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review 2018-03-22 20:24
The War on Women - Sue Lloyd-Roberts

I’m sure if you posted the title of this book on Twitter a bunch of people would tell you that there is no war on women. 

                And those people would be wrong.

                This was the book that Lloyd-Roberts was working on when she died.  As such, it is therefore unfinished.  A great deal of the information that is covered was also covered by the work that Lloyd-Roberts did for the BBC (and you can easily find these programs on YouTube).

                The book is focused on British and International cases.  In many cases, Lloyd-Roberts showcases a facet of the war in one place and then applies it also to some communities in the UK.  It should be noted that when addressing the interplay with religion, Lloyd-Roberts is careful to place blame on the interpretation of a religion.  She covers child brides, forced marriages, rape, trafficking, and the pay gap.  She illustrates that the war on women is pretty much worldwide, just taking different forms.

                But there is also hope as the sub-title indicates, thorough this hope needs the help of others in the global community.  This theme starts early with the story of a cutter (FGM) who seeks asylum in the Britain.  If any, the book is a call to arms.

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review 2018-03-22 01:55
The Gate to Women's Country
The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper

If I had read this when it was first published, in the 80s, I think I would have really liked this book. Alas, I read it now and it mostly made me angry.


This book channels second wave feminism pretty heartily, and unfortunately it also falls into some of the movement's pitfalls. Powerfully negative attitudes towards men lie the foundation for this story - an idea that men are innately violent and aggressive, and women are not, is the true dividing line. This book pretends that personality is based purely on nature with nurture making little difference. Bodily autonomy and emotional connectivity fall to the wayside in favor of eugenics and manipulation. And to make it even worse the lack of gender non-conforming or non-heterosexual individuals in this world is not an oversight - the book flat out states that queer characters were bred out (see page 76 in my edition). To say that the story is misandrist, gender essentialist, and aggressively heteronormative would not be inaccurate nor unfair.


As much as I wanted to throw this book across my room at times, or to give it a half star rating, I will give it some credit where credit is due. This book is of its time, and it came from an angry place. And I get that. I've felt that. A lot of people have. It is interesting to use science fiction to play around with thought experiments, and our book club had an excellent discussion about this one. Tepper quite obviously put a lot of thought into her world, and the world-building was fairly intricate. The characters were drawn well enough that I truly hated many of them, and some mirrored individuals I've known in my past. There are some really excellent insights in here, and even passages that I reread because they struck a chord with me. However, I just couldn't get past the politics. It's a great book to talk about and critique, but it is not a book I feel I can recommend outside of that capacity.

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review 2018-03-21 00:04
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

There are two competing, rather than complimentary stories in this book. Part of the blurb:


Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.


The problem is that the "quintessential" American murder she picks is the son of an LAPD detective. Of course they solve that murder. It's absurd that they have to work around their own department to solve this or any crime, but they do it. If it's possible to be more disgusted by the LAPD as an institution, reading this book may have done it for me.


It's clear that Leovy has been charmed by the men with whom she's been "embedded" for a year. At times it reads like glorification of the hardworking, put-upon detectives with complete disregard for the murder victims they are supposed to be serving. The only thing that saves it is the detectives themselves and her increasingly critical eye toward the middle and end of the book.


It's very slow to start as she introduces us to every detective mentioned with a long character study, and only around the middle does "action" happen, but even that action is fairly muted. The personalities are interesting, but I thought of putting it down once or twice. The climax comes with an interview of the suspect in the "featured murder." There are a lot of murders, a lot of statistics, a lot of complaints about the LAPD brass, a lot of passing judgement on the people they police and a lot of surprising love for those very same people.


The sheer frustration of being anyone who isn't related to the police wasn't presented. There are mountains of problems quickly tossed out, some of which could be cleared up fairly quickly if anyone cared to do so (ie, stop melting down guns that are possibly evidence.) Many of the problems are much more intractable though, and like all police departments, the LAPD has a culture that gets in its way more often than not. I wish the urgency had been imparted. I wish the case chosen wasn't the only one solved that month. I wish the problems in getting even the police department to take these homicides seriously had been the entire book. Instead Leovy covers a huge mountain of issues and offers no solutions.

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review 2018-03-20 23:48
Dear Martin -- my best YA read in recent memory
Dear Martin - Nic Stone





This is what I imagine Justyce, the MC, would do if asked to hold a sign about race early on.


There has been a stream of books about race and police brutality in the last few years. One could read nothing but books on the topic and still not keep up with the books available. What a great problem to have: too many books on important topics. Now if only these books were useless because the problem had been solved.


If one can "enjoy" a book like this, then I enjoyed Nic Stone's telling of tragedy story more than I've enjoyed almost any other. There are obvious comparisons both in other recent books but also to real cases in real America. Nic Stone writes for the young reader in a simple way that never is dumbed down or too basic. She has all the nuances and difficulties of her subject matter under command as she writes the story of Justyce and his friend Manny, two black kids at a liberal, elite school and the ways they handle casual, subtle, daily racialization, microaggressions, as well as the more obvious and deadly type.


The POV shifts between third person storytelling to Justyce's interior life to second-person letters/journaling to "Dear Martin" (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Nic Stone makes excellent use of the "safe place" classroom, where the white students do all the talking on race while the black students sit uncomfortably or angrily by, but certainly don't feel "safe" on the topic of race, despite having a black teacher. There is confusion by the bundle for our protagonist, in the way his friends behave, the racial issues involved in dating, the always-difficult world of being a teenager. He takes refuge in writing honest letters to MLK, and it's here that he feels safe enough to say what he thinks. But can even Dr. King help Justyce when the world caves in?


This is, ultimately, an uplifting story with characters who grow in the face of extreme circumstances and stereotypes that threaten to keep them stuck. Well worth anyone's time.


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review 2018-03-20 16:58
I Feel Happy Happy Happy
High Voltage - Karen Marie Moning

I am in my happy place. Dani, the woman has gone through some massive trials and made some huge transitions. In the beginning it was confusing, to see a young girl suffer so and be seen as more in the future. I admit I did not like young Dani, she was a thorn to me in the story. Oh there was some serious backlash towards Ms. Moning, speculations based on her age, before the tale was finished being told. If only they'd waited they would have seen this beautiful, wonderfully magical woman finally grab ahold of her red threads and become what she was ment to be. The truth of why this obsession was there made me jump and scream "YEH!" I'm not going to spoil it for anyone, you don't need to know more.
Another great book from Ms. Moning. She continues to be one of my top 5 authors, one I re-read from often. I can not wait for her next work.. Bravo Ms. Moning, you rock !

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