Posts Tagged ‘books’

AtticusFinchThe family went to the Madison Theatre in Albany last Wednesday night to see the classic movie To Kill a Mockingbird. I had never watched it before in at a cinema, only on TV. The Wife had viewed only bits of it, and The Daughter had not seen it at all. It is a fine film, of course, and I need not review it here.

The great music of Elmer Bernstein made The Daughter nervous, especially around the storyline of Boo Radley. And she was confused by the scene in the woods near the end as to what really happened, given the subsequent dialogue.

While I appreciate the timeliness of the showing, I should note that the experience was lessened somewhat Read the rest of this entry »

JoePersicoPressWebI went to see the author Joseph E. Persico on Saturday afternoon, May 21, 2005 at the Albany Public Library. Persico had been writing for over a quarter century at that point.

His then-current book was Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax. He stated that more people died on that last half day of the Great War, for no particular strategic purpose, than died on D-Day (June 6, 1944) in World War II.

Persico talked about the process of researching and writing his books Read the rest of this entry »

MockingbirdAs part of the Ask Roger Anything process, Arthur is hankering for me to write about religion:

What’s one thing you just don’t “get” about non-believers?

The need, at least for some of them, to ascribe all the problems in of the world at the feet of religion. Taking the issue of same-sex marriage, in the US, you see that a majority of white mainline Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and especially Jews are supportive.

Surely, horrific things have happened, and continue to take place, in the purported name of God/Allah. It’s just as certain that awful things happened in no deity’s name, and that decent, even wonderful, things take place through the works of people following their religious beliefs.

A corollary, I suppose, is the easy willingness to point to some group of purported Christians, and INSIST that they represent Christianity as a whole. The Ku Klux Klan claim to be Christians; it does not follow that the KKK represents Christianity. Nor do those folks out of Kansas, the Westboro Baptist Church represent my understanding of living a Christ-centered life.

I think it makes me irritable for the same reason that one black person’s flaws seem to be attributed to the whole race.

Just recently, through Daily Kos, I came across Faithful America, which says it “is the largest and fastest-growing online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice. Our members are sick of sitting by quietly while Jesus’ message of good news is hijacked by the religious right to serve a hateful political agenda. We’re organizing the faithful to challenge such extremism and renew the church’s prophetic role in building a more free and just society.”

What’s one thing you wish non-believers understood about your faith position (and what’s a better word for that—I’m drawing a blank…)?

Read the rest of this entry »

book_RoomPer Chuck Miller, my fellow Times Union blogger:

“The System”: In the main, the books on music, movies, television are on the shelf in front of me. Behind me: almanacs/trivia; church/faith/religion, including hymnals; the recently acquired unread; bio/autobio; classics (Shakespeare, Grimm, Twain); politics; Beatles. Off to the right, and also upstairs, comic book/comic strip stuff (Marvel Masterworks, Doonesbury collections, Elfquest collections, Life Is Hell). This is imperfect, and I’m much less fussy than I used to be.

Favorite female writer: Rachel Carson. She changed my life.

Favorite male writer: Nelson George.

Bought on location Read the rest of this entry »

new jim crowLaw professor Michelle Alexander wrote a book called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which has become not only a surprise best seller since its paperback version came out in January 2012, but arguably THE definitive book on mass incarceration, particularly of men of color.

From the New York Times: “The book marshals pages of statistics and legal citations to argue that the get-tough approach to crime that began in the Nixon administration and intensified with Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs has devastated black America.

“Today… nearly one-third of black men are likely to spend time in prison at some point, only to find themselves falling into permanent second-class citizenship after they get out… Professor Alexander’s book [asserts] that the crackdown was less a response to the actual explosion of violent crime than a deliberate effort to push back the gains of the civil rights movement.”

Our church studied the book in February during the Adult Education hour. In brief, Alexander shows an imperfect, but palpable, link from slavery to the Jim Crow laws that took effect, from after the American Civil War to perhaps a half century ago. That was followed by a NEW Jim Crow of mass incarceration, where the number of people in prison in the United States grew from about 300,000 in 1970 to over 2 million by 2000.

Check out Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity and Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity.

Moreover, that mass incarceration has had a devastating effect on communities. From the book:

What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.

Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

The problem with having read this book is that, once you’ve done that, you know the basic premise to be self-evidently true, and don’t understand why EVERYONE doesn’t know this. The one saving grace is that, when Alexander first started investigating the issue early in this century, SHE hadn’t connected the dots either.

I will note that the author occasionally repeats the narrative, I reckon, so that she’s certain the reader gets the point she’s making. But these are important points. Moreover, the issues are still taking place. Read Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood.

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