Soon. This was fun, but it was also an interesting look at what went on during France's interwar years as seen through the lens of one woman's experieSoon. This was fun, but it was also an interesting look at what went on during France's interwar years as seen through the lens of one woman's experiences. Jean Lorrain has multiple mentions. But more soon. ...more
my thanks to Lauren at St. Martin's Press for this excellent book.
I didn't quite know what to expect as I sat down to read this book, but The Mayor omy thanks to Lauren at St. Martin's Press for this excellent book.
I didn't quite know what to expect as I sat down to read this book, but The Mayor of Mogadishu turned out to be a book I couldn't put down once I'd started it. Not only is the "mayor," Mohamoud "Tarzan" Nur," a fascinating subject in his own right, but the book also offers its readers a brief look at the history of this country, one that is probably best known by most people outside Somalia from what they've heard on the news. But broadcast news rarely gives too much time to the people and especially the history behind these stories, hence the importance of books like this one.
British journalist Andrew Harding has chosen to focus his story on Mohamoud Nur, aka "Tarzan," a name Nur picked up while living in an orphange beginning in 1960, just as Somalia was about to celebrate its independence from colonial rule. He served as Mayor of Mogadishu between 2010 and 2014, and Harding's book examines his policies, his politics, and his efforts to bring a city back from the rubble. It was in 2010 that a new provisional government was formed and he was called on to be a part of it; as the author states in an interview with NPR, he was "this one man who had a few city blocks where he could experiment and make a difference."
To his credit, however, the author presents Nur not just as some sort of major hero but also examines competing views of this man since he sparked a major amount of controversy while in office. He is evidently a figure about whom people will have to make up their own minds, but however he comes out in the historical record, he's a man worth reading about.
At the same time, what makes this book so compelling is not just Nur's story, but the fact that the author, who's been in Somalia and Mogadishu a number of times, really gets that it's important to get past the stereotypes by getting into the history of this area and the history of the people here in order to try to gain an understanding. He makes no bones about describing misguided foreign policy based on a lack of cultural knowledge that actually may have helped with the current state of affairs in a less than positive way. It's a book that people really need to read because, as I said, those who depend solely for the nightly news are only getting the very tip of the iceberg, possibly making faulty judgments on an entire people without really knowing anything about them. As this phenomenon is becoming more prevalent nowadays, books like this one which inform but also reveal much compassion are absolutely necessary these days.
The title of this book really doesn't do justice to what's inside -- not only is it about "sex, lies, and a murder plot," but more interesting to me i
The title of this book really doesn't do justice to what's inside -- not only is it about "sex, lies, and a murder plot," but more interesting to me is a look at the seamy, nasty, hypocritical, unethical and corrupt underbelly of British politics (and I'm sure what happened here in the 1960s and 1970s continues today and not just in Britain). Plus, reading very closely into what Mr. Preston has written here, there is also a brief examination into the past illegality of homosexuality and how that got turned around as time went by. It's absolutely amazing, eye opening and well worth every second of time put into it.
Again, I'll put putting off a full post until I return home next week. ...more
Between September and October of 1912, all but a very few of the 1,098 African-American citizens (according to the 1910 census) liviIt's a 4.5 for me.
Between September and October of 1912, all but a very few of the 1,098 African-American citizens (according to the 1910 census) living in Forsyth County Georgia had been run out of the county. The idea of "sundown towns," or communities which purposefully excluded African-Americans from living there, is nothing new, but this book reveals that not only were these people driven out of the county, but also that a "deliberate and sustained campaign of terror" on the part of white residents kept African-Americans out until the last few years of the 20th century.
in September, 1912, three young African-Americans were accused of the rape and murder of a white girl. Just about a week or so earlier, the screams of another white woman had aroused people to the fact that she'd woken to find an African-American man in her bedroom. Four young men were arrested, and a black minister horsewhipped for casting aspersions on the woman's character. The second crime, however, unleashed a coordinated campaign to get rid of every black citizen in the county -- involving "night riders," threats, arson, and worse -- any kind of terror imaginable at the time was utilized here to run these people out of the county completely, including threats against the more upper/middle class white residents who had black household help. As time went on, white people just sort of laid claim to land previously owned by the former Forsyth residents so that soon any vestiges of what were African-American homes, farms, churches, etc. soon disappeared, and life went on in a now-all white Forsyth County, basically erasing the fact that black people had even lived there. Things were so white that even the once-in-a-while visit by other African-Americans to the county would result in threats, which often included loaded guns pointed at the faces of black chauffeurs of visitors. Scariest yet -- none of this changed at all until determined marchers in 1987 came to Forsyth county to hold demonstrations; even then law enforcement wasn't enough to control the white anger and hatred, and even afterwards when Forsyth made national news, things were very slow to change.
There's so much going on in this book and obviously I can't possibly say everything I want to say about it here. It's an incredibly difficult book to read and just damn scary because here it is 2016 and we're doing a backslide into this sort of intolerant, ugly and just downright frightening behavior yet again as white supremacy once again raises its head in this country. Just a few nit-picky things: not keen on the connection between the ouster of the Cherokees and the African-Americans -- this part needed a whole lot more, in-depth comparison to make it work for me. Secondly, even though Phillips did a great job in revealing how the president of the United States at the time reneged on campaign promises he used to gain the black vote leaving many African-Americans poor, without hope of jobs and often fired from the positions they held in Washington DC, I wouldn't have exactly labeled that as "racial cleansing" in the same sense he uses it regarding Forsyth County. But once again, the best part of this well-researched book lies in how he traces the sad history of events to give his readers an insight into "the process by which racial injustice is perpetuated" here in the United States.
Personally, I think everyone should read this book.
In a nutshell, the central focus of News of a Kidnapping is the story of ten abductions, the victims' experiences in captivity, and the4.5 rounded up
In a nutshell, the central focus of News of a Kidnapping is the story of ten abductions, the victims' experiences in captivity, and the families' efforts to get these people released, but to tell that story, the author places these kidnappings in the wider context of Colombia's troubled history of politics, narco trafficking and terrorism. It also follows how Pablo Escobar went from being host to "Politicians, industrialists, businesspeople, journalists..." at his Hacienda Nápoles to becoming "the biggest prey in our history." Of Escobar, Marquez writes that "The most unsettling and dangerous aspect of his personality was his total inability to distinguish between good and evil," which is shown here in terms of the wave of violence aimed at presidential candidates and other political officials, cops murdered for the bounty on their heads, and explosions in the streets that killed innocent victims.
For me, this book is anything but boring, as some people have said it is, and I read it perched on the proverbial edge of my chair as the victims' stories were recounted. It's downright harrowing to try to even imagine what these people went through, not knowing whether they're going to live or die at any given moment, and the author doesn't spare any pain or fear in the recounting. Also - if you're expecting the same type of magical realism and writing as in his One Hundred Years of Solitude, forget it -- it's not that kind of book.
While a very tough book to read in terms of the human factor, the relevance of this story to our own time cannot be understated. As the author notes aWhile a very tough book to read in terms of the human factor, the relevance of this story to our own time cannot be understated. As the author notes at the end of this book,
"Today black women are still afflicted by the social, political and economic vices that predisposed them to arrest, conviction and incarceration in the past...In order to better understand the modern carceral state and the complex relationship black women have with it, we must confront the past and listen even when it seems to be silent."
There are at least four main issues that permeate this book and which continue to resonate over more than a century: gender, race, crime, and punishment; add resistance and you get a good feel for where this book will take you. In this study, the author also looks at African-American women in the "carceral state" and how as bound women they were affected by the ongoing assertion of white supremacy and control in the post-emancipation "New South." This book reveals, analyzes and most thoroughly discusses the above-mentioned contemporary "social, political and economic" factors while allowing some of these women's voices to be heard after more than a century of silence. As the author notes, her work is "chiefly invested in rebuilding the historical viewpoint of the unwaged, bound black female worker."
Don't expect a history for the masses sort of thing here. Chained in Silence is an academic monograph and a solid work of history in which the author offers her arguments, supports them with personal accounts, recorded data, and other research in the field. She then provides in-depth analysis to make her case. In some areas her work is hampered by lack of data, but she makes this very clear in the telling. She also realizes that there is much more work to be done and offers topics for future researchers. At the same time, she makes this book very approachable for readers like myself who believe that the best history is told from the perspective of those whose voices never quite seem to make it into the historical record. This book, for lack of a better way to say it, is just brilliant and deserves widespread attention.
I have only limited time for the next week plus, so much more to come about this book after I get home. The very short version is that it is painstakiI have only limited time for the next week plus, so much more to come about this book after I get home. The very short version is that it is painstakingly researched, sad, eye opening and very well written. Whatever you do, do not miss the endnotes - go the extra mile and read through them. This book deserves major accolades, awards, and should be read by everyone, most especially government officials from the city level on up. Just effing brilliant. ...more
If you'll pardon the expression, WWII history involving U-boats and battles at sea just isn't in my wheelhouse, but this book is a wee bit different.
If you'll pardon the expression, WWII history involving U-boats and battles at sea just isn't in my wheelhouse, but this book is a wee bit different. First of all, it focuses on the Merchant Marine and its involvement in the war, which I knew nothing about and second, the people highlighted in this book are rather unique -- they're all from one small, isolated county in Virginia on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It was a place where, as one man who grew up there noted, "You farmed, you fished the Bay, or you went to sea. Those were your only options." Mathews men had been on the oceans since colonial times, and were sought out by a number of shipping companies for their seagoing prowess. This small, remote county was also a place where, during World War II, pretty much every family could claim a personal connection to the U-boats that prowled the seas. In The Mathews Men, Mr. Geroux focuses largely on one single, seafaring family, the Hodges, of which seven sons spent much of the war trying to avoid becoming casualties of the U-boats. They were all there on the high seas during World War II doing their best to keep the war effort going, sometimes at great personal cost.
I'm going to be very honest here. While I love love love history, I'm not a huge fan of stories about actual battles and military engagements, and there is quite a lot of that sort of thing in this book. However, life at sea isn't everything that's covered here: the author goes into Mathews County history, into what life was like for those living there before the war, and then what went on with those left behind in Mathews County and how they coped while their men were serving during the war. One of the most interesting ongoing stories in this book is that of Henny Hodges, who kept the home fires burning while tending the 60-acre family farm. Her husband, Captain Jesse, was at sea for most of their life together; Henny was a strong woman who managed "forty acres of crops, a barn full of horses and cows, a hog pen and smokehouse, a chicken house and two docks." She had raised her own children (all 14 of them) and "several" of her grandchildren (27), pretty much on her own. The author revisits Henny and other women in Mathews County periodically while telling of the men's exploits at sea, and he is also able to vividly describe the U-boat operations from the points of view of the captains using valuable firsthand accounts. There is a LOT of interesting stuff here: the U-boats approaching the east coast of the US with very little resistance; the lack of military support for the Merchant Marine that in some cases resulted in unnecessary deaths, and the fact that although the men of the Merchant Marine were engaged in the war effort, they had no status or benefits as veterans once the war was over.
Since I have an advanced reader copy, I'm not sure if there are photos in the finished product, but if there are not, the lack of photos is a huge drawback. There are excellent maps provided, but since I got so invested in the lives of these people, I would have also loved to have been able to connect names with faces. However, even if, like myself, a reader is not all about battles at sea, there is so much more to this book than simply U-boats vs. ships, certainly enough to keep pages turning. I'd definitely recommend it to maritime history buffs, or to those who are interested in World War II, but I'd also say it's of great interest to anyone interested in Virginia's history or the history of what was happening on the home front. ...more
my thanks to the people or algorithms at LibraryThing and the early reviewers' program for the opportunity to read this book.
First thin3.8 rounded up.
my thanks to the people or algorithms at LibraryThing and the early reviewers' program for the opportunity to read this book.
First things first: this is not like other popular historical accounts written for armchair historians -- this is the real deal so it's often very tough going. However, sticking with it is rewarding for true polar-exploration history devotees like myself.
April, 1853. While their ship is imprisoned in the Arctic ice at Mercy Bay, four men from HMS Investigator are hard at work "hacking out a final resting place" for a "departed shipmate." The captain of this vessel, Robert John Le Mesurier McClure, was speaking with the first lieutenant when suddenly they saw someone coming toward them from the entrance of the bay. The arrival of the newcomer saved the lives of McClure and his crew after what was indeed a hellish expedition that had started in 1850.
McClure, along with Collinson, commander of a second ship, HMS Enterprise, had been tasked with searching for any signs of the missing Franklin expedition, which had left England in 1845. It wasn't the first such expedition, but by the time McClure and Collinson were heading toward the Arctic, no one had yet discovered any clues as to the fate of the crews of the Erebus and the Terror. The Investigator and the Enterprise were supposed to have taken up the search and head into the ice together, since the Admiralty had decided that two ships would be safer than one alone, but McClure, a man driven by ambition, had other ideas, and decided to risk going alone. After all, finding the Northwest Passage was "the holy grail" of the time, and he saw an opportunity for future glory, fame and of course, the hefty reward that was being offered for doing so. Discovering the North-West Passage details the story of the outcome of McClure's ambition, which would ultimately land him in the same fate as the Franklin expedition by 1853, but thankfully for the crew, with a much better outcome. Obviously, there's so much more to this story than I'm describing here, including a horrendous plan McClure was planning to set into motion just before help arrived that really reveals just how far gone in his egomania he'd become, but I'll leave it for others to discover.
It is a fascinating story, to be sure. A look at the bibliography alone reveals close to 15 double-columned pages of source material, much of it primary sources that includes the journals of some of the crew. He also adds an entire appendix about these first-hand accounts. It seems that McClure, who was a bit of an egomaniac, had ordered all of the crew who had kept an ongoing journal to turn their diaries over to him once rescue arrived, but these seem to have been destroyed when he realized that Investigator was going to be left behind in the ice. The surgeon, Armstrong, was the only one whose journal survived intact, and it is through his eyes that we get a good feel for what was really going on during the expedition, often countering the more rosy, untrue accounts given by McClure. However, at the same time, the wealth of documentation used by the author in presenting his absolutely riveting account does tend to become the book's own worst enemy -- there is so much minutiae to sift through and a lot of what I would consider unnecessary detail that tends to bog down an otherwise incredibly interesting and eye-opening account of another chapter in the history of polar exploration.
The author is an outstanding researcher and I can understand why he would want to include a great number of his more extraneous findings here, but when it comes right down to it, there has to be a time when a writer needs to hold back or at least let an editor help him out and this is one of those. Conversely, I was so wrapped up in the narrative that I quickly figured out what was important and what would add to my own knowledge, and what I could easily skim without losing the main flow. This is an account that by the time I'd finished reading, chilled me to the bone knowing what could have easily happened to these poor men who had already suffered enough had it not been for the arrival of salvation on that April day in 1853. Definitely recommended....more
I think for me this book gets about a 3.5 star rating. In this book, the author looks at the "untold story of the underground era" in America, in a tiI think for me this book gets about a 3.5 star rating. In this book, the author looks at the "untold story of the underground era" in America, in a time frame that lasted from 1970 through 1985. It is a very detailed, chronological look at the rise and fall of several underground radical revolutionary groups that existed during this time period, exploring motivations behind their actions, as well as attempts by law enforcement (primarily the FBI, but also police departments across the country) to put an end to the violence. Combining personal interviews, written accounts and other material on both sides of the fence, he has put together what he calls a "straightforward narrative history of the period."
At the same time, it seems to me that one of the biggest goals that Burrough has in mind with this book, is to break down the "myth, pure and simple," that this revolutionary violence was aimed more at specific symbols rather than people. He notes at the beginning of the book that
"It is ultimately a tragic tale, defined by one unavoidable irony: that so many idealistic young Americans, passionately committed to creating a better world for themselves and those less fortunate, believed they had to kill people to do it."
He also wants to "explain to people today why all this didn't seem as insane then as it does now."
He examines several violent revolutionary groups here -- Weatherman (which will ultimately become Weather Underground), the Black Liberation Army (BLA), a violent offshoot of the Black Panthers whose members were in touch with Eldridge Cleaver who was then in Algeria; the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) of Patty Hearst kidnap fame; FALN, a Puerto Rican group whose members advocated for Puerto Rican independence through deadly bombings, one of which killed several people at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City; the New World Liberation Front, at work in California's Bay Area; The Family, who targeted armored cars and cops, and the United Freedom Front, the creation of Ray Levasseur, who came out of prison with a dream of becoming the leader of his own "underground army."
To me, a good historical narrative is set well within the larger context, and here, a lot seems to have been left out in terms of what was going on in America, politically, economically and socially, but more to the point, what was going on with the nonviolent left at the same time. (As just one example, there's very little here on COINTELPRO and abuse of government/police powers.) What often takes its place is instead detail about the less-political side of these radical organizations (e.g. sex, drugs, and a repeated litany of violent acts), sort of throwing the politics to one side, which to me is less history than journalism, so that there are a number of times when it felt like his history verged toward more of a true-crime account. I will also note that despite the fact that he sees his work as a straightforward history of the period, Burrough does let his own judgments become pretty clear throughout the book.
On the other hand, much of this story is completely new material for me, and since I wasn't anywhere close to being old enough to be involved at the time, I had no expectations political or otherwise going into this account other than how much I could possibly learn about this relatively unknown (to me) story. There were parts I found absolutely fascinating -- I had no clue that some of these groups even existed, so in terms of revisiting the "forgotten age of revolutionary violence," it was a highly-informative book and the author deserves a large amount of credit for his hard work in putting it together. It is most definitely a work that anyone interested ought to read, and keeping in mind my issues with this book, it's one I'd recommend.
The Narcotic Farm is a companion book to a PBS documentary of the same name. The film itself is available on Vimeo -- I watched it yesterday and justThe Narcotic Farm is a companion book to a PBS documentary of the same name. The film itself is available on Vimeo -- I watched it yesterday and just sat here sort of spellbound the entire time. I've posted more about this book on the nonfiction page of my online reading journal if anyone is interested.
I first heard of this book while reading Sam Quinones' Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic - up to then I had absolutely no clue that this place even existed. The United States Narcotic Farm opened in 1935, just outside of Lexington, Kentucky; it was, as the book notes,
"an anomaly, an institution where male and female convicts arrested for drugs did time along with volunteers who checked themselves in for treatment."
In the 1920s, increasingly-strict drug laws and "aggressive enforcement" led to addicts being sent to prison "in droves," where they proved troublesome -- bringing drugs inside and getting non-addict prisoners hooked. The authors note that by the late 1920s, about "a third of all federal prisoners were doing time on drug charges." Social progressives of the time also took issue with the arrest of addicts, believing it to be "unjust" - so in 1929 two "government bureaucrats" lobbied for a measure that would create prisons just for convicted addicts, and by 1932, the construction of first of these institutions (the other in Ft. Worth) was underway. Its administration fell under both the US Public Health Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons - and on the day it opened the first director, Dr. Lawrence Kolb stated that addicts would not be sent to prison for what was basically "a weakness," but they would be able to receive
"the best medical treatment that science can afford in an atmosphere designed to rehabilitate them spiritually, mentally, and physically."
The book and the documentary together detail the story of Narco (as it was known by the locals) from its beginning in 1935 through its final days forty years later. Some interesting highlights of its history include a few notables who passed through its doors -- both William S. Burroughs senior and junior, as well as a host of jazz musicians including Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, and Sonny Rollins. Both Burroughs, father and son, wrote books about their time at Lexington: Senior in his Junkie, where there's an entire section about him signing himself in," and Junior with his Kentucky Ham (which I'm planning to read soon) detailing his time as a patient there.
Good book -- eye opening to say the least, especially when some very disturbing facts about the research going on there are revealed. ...more
Just to be clear here, this book is neither an exposé nor a voyeuristic look into the lives of all of the meth addicts in this town, nor is there anything along the lines of say "Breaking Bad" here, so readers who are into that sort of thing should probably move along. This book is serious business and deserves to be read as such.
Methland is a book very much worth reading. Even if there are people out there who pooh-pooh the idea that there's a meth "epidemic" sweeping small-town rural America, what really struck me was the bigger implications of, as the dustjacket blurb notes, "the connections between the real-life people touched by the drug epidemic and the global forces behind it." As Mr. Reding states in an interview,
"...people are trying to destroy small town American life. And they're doing it economically...That's what big agriculture is doing and that's what the pharmaceutical industry is doing. Going back to the Clinton years, there's this notion that globalization is somehow beyond criticism, that it's a pure form of self-sustaining economic perfection. It's not true, and if you'd like to see where it's least true, go to Oelwein."
Oelwein, Iowa is the launching point of this book; it's a town which has been "left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people." It's also a place where "the economy and culture" are
"more securely tied to a drug than to either of the two industries that have forever sustained the town: farming and small businesses."
However, it's not just Oelwein that is facing some pretty serious issues in this story. While he makes people in Oelwein the central focus of his book, and examines the town's changes and its problems through their eyes, it is also very clear that what has happened there is happening throughout the midwest. Oelwein, which was "on the brink of disaster" by May 2005, is just one focal point for examining how the lobbyists and government supporters of both Big Agriculture and Big Pharma, as well as the effects of free trade (vis-a-vis NAFTA) have all contributed to catastrophic changes in rural, small-town America, which in turn contribute to the rising meth epidemic in these areas.
Methland is also a story about real people in a real town with real lives, some of whom have shared their experiences with the author to offer firsthand accounts. Many of them have through no fault of their own been caught up in circumstances largely beyond their control; some of them do what they can in what seems like a hopeless situation. The author's research and his own observations make for great reading on a human level as well. This is also a book that seriously pissed me off -- as it should for anyone who reads it. ...more