Archive for the “Nonfiction” Category
Posted by Brian Bassingthwaighte in Auto/Biography, Cultural, Feel Good, Gay, Nonfiction, Political, tags: culture, dysfuntional family, Gay, non-fiction, power, teenager
Edited by DAN SAVAGE, TERRY MILLER
Savage and Miller are the married couple (they got married in Canada) who started the IT GETS BETTER video campaign on You Tube as a result of a slate of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered teens who committed suicide due to bullying. They were hoping for one hundred, maybe two hundred at best, after they publish their video on You Tube. With in a week there were over one thousand videos. These vignettes are taken from the videos. They are all sad tales when they describe the bullying but all uplifting as writer after writer talks about finding his or her acceptance with friends and family. The first message in the book is from President Obama.
Now the videos will have their own web site so that young people who need to hear these messages in five, ten or twenty years will be able to. Power to the people. Good on Dan and Terry.
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What an undertaking to ride 3000 km through mountain passes, deserts, different countries and many, many ethnic groups all on bicycle. What a wide range of gear was necessary: cold weather gear for high in the mountains, desert gear for weather so hot that tires wouldn’t patch properly if they punctured. Brady started the trip with a couple of Brits, one turned 58 on the trip, but only stayed with them for three weeks. He preferred go solo. The trip was not so much a cycling excursion but a “cultural odyssey.” I love his description of the food he ate and how he would order from menus he couldn’t read. “I was counting on a strong immune system to get me through the dubious food and water I ate and drank.” There was always the possibility of experiencing bouts of diarrhea in places with less than modern toilet facilities. One amusing description was of the author using a squat toilet on a moon lit night but the way it was constructed once you were inside it was pitch black. The silk road was also the road that the world’s religions traveled. “Buddhist monks travelled through the Indus Valley over the border into China. The eventual clash between the Buddhist faith and Islam, introduced by the Mongols, led to the desecration of Buddhist artwork.”
Trail is well researched and a fantastic travel story. Well worth the read.
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Liars is a far reaching well researched book. Not coming entirely clean with other people and practising various degrees of self-deception are part of what it means to be a social animal, Leslie claims. To successfully live with others is to learn to lie. Chimpanzees practice deceptive behaviour too. The best liar in a group is not sweating and fidgeting, according to Leslie; it’s more likely to be the most charming, charismatic, “credible” person in the room. Leslie explores the recovered-memory movement, when social workers and therapists managed to elicit “repressed” accounts of childhood abuse that turned out to be false memories, implanted by the suggestive line of questioning. What we believe about ourselves, it seems, is alarmingly open to revision.
Born Liars also goes into the powerful role that belief and self-deception play in our health, and how we experience suffering. During the Second World War, Henry Beecher was a doctor tending soldiers on the battlefield. When he ran low on morphine, he began injecting some of the badly wounded with a “painkiller” that was nothing more than a saline injection. The placebo proved almost as effective as morphine. He also discovered that the soldiers seemed to suffer less than patients undergoing surgery in a hospital – because, he concluded, the meaning of their pain was different. A wounded soldier is on his way out of the chaos of battle, and headed for home. The pain arrives as good news. But a postoperative patient is facing uncertainty and disruption of his normal life. The pain is more ominous.
Liars is a great read.
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At over 400 pages this book is for danceophiles, if there is such a word. d’Amboise started dancing in the ’40′s and never looked back. He learned with the School of American Ballet and then joined the prestigious New York City Ballet. He became George Balanchine’s “the supreme Ballet Master’s” protege. “You must practice, practice, practice. Onstage, forget everything! Just listen to the music and dance.” I love that thought of dancers.
I enjoyed it even though there were many areas that I skimmed. Again, not for every one.
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Peer’s Curfewed Night is an incredible memoir that brings the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan and into the lives of Kashmiris and into our awareness. Peer was only 13 in 1990 when Indian troops fired on pro-independence Kashmiris and, as he puts it, “the war of my adolescence started”…One of the great achievements of Curfewed Night is its seamless mingling of memoir and reportage. It is the book of Basharat’s Peer experiences, yes, but those experiences include returning to Kashmir and seeking out the stories of others affected by the conflict. It is not an easy book to read. Man’s cruelty to man is overwhelming. Why didn’t we know about this when it was happening?
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Strange book. I’m uncertain why it was written in graphic novel form other than the author is a noted graphic author, he wrote and drew a well reviewed biography of Louie Riel. However the graphics add little to the story line. But the story line: a man tires of romantic love so choose to believe that romantic relationships are inherently destructive. Brown chooses to pay for sex rather than deal with the difficulties of an intimate relationship. He presents his case for the decriminalization of the profession to his friends and family, which makes for interesting discussion but not interesting graphics.
As I said strange book. Definitely worth a look.
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DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH
“My daughters are dead! They killed my daughters. We need help.” These words haunt me to this day. I heard them through Abuelaish’s tears, pain, and wailing. AnIsraeli rocket tore into his daughters’ bedroom and exploded killing three daughters and a niece and wounding and mutilating others. Abuelaish called his journalist friend for help and support because he knew the journalist could get him access to Israeli hospitals and medical care. The journalist took his call live on TV news so all of Israel heard his pain, suffering and loss. All that he has been through and he can say “I shall not hate.” The book tells Abuelasish’s story of growing up in Gaza, not having enough to eat, of the pain and humiliation of Israeli boarder check points, of living with constant fear.
This is a book everyone should read.
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DAVID AXE and MATT BORS
Axe is almost a war junkie. ” The first 72 hour [home] after a big trip are pure animal bliss. Them I crash. Hard. I should have been happy After all I’d seen and done, I should have treasured every friendship, relished every beer and revelled in every moment I wasn’t getting shot at, blown up or mortared. ” ”I didn’t feel much any more. What pleasure I used to take in everyday things was replaced with a constant low-grade anger. Anger at the assholes who started it all. But mostly anger at myself for thinking that going off to war would make me smarter sexier and happier.”
An excellent read about the consistency of the horrors of war and one man’s struggle to stay sane while trying to document the conflicts around the world.
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EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
In the fall of 1963, US ally and Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem indicated he might negotiate with the communist insurgents in his country. President John F. Kennedy gathered senior foreign policy advisors for a final meeting to consider overthrowing Diem. Anxious about growing chaos in Vietnam, the advisors expressed doubts, and Kennedy never announced a clear decision. Three days later, Diem was murdered.
With “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq,” Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, analyzes the consequences of the US overthrowing regimes in 14 nations since 1893. The events typically warrant a page or less in average American history textbooks, but by exploring motives and settings, Kinzer turns each into an engaging short story. All but one of these tales have tragic endings.
Kinzer doesn’t come out and say it, but when policymakers disagree, leaders tend toward action. Leadership, as perceived in the US, depends less on patience than action. Presidents want to be seen as doing something, anything, to look good for the next election. Interventions and coups are often launched not because of decisive leadership, but, according to Kinzer, because the US is “so vulnerable to herd mentality.”
Juxtaposing vivid details, Kinzer reveals patterns behind the overthrow of governments in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, South Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama and Afghanistan: The US targets are small nations, some with democratic governments. The quests for power are impulsive, even frantic. Corporate interests spur interventions, and the supporters squash any doubters as weak and lacking in patriotism. Too often, the US provides training and arms to dictators or insurgents who eventually become fierce US enemies a generation or so later. Ultimately, the US loses interest in the target countries, allowing corruption or terrorism to flourish.
These patterns have converged with the current war in Iraq, and from the first page, Kinzer points out that the Iraq invasion is hardly an isolated episode in US history.
In “Overthrow” Kinzer allows the instigators to speak for themselves, blunt comments that reveal ambition, greed or ignorance. Often, US officials simply don’t comprehend why developing nations want to control their own natural resources. A Chilean foreign minister once accused Henry Kissinger of knowing nothing about the Southern Hemisphere, and the US statesman responded: “Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South.”
With each overthrow, the US government repeatedly pursued short-term gains, never contemplating the tragic consequences that might develop decades later. Kinzer astutely highlights the interlocking events that followed regime changes in the Middle East: In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh for the British, installing a dictator who had no qualms about welcoming foreign oil firms. That operation galvanized radical fundamentalists, who, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, orchestrated the 1978 revolt, and “their example inspired Muslim fanatics around the world.” Today’s Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon are the spiritual heirs of the Ayatollah and protégés of the radical Iranian clerics.
Kinzer details how five US presidents nurtured the Taliban in Afghanistan, initially trying to thwart the Soviets and later to secure an oil-pipeline route. On paper, each overthrow plan is brazen or shaky, but Kinzer demonstrates how organizers of such operations, once intent on their final goal, lose any long-term sense of financial accountability or national security. Throughout the 1980s, as the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, the US funneled money to insurgents through Pakistan and “never played or even sought to play a role in deciding who received its gifts.” As a result, the Pakistanis used the money to build up the Taliban and destroy leftist, nationalist or secular movements. One Afghan warned, “For God’s sake, you’re financing your own assassins.”
By invading Iraq in 2003, the US came full circle in the Middle East, once more boosting the influence of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran and throughout the region.
The goal of covering a century of policy and intrigue constrains Kinzer, but surprisingly, the book’s tone is more relaxed than terse. Informed readers will appreciate Kinzer’s fast pace and many ironies. He begins most of his overthrow tales with local details, followed by policy analysis and misjudgments of the administration in power. However, that format, a close-up followed by the wide-angle view of several events, can at times become repetitive.
Unfortunately, he only minimally tackles the US public’s disinterest in foreign affairs. Americans support policies that bring suffering to foreign lands, he argues, for two reasons: “American control of faraway places came to be seen as vital to the material prosperity of the United States” and the “deep-seated belief of most Americans that their country is a force for good in the world.” US citizens sometimes recognize the intervention as bullying tactics, yet continue to rationalize that people of foreign lands will eventually benefit from American-style democracy and capitalism, repeatedly puzzled about the repression and anti-Americanism that emerges.
Only briefly does Kinzer touch upon the US citizens who questioned government tactics in foreign lands. Like the politicians who ignored their critics, Kinzer largely neglects the stories of US opposition. Of course, such critics failed to end the meddling ways of the US, but it might be helpful to know more about those failures and Kinzer’s claim about a short US attention span shaping its approach to the world.
So in the end, Kinzer’s thesis – “A century of American ‘regime change’ operations have shown that the United States is singularly unsuited to ruling foreign lands” – is a useful reminder and yet unsatisfying as a future guide to action.
He expects his readers to detest these policies. So his historical analysis that covers the rising power of corporations and a century of miscalculations by presidents cries out for a final chapter that offers recommendations for government leaders or citizens who feel likewise. As Kinzer suggests at one point, “The rise of nationalism in the developing world was a complex phenomenon…for Americans to devise a sophisticated, long-term strategy for dealing with it would have been challenging and difficult.”
Unfortunately, leaders – describing their motivation as benevolence and a desire to liberate the oppressed – have learned how to win popular support for even the most outrageous regime change, and US citizens repeatedly fall for the bait.
With the ambiguity of post-modernist fiction, Kinzer declines to offer clues on ending the US patterns of overthrow – and that is the most troubling part of this otherwise compelling book.
Review borrowed from: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/overthrow.jsp
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This is the funniest, laugh out loud funny, book I have ever read. Halpern’s dad is so opinionated and outrages. And what a mouth! The book is mostly short quotes of his father. The book started a Twitter feed and then was turned into a bestselling book.
“He’s a politician. It’s like being a hooker. You can’t be one unless you can pretend to like people while you’re fucking them.”
“Put the rake down. I don’t wanna sit around watching you ‘give it your best.’ Either stop sucking or get the fuck out of the way.”
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Manhood is a compilation of memories and essays loosely based on the theme of masculinity. Chabon is a wonderfully witty and descriptive writer. His musings on installing a towel rack in the bathroom is hilarious. There is an emotional honesty in this work as Chabon writes about is life with his wife and children. His insights into his life and culture are frequently heart warming.
A very good read.
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Good Book is loose and freewheeling, lighted by the energy of the humour, contradiction and brutality of the Bible. On Isaiah: I love these catty biblical comments. They show God acting just as we would if we were God. The Good Book feels most real and most persuasive, when it’s funny, mean and scornful. It reminds us that the Bible is not an idealization, but a book written by and about real people, who can be both scornful and kind, faithful and cruel, sarcastic and sweet — as God can be too. Let’s revel in its messiness, humour and cruelty.
Plotz calls Exekiel “God’s whole-grain hippie prophet.” He ends the book with Appendix of Bible Lists; the first being The Bible’s Twelve Best Pickup Lines.
A most funny and interesting book!
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HUSTON SMITH with Jeffery Pain
Smith was born in China to missionary parents. As a young man he imagined himself as a missionary. But when he went to school in the states he knew he would not return to China. He studied and taught world religions as universities around the US. He wrote the much acclaimed book The World’s Religions. He writes, “I never met a religion I didn’t like.”
“When people hear that I practiced Hinduism for ten years, and then Islam for another ten — all the while remaining a Christian and regularly attending a Methodist church — they assumed I had a check list. But when I discovered Hinduism and saw its beauty and profundity, I intended to practice it, a faithful devotee, forever. But then when I encountered Buddhism and later Islam, and was dazzled by their heady possibilities. I had to try them on for size. They fit.”
Well worth the read if you have an interest in world religions.
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Mitterand is known in France as a TV personality and the nephew of the former President Francois Mitterand. The book opens with the author’s adoption (however he shockingly uses the word “bought”) of a young Moroccan boy and ends with the burial of one of his former lovers. The memoir decries describes his early relationships first of housekeepers and nannies and later friends. The book is well written but an overloading of uninteresting and unimportant facts bring the book down. I needed to skim far too much.
He also describes his experience in thed light districts of Bangkok and Jakarta. This brought him political termoil in France when he was the Mister of Culture.
Not highly recommended but a good skim.
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TERRY O’REILLY & MIKE TENNANT
One of the few radio shows that have been made into a book. I loved listening to show and I enjoyed the book as well. A major theme is how technology changed advertising.
One of the interesting vignettes tells the story that YouTube didn’t take off until the Mentos mints and Diet Coke experiments were put on the site. “Videos showed the two element s combining,causing a high-powered, sticky geyser. By 2008 the top three Mentos-Diet Coke videos had drawn more than eleven million hits.”
“Advertising is never a science but rather an art. From our mistakes we’ve learned many directions not to go. It’s an intuitive process. There are no solid set in stone rules, or paint by number. There is no diabolical witchcraft at work, just people tyring to wrap the best message around a product.”
It is a fun read.
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Parenting, especially parenting well, is the hardest task imaginable; but I’ve wondered often how parents of disabled children manage the pain, the heartache, the endless work. “Through [the hard work, the smells, the intense emotion, the crises], you hold your child’s body, hold its flesh and heat close to you, like a skin of fire, because our need to make us shamelsess,but touch is our truest hunger. Just hang on. Just hang on. Just hang on. Just hang on.” The intense fatigue caused by sleeping with his boy caused”my wife and I to fight a lot.”
A doctor stated, “The Buddhists say the way to to pure being, is by getting your mind out of the way. Walker already knows how to do that. He is pure being. He may be developmentally delayed or moderately retarded, but in that way, he’s already miles ahead of most of us.”
“Walker had given my life shape, possibly even meaning. Bug Walker had also made our lives hell.”
Brown is best when he is describing his life with his son. It’s an incredibly touching work that centres around how much a life — and especially a severely physically and intellectually disabled life — is worth. When he digress to talking about other parents and children the book looses moment, but picks up nearer the end of the book. Well written. It is a must read with a small amount of skimming.
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An easy introduction to the Dalai Lama and his history. I found this graphic biography in the Young Adult section. I especially loved the actual photographs taken through out the Dalai Lama’s life.
However it comes with a warning: Emotional Content! Reader beware.
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EVA MOZES KOR
A simply written but powerful book. Eva and her twin sister Miriam, along with two older sisters and her parents were living in Transylvania during the beginning of Hitler’s rule. They had an opportunity to leave the country and find safety but Eva’s mother opted to stay put, ending her family’s chances to escape before it was too late ”We are safe here, Mother said.” At school the twins experienced continually increasing racism. “I remember watching a short film How to Kill Jews. O day a math problem read, If you had five Jews, and you killed three Jews, how many Jews would be left?” Eva and her family were transported to Auschwitz where they were seperated from each other. Because Eva and Miriam were twins, they were selected to be a part of Mendele’s research projects as he studied the effects of some of his experiments on twin subjects.
Eva had a amazingly strong will to live and to keep her sister alive. “I will not die.” When Eva was sick from one of the Mengele’s experiments Miriam gave her food to her sister. Eva writes, “Imagine a ten year old girl stopped eating for a week to feed her sick sister. When I did not die as Mengele expected Miriam was taken to the labs and injected with man shots that made her sick. If I had died Miriam would have been rushed to the lab and killed with a shot of chloroform to her heart. Simultaneous autopsies would have compared my diseased organs to her healthy ones.”
“The place where the Nazis had kept all the clothes, shoes, and blankets they had taken from prisoners they called Canada. Perhaps because they saw the country of Canada as a place of abundance.”
The most disturbing thing about the holocaust is that there is genocide happening around the world today: Yugoslavia, Uganda, Sudan, Burma and more. We didn’t learn from WWII.
A must read.
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I found My Germany great at some points and disappointing at others; uneven at best. The first section describes the life of a the author as a boy with parents who survived the holocaust and the stories of his parents. And how they all lived ” in the shadow of the holocaust. Wonderful. At an early age, he inherited his parents’ rejection of all things German. “We were different from other American children, with no grandparents and hardly any other relatives, no old furniture in the attic and no heirlooms from the past. There was, in effect, a personal Berlin Wall in our house, and what was on the other side was dangerous, rebarbative, perpetually off limits.” Lev knew he was Jewish but learned from his parents to dislike Jews and Judaism. His family did not attend synagogue or do family rituals. “His father felt contempt for these America Jews. My mother for the Yiddish spoken [in America]. They lived in the shadow of both the Hoocaust and Germany. “We lived in their shadow far more than was typical for immigrant children. Therir lives were monumental and – because not entirely known – mysterious. Our lives were insignificant. Nothing we suffered or accomplished could match their having survived”
The second part deals with his interactions with other Jews and his coming to terms with being gay.”How to children of holocaust survivors find meaning in their parents’ lives? What is the role of gays and lesbians in American Jewish life? This section is also captivating.
It is part three when he goes to Germany to discover his roots while doing readings, that the memoir begins to drag. Some of what I disliked was the bragging; several times he writes how he was a pioneer in writing about children of holocaust survivors and gay Jews. He does come to terms with his roots: “Whatever Germany is today, it’s not the country that persecuted my parents — and I’m not them. Likewise, their Germany isn’t my Germany. I suppose it never was.”
I loved the photographs of his family. A good read but needs skimming.
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It would have been better named Sugar and Slavery because that is the main thrust of the book. Interesting that I found this book so shortly after reading Isabelle Allende’s latest novel The Island Under the Sea, which covers much of the same ground but in fiction. Abbott explores the horror that colonizing Latin America brought to the native peoples. And how the demands of the sugar economy had ripped apart African communities and forced slaves across the Atlantic to work sugar cane plantations.
“Sugar slavery’s most insidious creation was the racialism that justified enslaving Africans and forcing them into the cane fields. Slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” In the Caribbean after slaves successfully rebelled they were denied work and quality life when the plantation owners brought in indentured labourers. Indentured labour is merely another kink of slavery but with a promise of freedom when the people had paid off their exorbitant bills to the plantation owners. “Through indentureship, the British West Indian sugar industry smashed any hope that emancipation would transform the social and economic structure of the sugar colonies.” The sugar business led to the colonization of Hawaii. It changed the island forever when it brought in indentured labour from China.
An interesting read but repetitive so it needs skimming.
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