29 October 2010

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage)Julie recommended this a few days as a must read and she's right.  This is an excellent book in many ways about what needs to be done around the world to help women.  If you do much reading about women's issues, there won't be anything new here, but to have chapters on fistulas, schools, rape, etc, all in one place in an accessible book is important.

There's a lot in here.  There are plenty of stories about individual women (the authors are obviously relying on the statistic that people are much more likely to help a specific woman than to donate to a cause that generally helps women).  Many stories, especially at the beginning of the book, are horrifying.  But many of the stories are hopeful too.  I don't think they tell any story of a woman where there is no hope.

I appreciated the chapter on whether Islam is misogynistic.  They don't gloss over the statistics that show that women are very often mistreated in Muslim countries, but they don't blame Islam itself; instead, Muslim societies are blamed for allowing so many women to be killed and mistreated.  They also make the important point that Muslim women don't need us to tell us what we think is wrong with them.  They don't let anyone else off the hook either, from conservative Christians who promote abstinence-only methods to avoid HIV to the American feminist movement that is far too parochial and dogmatic and plenty of people in between.  They've also spent a lot of time in these countries, talking to these women, and have seen a lot of what works and what doesn't. 

I also think it's important for people to understand that "women themselves absorb and transmit misogynistic values, just as men do...the greatest challenge is to change ways of thinking."  There is no doubt in my mind that a significant reason why women are treated so poorly in so much of the world is because everyone thinks it's okay.  Education is vital because it changes the way women see themselves.  And that's what changes their world.

I kept wishing I had a book group to talk about this book and marked lots and lots of things in the book (I never kept track of anything in a book till I started reading ebooks and I love it now).  This would be an excellent choice for a book group.  There's a lot more in here to talk about, but that's it for this post.

23 October 2010

Little Pink House

Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and CourageAn online friend mentioned that she thought this was one of her best reads last year, and since she's made other excellent recommendations, I thought I'd try this one too.  And it is excellent.  It's basically the story behind the 2005 Supreme Court case on eminent domain, but the author tells the story well.

It's certainly not an unbiased telling, and there are villains, who probably weren't quite as awful as they're made out to be, and there are heroes, who probably aren't as wonderful in every way as they're made out to be.  But it's still a quick, interesting, and very worthwhile read.

I looked up Claire Gaudiani, the most vile of villains in the the book, to see what she's up to now.  Interesting.

20 October 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

8The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A NovelI knew nothing about this book when I started it, except that people were reading it and thinking it was different.  And it was different.  But I thought it was well-written and I liked it quite a bit.  No regrets about reading this one.



Spoiler:
I thought the timing of finding out about the rest of the family's "skills" was well done.  Even though you know that the narrator can do something impossible, it doesn't seem too out of the ordinary because it's always part of the novel and it's really not so very weird.  I didn't even think that there might be other skills out there.  But.  I did think the brother's (it's pathetic how quickly I forget the names of characters in a book; I only finished this two days ago) skill was a bit odd in comparison to the rest of the family.  Turning into furniture?  Really?  The mundacity of that skill must have had some significance, but I missed it.  At least it prompted me to make up a new word.  Never mind.  Urban Dictionary already has it.

Joseph.  That's the brother's name.

Ah.  Here's a comment that explains the mundacity. Totally missed that, but I think it's exactly on.

16 October 2010

The Vagrants

The Vagrants: A NovelThis was a book group read for my real-life book group.  It's one of the few I've read for that one that I'd never heard of before.  It'll be interesting to see what the group thinks of it since it's not exactly our standard fare.  Almost makes me hope that we'll still be in Seattle in a few weeks so I can go to the group.  Or at least it would make up for some of the disappointment if we're still here.

Anyway, this is fiction, set in China 3 years after the end of the Cultural Revolution during the first Beijing Spring (or, more precisely, at the end of the first Beijing Spring in one town).  It's not a happy book, but you shouldn't expect that.  Since it is fiction, and well done, and set after the Cultural Revolution, it's a little different from the other books I've read about China.  There are a variety of interesting characters and situations.  All in all, I thought it was excellent and I'll have to talk more with the woman who suggested it.

Girl in Translation

Girl in TranslationI've had several friends read this with varying opinions, and had returned it once to the library without reading it, but I did sit down and read it earlier this week for a book group.  I liked it and thought it was a good description of immigrant life in the 80s.  It's short, and simple, and nothing amazing, but that's the way most people's lives are anyway. 

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (Compass)I wanted to like this, but I could only get about a third of it read before I couldn't stand it anymore.  A theory (even a very interesting one) that's based on lots of happy coincidences isn't really my thing.  Especially if you keep overlooking some obvious holes in your theory.  This book should sit on the shelf next to 1421.

02 October 2010

Boring

I sincerely hope we get visas soon because this blog is in serious need of something new to talk about. I'm not even reading anything worth blogging about, just rereading Lord of the Rings.