Friday, August 28, 2020

What Do Societies With Just Immigration Polices Look Like? Thoughts After Reading Suketu Mehta's "This Land is Our Land"

If you are a thoughtful, decent human being at this time, you should be bobbing between waves of anger and panic, on the verge of drowning in a sea of insanity. Now, imagine sitting down to write a book. Likely, by the second or third page, your prose would resemble that of the author character, played by Jack Nicholson, in the 1980 horror movie The Shining. Suketu Mehta, through writing skill and knowledge, transformed these righteous emotions into This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto.

This book is being written in sorrow and rage -- as well as hope. I am angry: about the staggering global hypocrisy of the rich nations, having robbed the poor ones of their future, now arguing against a reverse movement of peoples -- not to invade and conquer and steal, but to work. Angry at the ecological devastation that has been visited upon the planet by the West, and which now demands that the poor nations stop emitting carbon dioxide. Angry at the depiction of people like my family and the other families that have continued in my family's path, because the had no other choice, as freeloaders, drug dealers, and rapists. I'm tired of apologizing for moving. These walls, these borders, between the peoples of the earth: they are of recent vintage, and they are flimsy. [pp. 8-9]

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Quotes from Edwidge Danticat's "Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work"

I've gathered some quotes from Edwidge Danticat's collection of essays entitled Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.

Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them. p. 10

Review: "Into the Beautiful North" by Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea's 2009 novel Into the Beautiful North is a comedy against the background of the cruel forces which drive rural Mexicans to migrate to the United States despite the risks they face on the journey, the hostility they encounter, the dangers government immigration enforcement officers pose and the relatively modest rewards the migrants obtain in exchange for enduring these risks as well as the long, hard hours they work and the bitter loneliness of exile.

The story itself is a combination of the movies The Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven and Homer’s The Odyssey. The first part of the novel introduces us to the protagonist Nayeli, a high school graduate from the fictional fishing town of Tres Camarones in Sinaloa (or maybe Nayarit, nobody knows) Province in Mexico. And while Tres Camarones had resisted most forms of modernization, it became subject to forces beyond the control of its residents:
And then, the peso dropped in value. Suddenly, there was no work. All the shrimp were shipped north, tortillas became too expensive to eat, and people started to go hungry. We told you change was bad, the old timers croaked. Nobody had heard of the term immigration. Migration, to them, was when the tuna and the whales cruised up the coast, or when Guacamaya parrots flew up from the south. So the men started to go to el norte. … The modern era had somehow passed Tres Camarones by, but this new storm had found a way to siphon its men away, out of their beds and into the next century, into a land far away. P. 4

Monday, June 08, 2020

Review: The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart

Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on American's Children, which I reviewed earlier, explores how Christian Nationalists have gained influence & power in various areas of life in the United States and elsewhere since the mid-1970s. As such The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism goes beyond Good News Club to place this threat to liberal democracy in a broader historical context and therefore should rise to a high priority in your "to-read" list.


A book with similar themes is Kevin Kruse's One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.

While there is important information in this book, I disagree with the author's exhortation in epilogue to vote harder. While voting is a tool, the USA's and the world's veering towards fascism isn't going to stop because liberals win an election here or there.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Review: The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco by Marilyn Chase

Marilyn Chase's The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco is an easy-to-read, non-technical history of public health authorities' efforts to contain an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco in the first decade of the 20th century C.E. Reading it during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, brings the to mind the adage that "History doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme," as Ms. Chase noted regarding a May 19, 2020 column she wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The most obvious parallel is the reluctance of business elite and their political lackeys to take public health concerns seriously for fear of a reduction in profits. For years, San Francisco oligarchs used their influence with city and state officials and media to obstruct the work of public health officials. Only the threat of losing authorization to host a large United States naval fleet persuaded these authorities to address the threat of bubonic plague with the seriousness and resources public health officials had long sought.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Favorite Quotes: "The Conference of the Birds" by Farid Attar

Image of folio from Metropolitan
Museum of Art
Afkham Darbandi & Dick Davis translated from Persian into English Farid Attar's Mantiq al-Tayr (منطق الطير). The title they chose is The Conference of the Birds. The National Endowment for the Humanities included it in its Muslim Journeys Bookshelf.

There are several translations, and the copy I read included a prologue and an epilogue, which is a revised edition of the first Darbandi & Davis published translation. The ISBN is 9780140444346, and the length is 278 pages. I thought the prologue & epilogue were valuable.

To call Darbandi & Davis translators is quite a misnomer. Their rhyming couplets are so much more than translating.

I also read a picture book version by Rabiah/Alexis York Lumbard, which I hope to write a separate blog entry about.