Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Books Old and New from My 2014 Desktop

2014-12-30

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

OK; it’s yearend review time.  As for recommendations, send me yours.

Mine is not a list of new releases. Those who know me recognize that I’m moving backwards; (a positive move, I’d argue). That is to say, I’m not reading the latest Arab American novel or anything from NYT’s glorified bestseller list.

It’s not that I can’t keep up. (Indeed I can’t.)  I’m too occupied with volumes I ignored decades ago. Since the 1970s, I plodded through obligatory tomes by anthropology theorists, Nepal ethnographers, or misinformed, myopic Tibetologists, all in pursuit of academic ‘authority’.

I pored over student papers as well as countless scholarly articles on Himalayan cultural trivia until journalism liberated me. Only to land in a culture of phony political experts: people who after a week in Iraq or who’d never once visited joined the media chorus, first to support US embargo policies to crush Iraq, then to cheer an invasion to ‘liberate’ its people. Parallel to that I dared face the self-perpetuating gang of Zionist writers with its remarkable ability to reinvent Israeli rationale to fit each shift in Middle East existence and intimidate every US leader.

By the time American veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan began writing award-winning memoirs to redefine heroism and fashion history to US needs, I’d grasped the central role of literature in serving American ideals of righteousness and exceptionalism. No made-for-film war books for me.

So, what am I reading? First the work of two remarkable authors, both British, both living to the age of 94, both prodigious writers. It was their recent deaths—Doris Lessing in 2013 and P.D. James in 2014-- that signaled how little I knew about either. Lessing I remembered as writer of children caught in dystopian worlds. But I’d never opened her most notable book “The Golden Notebook”. Unprepared as I often am, I launched into it unsure where she would lead me, then slowly awakened to her brilliance and the book’s enduring place in women’s history. The character of “Golden Notebook”’s heroines is now deeply embedded in modern feminist thought. As for mystery writer P.D. James, I’m agreeably working my way through her novels nowadays, pausing to reread passages and ponder her mastery of the English language. I want to study her style, book by 20 book, through all of 2015 (while still pursuing brain science).

Another author I came to belatedly is British biologist Richard Dawkins, best known today for his controversial advocacy of atheism, (and his concomitant loathing of Muslims). I set aside that and pick up Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene” first published in 1976! My goodness, how could this anthropologist have missed that? A brilliant idea, doubtless relevant to the advancement of theories in anthropology, the ‘selfish gene’ also led to the concept of ‘meme’. Today ‘meme’ seems to have unraveled itself from Dawkins to simply mean ‘replica’. A pity since the original concept is far more profound. Determined not to shortcut the scientific process via Wikipedia, I struggle through 400 pages to see how Dawkins arrived at his selfish gene.  

 “The World Is Flat” (2005) by journalist Thomas Friedman is a much easier idea to grasp, so easy that it has defied critical analysis and enjoys an unchallenged place in contemporary economic thought. Still, I ask: what respectable anthropologist can accept this formula? It annoys me that a journalist whose views on the Middle East I dislike so intensely, popularized this brilliant although biased idiom and demonstrates the economic transformation of our economy through the history of digitization and the internet. I await a new edition by someone who’ll demonstrate why Friedman’s 10-year old book is really “The Capitalist World Is Flat”. Friedman’s success is surely tied to his total embrace of the US-led global marketplace.

But I’ve found one thinker closer to my heart—Slavoj Zizek. He writes about everything, somehow applying philosophers Hegel and Nietzsche to the ills, injustices and innovations of our world:—police brutality, pornography of torture, anti-Muslim popularism, perpetuity of racism, Nintendo gaming, and so on. My kind of cultural analyst; I’m starting with his 2008 book “Violence”.

As for books still on my list Rabih Alahmeddine and Laila Lalami have novels for us to celebrate: “An Unnecessary Woman” and “The Moor’s Account”.

And here’s another closeted Arab American we can boast about. Remember the hit film “Thelma and Louise”? Its scriptwriter is Texas-based Callie Khouri who also directed “Mad Money” and “Nashville”. Yes, Khouri is one of us.  

Sending all my prayers to all for new adventures in good health and with worthy, joy-loving companions in 20015

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