Archive for 2020


The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

March 3rd, 2020 — 4:44pm

 

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

An old man who happens to be a Moroccan immigrant and the owner of a small restaurant is killed by a hit-and-run driver in a small California town. The impact on his friends, neighbors, police, a reluctant witness, and a few others is examined. Each person gets to speak multiple times as a chapter is devoted to the thinking of that subject at various times. Since many are immigrants, we get a sense of where they are coming from geographically and psychologically. We see familiar scenarios of parents’ expectations of children and young people trying to find their personal identities as well as exploring relationships. The reader is confronted with prejudice, pride, jealously, love, sexuality and a lot more human experiences.

The story is also a classic “whodunit” mystery. It reminded me of the many episodes I have seen of the popular TV program Dateline where a real mystery is detected and there is an attempt to show how the cast of characters is related and explained in some depth. Here is where the book failed for me. I got caught in wanting to figure out who the killer was, especially since there was an early suggestion that there was a motive and not an accident. Therefore, I became less interested in the in-depth analysis of each character and wanted to see the police solve the mystery. So in retrospect, I did not appreciate the potential value of this book, although it did hold my interest.(2020)

 

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FM - Fiction Mystery

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

February 27th, 2020 — 1:37am

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

This is the inside story by an investigative journalist who played a major role in exposing the story of the sexual harassment, sexual abuse, assault and rapes by Hollywood Mogul, Harvey Weinstein against a significant number of women who were working as his underlings as well as aspiring actresses. It also tells how many people including network executives at NBC as well as attorneys and even a private investigation agency known as “Black Cube” modeled after the Israeli Mossad which included experienced undercover agents, tried to undermine his reporting. The author gives his firsthand experience describing how several executives at NBC ultimately put the “cabash” on his story which led to him ultimately presenting it in New Yorker magazine.

By coincidence during that time period that I was reading this book, Harvey Weinstein was on trial and a jury ultimately convicted him of crimes against women which will lead to him being in jail. This made the book extremely relevant. On this journey, we learn that other big names used their positions of authority and fame to abuse women. Matt Lauer, NBC anchor and Les Moonves, the CBS head were two such people.

It cannot escape the reader’s attention that Ronan Farrow, the author of this book, well-known as an esteemed journalist, was also witness to the tragedy of his family where his father, Woody Allen  was known to have molested, Ronan’s sister Dylan, daughter of Nia Farrow.  These tragic circumstances were touched upon in this book, but not elaborated upon.

While the subject matter of this book was not only interesting, if not, eye opening, the style of writing in my opinion left much to be desired. The reader was introduced to numerous names of network executives, producers, assistant producers, attorneys, public relations personnel, agents, private detectives, editors, assistant editors, fact checkers, anchorman, celebrities and little-known people and, of course, the well-known accusers and the not so well-known accusers. After being briefly introduced to all these people, they were frequently brought up again later in the book by name, without any reminder of who they were and their significance. In my opinion, this made the book a difficult one to follow although I do appreciate value of bringing all these people and the story to the public view.

 

Comment » | O - Other - Specify, Social

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

February 16th, 2020 — 1:15pm

 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book, while not written as a psychological drama, will satisfy readers such as myself who look for psychological insight into the actions and life choices made by the characters of books that we read.

On one hand, there is Mr. and Mrs. Richardson and their four teenage children who live in Shaker Heights which is the quintessential upper middle class suburb of Cleveland. They meet the mother/daughter duo of Mia and Pearl who become renters of a small cottage owned by the Richardsons. This duo has led a somewhat nomadic life over the years with Mia being a dedicated mother who also creates artistic photographic pieces as well as doing housework to earn extra money. The daughter Pearl is accustomed to going from school to school as they settle in new places.

The complications of the interaction of these two unlikely families allows the author to guide the reader on an exploration of motherhood, teenage sexuality and love, abortion, adoption and a lot more.

Nothing here is superficial but rather, it is agonizing and real. Whether you agree or not with the choices made by the various characters, you will understand their point of view and be enriched by the insight into all the people you meet in this book.

Comment » | FG - Fiction General

Defending Israel by Alan M. Dershowitz

February 5th, 2020 — 12:07am

Defending Israel by Alan M. Dershowitz

There is no one who can make the case for the existence, value and justification of Israel better than this author. He understands the history, politics and the essence of this country as well as anyone. He is in a position through his writings, speeches and interaction with world leaders to articulate his point of view.

In this book, Dershowitz not only explains and defends Israel but he is able to clearly describe its poignant history and reason for being. So much of the anti-Israel sentiment is related to deep-seated, long-standing hatred originally coming from the Arab world but also coming from overt as well as covert anti-Semitism which not only resides in the Arab world but is often hidden in various segments of American society as well as throughout the world. Dershowitz understands and describes this long history of anti-Israel and antisemitic feelings He articulates some of the political differences and some debatable points of Israel policy and is able to describe his various points of disagreement and also present various ideas which he believes should be open for negotiation. Dershowitz describes the unfair criticism of modern-day Israel for defending itself from the unprovoked rocket attacks into Israel, as well as the vicious attacks on the Israeli population from tunnels originating in Arab countries. In this book, Dershowitz dissects out the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) in regard to Israel, which even some Jewish groups have supported, but is clearly built on the idea of destroying Israel.

This is the latest of many books written by Dershowitz. His style is clear, coherent and the reader feels that you are having a conversation with a friend who happens to have first-hand knowledge and acquaintance with many past and present world leaders as well as having an exquisite mastery of world history, which he magnificently articulates. Dershowitz seems to show a lack of modesty as he name drops various U.S. presidents, Israeli leaders as well as other important people with whom he has visited and dined over the years. He is also not shy about sharing his many accomplishments at one point enumerating the long list of top-rated universities that have offered him tenured professorships. His lack of  modesty aside, this book is an important one and should be read by everyone who is a friend, foe or who does not understand the importance of the existence of Israel.

Comment » | HI - History, P - Political

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

January 7th, 2020 — 11:47am

BORN A CRIME – by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a popular comedian, currently host of the late night, Daily Show on television. He was born in South Africa and is now in his mid 30s. The book does not deal with his work on television or his interaction with celebrities. Rather it is more or less an autobiography which traces his life beginning in South Africa when he was born a crime since it was against the law for mixed racial couples to have children or even to be married. His father was white and his mother was black. His father was mostly out of the picture and the young Trevor was very close to his mother. At times, they were very poor and he even had to eat caterpillars for food at one time. The reader gets a feel what apartheid was like in South Africa. During the author’s youth, things changed somewhat as apartheid was abolished and he was able to go to a mixed school, but the author describes how there were still clear distinctions between white, black, and colored (or mixed).

While Noah was technically colored, he clearly identified with being black. He gives the reader a picture of the violence between various black groups after apartheid fell. There are descriptions of the stereotypes of the various black groups and many life-threatening situations, which Trevor and his mother experienced. What comes across is the very close loving relationship that he and his mother had for each other as Trevor was growing up in South Africa.

The book did jump around to different time periods not necessarily in chronological order, but it is more like you have had a conversation about some experience with a friend that might not follow the last time you spoke with him or her.

The book clearly presents the inside story of life in South Africa during the past 30 years. It is a piece of history that most of us never learned in school and it could not be better told by someone who lived it and has the ability to express himself as well as Trevor Noah. In retrospect, I wish I had chosen the audio version of the book, so I could have heard it through the voice and expression of the author.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

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