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Posts from the ‘History’ Category


Manhattan Beach

Seven years ago in 2011, Jennifer Egan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for A Visit From The Goon Squad  (Goon Squad) – a novel that wasn’t typical in its structure or story which left readers perplexed because aren’t novels supposed be about momentum and anticipation? Read more »


The Girl Who Smiled Beads

I am here. I need you to see me. I need you to see that I am here. You, world, cannot make me crumble. I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.

Clemantine Wamariya was born in 1988 in Rwanda and led an idyllic childhood until 1994, when civil war broke out between the Tutsi and Hutu (the two main groups of people residing in the country). Clemantine, six years old at the time, and her 15-year old sister, Claire were sent to live with their grandmother in the southern region of the country but when the war spread, the two young girls began a 6 year journey migrating through seven South African countries before being granted refugee status in the United States in 2000. Read more »


The Return

The country that separates fathers and sons has disoriented many travelers.

Many Americans associate Libya with the September 11, 2012 uprising in Benghazi where Islamic militants attacked the American consulate killing the US Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens and three others.  To better understand Libya and the historical events that define its tumultuous past, it is helpful to know the following: Read more »


The Good Lord Bird

It weren’t slavery that made me want to be free. It was my heart.

If the cover of The Good Lord Bird did not disclose the author to be James McBride, the reader would think that Mark Twain was the genius behind this novel.  Winner of the National Book Award (2013), The Good Lord Bird is the story of the years leading up to the historic raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 from the perspective of a young boy  named Henry Shackleford, who is known throughout the book as Henrietta when he is mistaken as a girl and decides to play the part to save his hide. Read more »


Elie Wiesel, Night, and July 4th

Three years ago, I posted a book review of Elie Wiesel’s Night – the story of his family and how the teenage Wiesel survived the Holocaust during World War II.  On this July 4th as we celebrate independence and the passing of 87-year old Wiesel just a few days ago, it seems only fitting that we honor a man who spoke out against violence, racism, and repression, told us why we need to stand up to injustices, and how important it is to listen to those with the courage to speak out.  With that in mind, the post of Night – one of Wiesel’s most important works – is reprinted below: Read more »


“Orphan #8”

Did anyone know what was going on there? Of course they did. They must have.

Kim van Alkemade, a writing professor at the University of Pennsylvania at Shippensburg spent about five years researching and writing her first novel – Orphan #8, the story of Rachel Rabinowitz, a 4-year old orphan sent to live in the Hebrew Infant Home in New York City in 1919. While there, Rachel becomes part of a medical research study in which healthy children (who were dehumanized by being assigned numbers) are x-rayed to see if radiation could provide an alternative to the surgical removal of tonsils. The doctor conducting the study – Dr. Mildred Solomon – is a recent graduate of the male dominated medical school system and an ambitious young doctor who did not adequately weigh the risks or consider the rights of children without a voice.  Read more »


“The Wife of Martin Guerre”

…when hate and love have together exhausted the soul, the body seldom endures for long.

While scouring the shelves described as “classics” in an independent bookstore (Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry) in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, I discovered The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis (a poet and writer who lived from 1899-1998). On the back cover of the book were the words: Read more »



The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the gospels and the Jesus of history – between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan was given to me to read by a Jewish friend, who told me “you have to read this book.” He had recently attended a gathering where the keynote speaker was Reza Aslan – an American-Iranian writer and academic in religious studies and creative writing – and was mesmerized by both the author and the book. Read more »


Günter Grass: 1927-2015

Günter Grass, the German novelist, poet, playwright, artist, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature died yesterday at the age of 87.  Last month,  a story was posted about Gunter Grass and one of his most controversial poems:  What Must Be Said, which is reprinted below:

Grass is best known for his novels including The Tin Drum (1959), Cat and Mouse (1963), Dog Years (1965), and his memoirs: Peeling the Onion (2007), The Box (2010), and Grimm’s Words: A Declaration of Love (2010) but he is also known as the author of the controversial poem What Must Be Said (2012) – which reveals the hypocrisy of the German military when they decided to sell and deliver a submarine that could be used to launch nuclear warheads against Iran. Read more »


“A Map of Betrayal”

I’ve been left alone to do my own work, to live my own life.                                                                        ~Ha Jin

Contemporary Chinese literature is a genre that doesn’t occupy a lot of shelf space in bookstores or on Amazon (only 104 books show up on a recent search) which probably has more to do with repression and censorship than with lack of interest. With nearly 20% of the world’s population (1.5 billion people) in China, there should be an abundance of talented writers whose works are translated and available to the public. Instead, we have but a few writers who’ve escaped from China and been given the freedom to pursue their craft and write without fear of censorship or punishment. Read more »