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review 2017-11-29 03:23
Night Fires in the Distance (Night Fires in the Distance #1)
Night Fires in the Distance - Sarah Goodwin

I had no idea what to expect from this and I was pleasantly surprised. Two pioneer women, one running from her husband and the other trapped in an abusive marriage, are trying to make it work on the prairie. This is set at some point in the 1800s, pre-Civil War as there's still slavery, and the characters have the attitudes of white settlers that you'd expect to encounter in those times, which is not always favorable to native peoples or other people of color. This is not revisionist, PC-friendly history, so be aware of that if that'll make you uncomfortable reading this. 

 

Life on the prairie was dire in those days and this doesn't soft glove the details. Laura's husband is a massive douchebag and treats his wife and children like the property they were considered to be. Cecilia tries her best under unfavorable circumstances and while she doesn't back down from the challenges in front of her, she's not always brave at the crucial moments and makes mistakes that are believable for someone new to prairie life and farming in the Wild West. 

 

Given the times and that female sexuality was completely ignored in those days (unless you were prostitute), I had no problems believing that these two women wouldn't have had the opportunities or means to question their sexuality. I don't see this as gay-for-you at all, and the way they come together over their shared struggles and loneliness made it believable. (There's no sex, for those who care; their relationship is quite chaste here.)

 

The details and research that went into this are amazing, and the characters are all starkly drawn and vivid. The dual POVs are a nice way to see what each MC is experiencing, and for the first half of the book, you get two or three chapters in a row with Laura, then switch to Cecelia for the same number of chapters. When the second half of the book comes and their POVs switch off every chapter it becomes clear that there isn't enough of a distinction in their voices to remember who has the POV in each chapter.

 

There are some typos in the first half, but they get much more numerous in the second half. Punctuation is the biggest culprit, but there are also missing words and misused words ("thought" instead of "though" for instance). This book could really use the benefit of a good editor. Still, the writing and prose is strong enough that I was mostly able to overlook this, but I'm knocking off half a star for the poor editing.

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text 2017-11-09 03:47
Annotating Books & Jaws by Peter Benchley
Jaws - Peter Benchley

I've started to annotate my second book. Is it telling that this book was also written in 1974 like "Let's Play At The Adams" and I'm already have some issues with it? The book I am reading is Jaws by Peter Benchley. The only difference is though some things are angering me, I am enjoying the book.

 

***Spoilers for some cases of racism and homophobia in the book***

 

There was talk about something happening in the 50s, 60 and 70s. I can only assume the current story takes place in the 70s, but it reads earlier than that or am I just really "white privileged" because this book has brought up race several time in 77 pages. Like why bring race into it?

 

I know, because of the times this is set in this is how the people think of "the blacks" That is how they are referred as and of course they do the jobs of gardening, bartending, butlers, and maids. Also there was a black man who raped 7 rich white ladies, but when they put it in the paper, they would only say molested to save face for the small little town, and the women would never testify against the man out of shame? Shame in general or because he was black? (This wasn't in detail, just a case the cop remembered)

 

Also there was a homosexual slur on page 11, using the F word, which I hate. You know the one I mean. See, I know the author is trying to stay true to the time, but it still bothers me and I have to wonder if he goes around using the F word and calling black people "the blacks". Other than these things, I am enjoying annotating the book. So far the first movie is true to the book (minus all the racism ..etc)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-26 08:16
6 Quotes from Hidden Figures that Show How Gender & Racial Discrimination Are Connected
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly

 

 

 

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on October 26, 2017.

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review 2017-10-20 22:14
A new perspective
The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation - Randall Fuller

Most would agree that Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species created a stir among the scientific and religious communities when it was first published (some could argue it's still wreaking havoc to this day). However, in America the hubbub was less about where God fit into the picture and more how Darwin's theory solidified the stance against slavery. The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation by Randall Fuller explores how this one book helped abolitionists build arguments based on scientific fact while at the same time forcing long-held rigid beliefs to be questioned. (I'm looking at you Bronson Alcott.) Until reading this book, I had never thought about its reception in America in terms of its historical context/proximity to the Civil War. These two events seemed to be separate while in reality they were very much interwoven. Leading authors of the day including Henry David Thoreau were well-known and vocal about ending slavery so they not only endorsed Darwin's theories but went on publicity tours to promote it (and give their own opinions). On the Origin of Species showed that all humans had a common ancestor and thus there was no reason why they should not be treated as equals. (The relevance of this book during this time of sociopolitical upheaval in America right now was not lost on me. It just goes to show that we haven't evolved that much since this book hit the shelves.) I was continually surprised by what I learned by reading this book considering that I studied Darwin while I was working on my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. Instead of solely focusing on the religious impact (which was still significant) it would have been informative to have learned this as well. I suppose that's why Randall Fuller wrote the book! hahaha If you're like me and eager to learn more (especially in light of the insanity that is 2017) then this book is the one for you. 9/10

 


What's Up Next: Comics Squad #3: Detention by Jennifer L. Holm (and others)

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth by Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-10-07 18:29
Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories, by Herman Melville
Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories (Penguin Classics Edition) - Peter M. Coviello,Herman Melville

Well that took me long enough! I've been desperate to read some horror, but these Melville stories have been hit and miss, his prose sometimes impenetrable. This is my second encounter with Melville (I read Moby Dick some years ago), and it's been a while. I was prompted to pick up this collection of his shorter works by recent references to both "Bartleby" and Billy Budd.

 

I began with "Bartleby, the Scrivener," which turned out to be my favorite. Melville is an excellent comic writer, and this portrait of a law office made me laugh out loud. Yet it's also incredibly poignant. The narrator is a lawyer who hires Bartleby as a scrivener (a copier); Bartleby joins three other employees, hilariously nicknamed Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut. Bartleby goes about his copying, but when the lawyer asks him to read aloud his copy to proofread, he simply says he "prefers not to." From this point he "prefers" not to do all sorts of things, including leave when his boss attempts to fire him. The lawyer is non-confrontational and fancies himself a good man to the point where he actually changes the location of his office to avoid dealing with Bartleby (who is also found to be living there) further. Yet the problem of Bartleby persists.

 

Why does Bartleby "prefer not" to comply with requests made of him? Melville does not offer a black-and-white answer. The introduction likens Bartleby to a Wall Street occupier, someone who occupies spaces of capitalism without using them for that end, but the quote I found most insightful describes Bartleby as a man of preferences rather than assumptions. How much does our daily behavior and actions depend upon assumptions? As with other Melville works, a queer reading of the text is also possible: the relationship between the lawyer and Bartleby involves exchanges and behavior not dissimilar to those made in romantic partnerships.

 

The stories I liked next best were "The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles" and "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids." The former is a series of sketches by a sailor who has been to the Galapagos Islands; some sketches are more engaging than others. The language in the first few is lovely as Melville describes the hostile, lonely island landscape. The latter is a pair of tales told by the same American narrator, first in London then New England--a lawyer's club and paper mill, respectively. These are apparently based on Melville's own travels. I preferred the second piece, which I read as feminist and potentially Marxist. There's some fantastic prose detailing the paper machine, the women, and their work. 

 

There are five other stories, but the last I'll mention is the novella, Billy Budd, which Melville was working on at the time of his death. It's become key evidence for those who feel Melville may have been bisexual or simply held progressive views on gender and sexuality. Billy Budd is a "Handsome Sailor" who is conscripted to serve on a British naval ship. Everyone likes him, as he's pretty and good-natured. But one (also good looking) sailor envies his beauty and goodness, and it leads to tragedy. The most interesting thing about this tale for me was the fact that this is a story often told about women, to illustrate their vanity, jealousies, and pettiness or cattiness. In this context, in a time after two serious mutinies and during hostilities between Britain and France, such personal jealousy results in catastrophe.

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