Disclaimer: I wrote the post below awhile ago and saved it. Don't go thinking I had time to write this with a toddler! Here's my view at the moment:
Well, now that our boy’s name has been revealed, I wanted to explain why we chose the name Jonas Shukhrat for him. Shukhrat was obviously his original Kyrgyz name, so we just moved that to his middle name. It was important to us that he keep a part of his culture and identity before joining our family. But what about Jonas?
Well, several years ago, Zack and I were talking about my favorite book, The Giver. Zack pointed out that the main character’s name, Jonas, would be a good name for a boy. I had never thought of that before, but I definitely agreed, and it’s been on my “naming back burner” ever since then. When Zack and I discussed names one night in Krygyzstan on our first visit, we each shared our favorites. I liked a few of the ones Zack mentioned, and then I shared a few of my runner-up choices with him. When I said that he might be able to guess my top name choice, he was able to correctly guess that it was Jonas.
In The Giver, Jonas saves his community from “Sameness” and lack of feelings and love. As I taught when I used this book in several language arts classes over the years, Jonas becomes the “Jesus figure” in the text. He is the specially chosen one who takes on the suffering and pain of the rest of community so that the others can be “free.” This was the original utopian/dystopian novel, way before The Hunger Games and others that have since become popular. It’s always been my favorite book to teach to middle school students, and I’ve probably read it at least twenty times.
I’ve met the author, Lois Lowry, twice. When I was teaching in Dallas, I took some students to meet her, and I still have the picture of us all with her at a bookstore. A few years ago, I saw her speak at a literary conference in Denver, and I had her sign my well-loved and well-worn copy of the book with the inscription, “For Jonas,” hoping that I would indeed someday have a Jonas to give the book to! Last year, the long-awaited movie version was released, and I was there on opening night (though it was not nearly as good as the book).
Anyway, the book is definitely not the only reason I love this name. When we got back to the hotel after our first day of meeting little Shukhrat, Zack described our son as a “peaceful soul.” Imagine my surprise when I was researching meanings of various names I liked and realized that Jonas means “peaceful being”! It’s a variation of the Biblical name, Jonah, which in Hebrew also means “gift from God.” I think that’s quite appropriate!
Speaking of the name Jonah, my friend Eileen and my Aunt Jean guessed that name in my “Name Game” post! They’ll be receiving some Kyrgyz chocolate for being as close as anyone could possibly imagine. I was shocked to read their guesses. Nice work, ladies! I do like how his name comes from the name Jonah. There are lots of cute kid clothes and items with whales on them, and it reminds me of how we swam with dolphins (kind of like whales, right?) on the day he was born.
Surprisingly, I’ve never taught anyone with the name Jonas. I’ve never even met anyone with that name. But it’s easy to pronounce and spell, and I like how it’s masculine and not too short or long. The only thing I don’t like about it is that people might think of the Jonas Brothers when they hear it, but I’m hoping their popularity will die out in the near future and it won’t even be an issue.
Anyway, the name conversation Zack and I had that night in Kyrgyzstan kind of morphed into talking about the surgery he would need and then falling asleep, so we never officially finished our talk. But the next day, when our coordinator asked if we were ready to fill out the paperwork with his name, and I started saying that we weren’t quite sure yet, Zack made it clear that we were indeed ready. He thought Jonas was a good fit, and we signed papers the next day. And that’s the story of how Jonas was named Jonas!