Category Archives: History

Terrible Virtue: A Novel Book Review

When we put those we admire on a pedestal, we sometimes forget that the person on the pedestal is a human being with the same faults as any other human being.

Margaret Sanger did not intentionally start out life as a first wave feminist and the originator of Planned Parenthood. Her life and the causes that dominated her life is chronicled in the novel Terrible Virtue: A Novel. Written by Ellen Feldman, the novel starts during Margaret’s early years. She is one of 13 children. Her mother dies young, after years of living through the endless cycle of having a children, working tirelessly to care for her family before having another child.

As an adult, Margaret marries and has three children of her own. She is drawn to the cause of abortion and women’s reproductive health. In spite of the laws at the time, Margaret (who is living in New York City) reaches out to the lower class and immigrant women who desperately need her services. While she is doing this, there are many who are fighting to see her jailed and her ability to help the women in need stopped indefinitely. Adding to the drama, Margaret is feeling the heat at home. Her marriage is falling apart and her children are starting to feel like they are second best.

 

I really enjoyed reading this book. I really enjoyed it because not only did the writer perfectly show Margaret Sanger as human being (not just a heroine on a pedestal), but also because the same issues that existed in her time sadly still exist in ours.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, New York City

Thoughts On The Harvey Weinstein Scandal Part III-Is it a generational thing?

Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last week, he tried to defend himself. He claimed the following:

“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

I have mixed feelings about this statement, though I think it is still bullsh*t.  The 1960’s and 1970’s were a time of change in America. Women were starting to not just enter the workplace in greater numbers, but they were also starting to work in fields and positions that previously were open to men only. At the time, some men might have chafed at  working with women on an equal level. I call it bullsh*t because we are not living in either the 1960’s or 1970’s anymore.  But he seems to think so.

Weinstein is trying to defend himself, but his defense does not hold water. His defense does not hold water because not only did he know exactly what he was doing, but he also is not the only male to have grown up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There is a whole generation of men who grew up in the era, I doubt every single one of them used their professional positions to procure sexual favors from female subordinates.

It is also not a generational thing because this kind of abuse has been going on for time immemorial. It’s time we admitted it, faced the truth and stopped this abuse once and for all.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Feminism, History, Movies, National News

Victoria and Abdul Movie Review

We sometimes forget that legends are human too. We may not think of them that way, but sometimes we have to move past the legend to see the real human being underneath.

Queen Victoria is one of those legends.

The new movie, Victoria and Abdul, takes place at the end of her reign and life. She is celebrating her Golden Jubilee. Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a young man from India chosen to celebrate the Queen’s 50th year on the throne by presenting with a gift from her Indian subjects. It’s supposed to be a one shot trip.  But the Queen is taken by the intelligent and entertaining young man. Abdul not only teaches her about his world and his life, but he becomes a favorite. This, naturally does not go over well with Victoria’s son and heir, Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and her household. The question is, will this unusual friendship last and how far will those around Victoria go to remove Abdul from her life?

This movie is based on a book, entitled Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, by Shrabani Basu. I have not read the book, my review is strictly based on the movie. The cast is nothing but stellar. My favorite performance came from Eddie Izzard. While he started his career as a performer in comedy, he clearly has the chops to play a serious or dramatic part. I would not be surprised if a few nominations came his way during award season. His Bertie is a man who has been chomping at the bit to sit on the throne and is not happy that this Indian man is placing one more obstacle in the way of getting to the throne.

That being said, the movie was disappointing. It was disappointing because there were moments in the narrative that felt like endings, but they weren’t. By the time the credits rolled, it was a relief that it was over.

Do I recommend it? I would love to say yes, but I have to say maybe.

Victoria and Abdul is presently in theaters. 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, History, Movie Review, Movies

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Book Review

Before Trevor Noah succeeded Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show, he was a biracial child growing up in  apartheid era South Africa.

Last year, he published a memoir of his very unique childhood entitled Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Noah’s father, a white man of Swiss/German descent, was in his son’s life as much as the white father of a biracial child could be back then. His black mother, whose ancestry in South Africa went back generations, was his main parent. Loving, but strict (and perhaps a bit intense), she raised her son with a firm, but free-spirited hand. In the book, Noah talks about what it was like to grow in South Africa when the country was divided by very firm and enforceable social, racial and economic borders.

What I really loved about this book is that unlike other celebrity memoirs, it felt authentic. There was nothing forced or fake about his stories. It was as if he was sitting in front of me and we were having a conversation about his childhood. I also loved that there is a universal quality to this book when it comes to childhood, growing up and how our perceptions of us, our world and our parents change as we get older.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Television

Malala Yousafzai Starts College

It’s no secret that an education is the doorway to a better life. It is also no secret that many girls have had received either no education or minimal education that leaves them woefully unprepared for the world.

Five years ago Malala Yousafzai, a teenage girl from Pakistan, dared to speak up against the Taliban for denying girls the right to an education. They tried to kill her. She survived and became stronger than they thought she was.

This week, she started college at Oxford University.

For many women and girls, Malala has become an icon of this generation’s feminists. She is the voice in the crowd that will stand up for women’s rights when others remain silent.  She will continue to light the fire not just under the figurative behinds of women who feel like they have no voice or power, but she will continue to inspire men to join their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters in the fight for true equality.

I expect nothing but great things from Malala in the future. But the first step is always an education.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, History, International News, World News

Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil Book Review

One of my favorite phrases from the Talmud is as follows:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.

During World War II, while most non Jews either turned their backs on their Jewish friends and neighbors or openly collaborated with the Nazis, a few brave souls dared to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors. They knew that if they were caught, the punishment for not just the individual, but his or her entire family was execution.  But they still put their lives and the lives of their families on the line.

Writer Yvette Manessis Corporon was raised on her Greek grandmother’s stories of saving the lives of a Jewish tailor and his children during the war. But she didn’t know much beyond the story, until she started doing some research.  Her research and her experience while doing this research led to the memoir, Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil. While in the midst of fleshing out her grandmother’s story and trying to locate the living relations of the family whose lives were saved by her grandmother, Ms. Corporon was hit by a personal tragedy. In Overland Park, Kansas in April of 2014, three people were killed by a Neo-Nazi outside of a JCC. While none of the victims were Jewish, two of the victims, a young boy and his grandfather were cousins on her husband’s side of the family.

The thing that strikes me about this book is that it reminds me of the choices that we have in life. We can either waste our time and energy and hate someone because they are different or we can accept someone for who they are and move on with our lives.  The author’s grandmother could have easily said no to saving her neighbors, after all, she still had to take care of her own family. But she said yes and in doing so, became a faint light in the darkness of World War II and The Holocaust.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Life

Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency Book Review

To those who politics are to the left or vote on the Democratic ticket, the one-two punch of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon was unnerving and terrifying. Donald Trump, the political neophyte who somehow won the 2016 Presidential Election was previously known as a reality show star and a real estate business mogul with a big ego, a big mouth and a very thin skin. Steve Bannon was previously known as the executive at Breitbart News who was and is still open and unapologetic in his right-wing and racist beliefs.

How these men came together to create a new era in American politics and history is detailed in Joshua Green’s new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.Based upon six years of interviews and research, the book details how these came together to take down Hillary Clinton and ensure that they would be in The White House.

This book is a must read for any modern student of politics and history. Exceptionally researched and easily read, this book tells the story of a hijacked Democracy and how two men conspired to use the basic democratic principles to claw their way to the top.

I absolutely recommend it.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Politics

Thoughts On The Passing Of Hugh Hefner

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner passed away yesterday. He was 91.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the man.

There is no doubt that he is one of the reasons that we are no longer living within the same social and moral constrictions that existed in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was a progressive who believed in free speech and civil rights. Depending one’s position, one could also argue that Mr. Hefner helped to empower women to move beyond the traditional confines of marriage and children. His organization employed many women, including his own daughter, who ran Playboy for a number of years.

But….he also published a magazine that was known for pinups of nude or nearly nude women. He dated multiple women at the same time, some of whom were young enough to be his daughters or granddaughters. I’ve heard that the magazine also features articles by some of the best writers, but honestly, when we think of Playboy, most people conjure up the image of women being photographed in their birthday suit. The main goal of feminism is for women to be seen and respected as full-fledged human beings, not as individual body parts and not as a convenient sex partner when one has the urge.

To be honest, I’m kind of straddling the fence on this topic. I will let the ladies of The View weigh in on the topic.

What do you think about Hugh Hefner? Was he the icon of a progressive ideal or just another man portraying women as mere sexual partners without brains or ambitions? Leave your comments below, I’m curious to know what you think.

1 Comment

Filed under Feminism, History, Television

Throwback Thursday-Warm Springs (2005)

We have two choices when life throws us a curve ball. We can either roll over and take it or see the opportunities in the curve ball.

In 1921, future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was crippled by polio. He sought treatment in Warm Springs, Georgia.

In 2005, this period of FDR’s was dramatized in the TV movie, Warm Springs. Stepping into the fictionalized shoes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon. While FDR is being treated for polio, he is helping to revitalize the spa and inspire the other patients, in addition to trying to keep his marriage afloat.

In American politics and American history, both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt are giants. In humanizing the main characters, the audience sees another to the late President and First Lady that only a select few during his time in office saw.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Life, Television, TV Review

The Choice: Embrace the Possible Book Review

Dr. Edith Eva Eger has a unique take on grief and dealing with the emotional trauma. A survivor of Auschwitz and The Holocaust, her experience during World War II gives her an insight as how to deal and move on from grief and trauma.

She has chronicles her experiences in a book entitled, The Choice: Embrace the Possible. At the outset of World War II, Dr. Eger was a young woman from a Jewish family living in Hungary. By the time the war was over, Dr. Eger was a survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. While she and her sisters were lucky enough to survive, the rest of their family perished. After the war, she married, had three children, became a refugee from Soviet controlled Hungary and emigrated to America, where she eventually received her doctorate in psychology.

Among memoirs by Holocaust survivors, this book stands out. While it is about Dr. Eger’s story, it is about much more than that. It is about how we can face our demons and traumas, whatever form they take and find the inner peace that we are yearning for.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Life