No is not enough

No is not enough: resisting Trump’s shock politics and winning the world we need by Naomi Klein (Haymarket Books, 2017)

Like Yes! Magazine, the philosophy behind Naomi Klein’s latest book says that it won’t work to just fight against the increasing number of wrongs in the world: we need to fight for positive alternatives. Not only that, but we need to work together with others who reject Trump’s worldview to create a program of interconnected solutions that solve multiple wrongs. Well-known writer and progressive activist Klein builds on her previous books (particularly No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, and This Changes Everything) to bring it all together into a Leap Manifesto developed at a forum of concerned Canadians. As always, she does an excellent job of explaining why global capitalism caused climate change and a whole host of other societal ills, and therefore can’t be the way forward. This book was written and published just since the first few horrifying months of the Trump administration, so it’s really up to date.

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Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up

Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change by Anthony Flaccavento (University Press of Kentucky, 2016)

Anthony Flaccavento is not just another progressive author writing about alternatives to global capitalism; he is an organic farmer and consultant with a lifetime of real world experience in Appalachia. In this book he shares what he has learned about building local economies from his region of the United States and from others all over the country. Flaccavento understands the challenges facing places that have been dependent on a few industries or products for many generations (in Appalachia, coal and tobacco) and need to rebuild their local economy from scratch. His examples are practical and inspiring, his analysis of why some solutions work better than others are evidence based, and his public policy recommendations are spot on.

Flaccavento doesn’t hesitate to call out the global capitalists and their schemes to suck the money out of local communities and strong-arm governments into costly tax incentives. If you’re already on board with the necessity of transition to local economies, this book will provide you with lots of ammunition for your next fight; if you’re open minded but unfamiliar with the topic, this book will convince you.

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Filed under Environment, Politics

The Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster, 2017)

Although Hoffman has apparently written many Young Adult (teen) novels, which I have not read, this one is for adults. I am not sure how I feel about it. It did have quite a large amount of tragedy, mainly untimely deaths. You might even say that was the theme. The plot concept is clever – how the descendants of witches killed in the Salem witch trials fare in a 20th century world that is not quite as hostile to witches, but doesn’t exactly accept them either. This book takes place in the 1960s, mainly in Manhattan and Boston but also in Paris and San Francisco (I suppose because there is plenty of historical information available on those places in the 1960s). The concept of witches not being able to swim underwater without immediately floating up is not only portrayed as scientific fact, but is a major plot point (because it keeps them from saving others from drowning). So, interesting book, a little weird, lots of death – the main characters spend most of the book trying to avoid the curse that anyone they love gets killed. It doesn’t go that well for them.

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A Tangled Mercy

A Tangled Mercy: a novel by Joy Jordan-Lake (Lake Union Publishing, 2017)

This is a fairly long novel but that’s because it’s really two books in one. One is the story of a 1822 slave revolt in Charleston, and the other the story of a Harvard grad student in history trying to get a handle on her own family’s history in Charleston and how it connects to the events of 1822. It’s a fascinating book with many surprises that makes the reader feel like they’re wandering the city (in both times) too. Racism is a major theme of the plot, including the terrible church shooting of 2015. It conveniently comes with reading group questions; I imagine both because of the topic and the author’s previous successful books. But even if you don’t belong to a book group, it’s an excellent book which you should read.

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Filed under Historical fiction, Uncategorized

The Library at the Edge of the World

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (Harper Collins 2017)

This novel is very reminiscent of the many excellent works of Maeve Binchy, the Irish novelist who passed away a couple of years ago. Felicity Hayes-McCoy is apparently a famous actress in the UK but her writing skills are also quite good. I picked up the book on the New Books shelf because it is about a library and a librarian; the “edge of the world” refers to a fictional coastline community in Ireland. Although the main character is a bit prickly, she does eventually mellow and helps her community save their local library. Figuring out what the Irish vocabulary words mean is an ongoing challenge, but certainly provides local flavor. If you liked Maeve Binchy you will like this book.

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Troublemaker

Troublemaker by Leah Remini (Ballantine Books, 2015)

The sub-title of the book tells exactly what kind of troublemaker Leah Remini is – “How I Survived Hollywood and Scientology.” This memoir of a celebrity television actress is not hilarious like the one by the star of Parks and Recreation; it’s disturbing, but fascinating. Lots of celebrities write about Hollywood, but no one writes about Scientology, and Leah explains why. Those who still belong to the “church” of Scientology (which has no deity) are strictly forbidden to do so, and if you have friends or family still in it (and most do) when you escape, they will be punished for your speaking out, as well as never being allowed to contact you again.

Leah Remini spent over 30 years in Scientology before she finally realized what it was doing to her. She doesn’t get any points for brilliance there, but she has a good heart. The mandatory constant psychological training is promoted as making you and the world better, which can be a trap for people with good intentions but little education – Leah dropped out of school in the 8th grade because not surprisingly, the “church” discourages formal education. They demand that members constantly purchase courses of study to get various levels of certification, putting most of them in terrible debt, as Leah points out. But the worst part is the punishments that are doled out for any kind of deviation from policy, major or minor, and the way Scientology controls its members. Leah should be applauded for escaping from this cult and telling the world what this surprising large and powerful organization is really like. I encourage everyone to read this book.

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The Far Away Brothers

The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham (Penguin Random House LLC, 2017)

I thought this was going to be a novel but in fact it is not, though it reads like one. It is the true story of two young immigrants who came to the U.S. from El Salvador. The author is a teacher at a California high school for immigrants and also a journalist who writes about the immigration system. The young men, who are twins, agreed to let their story be told. It is not sugar-coated to bring out sympathy in the reader, but it does so anyway. While I feel that the United States has a very violent culture, it’s safe compared to El Salvador, where the teenage gangs have literally taken over the country and murder people with impunity to hold their power.  

The book answers a lot of questions I had about immigrants and helps me understand their situation better. The only unanswered question is why people always migrate to the U.S. instead of heading south to South American countries that share their language and culture. Maybe someone will write that book next. The author did mention that since 2014, some immigrants are settling in Mexico rather than trying to get all the way to the United States.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Uncategorized