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Showing posts from November, 2019

Review: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

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Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book hits readers hard, really hard. This anthology explores what its like to be on the violated end of rape culture in American society. For those who do not understand what is meant when we use the term, "rape culture" or have trouble understanding why or how people are victims, this is a necessary read. Each contributor shares her, his, or their story about what it means to be perceived as a sex object first and (rarely) a human second. The stories that are told are powerful, not just because the writers are skilled and nuanced in how they unpack their trauma, but in the many different ways in which they are violated. No two stories are alike and yet every story strikes a universal pang of injustice and frustration with how often and how varied it happens coupled with empathetic tears to know that for some readers, there is solace in knowing it is not just them who have suffered as such an…

Review: Nectar in a Sieve

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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stumbled across this book in a used bookstore--my favorite place to find such gems. I had likely heard of this book before in title but not in content. The novel follows the life of Rukmani, a child-bride in early 20th century rural India and her life as she moves from her family into her husband's Nathan's home. As a third daughter, the dowry she could provide was insubstantial and thus she is married away to a poor (but kind) man who works the rice fields. Together, they work year after year to yield life from the land but encounter increasing hardships as they have children--some who stick around but more who go--and deal with the inevitable ways life is made infinitely harder and more nuanced for the poor. After dealing with a particularly harsh drought, they continued to decline in their ability to sustain themselves and eventually, even the land they work on is taken from them. They make a final effort to see…

Review: The Melting Pot Drama in Four Acts

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The Melting Pot Drama in Four Acts by Israel Zangwill
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After coming across the title in about four times in two weeks, I decided that I needed to fill this gap in my reading experience. So this book is the supposed original reference for the concept of the United States as a "melting pot". In that regard, it reminds me of Karel Capek's R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), the first use of the term robots. And that comparison works in a lot of ways in that it's often surprising to see what something fairly common in our language and to see that its first use was not particularly striking or surprising. In this case, The Melting-Pot is a 4 act play about David Quixano, a Jewish immigrant from Russia who plays the violin and writes music. He lives with his uncle and his grandmother in New York since his parents were killed in one of the Russian pogroms. The play opens with a woman, Vera arriving and talking with his uncle and grandmother about wa…

Storytelling and The Mosquito

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So--as a friend likes to say--I did a thing. During a weekend in October, my partner and I went to Provincetown to celebrate our anniversary.  While there, since we're not into drinking much nor bands, we looked for things to do in the evening and stumbled upon The Mosquito Story Slam. It draws its inspiration from The Moth but looks for a bit more spontaneity.  They provide a theme for the night and when people arrive, they can put their name into a hat.  Assuming there's a reasonable number (no more than 10-12), then they will have each person come up on stage and tell their 5-minute story.  You can check out the different shows and seasons on their Soundcloud channel

We learned about the show sometime in the morning and decided we would go.  In the back of my head, I started wondering if I would go up and tell a story.  The theme was:  Road trips, wanderlust, and getting lost.  I figured I had something I could talk about but would it be clear enough for an audience. 

I put…

Review: Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

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Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism by Derrick A. Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bell uses allegoric storytelling to explore the legal, cultural, and philosophical racial underpinnings of American white culture and its impact on black identity and methods of surviving in this hostile racialize structure. His approach in many ways reminds me of the philosophical dialogues that we see in the works of Plato and the like. They are sometimes clear and simple settings and other times fantastical, but with each, the story's context and the fictional protagonist (Bell, himself) engages in a tete-a-tete with other characters including one recurring character, Geneva Crenshaw. Through these discussions and thought experiments, Bell draws upon the legal and cultural history as well as contemporary thinkers such as Kimberley Crenshaw and bell hooks to which help him explain a nuanced understanding of race, racial power structures, freedom, and oppression in the US. Though pu…