Several of my most recent reviews have been related to adoption and self. That’s on purpose. I’ve recently discovered both sides of my biological family through AncestryDNA, the research of an “adoption angel”, and some amateur online sleuthing. It’s hard to describe in text what it’s like to finally name your biological heritage as an adult. It feels like coming home, maybe.
One of the most interesting parts for my and my kids is that I found out that a large chunk of my heritage is Basque. Basques live in Basque Country (makes sense), which is located along the border of France and Spain. It’s an area of the world known for its orphan language of mysterious origins called Euskera, the beret (you’re welcome), industriousness, smuggling, jai alai, and unfortunately terrorism. In this book, Mark Kurlansky explores the great and the bad within the nation, and the interesting quirks of Basque history and culture.
The discussion of Euskera itself interested me greatly, as the language is discussed in some depth in Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue. The activity and industriousness of the Basques was unexpected and interesting. Kurlansky explores how well the Baseques were able to adopt and sell crops and goods from the New World in Europe, build great ships, set some culinary trends, and more. The interdependence of Basque history and the history of Spain in particular was both hard for me to follow as an outsider and fascinating. I don’t really understand violent revolutionaries and tyrants because I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a relatively stable place (at least stable for me).
The downside of the book for me is probably that the scope was so large, it covered things I would’ve skipped and skipped things I wanted covered. Overall, it was a fun introduction to a large part of my biological history.