What can I say besides this book made me want to NOT get married? At least, not with any kind of wedding beyond a quick trip to the courthouse. What aWhat can I say besides this book made me want to NOT get married? At least, not with any kind of wedding beyond a quick trip to the courthouse. What a headache. ...more
When it comes to comics and graphic novels, I tend to be drawn to those on the nonfiction shelf. I find the format tends to make darker or complex topWhen it comes to comics and graphic novels, I tend to be drawn to those on the nonfiction shelf. I find the format tends to make darker or complex topics more accessible and personalized than a long nonfiction tome. So I was intrigued by Squarzoni’s comic, which is subtitled “a personal journey through the science”, when I was browsing the library’s comics section.
This book grew out of Squarzoni’s efforts to present the French president’s political platform in a graphic format and the realization that he was writing about a topic — climate change — that he knew very little about. His partner, Camille, insists that Squarzoni will end up writing an entire book on the subject as he begins researching what exactly “climate change” is and, well, turns out she was right.
The book becomes an interesting blend of Squarzoni’s research, interviews with scientists and policy makers, and struggle to reconcile what he learns with how he lives his life. He has a rather off-putting obsession with how a storyteller chooses to start a story and devotes a number of panels to this question, including several on the movies he’s Once he moves onto the actual topic of climate change, Squarzoni makes a connection between our consumer-based economy — that is, the fact that economic growth only comes from increasing consumption of goods — to the increase in greenhouse gases and the destruction of the environment worldwide. And, like many people, he ends up wrestling with how to adopt the solutions being advocated by those he interviews into his own life.
Some of the solutions — reducing energy consumption, refusing to drive large vehicles or adopt other behaviors he sees as imports from America — are ones he’s already doing while others require government policy to change or an individual to sacrifice a convenience of modern life. At one point, he is offered what sounds like a fantastic opportunity in Laos and turns it down because he cannot overcome the guilt he feels over flying given its contribution to greenhouse glasses. Two years later, he and Camille travel to Montana to visit the very glaciers disappearing because of climate change. It is just not reasonable to expect him to never travel again.
Squarzoni’s difficulty with reconciling macro-changes to his life on the micro-scale fostered a lot of apathy within me as I was reading the book and, unlike others on the topic before it, I didn’t finish the book feeling as though I could rush out and try to change the world. After all, there are only so many light bulbs one can change, reusable bags one can carry, or car trips one can switch for public transportation.
But it also is a refreshingly honest addition to the section of the library devoted to climate change. And Squarzoni’s book lends a lot of credibility both through this honesty — climate change science is hard to understand, climate change is hard to address given there is no one band-aid solution — and given its its ability to breakdown the complexities of the issue into easily digestible bits through interviews and beautiful ...more
**spoiler alert** Over the course of an afternoon in Ohio, Pekar interweaves the history of Judaism from Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac on the a**spoiler alert** Over the course of an afternoon in Ohio, Pekar interweaves the history of Judaism from Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac on the alter for God to expressions of the Jewish faith in 2011 with his own personal history as a Jew and a critic of Israel. Panels are devoted to depicting both histories -- the personal and the publicly shared -- as well as the time Pekar and Waldman spend at a used book store and the Cleveland Public Library during Pekar's monologue.
Raised by a Zionist and communist mother and a conservative Jewish father, Pekar grew up revering and blindly supporting Israel. It wasn't until he became involved in anti-war and communist activities in the United States during the 1960s and the 1970s that Pekar really began to question the beliefs that had been instilled in him.
His disillusionment becomes more pronounced over time, and this development coincides with his history lesson for Waldman on present-day Israel's struggles over its identity as a Jewish, democratic country with both the rise in the number of Arab citizens and a more Orthodox clergy defining who counts as Jewish. This back and forth helps to encapsulate the reaction an individual will have on the micro-scale to macro-level events.
As the events of Pekar's life and the history of Judaism march towards the present-day, this reaction starts to fade and Pekar begins to list out his grievances towards Israel. Whether that is because Pekar long made up his mind about Israel or because he was running out of time on that particular day in Cleveland or because Waldman was unable to follow-up with Pekar to expand on the story due to his unexpected death that year, it remains unclear. But this shifts the fulcrum of Pekar becoming a critic of Israel from what the country has done on the global stage to one particular moment in the 1970s when the country rejected him.
When Pekar becomes disillusioned with life in America after being declared unfit for military service and unable to find a job, he seizes on the idea that Israel must accept him because he is Jewish and makes inquiries into how to immigrate at the local Israeli embassy. He is immediately and swift rejected by the Israeli authority who laughs at him and points out that Israel has no need for a wannabe music critic or a disabled person. That moment, it seems, is the real moment when Pekar decides he can no longer support Israel.
A valid reason for his disillusionment with Israel? I think that's too personal to comment on, although I do understand how bitterly disappointing this rejection would be if one grew up hearing about Israel is the homeland for all Jews (and it fits really well with the title of the book). Given the way other issues are seemingly listed out rather than addressed in detail as this moment was makes this a more personal story than a jumping point for the reader to have a philosophical and/or political debate with themselves.
I loved the variation in the panels by Waldman. At one point, he and Pekar get into the car and drive from the used book store to the public library. This could have been an odd lull in the story yet Waldman keeps the transition interesting by styling the panels like the dashed lines of an old map leading to treasure under a large 'X'. (You can see an example of on my blog.) And the pop-up of Harvey and his critic on the newspaper clips of their words? Genius! It brings the writers and their words alive in the way a reprint of the columns could never.
There is a short epilogue written and drawn by Pekar's wife, Joyce Brabner, following his untimely death. Stylistically different from the rest of the book, the epilogue nevertheless encapsulates the story and how Pekar viewed himself -- a Jewish artist uninterested in fame whose homeland is Cleveland not Israel....more
In this collection of anecdotes from the road, Steinem's premise is that the only way to understand one's fellow citizens and, therefore, enact changeIn this collection of anecdotes from the road, Steinem's premise is that the only way to understand one's fellow citizens and, therefore, enact change is to hit the road and engage in face-to-face conversations. Which makes the book a rather ironic choice for Emma Watson's online, feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf.
The book begins with Steinem sharing about her own childhood -- the father who never settled and the mother who never had a choice -- and how these experiences shaped her into a person who longs to travel, to live out her life as she wants to. And she touches briefly on how this is a rather revolutionary concept for women are often discouraged from traveling alone either out of concerns about their safety or because such acts would bring shame upon the family. If a women can go out on a self-willed journey and be welcomed warmly when she comes home, then perhaps the world is less restrictive and patriarchal than it has been in the past.
It's said that the biggest determinant of our lives is whether we see the world as welcoming or hostile. Each becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have often heard Steinem and other mainstays of the feminist/women's movement in America be lambasted for their lack of interest in intersectional feminism. That is, by focusing on gender pay gaps, political representation, and access to education, feminists too often ignore that a person's identity and, therefore, oppression is multifaceted. I can no more change my skin color than I can change my disabilities or my sexual orientation. Reading this memoir, though, makes it apparent that this charge does not apply to Steinem.
...one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.
There are two moments in Steinem's life on the road that had a profound influence on her -- a conference on women's rights in Houston in the 1970s where state representatives were directly elected by women and her time in Oklahoma with a Native American activist named Wilma Mankiller. In both instances, Steinem devoted her time and efforts listening to the stories and desires of women of color so that feminism and the women's movement could address the issues within their communities. And, in fact, the biggest lesson I took away from reading Steinem's memoir was that I need to increase my own understanding of life in Indian Country. I need to listen and learn. I need to be a better intersectional feminist.
...the most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself -- or will use military violence against another country -- is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it's violence against females. It normalizes all other violence.
In discussing her efforts to increase representation of minorities both within the movement at large and at Ms. Magazine, Steinem does fall into the trap of proclaiming herself as "I'm not like those other women". She wrote earlier in the book about how important is to resist ranking instead of linking humans, and it was disappointing to see her repeatedly set herself up as the anti-power activist to Betty Friedan's desire to serve on one board after another. Do I agree that there need to be more voices and more people within the feminist movement? Obviously. But I so loathe segregation perpetrated by comments about not being like "other girls", which are far too often used by people across the gender spectrum to put down women as shallow and stupid, that it was disappointing to see Steinem fall into this trap herself.
Aside from that quibble, I was greatly heartened by Steinem's confession that she loathes public speaking even after all these years of being an activist. (Organizer, as Steinem would probably correct.) But she explained that she looks at her talk as a way to open the door to a greater conversation. If she can get the audience to engage with her afterwards, then she has done her job as a speaker. If she can get the audience to engage with each other but answering questions asked to her, then she has done her job as an organizer. This approach may not directly translated into the business world, especially since women are routinely talked over or disregarded, but it is certainly a different and rather inspiring way of approaching a presentation or lecture.
The selection of this memoir for January was particularly well-timed as the public is being re-reminded of Bill Clinton's extra-marital affairs and Hillary Clinton's response to them. In discussing her decision to support Clinton in the 2008 presidential election, Steinem discusses how she listened to and conversed with numerous "Hillary Haters" -- white, well-educated feminist women who did not want Clinton as president -- and learned that their hatred stemmed from Clinton's refusal to leave her husband over his affairs. They wanted to see Clinton eviscerate her husband because they were unwilling to leave their own husbands and jealous of the equality within the Clintons' marriage. This reasoning does not exactly jive with my recollection of the 2008 nomination process, and I admit that I dismissed it out of hand. Yet, two days after I finished this particular section of Steinem's memoir, there was an article in the New York Times about how Clinton is losing support of feminists over Bill's 1990s affairs.
In describing this memoir to family and friends, I said that it was a bit like getting coffee with Steinem and listening to her recollect moments in her life. She does seem to jump from one event to another, and the book switches from being arranged topically to chronically and back again. But it was one of the better coffee dates I've had in some time as it reaffirmed the importance of intersectional feminism and pointed out the places I still need to visit and learn from. Time to go on my own self-willed journey....more
On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was assassinated as he left a pro-Oslo Accords peace rally in Israel by a twenty-five-yearOn November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was assassinated as he left a pro-Oslo Accords peace rally in Israel by a twenty-five-year-old Israeli citizen named Yigal Amir, who justified his actions through the Talmudic concept of “rodef”. The law of “din rodef” allows an individual to kill a person in order to save innocent lives and, according to Amir, Rabin was guilt of murdering Israeli settlers in the West Bank because he signed and promoted the Oslo Accords, which enshrined the ideals of Palestinian authority over the West Bank and for which Rabin, Arafat, and the Israeli Foreign Minister (and Rabin’s longtime political rival) Shimon Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
Although Amir was not a settler himself, his orthodox faith meant he believed Jews have a biblical right to the lands of Gaza and the West Bank and that the Messiah will return if the Jewish people call the land of Israel, with its borders extended to include the West Bank, Gaza, and parts of Jordan, as home. This belief was the underpinning of the early settler movement, although this since changed as more secular Jews have moved into the settlements in search of more spacious and cheaper homes than those in Israel proper. If the West Bank and Gaza fell under the control of Yasir Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization, then these settlers would likely be forced from their homes and the Messiah would not return.
Settlers and the right-wing politicians who supported them, including present-day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vilified Rabin and the Oslo Accords in the press and in public demonstrations. Photographs of Rabin dressed as a Nazi were carried during demonstrations, and Amir worked on establishing his own militia to defend the rights of settlers while he and his classmates traveled to the settlements to support the settlers. The religious zealotry of the settlers and the racism within Israeli society was either vocally or, at the very least, passively supported by rabbis and right-wing political leaders who refused to denounce the violent rhetoric and characterizations being used.
The peace process would also set off a wave of violence in Israel/Palestine with the American-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein committing the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron, a city in the West Bank. Goldstein would enter the Muslim mosque killing 29 Palestinian worshipers and wounding an additional 125. While his actions were denounced by Rabin and other Israelis, those from Goldstein’s settlement would call him a marytr for the cause and the Cave of the Patriarchs as well as other areas near Jewish settlements in Hebron would be closed to Palestinians (but not Jewish Irsaelis) exasperating tensions and leading a wave of Palestinian violence in retaliation. An eye for an eye over and over again.
During this time, Amir would attempt to assassinate Rabin at least three times before succeeding, and Ephron walks the reader through each attempt in “real-time” to demonstrate both Amir’s determination and how little regard the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet or Shabak, had for threats on Rabin’s life from Irsaelis rather than Palestinians. Prestige and financial support within the organization were generated towards the department investigating Arabs; the Jewish terrorism department was where careers went to die.
The parallels between the political climate of Israel in 1995 and today’s presidential election in the United States — the comparisons of politicians to Nazis, the demand for a whole group of people to deported based solely on religion — would be difficult to miss, although Ephron never explicitly calls them out. More importantly, though, I think the book helps to explain why the peace process died and why Israel has continued to elect such right-wing politicians in recent years.
So many people, including President Obama, were horrified to hear Prime Minister Netanyahu plead with Jewish Israelis to turn out in the March 2015 election because Arab Israelis were voting in “droves” and threatening the Jewish-nature of Israel’s democracy. Yet, according to Ephron, this is largely in line with Netanyahu’s comments in 1993-1995 about how Arab Israelis should not be allowed to vote on or participate in the peace process because they do not represent the desires of the nation of Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu was also present at an anti-Oslo Accords rally, which lead to the pro-peace rally at which Rabin was killed, where Rabin and Peres were depicted as Nazis and murders and participants clamored for their death. He stood on a balcony watching the parade and said nothing.
There is, simply, no opportunity for peace between Israelis and Palestinians when the leader of Israel is determined to disenfranchise the non-Jewish citizens of his nation and is dependent upon the support of the settler populations who believe they have Biblical (and, at least for some, racial) authority over the Palestinians. And that, sadly, is the lasting legacy of Rabin’s assassination and his attempts to bring peace to his country.
Of course, Ephron says at the beginning of his book that it would be impossible to determine if peace would have come had Rabin lived. The escalating violence, including the capture and murder of several Israeli Defense Force members, damaged the public’s perception of the peace process. But the mounting rhetoric and the vacuum left by his death within his party and in the left-wing of Israeli politics brought the settlers’ perception to the forefront of Israeli politics.
His explanation of this development helps to construct an understanding of why Israel is the way it is today and why the peace process has failed to move forward in any meaningful way. Arafat lost the man he had come to respect, Israel gained a leader with evident disdain for non-Jewish people dependent upon those Israelis living in settlements in order to continue holding power, and hatred towards each other came back to the forefront of the political realm for both the Palestinians and the Israelis destroying any of the hope about peace still palpable before Rabin’s assassination in November 1995....more