Tag Archives: bookreviews

Review of a Young Adult book on Slavery still relevant today: Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Chains (Seeds of America, #1)Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so glad I spotted (#Coverlove!) this book in the library, my second read by wonderfully supportive author Laurie Halse Anderson. This first person, past tense Young Adult historical coming of age novel was amazing! Halse Anderson does an excellent job of distinguishing indentured servitude from slavery from hired service while characterizing the main characters quickly and effectively. An excellent and poignant reference to the Memphis Garbage Workers’ Strike via a slave father’s sale is just one of the many places in this work that moves to tears, both of terror and of joy, in the end. Please read this one, as I know I shall, again and again.

Let’s #EndPoverty , #EndHomelessness ,& #EndMoneyBail starting by improving these four parts of our good #PublicDomainInfrastructure 4: (
1. #libraries,
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare , and
4. good #publictransport )
Read, Write, Ranked Choice Voting and Housing for ALL!!!!, Walk !


#PublicDomainInfrastructure
ShiraDest

April, 12019 HE

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Black Women Writers at Work: Review of an older but very persistently worthwhile book

I am so glad I happened to see this book Black Women Writers at WorkBlack Women Writers at Work by Claudia Tate
at the public library.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was moved with both recognition, and with fear, at Audre Lorde’s comment that “it’s scary because we’ve been through that before. It was called the fifties.” Then I was moved with that stirring to act, upon reading in print what I have known and been told in different words since Dunbar (High School): “My responsibility is to speak the truth… with as much precision and beauty as possible. … We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”
And we must not remain silent while the blood of our sisters/brothers/neighbors/communities/fellow human beings is shed.

Sherley Anne Williams reiterates this responsibility of a writer to write as well as one can and to “say as much of the truth as I can see at any given time.”

Although this book is dated, and does not include my favorite author (Octavia Butler), I am so glad that I read this book in spite of my initial misgivings. From Bambara’s hope that “We care too much … to negotiate a bogus peace,” to DeVeaux’s “responsibility to see,” I find my own compulsion to write validated by the responsibility of a writer to render individual expression into a universal expression, and to give voice to the voiceless/unseen/erased. To show the unspoken and to “empathize with the general human condition.”

Society needs all perspectives because without those perspectives, we are missing vast parts of what our society actually looks like, which leads to deep problems. Writing, as was pointed out, must transcend individual experience, but it also comes from and is filtered through individual experience, so we desperately, as leaders from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to Octavia Butler have pointed out, need every point of view.

Last note (not in my GR review): I think that this book has helped me to see that my intended audience has two possibly conflicting sections –
I. those who have endured traumas in early childhood or also in adulthood, particularly due to structural racism, and
II: those who can change that situation.

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Let’s #EndPoverty , #EndHomelessness ,& #EndMoneyBail starting by improving these four parts of our good #PublicDomainInfrastructure 4: (
1. #libraries,
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare , and
4. good #publictransport )
Read, Write, Ranked Choice Voting and Housing for ALL!!!!, Walk !


#PublicDomainInfrastructure
ShiraDest

April, 12019 HE

Persist: review of a good but difficult book

Stronger Than You KnowStronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This first person #YAlit novela (a bit short for a novel, I imagine) was both very hard-hitting in its accuracy, and very hope-giving, if a bit too much so, perhaps, in the ending. I find myself agreeing with another reviewer about the timeline being too short for certain things, but I can understand or imagine that the author wanted to give hope and encouragement, and teenagers have very short attention-spans and time-line perspectives, in general.

For me, this was a difficult read emotionally because it had me reliving events from my own early childhood and teenage years, and the earliest were the worst, as the ending of the book brought the external and internal conflicts together in ways that confirmed my own experiences very uncomfortably. But this is a very important work, and it is crucial to persist.

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Review of a book worth reading

The Female of the SpeciesThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, #TheFemaleOfTheSpecies, written in first person and present tense for all three PoV characters, is a book which is both difficult to read, and also cathartic. There are also some really good zingers, funny lines and situations, believe it or not, and some really spot-on descriptions of the humanity of one of the main characters from whom you’d not expect human warmth. I can only hope that I can make such a contribution one day, but if I manage to publish a book half as good as this crucial work by @MindyMcGinnis, I will feel my writing career to have been worthwhile.

I noticed that this was not her debut novel, and that the author seems to have had a bit of a time getting her agent to push for this work, which spent 15 years in a drawer. That tells me that these types of books are either coming into their time, now, after the ME TOO movement, or that I’d best better start with more light and fluffy novels until I get established as a fiction author. Either way, I am grateful and glad that McGinnis kept this work, and got it to see the light of day after all those years in the dark. In publishing this book, she has also helped many of us to believe that we can come out of the dark, as well, if not entirely whole.

(Reminds me of the female MC of Purgatoire des innocents English review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show… )

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How crucial it is to believe in The Good

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Upon reading again, I see that she uses the omniscient story-tellers voice more than I thought, in the first book, to excellent effect.

I find it amazing that Rowling managed to include child neglect, child abuse or bullying, ptsd and drugs all in one book, without coming off as preachy, and even giving it a happy ending. Then, managing to get kids to read it!

I only hope that my WIP can accomplish half as much, one day.
Shira, of The MEOW Community Cooperation Blog,
William-James-MEOW Date: 16 September 12014 H.E. (Holocene/Human Era)

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Review of Riding the A-Train With Einstein

Riding the A-Train With Einstein: Notes of a Heretic JanitorRiding the A-Train With Einstein: Notes of a Heretic Janitor by John H. Sibley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, let me say that this book is not, and should not be, an easy read. But it is a crucial read, in my opinion. Other reviewers have taken pains to point out that the title seemed a bit confusing, to them. I did not find it confusing, probably due to the fact that my father was called “The Professor” by his cultural cohort: fellow Black men of the Vietnam generation. So, I felt right at home with the idea of homelessness, which pervades this important work, when I started the book. I think that my Dad and the author would have gotten along very well, and I wish my father were alive now to meet him.

While the book itself was important, if a bit earthy, I personally found the interview and list of references most interesting, after the book itself. That is likely in part due to the many similar gut-wrenching memories triggered for me while reading the experiences of a man similar in many ways to my own father, a light-skinned Black man in DC, experiencing alarmingly similar events in roughly the same historical period.

The author is clearly well-read and working to raise points that are not only ignored but also feared by our system. The facts the author presents relating the slave trade and 1860’s market prices to current structural components of our American capitalist system are both taboo and inconvenient for those who benefit from our current economic arrangement. These are highly important things for all of us to look at squarely in the face, and to begin to shovel our own shit, as so much of the book does in metaphoric and literal terms.

Let’s #EndHomelessness, #EndPoverty, & #EndMoneyBail starting by improving these four parts of our Public Domain Social Infrastructure:
#PublicDomainInfrastructure 4: (
1. #libraries,
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare , and
4. good #publictransport )
Read, Write, Ranked Choice Voting and Housing for ALL!!!!, Walk !

This post also discusses some of the background issues I experienced while reading the book and writing the review.


#PublicDomainInfrastructure
ShiraDest

March, 12019 HE

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Review of a book worth buying: Separate and Unequal

Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American LiberalismSeparate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism by Steven M. Gillon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How sad that the contents and conclusions of this report are still relevant, and still ignored, today, 50 years after it was released in response to the riots in Newark and Detroit of the “long hot” summer of 1967. I found this book after seeing Dr. King’s response to the question, during the Memphis garbage workers’ strike, of what it would take to prevent or call off his Poor People’s March on Washington: the answer was to implement the recommendations in this report.

The report was commissioned to find out what caused the rioting, not how to prevent further riots. The clearest distinctions between those who actively participated in the rioting and their neighbors who did not, at least at the start of each riot, was the trigger of having witnessed or experienced police brutality. But what primed that trigger for action was the underlying anger, poverty, constant discrimination, and despair to which the Black community in particular was subjected over a very long period of time.

The report called for various measures to be taken which would have improved the lives not only of members of the Black community, but also everyone else in the nation. Measures like the elimination of sub-standard housing in inner-cities, building new schools, health centers, and community facilities, and introducing a guaranteed minimum income would help all citizens, not only those bereft of resources and hope when they were freed with only the clothing on their backs, unable to melt into White American society. From the disrespect by police, to the lack of garbage collection in inner-city neighborhoods, Black Americans were fed up with White America’s deliberate disregard for “the realities of life for many poor blacks” in the United States. This anger, combined with the criminalization of poverty (which was just beginning to kick off the era of Mass Incarceration), the lack of Black faces in [the media, police, highly paid professions and other areas of potential] power, led to a sense of hopelessness and fear that non-violent resistance would never break down a system which was inherently designed to break down the Black community. Ideas like the War on Drugs, brought back by Reagan after the Carter years, and Law and Order, parroted by both right and left, muddied the discourse around solving the problems that led to the riots, instead creating a cloud of convenient reasons to blame inner-city Black communities for their problems while ignoring the structural issues that had created and perpetuated the problems since the slavery era.

The conclusion drawn by the report, above all, was that the entire nation needed education and “a richer portrait of life in urban areas” and to hire many many more Black police officers.

I think that many of the issues of perspective mentioned in the book by the author in his analysis of the report and its time are now beginning to be looked at again, as the discussion around White Privilege becomes louder and more mainstream. That discussion is a necessary but insufficient part of the solution to our current problems, which go back to pre-existing problems pointed out by the report. Please read this book on the Commission report (and also see Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin), and then, write your reps!

Pages I found especially relevant included:

P. 6: 1966 result of creation of ghettos by the 1930s-50s urban renewal aka Negro Removal all across the USA
** P. 12: What a contrast: only 1/100 white people thought that blacks were poorly treated in the USA…
***Ribicoff P. 37: recos…
P. 100: “in the ghetto” last garbage collection (if at all), police disrespectful, school & housing dilapidated
P. 228 (and the answer to that boot-straps baloney:) discrimination and segregation prevented many blacks from following the same patterns which had been followed by immigrant groups, and limited blacks to all but the lowest … jobs

Let’s #EndPoverty & #EndMoneyBail by improving these four parts of our good #PublicDomainInfrastructure 4:
1. #libraries,
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare , and
4. good #publictransport
Read, Write, Ranked Choice Voting for ALL!!!!, Walk !


#PublicDomainInfrastructure
ShiraDest

March, 12019 HE

View all my reviews

Change the Calendar, Change the World? Really?

In light of Popular Mechanics Mag’s article on the Holocene Calendar, I’m reblogging this article to link with my more recent cultural framing article…

ShiraDest: toward The Four Freedoms for All Human Beings

In my review of a book on Cherokee Women’s Voices, I commented that the change in the calendar, from the traditional East Coast native American way of seeing time, to the Gregorian Calendar, played a large role in cementing the ‘civilization’ plan to Europeanize Native Americans.

See:  http://meowdate.dreamwidth.org/8663.html

But I wonder whether all the work those of us in the Calendar Reform movement do will really lead to the cultural change, and hence the world change, that we want to see?  In inclusive calendar should, hopefully, make people think more open-mindedly, or at least think in terms of Humanity rather than just the Christianity of 2014 AD, or Judaism’s 5773, or Islam’s 6xxx years?   But are we calendar reformers too optimistic?  How do we all come to think of ourselves as just human beings, rather than Black, White, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, American, Russian, Ukranian, etc?

In Service to Community…

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Review (English) of: L’espace est une question de temps ; Einstein et la relativité

L'espace est une question de temps ; Einstein et la relativitéL’espace est une question de temps ; Einstein et la relativité by David Blanco Laserna

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was revealing not so much for his personal life, but for the ways in which Einstein represented people like my high school students back in 2001, or my Community College students in 2012, all of whom needed to understand the mysteries behind the mathematics, rather than just memorizing the rules.
My students needed, like this genius, perhaps a bit less authoritarian rule-following, and a bit more flexibility in my own ways of communicating with even those I saw as less hard-working. From their points of view, the situation was surely different, and as I learn that time and space is relative, I understand that so is thinking and teaching.
Well worth reading,

Read, Write, Dream, Teach !

ShiraDest
2nd of April, 2016

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