“She resented the fact that her veil, which to her was a symbol of her sacred relationship to God, had now become an instrument of power, turning the women who wore them into political signs and symbols.” page 103
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi.
Random House, New York, my edition 2004, originally published 2003.
Adult memoir, 358 pages including reading group guide.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 8.4 (worth 25.0 points) .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, this is an adult book not recommended for children.
As the title states, a memoir of the author’s career in Tehran told through the lens of various literature she read and taught.
“Today there are at least an estimated 3.5 million Americans of Arabic-speaking descent, and they live in all fifty states. […] The purpose of this book isn’t to separate them out but to fold their experience into the mosaic of American history and deepen our understanding of who we Americans are.” p. xi
A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives by Alia Malek.
Free Press, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009.
Nonfiction, 292 pages.
A walk through American history through the lives of a wide variety of Arab-Americans.
I picked this book up on a whim, but it turned out to be very interesting nonetheless. Mostly, I wanted to know why America was misspelled in the title (Amreeka is the Arabic word for America), and after looking at the blurb, I thought this could be an interesting perspective on American history which I personally had not very much considered before.
Much like Prisoners Without Trial, this book opened my eyes to another important part of American history. Similar to that book, this one also deals with a limited time period, since immigration laws prevented large numbers of Arab immigrants prior to the 1960s. However, Malek tells her story in a very different (although just as engaging) way.
After a brief forward explaining the background, format and scope of the book, she takes snapshots from various Arab-American lives and uses them to illustrate a wide variety of experiences and time periods. In between these vignettes are brief chapters that give immigration statistics, updates on legal and cultural developments, and information about world politics that had bearing on Arab-American lives.
“The community’s attitude can be judged also from the fact that until I asked a direct question on the subject, most of my informants had never even considered anything unusual about the manner in which their deaf townsmen were integrated into the society.” p 51
Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard by Nora Ellen Groce, foreward by John W. M. Whiting.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985.
Academic nonfiction, 169 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
This classic work of American Deaf history shines a light on the isolated early community of Martha’s Vineyard, where a high rate of deafness resulted in normalization of sign language and an integration that the world could stand to learn from.
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, so was thrilled to be gifted a copy.
“The barbed-wire fences, the guards, and the surrounding wasteland were always there to remind the detainees that they were exiled, incarcerated Americans, who didn’t know whether they would ever be allowed to return to their former homes.” page 71
Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II by Roger Daniels. (Revised Edition)
Hill and Wang, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2004. (Orig. pub. 1993)
Nonfiction, 162 pages including index, appendices, and further reading.
An overview of the unlawful imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII, including anti-Asian prejudice before the war, and eventual reparations 50 years after the camps.
Every American should read this book. Daniels distills decades of scholarly research on this and related topics into a succinct and incredibly readable overview. Nonfiction normally takes me much longer than fiction, but I suspect that I could have read this in one day had other obligations not interfered.
“In all of the subject states, we observed that there is an astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching.” Introduction, key point 5.
Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, a report of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Published online at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/, Montgomery, Alabama.
Accessed in July 2017.
This report walks the reader through the events surrounding racial terror lynchings in America, including case studies of individual lynchings and photographs, illustrations, legal reactions, and original source quotations.
I don’t recall how this crossed my path. Normally I prefer to read books in person, whether I purchase, checkout from the library, or borrow from a friend. However, some popular books are easier to get from the library as ebooks and older books that are out of print can often be found online for free.
This book doesn’t fit either of those categories. Instead, this is a report from a team led by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy. His book’s been on my TBR for a while now (I even had it checked out, but had to return it as there was a hold). After reading this report, Just Mercy got bumped up on my must-reads.
“On the few occasions when someone did challenge the study directly, a defender invariably pointed out how long it had been going on, how much work the PHS had invested, and how science would benefit if the study continued.” page 173
Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (New and Expanded Edition) by James H. Jones.
The Free Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981, my edition 1993 expanded reprint.
Adult non-fiction, 297 pages including notes and index.
The true story of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment reads like a work of fiction.
Normally I don’t read horror, but I’ll make an exception for non-fiction. This was a chilling read, made all the more horrific by the fact that it occurred in my own country in the fairly recent past. Sadly, some accounts of the racism and prejudice present in this study read like they could be happening today.