Monday, March 18, 2019

An Orchestra of Minorities

Sorrow. The omniscient narrator of Chigozie Obioma’s novel titled, An Orchestra of Minorities, is the guardian spirit of protagonist Chinonso. Obioma allows this chi to weave slowly the life story of Chinonso, a na├»ve chicken farmer, whose life choices toward joy lead to sorrow and pain. Nonso falls in love with a woman named Ndali, who is from a very wealthy family who consider Nonso too far beneath them in station to be worthy enough for the lovers to marry. I was delighted by all the twists and turns in Nonso’s life, and the ways in which Obioma uncovers the dimensions of good and evil in the world and in ourselves. Many pages explore the process of forgiveness. For those readers who find that some of the sections of the novel seem to move too slowly, I encourage you at those times to focus on the fine descriptive language throughout the novel and wait for momentum to resume. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase An Orchestra of Minorities from amazon.com.

Enemy of the People: Trump's War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy

Sobering. Journalist Marvin Kalb has written a sober and passionate book about the importance of a free press in his book titled, Enemy of the People: Trump's War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy. Kalb calls Trump, not the press, the real enemy of the people. Using his personal experience as a foreign correspondent in Russia, and his experience during the McCarthy investigations, Kalb reinforces that a free press is the best guarantor of a free society, and efforts to suppress the press are despotic acts, not the signs of a thriving democratic system. Words matter and leadership can influence public views for better or for worse. Readers interested in public policy and the state of our democracy and its threats should consider reading this measured comparison of our current situation to the ideals we hold. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Enemy of the People from amazon.com.

To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope

Empathy. Have you ever wondered what people write in letters to the President of the United States? Are you curious about how those letters are handled, and what responses are made? If so, you’re the reader most likely to enjoy Jeanne Marie Laskas’ book titled, To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope. Laskas reprints selected letters sent to President Obama during his term in office. She focuses on the process used to select ten letters to the President that were selected every day from the huge amount of incoming mail and given to him so he had one more way of keeping in touch with everyday people and their concerns. The individual voices of the letter writers tell great stories about these people, often in just a few sentences. The responses consistently convey the message that the letter writer had been heard. This empathy lifted my spirits as I read this engaging and interesting book. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase To Obama from amazon.com.

I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff

Anxieties. Fans of Comedy Central’s series, Broad Street, are those readers most likely to enjoy reading co-star Abbi Jacobson’s book titled, I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff. This creative artist writes with humor and quirkiness, revealing lots of her anxieties and issues. Failing to sleep in hotel rooms during a roadtrip, bagels she’s loved, and love woes are all fodder for Jacobson’s reflections. She even includes some of her artwork. Whether she regrets making herself vulnerable through this work is something left unaddressed, as the title indicates. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase I Might Regret This from amazon.com.

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future

Refreshing. I’m continuing my reading journey through books by the various aspirants for becoming the next President of the United States. South Bend mayor Pete Buttigeig offers a refreshing life story in his book titled, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future. Born in South Bend in 1982, this Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar worked at McKinsey, is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, has served as mayor of his hometown since 2012 and married a guy in 2018. He makes a case for leadership by individuals like him from an age cohort with a lot at stake about the next few decades. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Shortest Way Home from amazon.com.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

Poverty. Most readers don’t have a clue about what it is like to be poor in the United States today. Thanks to Stephanie Land’s finely written memoir titled, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, there’s no excuse for not gaining an understanding about people usually out of sight and out of mind. Life is a daily peril, one illness or accident leading toward financial catastrophe. The amount of time Land spent proving her need to social service providers took away from her time spent working hard as a maid for minimum wage. Making too much money as a maid could lead to the loss of more valuable housing or nutritional support payment. I feel much better informed about one aspect of poverty in contemporary American life, and I’m thinking again about the advantages of a universal basic income. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Maid from amazon.com.

Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out

Harrowing. A memoir can introduce readers to individuals similar to us in some ways and different in others. In his book titled, Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezian tells us the harrowing story of his ordeal in Iran during 2014 and 2015. While he writes from the perspective of his life after he returned home to the United States, I marveled at his description of how he dealt with imprisonment in Iran. He seemed to maintain hope humor and discipline while being anguished at his predicament. There’s a love story here, lots of humor, and a clear view of life from the inside of Iran. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Prisoner from amazon.com.