The first book, by a social worker (Sarah Gerstenzang) who chose to foster a child (infant to 2 years old, willing to consider any race, and any disability) has me reevaluating my commitment to adoption and fostering children. I decided long ago that I want to have four children. Realistically I'll have as many children as Hashem wills, and as I can afford, but in my ideal world I want four. Two biological, and two adopted. You see, I am worried about world overpopulation, so I do not wish to create more lives than my husband and I will require to replace, but I am also concerned about the survival of the Jewish people, and so I'd like to contribute to that growth too, so I need to have three or more children, net. However, after reading this book it seems unlikely that I will have the time/funds to adopt two children, even non-internationally. Looks like I need a new life plan. Also, the book has a fascinating look into how our social policy is formed by beliefs about who needs help and why.
As for the second, well, let's just say that it isn't a light read. Philip Gourevitch (who, from an offhand comment seems to be the child of Holocaust survivors) describes not just the process of the genocide (with which I was unfamiliar) but also the historical context. He explains who the Hutus and Tutsis are, and from where the ethnic differentiation comes. Surprise, surprise, colonialism had something to do with it... The amazing writing, clarity of narrative, and personal style all contribute to a fabulous, if difficult book. Whose thesis, for the record, only strengthens my belief that one cannot ignore the role of history in creating current conflicts, and that many modern conflicts are like a basket of knitting that has become tangled. You can either spend a great deal of time seperating out the threads to maintain the yarn's integrity, or you can just cut them, leaving yourself with another type of mess, and a less structurally sound final garment (after you use the cut yarn for knitting).
For the record, my analogy is not entirely my own, it has its base in an Eastern European Jewish folk story. The story goes as follows: a young man has brought home his fiancee to meet his mother, and his mother is less than impressed. The man and his mother argue for several hours while the young woman is sitting in the corner, patiently untangling the man's mother's knitting basket. By the time the man and his mother have reached a standoff, the entire basket is set to order. When his mother sees this she relents, and accepts the woman as an acceptable wife for his son, because she sees the woman's patience and industry as important values. She also says something like "may she untangle all disputes like she has with this knitting basket."
In conclusion, I'm feeling responsible for the world, and not entirely sure how to fix it. Suggestions welcome.