A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton (Viking, November 2013) is not truly a world history story. It is, however, a look at how maps and history are intricately related. Each map throughout history tells what is important to the learned in the era in which it has been created. Likewise, each map contributes to how the subsequent generations continue to interpret the world. (more…)
As I’ve scoured the lists of books about revolutionary America for a book to read for my own education, I struggled to find one that covered a variety of people (I love biographies, but I can’t read one about everyone!) and eras (I would love to learn about all eras of the revolution, from the pre-revolution, the actual war years, to the beginning of the republic and later political fall out). At the same time that I’m I’ve been searching for the perfect book about the revolutionary era, I remembered I had picked up a used copy of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis (Vintage Books, 2000) in a previous year’s book sale. I decided it was the book to read right now.
I was expecting Founding Brothers to be a collection of mini-biographies about the “brothers” of the revolutionary generation. Or maybe it would be about the Constitutional Convention and how they all worked together. Honestly, I did not know what it was, but any expectations I did have were far surpassed in Ellis’s complex portrait of the generation that founded the country. His work is both thorough and completely readable. (more…)
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, 2003) is a fantastic portrait of a complex man. I have always loved Ben Franklin (ever since I read Ben and Me by Robert Lawlor as a child). Reading Isaacson’s biography helped me to see why I liked it him so much: he was, in general, a likeable man.
White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, and Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children by Joe Rhatigan (Imagine Publishing, 2012) provides a fun and colorful picture of the history of children in the White House. From George Washington’s step-daughter to the Obama girls, White House Kids gives an interesting portrait of how life changed for the children of the nation’s most well known public official. It’s not easy being a kid, and being thrust in the limelight while still a child obviously brings an entirely new set of difficulties.
I’m not usually interested in pop culture celebrity biographies, but White House Kids provided an interesting contrast to other celebrity biographies out there. Because of the historical nature of the White House and the presidents, reading this book gave historical insight into the presidents. A number of things surprised me about White House Kids, mostly because of the breadth it covered through history and the interest it provides for youth today who may be interested in history, the presidents, as well as current “celebrity kids” like Malia and Sasha Obama. (more…)
Tomorrow is Nigerian Independence Day, and to celebrate, Amy Reads has challenged us to read and post about literature by a Nigerian born author (or an author of Nigerian heritage).
The story I chose to read for this project was “Cell One,” the first story in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s collection The Thing Around Your Neck. In some respects, this was an unfortunately sad story for this project, for the view of Nigerian politics is rather drear. On the other hand, because it was so well done, I had to force myself to not read any more of Adichie’s collection (and I desperately wanted to) because I’ve been promising myself I’m going to read the collection of stories slowly, despite my inclination to breeze through it. (Since I’ve already read Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, these twelve stories are all I have left until something new is published. Of course, Half of a Yellow Sun is in need of a reread, so we’ll see…)
“Cell One” focuses on the out-of-control crime and the corrupt policing situation in Nigeria by telling the story of one (probably innocent) boy’s stay in jail. Gangs (called “cults”) of violence surrounded Nsukka University campus. Adichie’s story makes campus shootings and stabbings (!) sound like a routine fear for those seeking a higher education. Given the police’s inability to gain control of the violent situation, when someone is taken in to custody, the police want to make an example of them. Unfortunately, the narrator’s brother, Nnamabia, was one of those taken in as “guilty,” with no proof and essentially no reasoning.
From my privileged middle-class American perspective, the bribery and the corruption, the filth and the inequalities in the prison system was rather shocking. And yet, I realized that Adichie was writing in a sincere voice. I hope (but doubt) many of the issues with the police system have been resolved since this stories creation. And yet, Adichie manages to infuse the entire discouraging situation with a degree of hope in the character of Nnamabia. Because this is a rather short story, I don’t want to reveal the end and the ways in which she does this.
Just know that once again, Adichie rises to the occasion. Although like her other novels “Cell One” is painful to read, it is powerful in its effect on the reader. As when I read Half of a Yellow Sun, I finished reading with a better understanding of the challenges to Nigeria as well as degree of hope the goodness of human nature. Now I want to read the rest of the volume! Must. Hold. Out.
I had hoped to reread Things Fall Apart for this Nigerian project. I last read it in July when I was not feeling well enough to post on the blog coherently. I didn’t have time for that. At any rate, next week I hope to return to the my RIP short story regular — I may have to do more than one story a week to catch up with the RIP season!