April 09, 2010
Obama Books Discussion--Thursday, April 29, 1pm, 6050 ISR
The next ISR Reads discussion is on Thursday, April 29, from 1-2:15pm in Room 6050 ISR to discuss two books by Barack Obama: Dreams From My Father and Audacity of Hope. Lunch will be provided.
Nickel and Dimed
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich describes the author's quest to understand the lives of working class people. She left behind her middle class life as a journalist except for $1000 in start-up funds, a car, and her laptop computer to try to sustain herself as a low-skilled worker for a month at a time. Despite the advantages of her race, education, good health, and lack of children, Ehrenreich's income barely covered her month's expenses in only one instance, when she worked seven days a week at two jobs (one of which provided free meals) during the off-season in a vacation town.
Changing Poverty, Changing Policy is the fifth in a series of edited volumes sponsored by the Institute for Research on Poverty that evaluate the nature of poverty and the scope of antipoverty policies. Chapter 1, Changing Poverty and Changing Antipoverty Policies, by Maria Cancian and Sheldon Danziger, was the focus for the ISR Reads discussion.
Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by Anthony Lukas is the Pulitzer Prize-winning account of ten years in Boston that began with news of Martin Luther King's assassination, a watershed moment in the city's modern history. To bring understanding to that moment, Lukas, a former New York Times journalist, focuses on two working-class families, headed by an Irish-American widow and an African-American mother, and on a middle-class white liberal couple. Lukas goes beyond stereotypes, carefully grounding each perspective in its historical roots, whether in the antebellum South, or famine-era Ireland.
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books is a memoir by Johns Hopkins literature professor Azar Nafisi, who returned to her native Iran after a long education abroad and remained there for 18 years before leaving 1997 for the United States. In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret. They began to use the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule but always returning to the books as the primary focus. Woven through her story are the books she has taught along the way, among them works by Nabokov, Fitzgerald, James, and Austen.
Mountains Beyond Mountains
Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer , by Tracy Kidder, is the story of Paul Farmer, a specialist in infectious diseases who seeks to redress inequalities in medical service to the desperately poor. His work establishing a complex of public health facilities on the central plateau of Haiti forms the keystone to efforts that now encompass initiatives on three continents. Farmer and a trio of friends began in the 1980s by creating a charitable foundation called Partners in Health. Over the years the foundation has grown in size and sophistication, gaining the ability to influence and collaborate with major international organizations because of the founders' energy, professional credentials, and successful outcomes. Farmer's conduct is offered as a "road map to decency," albeit an uncompromising model that nearly defies replication.
Arc of Justice
In Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, author Kevin Boyle rescues from obscurity a fascinating chapter in American history that had profound implications for the rise of the Civil Rights movement. Boyle opens with a compelling prologue portraying the migration of African-Americans in the 1920s to the industrial cities of the North, where they sought a better life and economic opportunity. This sets the stage for the ordeal of Dr. Ossian Sweet, who moves with his young family to a previously all-white Detroit neighborhood. When the local block association incites a mob to drive Sweet back to the ghetto, he gathers friends and acquaintances to defend his new home with a deadly arsenal. The resulting shooting death of a white man leads to a sensational murder trial, featuring the legendary Clarence Darrow defending Sweet, his family and their associates. Boyle brings immediacy to the social and economic factors that ignited racial violence, provoked the compelling court case, and set in motion the civil rights struggle.
Dreams From My Father
In Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama describes coming to grips with his racial identity through a period of rebellion that included drug use, becoming a community activist in Chicago, and traveling to Kenya to understand his father's past. His search for himself as a black American is rooted in the particulars of his daily life; it also reads like a commentary about all of us. He dismisses stereotypes of the "tragic mulatto" and then shows how much we are all caught between messy contradictions and disparate communities.
Audacity of Hope
Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, by Barack Obama, engages themes raised in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, shares personal views on faith and values, and offers a vision of the future that involves repairing a "political process that is broken" and restoring a government that has fallen out of touch with the people.
The Eighth Promise
The Eighth Promise: An American Son's Tribute to his Toisanese Mother by William Poy Lee is a memoir that starts in the Southern Chinese farming villages of Toisan, where Lee's mother was born in 1926. Structurally, the book alternates chapters between the author's voice and that of his mother, whom the author interviewed in her original Toisanese dialect. But the main part of the book is set against the background of the San Francisco of the 1960s and 1970s. Lee uses the narrative to summarize the upheavals of the civil rights era, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture, and of his own coming-of-age.