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Monday, February 23, 2009

Uncle Tom's Children

I was excited when I cracked open this book.  It came in the big box of classics that I bought for a very reasonable price from E-bay that is still paying dividends.

The publication date for my copy was 1965.  It was underlined in places which means at some point someone actually read it.  I wonder if that copy of the book influenced history somehow?

The book is a series of 5 stories of southern black people.  It was originally written in 1935 and includes an essay by the author about growing up in the south.  Now the book while a classic piece of history is no modern piece of work.

Firstly the white characters are brutes who exist only to brutalize black people.  Now I know that all the violence, hatred and evil that are portrayed in the book went on.  I know that the southern black man had a horrible existence.  However there is no character development whatsoever of the white men.

Secondly Communism is the political movement of choice of the main characters.  I wonder how historically accurate this is and I'd like to read more about how this affected the black political movements of the South.  Most of the time you see Communism mixed up with the equal rights movement it's in relation to Martin Luther King and it's portrayed as an attempted smear on him by his opponents.  I wonder how much the acts and writings of Communist sympathizers in the civil rights movement affected things in the 60s.

I'd say this book was an OK read.  it was nice to see a piece of history but I wouldn't put it in  he necessary category for black history reading.  If you have the good fortune to get it in a big box from E-bay or see it in your local library pick it up.  Otherwise read Martin Luther King's speeches or the autobiography of Malcolm X instead.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Are Men Necessary?

So Are they?  Maureen Down promises to answer this question or at least ask it in her book but falls a little short.  The title comes from a miscellaneous sub chapter that lasts 10 pages and does a little background work on the Y chromosome.  I'm not bitter, I've read quite a few books that take their title from a throwaway line in the book that really has little to do with the overall story that you're reading.  I'm looking at you Catcher in the Rye.

Ms. Dowd starts off slowly, the first third of the book was a detailed listing of the woes of dating in New York.  Nothing is as tortured and self serving as a long drawn out list of complaints about how hard it is to date in New York.  I thought I may gain some sympathy for this type of thing since I'm geographically closer to New York than I was growing up, I know some New Yorkers and have been to the city.  Unfortunately I haven't developed the sympathy that Ms. Dowd craves.  If you move to a place where you have to make more than the average American in order to afford a one room studio chances are that the people you meet aren't going to be family oriented.  I won't criticize Ms. Dowd too roundly however, since Sex and the City lasted for untold seasons, inspired a movie and is now going into sequels there is obviously a market for this type of lament, it just isn't me.

Things do manage to get interesting through the second half.  Ms. Dowd puts her pulitzer prize winning skills to work and detail the political history of women in politics.  It's a fascinating read.  The political arena is the place where women's struggle to gain equal footing with men becomes public and it's a fascinating place to see how that is working out.  She interweaves this tale with the tale of modern women who seeks Barbification.  This book was written a bit before the Clinton Campaign but how do you reconcile a culture where you can see Hillary Clinton almost becoming the most powerful person in the free world on one channel and then flip over to see the Real Housewives of Orange County spend fortunes on Botox and breast implants?

If you want to be a hit at your next cocktail party I would recommend this book.  If you don't live in New York and want to skip the first half though I won't tell anyone.