Suriname In Pictures, by Tom Streissguth
I must admit, this book is a part of a series that I have never read before and likely would not have read except the fact that my library system has a book about Suriname from the series. This book is aimed either at younger readers or those who do not have time for big books , as it is a small book (less than a hundred pages) that can be read very quickly. Even so, despite its brevity it does present some thoughtful questions about an obscure country. Suriname, as I am coming to understand from reading as much as I can about its history and its role in the Atlantic world, is the sort of place that invites a great deal of questions and not many obvious answers. For example, it is a country which seems to have a lot of troubles of various kinds–troubles involving racial harmony and the just rule of law, troubles involving imperialism, internal political troubles, and the like. To be sure, there are plenty of nations around the world that are known for being troubled, but few of them are as obscure and as forgotten as Suriname is, a nation that I regularly have to describe where it is when talking to others about it.
In terms of its contents, this book is pretty straightforward in providing a summary of various aspects of Suriname’s history and culture and related areas. The book begins with an introduction and a discussion of the land of the country including its climate, resources, environmental issues and its few cities and towns. After that the author looks at the troubled history of the country from its indigenous settlement to its colonial period to its troubled independence and challenges and government. After that the book looks at the ethnic groups, health and education, and women and family life, noting of interest that no women were known as influential in Suriname’s independence movement. After that the book looks at the diverse and rich cultural life of the country as well as its food, holidays, and festivals. A discussion of the economy follows in which the author talks about the importance of service as well as the limited nature of turism and issues with transportation and communications infrastructure before closing with some elements of the book like timelines, fast facts, and other information that give some brief facts for more information on the country, including suggestions for further reading.
As a country, it is pretty clear that Suriname has some major issues. A long history of slavery as well as other forms of indentured labor has led to a complicated ethnic makeup and a long history where indigenous peoples and descendants of escaped slaves have been highly isolated from global trade as well as local political authority. Likewise, limited infrastructure has generally been focused either on attempts at increasing tourism with Suriname’s natural beauty or, more often, on getting Suriname’s raw exports into international trade routes in a sort of development that has not led to widespread wealth for the people of Suriname as a whole, who remain relatively poor and marginalized as a whole. Obviously, political legitimacy has been a problem as well and this has not improved Suriname’s difficulties in obtaining and maintaining foreign aid from the United States or the Netherlands. This book provides a good, if brief, look at a country whose history has some serious problems but which has some resources as well to help it if it has the skill to do so and the favorable circumstances to work with.
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