Category Archives: Politics

Island Beneath the Sea

TitleIsland Beneath the Sea

Author:  Isabel Allende

Publisher: Harper, April 2010

Summary: Island Beneath the Sea follows a young woman named Zarité thrown into slavery in 18th century Haiti. Known by most as Tété, she is chosen to become housekeeper for Toulouse Valmorain, an unpredictable plantation entrepreneur and his wife, Eugenia, a woman slowly being dissolved into madness by the harsh living conditions and constant threat of political uprisings. The story follows Tété, who is likeable and sweet, but also conflicted and strong, as she struggles to become a free woman while desperately trying to keep her family intact and protect all those who have helped her.

Staying true to her roots, Allende creates an emotional story of romance, politics, and fantasy using an outstanding cast of characters. At times, the book can be a roller coaster- the defeats are particularly harsh and the accomplishments incredibly satisfying, reminding the reader that life is not always just. At approximately 500 pages, be prepared to devote at least a few weeks to the book. The characters -since their relationships are generally unconfirmed and many appear sporadically- take some time to get to know, but it is well worth the effort.

Who will like this book?  Those who like literature and character development- though not as tough as 100 Years of Solitude, a large number of characters come into play, and the book moves rather slowly at times (which is not a particularly bad thing!). Also, those who like reading about exotic places, history, and politics. Similar books would include Honolulu by Alan Brennert and Portrait in Sepia, also by Allende.

If you like this, try this: Honolulu by Alan Brennert, Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Recommended by:  LB, Circulation Assistant

When Skateboards Will Be Free

Title: When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood

Author: Said Sayrafiezadeh

Summary: In his debut memoir, Sayrafiezadeh describes his childhood in the Socialist Workers Party. Even after her husband leaves her to foment revolution in his native Iran, Said’s mom, Martha,  remains steadfast to him, and to the Party. Self-inflicted poverty is not only a constant, it is perceived as a guiding value - a way to identify with the struggle of the workers and a thumb to the eye of the bosses and their materialistic society. Martha tells young Said that he can have a skateboard after the revolution in an episode that supplies the title of the book.

While young Said hurtles through adulthood, attending SWP conferences, fearing for his father’s life in Iran, and taking a trip to Cuba to see the socialist dream in action, his mother’s psyche slowly unravels. This bracingly funny and shocking memoir is a revelation; a unique look into the world of people still waiting for the revolution to come from a powerful and promising new writer.

Who will like this book?: People who enjoy memoirs, particularly by people with interesting (and damaged) childhoods. Readers looking for insight into outsider and fringe politics.

If you like this, try this: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. For more on the politics, try Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Dark Side

Title: The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

Author: Jane Mayer

Publisher: Doubleday, July 2008

Summary: In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, documents some of the ugliest allegations of wrongdoing charged against the Bush administration. There are facts, which Mayer substantiates in persuasive detail.

Essential reading for those who think they can stand the truth.

Who will like this book?: Those interested in the subject of the ‘Imperial Presidency.’

If you like this, try this: The Way of the Worldby Ron Suskind. The Limits of Powerby A.J. Bacevich. The War Within by Bob Woodward.

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference

America, America

Title: America, America

Author:  Ethan Canin

Summary: Ethan Canin has always been a wonderful writer, but this is his best book yet.  In fact, it’s one of the best books I’ve read – period.  Several reviewers have deemed it a “great American novel,” not only because of the quality of writing, but also because of its breadth and subject matter.  It is an elegantly drawn portrait of a small American town seen through the eyes of a boy who is at crossroads in his life, during a time when his family and home and country were at a crossroads as well.

Corey Sifter at 50 years old is looking back on that time in his life when he was growing up near Buffalo, New York, in the 1970s.  He had become involved with the powerful Metarey family, first as a groundskeeper on their grand estate, and then as a trusted right-hand man of the patriarch, Liam Metarey.  He was only a 16 year-old boy from a working-class family when it all began, but even then he had the gift of steady observation, not jumping to conclusions about the events around him.  As the Metarey dynasty becomes the driving force behind their friend Senator Henry Bonwiller’s bid for the presidency, Corey is asked to lend a hand and becomes the Senator’s driver and aide. As the campaign gains strength and Corey’s ties to the Metarey’s deepen, he finds himself entangled in a scandal that leads to the downfall of a powerful man and a family that means the world to him.

America, America is much more than a political novel.  Ultimately, I think, it is a novel about relationships and our place in the world, our place in history.  And it is a novel that spans the life, and perhaps the death, of the American dream.

Who will like this book?  Any fan of Richard Russo or John Irving.  Readers who big, multi-layered sagas about families, small town America, politics, love, etc.

If you like this book, try this:Anything else by Ethan Canin; The Race by Richard North Patterson; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian

The Nine

Title: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

Author: Jeffrey Toobin

Summary: Best-selling author Jeffrey Toobin takes the reader into the chambers of the Supreme Court to reveal the character and thinking of the nine people who decide the law of the land. This is a remarkable and riveting book – lucid and probing.

Also, author Jeffery Toobin will be appearing on Sunday, September 24th at 8 PM for the Open Visions Forum at the Quick Center of Fairfield University.

Who will like this book?: Those interested in the workings of the third branch of our government.

If you like this, try this: The Brethren by Bob Woodward. Supreme Injustice by Alan Dershowitz. Harry Blackmun: The Outsider Justice by Tinsley Yarbrough.

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference Librarian

A People’s History of American Empire

Title: A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation

Author: Howard Zinn, with Paul Buhle, and illustrations by Mike Konopacki

Summary: It is hard to believe that the groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States is almost 30 years old! Historian Howard Zinn’s classic ‘history from the bottom up’ retold familiar episodes from the point of view of workers, women, minorities and others who were traditionally left out of the American story. In this graphic novel, Zinn, fellow historian Buhle and illustrator Konopacki describe the evolution of what they call the American Empire – the U.S. interactions with and policies towards other nations, beginning with Native Americans and ending with the current war in Iraq.

The story is well-suited to the graphic format, and with it’s haunting vignettes of atrocities and injustice, it is a devastating critique of the American government. It is a serious book, but there are moments of levity and humor. Particularly charming is Zinn’s own story of growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression and how serving in World War II transformed him into a radical thinker.

Who will like this book?: Fans of Zinn and Kenneth C. Davis. Any history buff who likes to find out ‘what really happened.’ Conservatives be advised: This book has a decidedly socialistic/progressive bent.

If you like this, try this: A People’s History of the United Statesby Howard Zinn.  A Cartoon History of the Modern World by Larry Gonick.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

America’s Hidden History

TitleAmerica’s Hidden History

Author:  Kenneth C. Davis

Summary:   In his new book, Kenneth Davis has highlighted 6 episodes in American history that have been somewhat overlooked but were very important in the development of our nation. All 6 episodes took place before 1790. The first chapter starts with the voyage of Christopher Columbus and other explorers who reached the new world. An interesting fact: Did you know that it is now believed that many of the diseases that devestated the native people of the America’s were spread by the pigs that Columbus brought with him to the New World? They were allowed to forage in the woods, passing diseases on to deer and turkeys…and humans.

In Chapter 3, Washington’s Confession,we learn that George Washington, as a young officer made a fateful decision to attack a group of French soldiers he happened upon during a mission as an emissary for Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. After the ambush he realized it was a French diplomat’s party that he attacked and he was essentially responsible for the murder of an ambassador. This caused an even greater strain on the relationship between France and England.

Davis does not present an in-depth look at all of these episodes. He does, however, give the reader enough information to understand the significance of the events and perhaps pique the reader’s interest to find and read a more thorough account of these tales from our nation’s past.

Who will like this book?:  Anyone interested in early American history.

If you like this, try this: Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Title: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone

Author: Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Summary: A shocking account of life in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a walled-off enclave of posh villas and sparkling swimming pools that was the headquarters for the American occupation of Iraq. This bubble, cut off from wartime realities had a half-dozen bars stocked with cold beer, a movie theater that screened shoot-em-up films, an all you could eat buffet piled high with pork and a parking lot filled with shiny new SUVs – much of it run by Halliburton. Most Iraqis were barred from entering the Emerald City for fear they would blow it up.

A startling portrait of an Oz-like place.

Who will like this book?: All interested in American foreign policy.

If you like this, try this: Fiasco by Thomas Ricks. Assassin’s Gate by George Packer

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference Librarian.

Nixonland

Title: Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

Author: Rick Pearlstein

Summary: Great historical epic. Not jut a fascinating account of the rise of Richard Nixon, but also the best account of the decade of the 1960s. Full of detail and great characters.

Who will like this book?: Anyone interested in this period of our recent history.

If you like this, try this: Bush’s Law by Eric Lichtblau

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference Librarian