This book affected me profoundly. Not only is it well-written, it's very persuasive. First, Barbara Kingsolver made me want to learn to make cheese. ThThis book affected me profoundly. Not only is it well-written, it's very persuasive. First, Barbara Kingsolver made me want to learn to make cheese. This is not something I've ever wanted before, and three months after reading it, I'm still kind of hoping that a soft cheese kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply will be showing up as a holiday present.
Secondly, it made me want to eat tomatoes. I have never liked tomatoes; I'd actually call it an aversion. And yet, after reading the summer chapters, I gave them a try for the first time in about twenty years. I'm still working on actually liking them, but the total disgust is gone, replaced by a standoffish approval.
While I didn't close the book, sell my house, and move to a farm, I did look into subscribing to my local CSA. I also strengthened my resolve to buy more of my food locally (I was already buying farmer's market produce, but now I'm getting dairy there as well). Kingsolver's book is witty, engaging, persuasive, and achingly, mouth-wateringly descriptive. It's also useful: each chapter includes recipes (courtesy of her daughter) and political musings (courtesy of her husband) as well. This is a great read for anyone interested in making educated choices about what they eat.
While it is a little repetitive in some of the later chapters, this book provides fascinating insight into how animals see things, as interpreted by aWhile it is a little repetitive in some of the later chapters, this book provides fascinating insight into how animals see things, as interpreted by a very accomplished doctor whose autism allows her to see things other people don't....more
Somebody gave me this book at a time when it was probably Not My Thing, but it turned out to be a fascinating look at the changing definition of familSomebody gave me this book at a time when it was probably Not My Thing, but it turned out to be a fascinating look at the changing definition of family. I've recommended it to several people whose definitions could use a little redefining....more
I heard the author on NPR when the book first came out, and found myself scrambling for a pen: not just to write down the name of the book, but also tI heard the author on NPR when the book first came out, and found myself scrambling for a pen: not just to write down the name of the book, but also to capture just about everything he was saying. His descriptions were vivid and horrifying, and completely changed my perspective on that period of history. It's funny how sanitized these things are in textbooks. ...more
This isn't so much a review as an anecdote. When I was in high school, Ursula LeGuin came to Toronto to speak. I went for our school paper, of which IThis isn't so much a review as an anecdote. When I was in high school, Ursula LeGuin came to Toronto to speak. I went for our school paper, of which I was the arts editor. I was a very serious journalist at the time; I had all my questions lined up, and everything but the fedora with the little press card in it. When it came my turn to ask her a question, I stood up. I worded it carefully, referencing the gist of the essay in question. "Are we still afraid of dragons, or has speculative fiction become more legitimate in the eyes of the literary world since you wrote 'Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons'?" She looked me in the eye and said, "First of all, I use the term science fiction to include both science fiction and fantasy..." I interrupted her. "I don't." She looked affronted, but went on to answer my question, and later signed my copy of "The Lathe of Heaven", thankfully without referencing what an obnoxious kid I was....more
I've been meaning to read this since it came out, but I think in some ways I arrived at it too late. There's nothing in here that is really surprisingI've been meaning to read this since it came out, but I think in some ways I arrived at it too late. There's nothing in here that is really surprising to me, except the way that the residential cleaning company is instructed to provide the illusion of cleanliness rather than actual cleanliness. Also, I didn't realize that federal poverty level was still calculated based on food costs, without taking into account rising rents or health care costs or transportation. That makes no sense.
Yes, there are places where Ehrenreich's own middle class privilege shows. I'd have liked her to price a major car repair while she was working, or try a couple of days of public transit. I'd have liked for her to start out without the $1200 nest egg she allowed herself. I'd have liked her to make fewer comments about the type of people who might pay someone to clean their home every once in a while. In other ways it feels like an artifact of its time -- she did her research pre September 11th, pre-economic downturn. She repeatedly made the point that she was looking for jobs during a labor shortage, when the workers should have had some sort of upper hand. Obviously none of that is the case.
Almost everything she brought up is even worse now, exacerbated by the economy. All of the eye-openers about how it may be impossible to live on minimum wage? Those are the people I help every day in my work, except at work every mother that calls is dealing with a disabled child (or her own disability). Many are unable to keep jobs because they get called continually to school to deal with their child's health or behavior crises, or because caring for their child is a full time job. The safety nets are full of holes, and the holes keep getting bigger.
Ehrenreich talks about how people are willing to work, and work hard, but treated at times like a criminal class. Every word of that still rings true, especially in this particular political season, with all of its coded and uncoded talk about the 47% and job creators and getting people off of assistance. This book had its problems, but it's a quick, straightforward read. I'd like all of the Randian politicians and their followers to read this and see if they can still spout the same lines. A job isn't enough if it doesn't cover rent. A job isn't enough if it doesn't cover the cost of real food. A job isn't enough if it doesn't allow the family of an individual with a disability to meet that individual's needs. All of this is to say that while Nickel and Dimed is somewhat dated, the core message is sadly still needed. ...more
Amazing book. In my work with people with developmental disabilities and epilepsy, I've seen a lot of examples of the disconnect between doctor and paAmazing book. In my work with people with developmental disabilities and epilepsy, I've seen a lot of examples of the disconnect between doctor and patient -- and that's even when both speak a common language and have a common cultural understanding of their roles. This book tells the story of an extreme example, in which the patient's parents neither understood the doctors nor trusted them, and the medical system held a reciprocal inability to understand where the family was coming from. In telling this one story, the author also goes into the history and culture of the Hmong people both in Laos and the US. It is both riveting and devastating.
My one initial irritation was with the author's continual use of the term "epileptic", which is very much out of favor right now, but wasn't at the time that she wrote the book. The preferred term is "people with epilepsy", in order to stress that individuals with the disorder are not identified solely by their symptoms. I got used to her archaic terminology over the course of the book, and I'm sure the author would be the first to agree with the spirit behind the change. ...more
I was mostly interested in the first half, but on the whole this book contained a lot of interesting information, spelled out in layman's terms and prI was mostly interested in the first half, but on the whole this book contained a lot of interesting information, spelled out in layman's terms and presented in a logical manner. ...more
Fascinating. I'm a huge rugby fan and I have a strong interest in SA politics. I've read Mandela's autobiography, but this was a close-up on a short pFascinating. I'm a huge rugby fan and I have a strong interest in SA politics. I've read Mandela's autobiography, but this was a close-up on a short period of time, with a different focus. I've seen the footage of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and I've heard firsthand accounts of the way it brought the country together, but this book gave me a new perspective on the attitudes pre-Mandela. It shows the vision that Mandela had of sport as a unifier, the chances that he took, and the dramatic changes that took place in the blink of an eye, politically speaking. I'll be interested to see if they capture half of the impact in the Morgan Freeman-Matt Damon-Clint Eastwood version that is coming out later this year. If they're smart they'll incorporate documentary footage, like van Sant did with Milk; I'm not sure there's any way to capture this emotion through staged scenes. ...more
This is a fantastic example of what can be done in a non-fiction comic for adults. As the subtitle states, Didier Lefèvre traveled with Doctors withouThis is a fantastic example of what can be done in a non-fiction comic for adults. As the subtitle states, Didier Lefèvre traveled with Doctors without Borders to Afghanistan in the 1980s. He photographically documented their mission to bring health care to rural villages on the frontlines of the war with Russia. He also kept travel journals. The illustrator Emmanuel Guibert filled in the blanks between Lefevre's photographs with his own depictions of the events Lefevre described. I'm not entirely sure whether Lefevre served as the firsthand source of those anecdotes or whether they arrived via his wife and friends, since he passed away a couple of years ago and his travel journal was lost even before that. Regardless, the combination of photos, story, and comic panels is a potent one. While many photos speak for themselves, others are better served by explanation. I found Lefevre's actions selfish at time, but this is comic-as-memoir, and doesn't pretty up the portrait of the photographer any more than it does the depictions of war wounded children. Powerful stuff....more
I feel like Dave Eggers has gotten a bad rap. Was it the post-modern first book? Something he said in an interview? Some intangible hipper-than-thou tI feel like Dave Eggers has gotten a bad rap. Was it the post-modern first book? Something he said in an interview? Some intangible hipper-than-thou that he projects? I like him. I like his projects with young writers. I like his screenplays. And I've really, really enjoyed both Zeitoun and What is the What, his forays into non-fiction. His prose is clear and unaffected, and he doesn't intrude on the narrative at all. He presents the reader with true life characters faced with unimaginable hardships. He lets the situations lead, recognizing that the facts are dramatic enough without embellishment. I knew the basic premise of Zeitoun. I would have said that I was aware of what had gone on in New Orleans in 2005. Even so, I was blown away by what happened to Zeitoun in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. This book makes me realize afresh how much there is that doesn't get told in the news, even if you're a person like me who tries to seek such stories out. I'm grateful to Dave Eggers for taking it upon himself to tell the stories that aren't being told. ...more
I often find that in books depicting one person's escape from atrocities occuring in his or her home country, the descriptions of those horrors are soI often find that in books depicting one person's escape from atrocities occuring in his or her home country, the descriptions of those horrors are so vivid that the book cannot possibly find a balance between past and present. The survivor's story becomes more and more passive, as his own life passes out of his conrol. That is not the case here.
Kidder tells the story of Deogratias, a Burundian medical student forced to flee for his life when violence breaks out in his country. He also tells the story of Deo's arrival and subsequent experience living penniless in New York, and his desire to do good in his life and help others despite the wrongs that have been committed against him. In telling both of those stories, he focuses not only on Deo, but on the people who went out of their way to make a difference for Deo and others, putting their money, their reputations, or even their lives on the line. Deo himself never passes into the role of passive victim; he strives to make human connections in his utterly foreign new home, and stays focused on helping himself in order to help others.
It would have been easy for Deo and Kidder to dwell on the bad; there are portions of the book that delve into the genocide, and into Burundian politics. This could easily have been a book about the horrible things that humans are willing to do to other humans, in the name of politics, religion, culture, race, or even in the name of differences that are impossible to perceive.
Instead it is a heartening reminder of the good that exists in people, and the strength of the human spirit. ...more
Fascinating topic, but I think I've over-non-fictioned myself recently, because I couldn't fully get into it. There were several good anecdotes and paFascinating topic, but I think I've over-non-fictioned myself recently, because I couldn't fully get into it. There were several good anecdotes and passages, and Ford himself is always an interesting character to read about....more