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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The youngest P.O.W.

“For me, Omar’s age has always been the greatest factor,” says Michelle Shephard, a Toronto Star reporter who authored Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (John Wiley & Sons). When Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, he was 15 years old, a child soldier. While international sympathy has gone out to child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Sri Lanka and other countries, American and Canadian sympathy for Khadr has been far more muted.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Book Review

Muhammad may have been the prophet of one of the world’s great religions, but little-known developments after his death set the direction for human events even today. “The future history of much of the world was decided by the actions of a small number of men arguing and debating in the city of Medina,” writes Hugh Kennedy. In The Great Arab Conquests, the British historian investigates how the disunified Arab tribes and towns . . .
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Discovering gazpacho

Many young girls dream of being the most popular, adored girl in school. But the truth is, only a tiny fraction of them end up as the cool and popular ones, while the rest of us are left to find a different way in the social ranks, a way to define who we truly are inside. In the deliciously twisted memoir Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love and Spain (Atria), Lori L. Tharps, a native Milwaukeean now living in Philadelphia, takes readers down the winding roads of her journey of love and self-discovery across the Iberian Peninsula and back again.
Monday, May 5, 2008

Book Review

Lavinia, a princess in Virgil’s The Aeneid, was merely a walk-on character in the historical epic. She is transformed into the reluctant protagonist of her own story in Ursula Le Guin’s novel. An acclaimed author of science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin turns to the past for an imaginative reconstruction of Italy in the days . . .
Monday, May 5, 2008

Finding the new world

It’s not true that Christopher Columbus defied the conventional wisdom of his time in thinking that the world was round. All the wise people of his time already knew that; Columbus, in fact, thought the world had the shape of a pear, complete with a stalk “like a woman’s nipple,” which was the site of the Garden of Eden. That notion came to the famed “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” one night when it seemed like he was sailing uphill; hence, the impression of a pear’s slope. The rest of the imagery perhaps is attributable to the overactive imagination of a sailor too long at sea.
Monday, April 14, 2008

African Americans’ active role in 20th-century migration

The 20th-century history of African-American migration to the urban North is often told as a tale of declension. Leaving the repressive South, blacks soon found that life was little better in Northern cities, where discrimination, bitter poverty and unmitigated segregation continued to inform the African-American experience. Acts of resistance are often noted in this narrative, and attention is paid to the legal and political gains that African-Americans made in the face of such severe oppression, including 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet the story almost always ends with African Americans falling victim to the city, the field of play for the modern condition. Deindustrialization, white flight and the rise of the black “underclass” all serve to underscore the high price that modernity has exacted on the black community. Within this narrative, African . . .
Monday, April 14, 2008

(Holy City Press), by Olde Godsil

“Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas” is a Beat poet way of describing Milwaukee. For social activist/professional roofer/part-time poet Jim Godsil, Milwaukee is a Promised Land of potential, a shining city on the bluffs above Lake Michigan. In his latest chapbook he dreams of the once-reviled Milwaukee . . .
Monday, April 7, 2008

(University of Texas Press), by Deborah Caplow

Diego Rivera was the star of the highly political Mexican art that emerged during the 1920 and ’30s, but the visual movements that arose in the country at the time produced other talents. Deborah Caplow chronicles the career of one such artist, Leopoldo Mendez (1902-1969), and shows many examples of his work. Mendez
Monday, April 7, 2008

When comic books scared America

One way of looking at the history of U.S. popular culture is to see it as periodic eruptions of condemnation of what young people—or others of “limited sophistication”—like to see, hear, read and do. Such an episode is described in The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), David Hajdu’s splendid account of America’s “comic-book scare” of the early 1950s. It is weird—to use one of comic books’ favorite words—to read about events that one has experienced. I grew up on 10-cent comic books . . .
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

(Da Capo), by Stewart Gordon

During the Middle Ages, Western Europe was a backwater. In When Asia Was the World, University of Michigan scholar Stewart Gordon explores the fertile cultural interchange that crisscrossed the vast continent along a network of seaports and caravansaries, Buddhist monasteries and Islamic garrisons, through the accounts of a slender handful of Chinese, Arab and Jewish travelers. Stewart is a compelling writer, yet the book is too short to do his topic justice.

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