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review 2017-04-29 04:27
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts - Joshua Hammer

The title is a little misleading. While this does deal with the collection of the ancient manuscripts hidden in and around Timbuktu and through Mali, it deals more with the cultural and social history of Timbuktu as well as current events.

The story of the manuscripts is interesting--how they were gotten, preserved, hidden from the jihadists, removed from Timbuktu, and saved. The cultural history of the area and the manuscripts was more interesting. I learned a lot. The current history of the area was extremely interesting. This book opened my eyes to so much. This is only a drop of what I don't know. It makes me want to read more about African history, colonialism in Africa, the French Foreign Legion, whatever more whets my appetite to learn.

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review 2017-04-28 23:59
Drawing Autism, an art book compiled by Jill Mullin | #AutismAwarenessMonth
Drawing Autism - Jill Mullin,Temple Grandin

Over the last decade autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has become an international topic of conversation, knowing no racial, ethnic, or social barriers. Behavior analyst and educator Jill Mullin has assembled a staggering array of work from established artists like Gregory Blackstock and Jessica Park to the unknown but no less talented. Their creations, coupled with artist interviews, comprise a fascinating and compelling book that serves to educate and inspire anyone who knows someone diagnosed with ASD. Mullin's introduction and the foreword by best-selling author Temple Grandin provide an overview of autism and advocate for nurturing the talents, artistic and otherwise, of autistic individuals.





Now in its second edition, Drawing Autism is a collection of artwork compiled by NYC-based behavioral analyst Jill Mullin. Mullin explains in her introductory essay how one year her work had her cross paths with an autistic artist living in a group home who showed extraordinary joy and talent through his artwork. Her acquaintance with this artist inspired her to seek out other talented artists with autism across the world. Mullin lays out her end goal with this project:


"Commonly in the media, individuals with autism have been shown to have great talents in certain areas such as science and math. The intention of this book is to display another area where individuals with autism can have great abilities."


Within this opening essay, Mullin also reveals that this project ended up being so successful that it helped greatly propel the featured artists into global notoriety, many of them being asked to do art showings all over the world. Mullin's essay is preceded by a foreword written by none other than Temple Grandin, one of today's most famous faces when it comes to autism awareness! Also included in the art collection are a few of Grandin's diagrams of her inventions (designs for more humane deaths for cattle in meat processing facilities).


Mullin wrote up a list of interview questions that she submitted to each artist she asked to be featured in this collection. From those questions, she pulls some of the most interesting or revealing answers, placing them alongside the artwork, giving the viewer / reader an eye-opening look into the world of an autistic mind. The collection as a whole is broken up into themed sections that illustrate common characteristics of the autism spectrum as a whole. For example, "Getting From Here To There" collects art pieces that focus on fascination with various modes of transportation; "Interaction, Individual and Societal" gives artists a space to express how they perceive themselves from a societal point of view. Many pieces in this section illustrate feelings of isolation, not being fully understood or accepted, frustration with miscommunications, etc; "Art For Art's Sake" is a place for the artists to just create for the sake of joy and fun. There's no particular deep meaning to the works in this section necessarily, just pieces that have made the artists happy or at peace in their souls. 



Personally, "Art For Art's Sake" and "Bird's Eye View" (pieces focusing on nature themes) were my favorite sections. I especially loved the works of Shawn Belanger -- his autism leaves him predominately non-verbal -- whose work is featured on several pages of Drawing Autism. The colors and movement of his pieces shouted a joy of life to me!





My very favorite piece though, I think I'd give that to "The Death of Love #373" by Charles D. Topping. I could not stop looking at it!



Some of the images, several actually, have definite grit and darkness to them. Some perusers of this book might be shocked at certain pieces if the paintings are only taken on their own. I would urge that you read the accompanying interview answers explaining many of the pieces. There you will see that while perhaps initially a shock to the eye, there is a purpose and / or a story of hurt behind the inspiration that you should hear. 

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review 2017-04-28 18:12
Women and appeasement
‘Guilty Women’, Foreign Policy, and Appeasement in Inter-War Britain - Julie V. Gottlieb

All too often, foreign policy has been treated as though it were exclusively the concern of men, with women usually seen either as passive participants or as secondary support. Breaking that paradigm often requires broadening the view of foreign policy formulation to take into account other, less tangible factors, such as political rhetoric, public opinion, and social encounters in which women were often able to exert influence on international relations. One such example of this was in the appeasement debates in Britain in the 1930s, in which, as Julie Gottlieb reveals in this book, women played a significant role in both the advocacy for appeasement and in the efforts to urge a stronger stance towards Nazi Germany.


Gottlieb's examination is divisible into three areas. The first is in the role women played in public activism. This was an area in which women enjoyed their greatest prominence, as their participation in such activities as peace movements and refugee aid organizations had long provided them with an entrée into public discussions regarding foreign affairs. By contrast their participation in electoral politics was more novel, yet here Gottlieb describes the role that women played as well, not just in terms of elected officials such as Nancy Astor, but others such as Annie Chamberlain who, while not a Member of Parliament nonetheless enjoyed a degree of public prominence and played an important role as a campaigner for her husband, Neville. Their presence proved more than symbolic, and they were seen as important conduits to the millions of recently enfranchised women, whose votes now had to be factored into the political calculus of any decision.


By expanding the analysis of the participants in the arguments over appeasement, Gottlieb has provided a long-overdue correction to a traditionally blinkered understanding of the participants in the contemporary debates over appeasement. While her writing can be a little dense due to her over-reliance upon jargon, she nonetheless provides an invaluable study of the development of British foreign policy in the 1930s. No future study of the subject can afford to ignore the fresh perspective she has brought to it, and hopefully it can serve as a model for similar studies that can restore women to an area of history from which that have been unjustly left out for too long.

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review 2017-04-28 09:42
Subtile Gesellschaftskritik statt leichtem Mystery-Thriller
Smoke: Roman - Katrin Segerer,Dan Vyleta

Dan Vyleta ist ein Kind des Potts. Ja, ihr habt richtig gelesen! Sein Weg führte ihn zwar über England in die USA und bis nach Kanada, aber er wurde 1974 als Sohn tschechischer Einwanderer im Ruhrgebiet geboren. Ich frage mich, wie viel Pott noch in ihm steckt. Seinen aktuellen Roman „Smoke“ verfasste er jedenfalls nicht in Deutsch, sondern in Englisch. Unseren Markt erreichte das Buch durch die Random House Gruppe, die es mir als Rezensionsexemplar anbot. Ich nahm das Angebot an, da der Klappentext wirklich interessant klang. Meine Neugier war geweckt.


Thomas und Charlie sind privilegiert. Als Schüler eines elitären Internats werden sie auf ihr späteres Leben an der Spitze der Gesellschaft vorbereitet. Sie sind normale Jungen – doch ihre Gedanken sind unrein. Jeder weiß es, denn der Rauch zerrt all ihre Verfehlungen ans Tageslicht. Der Rauch brandmarkt die Menschen als Sünder, er dringt aus Poren und Körperöffnungen und hinterlässt schmierigen Ruß, der an der Haut klebt, Kleidung befleckt und Gebäude in einen schwarzen Schleier hüllt. Jede Lüge, jede Gehässigkeit, jede Missetat wird unweigerlich offengelegt. Der Rauch ist der sichtbare Graben zwischen Oberschicht und Pöbel. Niemals wäre es Thomas und Charlie eingefallen, seine Gesetze zu hinterfragen, bis ein verstörender Schulausflug nach London die Freunde ratlos zurücklässt. Wieso würde jemand den Ruß von Mördern sammeln? Wie ist es möglich, dass ein Mensch kein einziges Fädchen Rauch absondert? Aufgewühlt begeben sich Thomas und Charlie auf die Suche nach den Ursprüngen des Rauchs und stoßen auf eine Verschwörung nationalen Ausmaßes, die sie vor eine haarsträubende Entscheidung stellt: ist ihre Welt es wert, gerettet zu werden?


Uff. Nach der Lektüre von „Smoke“ musste ich mich erst einmal zurücklehnen, tief durchatmen und darüber nachdenken, was ich da eigentlich gerade gelesen hatte. Dieser Roman ist weit bedeutungsvoller und philosophischer, als ich erwartet hatte. Es ist definitiv kein leichter Mystery-Thriller, sondern eine erstaunliche komplexe Gesellschaftskritik. Dan Vyleta entführt seine Leser_innen in das 19. Jahrhundert, zeigt England auf dem Höhepunkt der industriellen Revolution und konfrontiert sie mit einer alternativen Realität, die sich vor allem in einem offensichtlichen Punkt von der unseren unterscheidet: die Menschen rauchen. Starke Gefühle wie Zorn, Neid, Lust, aber auch Freude und Glück lösen eine biochemische Reaktion im Körper aus, deren Resultat der Rauch ist, der aus allen Körperöffnungen dringt. Folglich ist der Rauch die visuelle Manifestation des menschlichen Wesens. Er ist weder gut noch böse, er ist einfach nur. Nichtsdestotrotz wird er in Vyletas Version des Vereinigten Königreichs als göttliches Zeichen und sichtbarer Beweis für das Böse in einem Menschen aufgefasst. Der Rauch wird instrumentalisiert; er dient als Legitimation, die Bevölkerung zu kontrollieren und die Klassenunterschiede stetig zu verschärfen. Die beiden jugendlichen Protagonisten Thomas und Charlie werden bereits im Internat indoktriniert. Als Elite des Landes müsse die Oberschicht mit gutem, sauberen Beispiel vorangehen, um das gemeine Volk führen zu können. Wer aus dem Adel stammt, sollte idealerweise niemals rauchen. Selbstkontrolle als Religion. Natürlich können weder Thomas noch Charlie dieses Ideal erfüllen, obwohl Charlie ihm deutlich näherkommt als sein Freund. Thomas ist ein reizbarer, leidenschaftlicher junger Mann, dessen Gefühle schnell überkochen. Dementsprechend raucht er stark und viel, während Charlies gutmütige, ehrliche und offene Persönlichkeit eher selten kleine Rauchfähnchen produziert. Sie verkörpern vollkommen verschiedene Formen von Rauchern. Betrachtet man die beiden als die Endpunkte einer Skala, kann man getrost behaupten, dass ihnen auf ihrer Suche nach Antworten die Myriaden Zwischenstufen dieser Skala begegnen. Sie lernen unterschiedliche Lebensweisen mit und Herangehensweisen an den Rauch kennen, was ich als sehr spannend empfand. Ich denke, Dan Vyleta konstruierte für „Smoke“ absichtlich eine sich selbst treibende Handlung, die seitens der Figuren wenig Initiative bedurfte. Thomas und Charlie lenken die Geschichte nicht, sie werden von ihr gelenkt, wodurch sich zahlreiche Situationen ergeben, die ihren Horizont erweitern. Sie erleben Unrecht und Grausamkeit, Güte und Großzügigkeit und entwickeln anhand dieser Erlebnisse eine eigene Weltanschauung. Meiner Ansicht nach ist „Smoke“ daher eine ungewöhnliche, aber überzeugende Coming-of-Age-Geschichte, die den Konflikt zwischen Individuum und System erfrischend originell und tiefgründig interpretiert.


„Smoke“ ist eines dieser Bücher, die weniger gefallen als faszinieren. Dan Vyleta versucht meines Erachtens nach nicht, sich bei seinen Leser_innen anzubiedern, sondern präsentiert eine subtile, feinsinnige Gesellschaftskritik, die zum Nachdenken anregt. Dafür nimmt er eine gewisse Trägheit der Geschichte in Kauf, weil diese intellektuell statt emotional mitreißen soll. Für mich hat dieses Konzept funktioniert, obwohl ich der Meinung bin, dass Vyleta haarscharf an der Grenze zur gesellschaftsphilosophischen Überladung vorbeischlitterte. Beinahe hätte er zu viel von mir verlangt. Glücklicherweise zügelte er sich, sodass ich den immensen gedanklichen Spielraum und das stimulierende Potential des Buches sehr zu schätzen wusste.
Meiner Meinung nach ist „Smoke“ äußerst lesenswert, es setzt allerdings ein hohes Maß an eigenständiger, geistiger Beweglichkeit voraus. Es ist keine locker-flockige Lektüre für Zwischendurch. Stellt euch zum Warmwerden vor dem Lesen eine Frage: was bedeutete es für die Gesellschaft, wäre jede starke Emotion jedes Menschen nicht länger verborgen, sondern sichtbar?


Vielen Dank an Random House und carl’s books für die Bereitstellung dieses Rezensionsexemplars im Austausch für eine ehrliche Rezension!

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/dan-vyleta-smoke
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review 2017-04-27 23:57
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Modern Library Volume 3 of 3)
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III (Modern Library) - Gian Battista Piranesi,Edward Gibbon

The finale volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers chapters 49 through 71 of the author’s vast magnum opus.  Beginning with the Iconoclast controversy in correlation with rise of the Vatican and Holy Roman Empire in the 8th century and ending with a description of the causes and progression of the decay of the city of Roman in the 15th century, Gibbon relates in detail the political, martial, social, and theological developments in both Europe and the Middle East ultimately led to the end of Byzantine Empire with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans and the state of the city of Roman at time of the Roman Empire’s complete end.


The majority of the 22 chapters deal with the rise of Islam and the resultant political and martial effects that would ultimately determine the fate of the Byzantine Empire.  Although beginning with the Iconoclastic controversy that began the schism of the Christian church as the bishop of Rome rose to power in the West, Gibbon used those developments to launch into how Islam rose in Arabia then spread across not only areas once under Roman control but also their long-time Persian rivals in the aftermath of the reconquests of Heraclius.  While detailing the internal struggle within the Caliphate period, Gibbon reveals how Emperors attempted to combat this new faith and military force to increasing little effect has time went on.


The thorough retelling of the numerous political changes throughout Asia that affect the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire shifted the focus away from the ‘Roman’ world to locations as far east as China, but revolutions of people in these areas would play into the fortunes of Constantinople.  Also playing into fate of Byzantine was the barbarian Christian West that the Emperors called for aid not only from kings but the Pope as well.  Unfortunately the resulting Crusades and mercenary arms that went East would inflict a mortal wound to the Empire in 1204 thus beginning a centuries long death spiral that only lasted as long as it did because of internal revolutions with the growing Ottoman Empire until 1453.  This dreary recounting of the end of Byzantium is mirrored by Gibbon in his recounting of the history of the city of Rome itself throughout the Middle Ages until the fall of the New Rome in the East.


This finale volume of Gibbon’s life consuming work revealed the struggle of the Eastern Empire of Byzantium to continue against a succession of Islamic powers and its ultimate demise thus completing the fall of the Roman Empire.  Yet in retelling the eventual fall of Constantinople, Gibbon paints a huge picture for the reader about how events both near and far away from the Bosporus affected the fortunes for both good and ill of the New Rome.  And in recounting the history of the city of Rome throughout the Middle Ages, a reader sheds a tear with Gibbon about the loss of the monuments of both Republic and Empire due to the necessity or vanity of the people of Rome after for the fall of the Western Empire.

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