Saturday, August 2, 2014

Last Stand: A Review of "The Heart of Everything That Is"

The Heart of Everything That Is tells the little-known story of Red Cloud, a ruthless Lakota chief who brought together the warring tribes of the Great Plains to fight the US government and halt its relentless westward expansion.

Book review published by In The Fray

Red Cloud (1821-1909)
Red Cloud and his wife, Pretty Owl

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Read my book review of "The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change" by Carol Becker

Book review published on January 23, 2014 at ForeWord Reviews

Insightful, intelligent, and profound, The Invisible Drama encourages women to embark on a journey of self-discovery and shows women that when they control their anxiety, they can "become all they dare to imagine."

Read my book review of "Being Dead in South Carolina" by Jacob White

Book review published on November 30, 2013 at ForeWord Reviews

Bewilderment, frustration, and despair keep the men in these stories on edge with only brief moments of hope to move them forward.

Read my book review of "Brother and the Dancer" by Keenan Norris

Brother and the Dancer
Book review published on November 30, 2013 at ForeWord Reviews

Keenan Norris’s writing is meticulous and incisive. His convincing passages convey philosophic truths about the consequence of choice and the quest for self-awareness. 
This is not frivolous stuff, and Norris's two main characters are deep thinkers. Yet Norris never lapses into ponderous prose. His pace is elegant and unhurried, affording him time and space to tell this tenderhearted and distinctly American story. Accomplished and resonant, Brother and the Dancer is an outstanding debut.”

Read my book review of "Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty" by Gary Paul Nabhan

Book review published on May 8, 2013 at ForeWord Reviews

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land is Gary Paul Nabhan’s instructive and focused how-to that advocates collective participation, place-based solutions, and “mimicry” of “time-tried traditional practices from desert farmers around the world.” And it all begins with the understanding that “weather and food go hand in hand,” and that their essential symbiosis is in peril.

Read my book review of "The Man in Blue Pyjamas: A Prison Memoir" by Jalal Barzanji

Book review published in March 2013 by ForeWord Reviews

Jalal Barzanji’s memoir is a survivor’s story conveyed in direct, laconic, and decisive prose. The prison ordeal he recounts could crush the mightiest of souls. Yet Barzanji forbears bitterness; his world encompasses "peace, love, and beauty."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Talking With: Jean Bethke Elshtain

In honor of  Jean Bethke Elshtain  (January 6, 1941 – August 11, 2013), "a political scientist unafraid to talk to God."

“Talking With: Jean Bethke Elshtain”

Jane Addams has been on Jean Bethke Elshtain’s mind for more than 25 years. While in graduate school at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Elshtain read Christopher Lasch’s The New Radicalism in America (1965). “He has a chapter on Jane Addams,” she says. “It led me to have a glimmer of interest in her. And at some point I read [Twenty Years at Hull House] and I found it so touching in so many ways.”
     To understand Addams is to look to her writings, as Elshtain, a professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago, does in Jane Addams. In them, Addams expresses the “expansive notion she had of citizens and would-be citizens” and her “complete devotion to civic life,” Elshtain says.
     “One thing [Addams] was so clear about is what she calls ‘the grief of things as they are’: life’s griefs and losses, things that could not be forestalled, that could not be prevented. The distinction between that and certain injustices and cruelties and violations of human life and human dignity that can be prevented and that we need, as a society, to work to prevent. She’s marvelously instructive on that.”
     Addams died of cancer at age 74. She went to her death dedicated to the “American project.”
“She believed so hopefully in what this democracy was at its best, what it had promised, and what it might yet become,” Elshtain says.
     “I think that kind of confidence absent chauvinism is an extraordinary thing. And tied to that is the deep sense of a purposeful life lived with conviction. I think that’s just a wonderful gift. And I know that’s going to mark her as a remote figure in the minds of many people.  To the extent it does, that’s sad. If we really think we can’t recapture that notion of a purposeful life lived with civic ends in mind, if we really think that’s gone, then I think a good bit of her vision of America, or any vision of America at its best, is gone, too.    

 – Amy O'Loughlin

(This interview was originally published in American History, June 2002,Vol. 37 Issue 2, p66.)  

Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life

 In honor of Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 - May 21, 1935), the world's "best-loved woman."

Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life
by Jean Bethke Elshtain
(Basic Books, 328 pages, $28.00)

Jane Addams was once celebrated as one of America’s greatest women and foremost public citizens. For years, however, this turn-of-the-century pioneer of the settlement house movement, social reformer who influenced every major social improvement between 1890 and 1925, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1931) has been pigeonholed in historical memory as mainly a social worker. A limiting categorization, as Jean Bethke Elshtain asserts in her profound and interpretive Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy.
     Using Addams’s vast and vivid writings—she authored 12 books and more than 500 essays—Elshtain constructs a life of extraordinary vision and accomplishment formed by Addams’s incisive social theory convictions and lifelong practice of “sympathetic understanding.” Elshtain also tracks in detailed, contextualized prose Addams’s pilgrimage to cultural icon of international acclaim, a progression likened to that of her hero, Abraham Lincoln. 
     Born in 1860 in Cedarville, Illinois, Addams, a “morally earnest” schoolgirl, devoured George Eliot’s literature and sought human experience by “ ‘drugging’ ” herself with opium. Later in life her suffragism, pacifistic stance during World War I, and social feminism, which held that “the centrality of family and children in women’s lives”—whether women be married or, like Addams, unmarried—“was … a springboard into wider civic life rather than an inhibition,” led to worldwide veneration and vilification.
     Addams’s groundbreaking achievement as co-founder, with Ellen Gates Starr, of Hull-House in 1889—a Chicago settlement that served as an indispensable communal, cultural, and civic center to its mostly immigrant neighborhood—aimed at shaping a democratic social culture, in which “strong citizens” were created and the full potential of the human being was realized without hegemony and with respect for diversity.
     As Elshtain contends, Addams believed that egalitarian civic society was enriched and lasting social reform was fostered when yearnings for “opportunity” and “solidarity” were satisfied and citizens lived purposeful lives within the community. To that end, Hull-House residents and community members availed themselves of foreign-language interpretation services, the lending library, theater, the “well-baby” clinic, public baths (Chicago’s first), and lectures on art, science, and philosophy, and they found a “ ‘friendly roof’ ” for union organizing.
     Elshtain’s wide-ranging, psychologized rendering awakens readers to the “tough-minded” progressive social thinker and time-and-again self-doubting Jane Addams. Elshtain rekindles Addams’s diverse reputation and grants her her due. Accordingly, a remarkable life is revealed.

                                                                                            – Amy O'Loughlin

(This book review was originally published in American History, June 2002,Vol. 37 Issue 2, p66.)  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Nothing You See Is What It Seems: A Review of Amy Wilentz's "Farewell, Fred Voodoo"

In her deeply personal account of life in post-earthquake Haiti, journalist Amy Wilentz looks at how outsiders' distorted views of the country have misrepresented its culture and history and encumbered its progress.

Book review published by In The Fray

Friday, June 7, 2013

Read my review of "Slouching Toward Sirte: NATO's War on Libya and Africa" by Maximilian Forte
Review published by  ForeWord Reviews
In February, 2011, motivated by the successful grassroots rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia, Libyans took to the streets of Benghazi in a planned demonstration against Muammar Gaddafi and his 42-year rule.

In response to the pleas of the international community to intervene militarily in a humanitarian effort to stop genocide, mass violence, and crimes against humanity, NATO began its military intervention. 

As Maximilian Forte shows in this provocative and incendiary book, NATO's undertaking was an action to exert political control in the region. It was not an effort to save lives.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Read my book review of "The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War" by Stephen Puleo

Published by ForeWord Reviews

One of the most stunning and provocative events in American history, the caning of US Senator Charles Sumner by US Representative Preston Brooks convinced the North and the South that they could no longer rationally discuss the sharp differences of opinion regarding slavery. The gulf between them was unbridgeable, and the polar opposite reactions from both sides were also clear omens about the nation's future. The attack transformed the slavery question from a political and intellectual debate to a visceral maelstrom that pushed the country inexorably toward civil war. 

Charles Sumner (1811-1874)

Preston Brooks (1819-1857)

Review Published by ForeWord Reviews

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This Day in History

January 9, 1956

Boston Celtics' legend, Bob Cousy, appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first time the NBA had been featured on the cover.

To learn more about Bob Cousy, one of the greatest playmakers and passers in NBA history, read my interview with "The Houdini of the Hardwood":

Monday, November 5, 2012

President Obama and Bruce Springsteen at Campaign Rally 
in Madison, Wisconsin

November 5, 2012


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Read my book revew of "Wait: The Art and Science of Delay" by Frank Partnoy

Book review published in ForeWord Reviews.

In Wait, Frank Partnoy examines our decision-making habits and processes and offers compelling insight into the reasons why we act and react differently in any given situation. He asks: Is procrastination a bad thing? Are first impressions as reliable and accurate as we may think they are? Are fast-food restaurants responsible for our frenzied American lifestyle? Partnoy's conclusions are intriguing, and they will inspire you to stop and think—indeed, to wait—before you proceed.

Frank Partnoy is the George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance and the director of the Center on Corporate and Securities Law at the University of San Diego. He is one of the world's leading experts on the complexities of modern finance and financial market regulation. Partnoy has given expert opinion about financial markets to Congress, regulators, academics, and investors. He has written numerous opinion pieces for The New York Times and the Financial Times, and more than two dozen scholarly articles published in academic journals, including The Journal of Finance. He is the author of F.I.A.S.C.O.: Blood in the Water on Wall Street; Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Market, a leading corporate law casebook; and The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals, a book about the 1920s markets and Ivar Kreuger, who many consider the father of modern financial schemes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Read my book review of "Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home" by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout

Book Review published in ForeWord Reviews

"Slow Democracy is a book apart. Its courage permits it to be honest. Its honesty compels us to think of community and democracy as one—inseparable in concept as well as practice. Its vision commands us to make good on our professed faith in each other by practicing collective action face-to-face. Its hope is that we can learn to accept that properly understood, democracy needs no adjectives, that the title of the book, while perfect for the authors' generation, becomes a redundancy for the future."
                     - Frank M. Bryan                                   

About the Authors:

Susan Clark is a writer and facilitator focusing on community sustainability and citizen participation. She is an award-winning radio commentator and former talk show co-host. Her democratic activism has earned her broad recognition, including the 2010 Vermont Secretary of State’s Enduring Democracy Award.

Clark is the coauthor of All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community (RavenMark, 2005). Her work strengthening communities has included directing a community activists’ network and facilitating town visioning forums. She served as communication and education director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Coordinator of the University of Vermont’s Environmental Programs In Communities (EPIC) project.

Clark lives in Middlesex, Vermont, where she is chairs a committee that encourages citizen involvement, and serves as town-meeting moderator. 

Woden Teachout is an historian and cultural critic interested in the development of American patriotic culture. She has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Harvard, as well as, Middlebury College and Goddard College. Her most recent book, Capture the Flag: A Political History of American Patriotism (Basic Books, 2009), was widely reviewed.

Teachout holds a PhD in the history of American civilization from Harvard University. She lives in Middlesex, Vermont, and is a professor of graduate studies at Union Institute and University.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Circle, Broken

In a poignant family memoir, veteran journalist Mark Whitaker describes his long road to truth and reconciliation with his parents, a biracial couple brought together by a shared faith and torn apart by their separate frailties.

Read my book review of My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir by Mark Whitaker at In The Fray.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Read my book review of "Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform" by Ross Jackson

Book review published at ForeWord Reviews

"The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny."
                                                                          – Milton Friedman

From the author, Ross Jackson: "We have been far too slow in realizing the true nature of the threats facing us… It is probably too late to avoid a collapse of civilization as we know it due to an obsession with economic growth on a finite planet that cannot tolerate much more without collapsing. I do not believe we can survive in the longer term as a global civilization without major reforms of the type proposed in the latter part of this book....

This book is thus my attempt ... to show a possible way forward toward a more sustainable and just global civilization, with a major focus on economics, since misguided assumptions about unlimited economic growth are central to the crises facing us. Thus, Occupy World Street is about collapse and renewal of our human civilization, about danger and opportunity, suffering and vision."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Tribute to Levon Helm: Martin Sexton and Stephen Kellogg

Marty invites Stephen Kellogg on stage at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, Massachusetts for a rendition of "The Weight." Levon Helm was scheduled to perform on that same stage the night before.