Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jen’s Five Books of Issues Relevant to This Election Season

Voting Rights and Women’s Rights:
Blue Thread by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (Ooligan Press, $12.95)

The only work of fiction on the list, Blue Thread is one of the books for our upcoming Young Adult multi-author event on October 25, and it’s the story of two Jewish teenagers standing up for their rights across centuries of time. Oh, and the power of the printing press. This story of women’s suffrage doesn’t address the same issues raised by recent attempts to impose a sudden Voter ID law upon the state of Pennsylvania, but it does highlight what happens when women are arbitrarily refused a say over the paths of their own lives.

Separation of Church and State:
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby (Henry Holt, $18.00)

A fabulous and highly researched book of American history, Freethinkers pulls together the threads of history among nonreligious Americans. Among other things, it’s where I learned that in revolutionary times, Catholics and Evangelical Christians allied themselves with the secularists (and with other small religions) to prevent the establishment of religion in this country…and to ensure, through the Constitution, that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. Kind of ironic, no?

Marriage Equality:
My Two Moms by Zach Wahls (Penguin, $26.00)

I was initially wary of the attention given to 19-year-old Zach Wahls in his testimony for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa -- suspecting that he gained extra status through being straight and white and an Eagle Scout -- but then I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book, which uses the specific values of the Boy Scouts to frame the story of his family and its corresponding lessons about family in general.

Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John (Spiegel & Grau, $15.00)

Place hundreds of war refugees from multiple countries in a small town in Georgia that wasn’t expecting them, and you get some…tension. One former refugee takes it upon herself to organize teenaged boys into soccer teams, helping deal with their sense of trauma and loss, with their complicated multinational dynamics, and with the (mostly) covert hostility of neighbors and local government, who do everything they can to prevent them from practicing and competing. And these are legal immigrants.

Twisting of Facts:
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen (Simon & Schuster, $16.00)

As someone who cares a lot about accuracy, I have taken special interest in learning about the ways history has been distorted in textbooks to fit ideals of patriotism, racism, jingoism, etc. (A friend who worked for a textbook company used to complain that every time Texas law changed what was allowed in their texts, the same changes were applied to all textbooks countrywide.) Like Freethinkers, this book taught me all sorts of things I’d never known about my own country. It’s now required reading in some high school classrooms.

Jennifer Sheffield, October 2012

No comments: