Friday, December 11, 2009

Community Book Review: The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer

This book presents a heartbreaking parade, not just of horrifically abused detainees but earnest do-gooding government employees who actually believe in American ideals. The horror film atmosphere is most obvious in the scripted "takedowns" in which teams come in the night, but in the "don't go near the old farmhouse!" shock when some would-be public servant says "we don't torture! not this executive!" only to be proven desperately, tragically wrong. At the center of this horror is not even Cheney, who at least holds a constitutional office, but Cheney's "Cheney", his lawyer David Addington. Addington is a towering, raging bully, claiming the "president has already decided this!" as his cackling refrain. This book by New Yorker reporter Mayer definitely supports the "Bush as tool" theory, as the supposed wielder of all this executive power is portrayed as a disengaged cipher with a five minute attention span.
Meanwhile, Cheney and his own evil genius dream up a nightmare of a policy for the world's most powerful country, a country that apparently wrote the Geneva Conventions and is the custodian of their physical hard copy, appropriately located in the marginalized State Dept. The accounts of torture trying to extract confessions of things that don't exist (most damningly a Iraq-9/11 connection) brings the reports of Iranian interrogations unpleasantly to mind. There are good guys here(even John Ashcroft!), but they end up disillusioned and out of work. The book is particularly disheartening to read as Obama escalates Afghanistan and keeps plenty of those executive powers just in case. But it's nice to know that someone believed in US ideals, even if us cynical lefties don't.

Reviewed by Jesse Bacon

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Poem for Winter Solstice

Here's a beautiful poem by local poet Susan Windle in celebration of the upcoming winter solstice. Enjoy!

The Voice of Another Woman

Do not muffle
do not cloud
speak with your full voice
which is luminous
and please in mid-sentence
do not cover yourself
with that veil.

I want an end to shame.
I want clarity—mine and yours.
They told you brilliance would hurt
do not believe them
they said that light in your hands
is stolen
do not duck away like a thief.

Take the reins of the chariot
and shake
what you hold back—
take the reins and shine

Shine on me.

-Susan Windle

Susan Windle is Philadelphia-based poet and part of the poetry and singing group Voices of a Different Dream. They are two poets and a singer who have been creating, performing, recording and publishing original poetry and song in the Philadelphia area and beyond since 1991. Their work is a lively and inventive blend of the spoken and sung word. Honoring each woman's strong solo voice, they revel in the many ways to combine their voices. With no instruments but voice and gesture, their performances and recordings are journeys of the soul dedicated to fostering peace within and among us. Drawing on personal memory, the cycles of nature, and the current social and political climate, they create experiences that heal and celebrate. Their work is deeply feminist. They offer their music and poetry in the service of creating a kinder, more just, more joyous culture.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Women of the World Book Club: A Summary and Book List

We've just finished two full years of hosting Women of the World Book Club here at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore. It's been full of really wonderful discussions on what constitutes home, feminism, sexism, cultural histories, ghosts, mixed race and the construction of race, writing, editing, and so much more. We've read books about Ireland, China, Jamaica, Sudan, India, Vietnam, England, Nigeria, Sweden, New Zealand, Mexico, Iran, France, Spain, Japan, Ukraine, and a few in the United States, set in entirely different backgrounds (like the American South).

Interested in our book list for the past two years? Check it out below, and start exploring women writers from all around the world and all across the United States!

January 2008: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
February 2008: Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy
Mar 2008: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
April 2008: Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey
May 2008: Peony in Love by Lisa See
June 2008: Saving the World by Julia Alvarez
July 2008: The Gathering by Anne Enright
August 2008: Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
Sept 2008: La Perdida by Jessica Abel
October 2008: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
December 2008: Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nyugen

Jan 2009: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Feb 2009: Slave by Mende Nazer
Mar 2009: The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery
April 2009: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
May 2009: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
June 2009: Kinky Gazpacho by Lori Tharps
July 2009: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
Aug 2009: Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
Sept 2009: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Oct 2009: Pig Candy by Lise Funderburg
Dec 2009: Hungry Woman in Paris by Josefina Lopez

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Staff Book Review: Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout

Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Stout, creates yet another masterpiece with her novel Olive Kitteridge. As stated in a conversation with Elizabeth Stout and Olive Kitteridge, which the reader will find at the end of the book, "the power of Olive's character (ferocious and complicated and kindly and sometimes cruel) is best portrayed in an episodic manner". Olive Kitteridge reads more like a collection of loosely related short stories, all focused on the individuals who populate the small town of Crosby, Maine... all focused on the inner life and frailty and sufferings and triumphs of each character.

Olive Kitteridge is often seen as an utterly unlikeable, occasionally abusive, absolutely frank, judgmental character. What saves her, as the reader learns while progressing through seemingly unrelated chapters, is her valiant self-honesty, her accurate sensitivity to those around her, and her growing self awareness. We the reader are also made aware through other characters what history formed Olive Kitteridge. By her own definition she has "the strong passions and prejudices of a peasant". Olive is opinionated, quarrelsome, critical, overly sensitive, and sometimes excruciatingly kind and perceptive. And in the end Olive Kitteridge learns the value of love above all else, even if the subject of her love and comfort is a Republican who voted for an idiot.

Reviewed by Janet Elfant

Friday, December 04, 2009

My New Inspiration: Randa Jarrar

One of the wonderful things about hosting the Women of the World book club here at the bookstore is finding a bunch of new women authors with all kinds of multicultural and world backgrounds. Case in point: Randa Jarrar, author of the new novel A Map of Home. Just read her bio:

Randa Jarrar is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, and translator. Randa grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved to the US after the first Gulf War. At the age of 13, she enrolled in 10th grade, and went on to attend Sarah Lawrence College at 16. Two years later, she became a single mom, and by the age of 22, she had a Masters’ degree, a four- year-old, and a desire to write a novel. She began A Map of Home at the age of 23, writing the bulk of it in a trailer in small-town Texas. Jarrar’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Oxford American, Ploughshares, The New York Times, Progressive Magazine, as well as online and in numerous anthologies. She is also a translator of Arabic fiction, and her publications include Hassan Daoud’s novel The Year of the Revolutionary New Breadmaking Machine. She currently lives in Austin, TX and is working on a collection of stories and a new novel, about a young single mother and her magical prophet son.

Ummm, can I be your friend and hang out with you and be inspired and write a novel and get my master's degree and raise my kids? Thank you. That is all.