Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Understanding Jim Crow

by David Pilgrim

I wasn't willing to take this book to work to read over lunch, but I would recommend it to just about anyone. Dr. David Pilgrim was a collector of memorabilia--racist memorabilia. He spent about three decades collecting cultural artifacts of the Jim Crow era, and then in 1996, he donated the collection to Ferris State University to create the Jim Crow Museum. This book explains what the museum is and what it tries to teach. It's profusely illustrated with photographs of museum artifacts, including the racist caricature on the front cover that prompted me to leave the book at home. It's a disgusting read, in one sense. The crap that was part of our grandparents' and multi-great grandparents' lives is shameful. But it's important to face it. It's important to understand our history in America, to realize, as Dr. Pilgrim puts it, that "Jim Crow was more than a series of 'Whites Only' signs. It was a way of life that approximated a racial caste system." It's especially important as the tropes and stereotypes of Jim Crow linger on in our culture today.'

 Check it out!
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Flying Colours

by C. S. Forester

(Okay, I almost lasted a week before running to the store to buy this one.) This book follows up on the heels of Ship of the Line. As far as naval adventures go, it's an odd one. Captain Hornblower doesn't sail on the sea until page 175. Instead he gets a taste of imprisonment--the fallout from the disaster he faced at the end of the last volume--and faces his own mortality. Rather than worrying for himself, however, he thinks of his loved ones, his crew and his reputation. Of course, when danger and opportunity arises, Hornblower plunges in and comes through with... (nah, too easy) Like the rest of the series, it was a very enjoyable read. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending of this, the original Hornblower trilogy, however. It tied up the loose ends a little too nicely. Still, it's a small flaw in a remarkable series.

Another one on my shelf.
LibraryThing link

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Dalit Freedom

by Joseph D'Souza

This books a bit of propaganda I got for free at some church or missions gathering. Dr. D'Souza tells of the plight of the Dalit, or "untouchables", in India and ties to rally support for their rights and the elimination of caste in Indian culture. (Both in India and among the diaspora.) He sold me. But then as an American, I was raised to believe we're all created equal. Anyway, it's a depressing read, with accounts of the injustices suffered by the Dalit people, and a smidgeon of hope for their efforts to claim their rights and dignity. Check it out.

LibraryThing link

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ship of the Line

by C. S. Forester

A cliffhanger? He ends the book on a cliffhanger?? Arrrgghhh! Anyway, Ship of the Line is the sequel to Beat to Quarters. Captain Hornblower has returned from his assignment in the Pacific Ocean and is assigned to the the HMS Sutherland, a ship of the line in Admiral Leighton's squadron. After his many months alone in the Pacific, Hornblower chafes a bit at being part of a squadron under the Admiral's direct orders. But Hornblower still finds opportunities for adventure, striking blow after blow to Napoleon's war effort.

And then there's the cliffhanger. sigh. I was stretching these books out, letting months go between volumes. Now I'll be lucky to wait a few weeks before visiting the bookstore.

It's on my shelf!
LibraryThing link

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Middletown

by Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd

The subtitle of this book is "A Study in Modern American Culture". That's probably what folks were looking to read about when they picked up the newly published book in 1929. In 2016, however, my wife and I were hoping to read some history. Middletown is the report of a year and a half study the Lynds and their assistants conducted in a small Midwestern city. They approached the study like cultural anthropologists, making observations on the daily life of the city's residents. (Well, the city's white residents, anyway.) The book is a bit of a dry read. While there are anecdotes woven throughout the text there are also lists and statistics. It was interesting to listen to the life and concerns of my grandparents generation. Sometimes I would chuckle at accounts, sometimes my teeth would be set on edge, like when the authors would casually mention labor conditions or the KKK as part of the community. In the end, I enjoyed having a peek at the past but was glad that its culture wasn't my "Modern America".

It makes for useful waiting room material.
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Long Winter

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

First read in October of 2005.

It's on my shelf!
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Radiance

by Catherynne M. Valente

Decopunk. That's the word in the Unshelved book review that roped me into reading this book. Having encountered cyberpunk and steampunk before, I had to see what decopunk looks like. So what is decopunk? Um, I'm not quite sure. You see, the story also uses that old, old sci-fi trope that the planets of the solar system are habitable. Plus it's set in the heart of that universe's Hollywood. The era of big studios and movie star royalty. I, er, got so caught up in the book's world that I didn't bother to look for or consider and decopunkness.

Anyway, Radiance is a tale about Severin Unck, the daughter of a famous film director who becomes a filmaker herself. Between her childhood, completely documented--or rather, dramatized--by her father, and her own work, she becomes quite famous. That fame only increases when she disappears during her final shoot. The story of her life is told in flashback--switching between eras, jumping from production to production. In the process, the story reveals not only the mystery but also the rich universe Ms. Valente created for her characters to run around in. It was an enjoyable journey.

  Check it out!
LibraryThing link

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