Summer Reading: Natural Causes

A friend recommended this book, and I devoured it in one sitting.  I have always loved Ehrenreich's writing and for many years I taught her book, Nickel and Dimed.  Because I also learned so much from Bait and Switch and Brightsided, I was eager to read her take on the hyper-medicalization of aging in the United States. She did not disappoint. It is so refreshing to read about someone who is growing old with grace and who is not afraid of the inevitable.  Highly recommended for anyone over 40. 

natural-causes-barbara-ehrenreich.jpg

Summer reading: Workshops of Empire

I read Eric Bennet's article, "How Iowa Flattened Literature," in the Chronicle Review a few years ago and was very excited for this book. His basic argument is that Cold War pressures, and especially the need to fight against socialist realism, deeply influenced the development of American creative writing programs in the 1940s and 1950s. A lot of the techniques that the literary cognoscenti associate with "good" writing today are really artifacts of the anti-communist politics of the Cold War.  It's a fascinating argument, and it helps me understand why much American creative writing tends to hyper-focus on the individual and the sensory experience of the world and eschews politics, philosophy, and ideas.

Workshops of Empire.JPG

Summer Reading: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy.

Because I was traveling, I actually read this book on my e-reader. This is a great introductory primer for young people that Varoufakis originally wrote in Greek to his own child, Xenia. He has a lively voice and it is a very fast read, with lots of pop culture references. I think the most useful discussion is his exploration of the difference between exchange value and experiential value, and his call for radical democratization of the economy. 

Varoufakis.jpg

Summer Reading: The Cold War: A World History

A sweeping history of the Cold War, but Westad doesn't have much to say about women. So far, I've found only one relevant paragraph which segues immediately into a discussion of militarism. 

A perfect book for Bassett hounds and history buffs.

A perfect book for Bassett hounds and history buffs.

One of the biggest changes throughout the Communist world was in the position of women. All over eastern Europe and eastern Asia the position of women had been governed by patriarchal traditions that gave them little say over resources, work, or family affairs. In areas that had had a taste of capitalism, new opportunities for women were mixed with increased social and economic exploitation. The Communist parties set out to change this sorry state of affairs, and at first many women were able to benefit from the new policies. Access to education, work, and child care improved dramatically in many places. So did women’s control over their own lives. The right to divorce and availability of birth control made for big changes in gender relations. But women were still kept out of political leadership positions, and as the regimes wanted to increase their populations, many women found themselves increasingly caught between work and duties to their families. The dual burden on women turned out to be as troublesome in societies that called themselves socialist as they were in the capitalist countries, and the on-going conflict between progressive ideas and traditional norms at least as intense.
— Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History, New York: Basic Books, 2017: page 190.