. I am a thoroughbred Potterhead - a pure-blood, if you will. I am part of the generation for whom the books were originally written, and have camped in line for hours waiting for each new release. Other than introducing me to a whole new world, the series has taught me about love, friendship, good and bad, kindness, empathy and much more. A recent study found that Potterheads are more tolerant to people different from them, and that is easily the truest thing I know. Most of all, I love how subtly it teaches readers about morality in a way that is not shoved down our throats - yet, every single true member of the fandom holds the same set of values without even fully realising it until much, much later.
Favourite literary character?
I was all of 11 years old, when I first met the red-haired orphan: Anne Shirley of Green Gables (also 11). Even though she was written 90-odd years before I met her, she was as talkative and boisterous as I was, and possessed the same remarkable ability to put her foot in her mouth as I did, so reading about her social misadventures provided me with some much-needed solidarity! She also taught me numerous life lessons; and while she was never able to fully convert me from the realist I am to the hopeless romantic she was, she did help shape my personality in more ways than I can count.
It is from Anne-with-an-e Shirley that I inherited my obsession with always needing names (especially my own) to be spelt/pronounced correctly, and my hunger to learn big words to express big ideas. She is the one who first taught me to be at peace with my innate restlessness; that tomorrow is a day too new to be weighed down with old nonsense. It is from her that I learnt to stretch the limits of my imagination; and because of her, that I came to understand that unorthodox behaviour does not equal wickedness. Most importantly, it is to her that I can trace my belief in kindred spirits and the importance of being fiercely loyal to the ones I call my own, while still being able to call them out on the things they do wrong.
Most underrated book?
I've been waiting for someone to ask me this question for a few years now, because my answer has been ready: Room by Emma Donaghue. Although the book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010, I do not remember there being much publicity around this literary masterpiece. The innocence and naivety of the five-year-old narrator make the painful reality of the story, which includes elements of existentialism and Stockholm syndrome, all the more horrific. It is a gripping read, dealing with delicate themes, and deserves every bit of publicity and readership it can get and more.

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