In The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan follows the lives of two people, an Arab and a Jew, who lived in the same house in Palestine/Israel - the Arab before 1In The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan follows the lives of two people, an Arab and a Jew, who lived in the same house in Palestine/Israel - the Arab before 1948 and the Jew after. These people met in real life in 1967 and continued to interact, write, and see each other over the years up to the 2000s. They had hard discussions with each other over how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be resolved, and continued to stay in interaction with each other despite being on opposite sides of the issue.
Tolan does a good job presenting these two people's story, and their story itself is one of hope, although it does not have a nice happy ending (clearly, since the conflict is ongoing). However, I felt that he spent far too many pages describing the historical context in great detail. I understand that some historical context is necessary to understand the story being told, but I think it could have been done much more succinctly. I found these sections boring and I skimmed some of them in order to get back to Dalia and Bashir's story.
Overall the book is interesting, but not compelling. I did not come away from it with any new insights into this conflict - although perhaps that is because I am not the target audience, since I already believe that humanizing the other is the only way to move forward in an intractable conflict. I mildly recommend the book but cannot give it a strong recommendation....more
Pink Brain, Blue Brain is a thorough investigation into gender differences by neuroscientist Lise Eliot. With a nuanced and scientific perspective, shPink Brain, Blue Brain is a thorough investigation into gender differences by neuroscientist Lise Eliot. With a nuanced and scientific perspective, she delves into all the major cognitive gender differences observed in children and adults and explores the source of these differences. Initial chapters focus first on babies, then toddlers, then preschoolers and older, and later chapters address verbal differences, math differences, and emotional/interpersonal differences.
The major concept that this book reinforced for me is that for any given difference it is not a question of nature OR nurture (genetic or environmental), but rather almost always a question of nature AND nurture. There are minor differences that can be attributed to things such as hormone levels or seemingly innate brain differences, but these differences are in all cases very small, and they grow into much larger differences through the environment the child is in. A small tendency towards one behavior or another can quickly become reinforced and enlarged when a child continually chooses or is encouraged to participate in that behavior - and vice versa. Furthermore, adult expectations for the behavior of one gender or another can further reinforce small differences. In each chapter, Eliot discusses many studies that have been done exploring the origins of gender differences - and demonstrating the ways in which adults set subconscious expectations - and concludes the chapter with many suggestions that parents, caregivers, and teachers can follow to minimize the exaggeration of small differences and instead encourage every child to develop every aspect of their abilities to their full potential.
I was hoping that Eliot would spend more time discussing the brain mechanisms involved in the nature and nurture cycle, but she only addresses this a little bit in the introduction. The main mechanism at work here is plasticity of the brain - that things we experience actually change our brain - and I think it is very important to understand. A brain difference in an adult does NOT mean that it is genetic: as Eliot points out, since we are biological creatures, of course any difference in behavior is going to stem from a biological difference, but that says nothing about how that biological difference came about.
There were just a couple things Eliot said, almost in passing, that I disagreed with, but they do not majorly detract from the book. One is her attitude towards competition: she said something to the effect that since we live in a competitive society, it is important for children to have some experience with competition. I do not agree with this perspective; I think that if children had less exposure to competition our society as a whole could become less competitive. The other was when she mentioned in passing that she encouraged her daughter in math by giving her rewards: there have been many studies that demonstrate that rewards destroy intrinsic motivation for the behavior being rewarded, so this is very much NOT a healthy way to encourage a girl in a traditionally male subject such as math.
However, all my minor caveats aside, it is overall an excellent book and I highly recommend it to anyone involved with children or interested in these topics. ...more
In Waking Up in Time: Finding Inner Peace in Times of Accelerating Change, Peter Russell presents an interesting perspective on the crises our planetIn Waking Up in Time: Finding Inner Peace in Times of Accelerating Change, Peter Russell presents an interesting perspective on the crises our planet and species are facing. He takes the reader through a convincing explanation for why we have reached this point of materialism and self-centered shortsightedness that explains without placing blame, and suggests that what we are really trying to do is fulfill inner needs with exterior solutions. Therefore, the solution to the crises may well lie in us rediscovering inner peace and realizing that inner needs can only be fulfilled internally.
Towards the end of the book Russell moves into a realm that was less compelling to me, proposing that we may reach a "singularity" in our evolution soon and that there may be a "hidden purpose to evolution". He makes the mistake of assuming that just because the probability of all factors being right for life to begin on earth was very low, that because it did happen, therefore it was somehow "meant" to happen or there is a "purpose" to it. This sort of argument bothers me, but I think the earlier parts of what Russell had to say were still valid even if the end of the book got a bit strange.
The book is a fast read with short chapters, but still felt a little repetitive at times. Overall I found it interesting and I'm glad I read it....more
Interesting and thoughtful investigation into the lives of Islamic women, primarily in the Middle East, but also with some attention to Africa. AlthouInteresting and thoughtful investigation into the lives of Islamic women, primarily in the Middle East, but also with some attention to Africa. Although Brooks is Caucasian (Australian) and not Islamic (actually, she converted to Judaism as an adult), I felt that this was a well-balanced portrayal of women very different from herself. She lived in the Middle East for many years as a journalist and this book is reflective of her training in that field....more
I've had A Human Being Died That Night on my to-read list for several years, and I finally found it at a used bookstore recently and read it. The bookI've had A Human Being Died That Night on my to-read list for several years, and I finally found it at a used bookstore recently and read it. The book is centered around Pumla Gobodo-Madkizela's interviews with Eugene de Kock, the officer in charge of the apartheid death squads. From this center point she explores how people become evil and the meaning of forgiveness.
I found that she had many insightful things to say. One key point of exploration for her is that of humanness. For example, she comes back multiple times to the moment where she touched de Kock's hand and felt empathy for him, exploring what it means for her to feel empathy for an "evil" man and how this is frightening for her. Extending this, she explores the threat people in general feel in recognizing the humanness of people who do evil things. On the other hand, she goes into depth on the topic of forgiveness, pointing out that in some cases it allows the victim to regain power, by saying that the perpetrator no longer has power over them to make them feel hurt, angry, or resentful. One of the key prerequisites for forgiveness, however, is for the perpetrator to demonstrate genuine remorse and apology.
Overall I thought she presented a nuanced look at evil and forgiveness. I appreciated that she explors the gray areas and the question of being human, while still being clear that the evil acts committed are morally reprehensible. Although far shorter and more focused, I found A Human Being Died That Night to be a more insightful look into the question of evil than Phil Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect that I read a few years ago.
I highly recommend A Human Being Died That Night....more
bell hooks makes a lot of important points and connections in these essays on class, as well as on the intersections between class, race, and gender.bell hooks makes a lot of important points and connections in these essays on class, as well as on the intersections between class, race, and gender. However, I found it rather repetitive; since each chapter was apparently written as a separate essay it felt as if the same thing was said many times through-out the different essays. Within each essay, I sometimes felt that the writing meandered and it was difficult to follow the train of thought at times. This was my first book by bell hooks and I would definitely like to read more by her, but unfortunately my library does not have many of her books....more
Long-winded and overly detailed. The basic principles were already familiar to me, so I did not need convincing on those points. At the same time, I fLong-winded and overly detailed. The basic principles were already familiar to me, so I did not need convincing on those points. At the same time, I felt that he did not go far enough in systemic analysis or the influence of societal context on people's behavior. For a much more detailed review see http://booksandmiscellany.wordpress.c.......more
Interesting and important book, although I cannot fully recommend it. The author attempted a balance between the personal stories and general historyInteresting and important book, although I cannot fully recommend it. The author attempted a balance between the personal stories and general history for context, but I felt that it was skewed too much towards general history. ...more
It was informative, but it didn't go into as much depth as I liked (although that was clearly not the intention of the book). It was also a bit repetiIt was informative, but it didn't go into as much depth as I liked (although that was clearly not the intention of the book). It was also a bit repetitive....more