politics

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The Mastermind – A Gripping & Vivid Portrayal of Life in Guatemala, Based on a Stranger-than-Fiction True Story

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The Mastermind
 by David Unger
First published on April 5th 2016
Akashic Books
Source: I bought it
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“By all appearances, Guillermo Rosensweig is the epitome of success. He is a member of the Guatemalan elite, runs a successful law practice, has a wife and kids and a string of gorgeous lovers. Then one day he crosses paths with Maryam, a Lebanese beauty with whom he falls desperately in love . . . to the point that when he loses her, he sees no other option than to orchestrate his own death. The Mastermind is based on the bizarre real-life story of Rodrigo Rosenberg, a Guatemalan attorney who, in 2009, planned his own assassination after leaving behind a video accusing Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom of his murder. (In April 2011, the New Yorker published an article by David Grann about Rosenberg which has been optioned by Matt Damon for his directorial debut.) This is a fascinating depiction of modern-day Guatemala and the corrupt, criminal, and threatening reality that permeates its society.” Source: Akashic Books.

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Review

“Regrettably, if you are currently watching or listening to this message, it’s because I was murdered by President Alvaro Colom…” (Youtube: The Unspeakable Murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg)
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A Foreign Take on a Very Personal Experience – Romania under Ceaușescu’s Dictatorial Regime

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The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller
First English Translation
by Philip Boehm on May 10, 2016
Macmillan
Source: I bought it
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From the winner of the Nobel Prize hailed as the laureate of life under totalitarianism, a haunting early novel of surveillance and paranoia. Romania—the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara’s lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on the rest of the group.” Source: Macmillan.

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Review

Perhaps I was expecting a bit much of this book in imagining it would touch my soul in a most profound and resonating way. See, The Fox Was Ever the Hunter is the story of a teacher’s life (1) during the last few year’s of Ceausescu’s communist regime (2; 1980s – place and decade of my birth), and moreover, it’s written by a Romanian, also an emigre (3). Considering that’s 3 for 3, I naively assumed this would somehow be the story of my life, the conundrum of my dual-identity explained, the nostalgia for a horrific yet clearer, more certain time expressed in all its contradictory complexity. (more…)

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The World Without Water – Bacigalupi’s Complex Political Dystopian Sci-Fi

waterknifeThe Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
First published on May 26, 2015
Knopf Doubleday
Source: I bought it
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“In the near future, the Colorado River has dwindled to a trickle. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel Velasquez “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ensuring that its lush arcology developments can bloom in Las Vegas. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive.

There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with her own agenda, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north. As bodies begin to pile up, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger and more corrupt than they could have imagined, and when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.” Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing.

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Review

The Water Knife starts out SO BRILLIANTLY as a detailed and complex story about local water politics. I am a bit obsessed with politics, and I compulsively follow the most local of stories (well, I’m in DC so local politics here is always fascinating, intersecting as it often does with national politics, and frequently mired in corruption scandals). *Swoon* Definitely a “Love at First Page” kind of book for me! (more…)

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Top 10 Tuesday: The DC (Political Junkie) Edition

Hi everyone!

Thank you to The Broke and Bookish for the inspiration and for hosting “Top Ten Tuesdays” since 2010! This week’s prompt: Top Ten Websites I Love That Aren’t About Books (suggestions: favorite food/travel/craft/fitness blogs I follow, websites I visit daily, fun websites I waste a lot of time on etc.)

My post this week is dedicated to my (American) hometown: DC (REPRESENT!), where I’ve lived since moving to the US at the age of 11. (more…)

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Poignant, If Overly Romantic, Exploration of Hope and Protest – Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart is a Muscle

heartYour Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Published January 12, 2016
Little, Brown and Company
Source: I bought it
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“The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this electrifying debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle’s 1999 WTO protests. In this raw and breathtaking novel, Yapa marries a deep rage with a deep humanity. In doing so he casts an unflinching eye on the nature and limits of compassion, and the heartbreaking difference between what is right and what is possible.” Source: Hachette Book Group

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Review

1999 WTO protests.
People around the world live in abject poverty. The mentally ill are out on the streets. Children are starving. Big Pharma is creating monopolies of health. American corn subsidies are impoverishing agricultural nations. The US is shoving hormone treated beef down the throats of unwilling Europeans, under the guise of ‘free trade’. Workers are being exploited. Terrible injustice permeates human existence.

But, there is hope: “He heard them saying in the streets, ‘Another world is possible,’ and beneath his ribs broken and healed and twice broken and healed and thrice broken and healed, he shuddered and thought, God help us. We are mad with hope. Here we come.” And, for those who come together in such displays of hopeful protest, their collective action and standing together is how “they hold the fear in their mouths and transform it into gold”…

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Love & a Hooker: The Birth of Public Awareness of Toxic Waste in the US – A Review of Love Canal

Llovecanalove Canal: A Toxic History from Colonial Times to the Present by Richard S. Newman
Published on May 2, 2016
Oxford University Press
Source: ARC from Oxford University Press via Netgalley
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“The first book to place Love Canal in a long history of industrialization around Niagara Falls, stretching back to colonial times; Places grassroots environmental protest in a national and global context; Situates Love Canal in a long and complex environmental history its residents altered forever in the 1970s and 1980s; Draws on previously unused archived material and original oral histories” Source: Oxford University Press

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Review

In the spring of 1953, the Niagara Falls School Board thinks itself mighty lucky for scoring the purchase of a site (Love Canal) for a new school for only $1. Ok, so it has been warned that underneath the seemingly idyllic pastoral landscape, a seething 20,000 tons of toxic waste percolates the earth. How this may be relevant, no one (wants) to guess, not even when the foundation of the new school sinks into an oily fetid pit. Undeterred, construction moves a few paces north, and the school opens in 1955. (more…)

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Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti – A Forceful Expose of the Politicization of Science 

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Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti by Ralph R. Frerichs
Published on May 3, 2016
Cornell University Press
Source: ARC from Cornell University Press via Netgalley
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“In Deadly River, Ralph R. Frerichs tells the story of the epidemic—of a French disease detective determined to trace its origins so that he could help contain the spread and possibly eliminate the disease—and the political intrigue that has made that effort so difficult. The story involves political maneuvering by powerful organizations such as the United Nations and its peacekeeping troops in Haiti, as well as by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Frerichs explores a quest for scientific truth and dissects a scientific disagreement involving world-renowned cholera experts who find themselves embroiled in intellectual and political turmoil in a poverty-stricken country.” Source: Cornell University Press

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Review

Nine months after the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake that took over 220,000 lives, UN ‘peacekeeping’ troops from Nepal brought cholera to Haiti and unleashed an epidemic that continues to this day. It is estimated that 7% of Haitians now carry the bacteria; over 8000 have died. Yet, the UN denies culpability (although Ban Ki Moon has indicated that he understands the origin of the disease) and continues to fight “the most organized challenge to UN immunity yet” (New York Times). (more…)

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History Repeats Itself – New York Exposed Exposes Modern Political Quandaries

nyexposedNew York Exposed: The Police Scandal That Shocked the Nation and Launched the Progressive Era by Daniel Czitrom
Published on April 29, 2016
Oxford University Press
Source: ARC from Oxford University Press via Netgalley
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“A true-crime New York-based historical thriller featuring a colorful cast of turn-of-the-century figures–Tammany bosses, progressive do-gooders, and all the purveyors of vice and corruption;
the first thoroughly researched, thoughtfully written book about the Lexow investigation.” Source: Oxford University Press.

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Review
You know that book that you just picked up that coincidentally seems to address everything that’s been swirling through your head recently, that is somehow connected to everything else you’ve been reading? Of course, it’s no coincidence, there is no such thing – only opportunities to learn, born of interest and active pursuit.

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