Category: Biography & Autobiography

Snowden’s Memoir Reignites Controversy Over Gov. Surveillance

Six years ago, Edward Snowden shocked the world when he revealed the U.S. government was secretly implementing a plan to collect and monitor every phone call, text message, and email. Now, he’s telling how he helped create this system of mass surveillance and why he chose to expose it in his memoir, Permanent Record. 


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The book’s release is not without its controversies, though. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Tuesday, Sep. 18, alleging that the whistleblower’s memoir violates a non-disclosure agreement he signed while working for the CIA and NSA. Strangely, the lawsuit does not seek to prevent distribution of the Permanent Record. Rather, the DOJ asks the court to seize the financial proceeds from the book. G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement:


Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit.



Typically, government employees with access to sensitive information have to submit any published work to their agency for review. Permanent Record contains no secrets that haven’t already been published by other news organizations. Snowden did not submit the book to the government for review prior to publication, preferring to publish his uncensored story. Ben Wizner, an attorney for Mr. Snowden who runs the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech, privacy and technology project commented on the circumstances of the lawsuit:


Had Mr. Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified.



It’s understandable why the U.S. government might want to stifle Permanent Record‘s release seizing its profits. The story he leaked in 2013—of the government’s vast surveillance network capable of monitoring the activity of every person on the Internet—is still shocking today. In a section of the book describing the XKEYSCORE system which is “perhaps best understood as a search engine that lets an analyst search through the records of your life,” Snowden writes:


It was, simply put, the closest thing to science fiction I’ve ever seen in science fact.


But perhaps the lawsuit will have the opposite effect, driving more attention to it than it originally attracted. Anyway, Permanent Record is set to be one of the most important political books of the year. Still living in exile in Russia, this is Snowden’s chance to tell his story truthfully.



Featured image via Getty Images, Justin Sullivan 

Raina Telgemeier’s ‘Guts’ Empowers Young Readers to Embrace Mental Health

Guts, Telgemeier’s latest book from Scholastic Books, puts you in Telgemeier’s shoes as she works through her fears and anxieties. It tells the story of Raina and her mother getting a horrible case of food poisoning. Even though they get better, Raina starts feeling very anxious about getting food poisoning again. This fear gets worse and worse, interfering with her life at school and with friends, and ultimately Raina discovers ways to manage and work through her fears.



Given Telgemeier’s popularity among young readers, Guts has a one million copy initial print run for good reason. Each of her books has received widespread critical acclaim for how their nuanced and personal explorations of childhood fears and anxieties. Her graphic memoirs are credited as one the reasons young readers have begun reading comic books and graphic novels again. “She’s a true comics superstar who essentially created a brand new category of comics in the American market: middle-grade graphic memoir,” said Gene Luen Yang, another acclaimed graphic novelist.


A page from Raina Telgemeier’s latest memoir (Scholastic Graphix)


Telgemeier’s Smile was well-received by critics and readers alike when it first debuted in 2010. And each of her books since then have reached a wider and wider audience. Her largely autobiographical works are so accessible and emotionally resonant that there are 13.5 million copies of them in print.

While her memoirs certainly target a younger demographic, her candid look at how fear has affected her life is sure to resonate with anyone who knows the struggle of growing up and learning to navigate the weird, unpredictable world. And much like Smile, Telgemeier’s expects Guts to fly off the shelves. Ellie Berger, Executive Vice President and President, Trade Publishing at Scholastic Books said of Telgemeier’s appeal:

Raina’s readership is wide ranging in age and appeals to all genders. The books’ accessibility and relatability are at the core of what makes Raina’s stories so popular.

“It takes guts to face your fears,” Telgemeier says in the trailer for Guts.



Are you looking forward to reading Guts? Have you read any of Telgemeier’s other work? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram!




Featured images via American Libraries Magazine and Amazon

Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Memoir is Poised to Flop

As Britain experiences another confusing chapter in the Brexit farce, David Cameron’s For the Record struggles to attract readers’ attention. Clocking in at an absolutely massive 752 pages, Cameron’s memoir promises a candid look at his time in parliament. It arrives in bookstores at a particularly inopportune moment in British politics, with Brexit dominating the news cycle for the past month or so. Preorder sales have been…less than stellar for For the Record.


Image via PA:Press Association


Cameron’s memoir languished low on the charts all of last week. In some sense, who can blame readers for not jumping at the opportunity shell out for such a hefty tome? The book was slated for publication last year, but Cameron’s publishers insisted on cutting nearly 100,000 words. But nearly 752 pages (even after the cut!) is quite the commitment for any reader. Still, for politics junkies, perhaps a book based on nearly 53 hours of recorded meetings Cameron held with Daniel Finkelstein (a conservative Times columnist) is well worth it.



HarperCollins, Cameron’s publisher, purchased to For the Record the rights for nearly £800,00, so the book’s lackluster preorder figures are causing quite a bit of stress for them. Now they’re relying on the former prime minister’s name to drive attention to the memoir. Though, given how events since 2016 have unfolded in the UK, perhaps the fact that Cameron’s name was on the book doomed it from the start. Comparisons made to Tony Blair’s memoir, A Journey: My Political Life, about his time as prime minister don’t bode well for Cameron either. Blair’s book broke sales record when it first hit shelves, but the initial preorder figures for For the Record have been abysmal, ranking as low as 335th last Thursday on Amazon charts.


Image via Yui Mok/PA


The memoir features Cameron’s opinions on Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and the now-infamous 2016 European referendum that ultimately ended his tenure as Prime Minister. He suggests Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit and merely supported it to further his political career without thinking it would ever succeed. Cameron’s inside perspective is interesting in light of the fact that Johnson currently finds himself at Downing Street in large part because of he championed the leave movement.

For The Record releases this Thursday, September 19. So help out ya boy Dave and pick up a copy. Please, he’s begging you, like actually.



Featured image via Alamy

We Need to Talk About Colorism on ‘Mixed-ish’

Mixed-ish is a new show to premiere this fall on ABC. If it sounds familiar its because it is the newest addition to the Kenya Barris empire on the network. His first big show was Black-ish then it’s spin off Grown-ish. Now, Mixed-ish will be a prequel series about Rainbow Johnson played by Tracee Ellis Ross.


Image via Rogers Media


When I first heard about the spin off, I was like…um okay? I’ve always liked Black-ish even when some of the episodes were questionable and the same goes for Grown-ish but sadly in a larger way.  


Image via HipHopDx


Rainbow is the mother and wife on Black-ish and her character is mixed, half white and half black. On the show, we meet Bow’s mother several times and she always was a light skinned black woman. But when the trailer for Mixed-ish came out and we see that Tika Sumpter, a dark skinned actress was playing the role of her mother, it was confusing. We all had questions. 


Image via MadameNoire


Tika Sumpter is seen on the left and the original actress is on the right.

This fact alone leads me to a couple of conclusions. 

The first being, ‘Oh, this is why the colorism episodes, raised more questions than discussion.’ On both Black-ish and Grown-ish he and his team of writers bring up colorism. The first instance was when one of the twins on the show, Diane, gets her school pictures back and they didn’t light her properly so in the corner of the class photo she was almost completely dark.

For Grown-ish, the conversation was started by Zoey, the main character and eldest Johnson child about how colorism affects dating. It introduces how some black men would rather date white women, women who looked ‘exotic’ or unidentifiable than black women, specifically dark skinned black women. 



Both had good intentions, I will say that. And the Black-ish episode did a bit of a better job. It showed how colorism is multi-faceted and how there is not an easy solution. The point that they drove home was how all black skin is beautiful which is a sentiment that I could get behind. But the discussion was undercut by the B plot in which Jack, her twin wants to get to school earlier for the first time. For me it framed the episode in a strange way and made it seem like there was a ticking clock on this important conversation by counting down to the time where Jack was supposed to be at his assembly. 


Image via Yahoo


Grown-ish’s episode completely missed the mark for me. There were so many opportunities in the episode to have a real discussion about colorism and college life but for seem reason they didn’t go all the way. A character in the show is made aware that he has a preference for lighter skinned women. To prove a point, he finds a darker skinned woman and brings her over to the table, parading her around, basically saying ‘see, I like dark women too.’  No, discussion was had, the dark skinned student didn’t even say anything to put him in his place. It gets brushed off until later in the episode where he actually admits that he might have a preference for lighter women but it’s under cut with an attempt at a joke. They wrote themselves two opportunities for any kind of discussion on this particular topic but they wasted twenty minutes of my time.

My second conclusion is that Kenya Barris and the writers are pandering to their audience. On Black-ish there weren’t too many dark skinned black women besides, Diane and her grandmother Ruby, her father’s mother. Now, both seemed to act like some of the stereotypes given to black women. In the earlier seasons, Diane was mean and kind of evil while her grandmother was oversexualized. Not that there’s anything wrong with women acting in that manner on their own accord, it just always felt stereotypical to me.

In the colorism episode on Black-ish, Rainbow brings up the arguments about how it wasn’t her fault that she was born light skin and how light skin jokes hurt and these are very valid points. But if her mother was supposed to be as dark as Tika Sumpter, why couldn’t Bow try to help with the conversation with her own daughter? At the end, Ruby talks with Diane because she is the only one who knows what she was going through and it was fine but knowing what we know now, it doesn’t sit right with me that Bow was left out of that conversation.

She could’ve maybe talked about the experiences she had seen her mother go through or wait, no, she couldn’t because Bow’s mother was NEVER supposed to be dark skin. I’m not putting Tika Sumpter’s acting skills to the test here, she could’ve been the best person for the job but seriously? There wasn’t a single actress who could help continue and expand your already established universe, Mr. Barris? Where is the continuity?

So, are we saying that Bow deliberately held back information that could’ve helped soothe her daughter? That she just so happened to forget that her mama was dark skinned and knows absolutely nothing about her mother’s experiences as a black woman? Especially a black woman in an interracial relationship? I find that very hard to believe.


Image via Amazon


And it’s ironic how last year a book titled, Keeping Up With the Johnsons: Bow’s Guide to Black-ish Parenting had no effect at all. It’s a parenting guide, “written” by Rainbow but it was really written by Mrs. Barris and supposedly based on the couple’s life. It’s frustrating because Bow is a great mom. If it was supposed to be framed this way from the beginning, this could have been a great character moment and a mother/daughter moment.

On another note, what does that say about the actress change? Are we supposed to believe that as Bow’s mom got older that she lost color? And that what? Getting gray hair equates to losing melanin?



The last and final conclusion, is that I’m tired. Black-ish, Grown-ish and Mixed-ish can be absolutely incredible shows and the latter have had some good episodes. But if you can go all the way and have the opportunity to do so, why pull back? A lot of their subject heavy episodes make great points which then leads to great discussion. But at the moment I’m disappointed.

Mixed-ish premieres on September 24, so we’ll see. 


Feature Image Via TV Insider





Improve Your Quality of Life With Our Self-Development Picks!

Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just so we can ensure consistent, high quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks are self development picks to improve your quality of life! Dig in and enjoy!



5. ‘Coffee Bean’ by Jon Gordon


image via Amazon


The Coffee Bean by Jon Gordon is about dealing with the stresses of life. It can be often harsh, stressful, and the environments we find ourselves in can weaken or harden us. This is an inspiring tale that follows a man called Abe as he faces challenges, pressures, and stresses at school and home.

Abe discovers that instead of letting the environment change him for the worse, he can change the environment around him for the better. Wherever his life can take him, Abe takes it to heart to live life like a coffee bean and transform into something better. Are you an egg, a carrot, or a coffee bean?


4. ‘Run The mile you’re in’ by Ryan Hall


Image via Amazon 


Ryan Hall is an Olympic athlete and American record holder in the half marathon (59:43), but in his autobiography, Run The Mile You’re In, he reveals that as kid he hated running. He wanted nothing to do with the sport until one day, he felt compelled to run the 15 miles around his neighborhood lake. He was hooked.

Now a coach, speaker, and nonprofit partner, Ryan shares the powerful faith behind his athletic achievements and the lessons he learned that helped him push past limits, make space for relationships that enrich life on and off the running trails, and cultivate a positive mindset.



3. ‘Witchery’ by Juliet diaz 


Image via Amazon


Witches by Juliet Diaz is about connecting with your inner witch and embracing it to make your life healthier. Third generation witch Diaz teaches you how to embrace your inner Magick through casting off what doesn’t make you happy, embracing inner athleticism, and becoming an embodiment of truth. And through it all, you’ll build the knowledge to craft spells of your own.


2. ‘I am love’ by Allowah Lani 


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I Am Love by Allowah Lani is a sequel to his 2016 book, Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment. In that earlier book, the author looked critically at the issue of the legitimacy of psychedelics on the spiritual journey, ultimately leaving the question unanswered. In I Am Love, the intention is to offer a more definitive statement and practical method for those using psychedelics as a tool for spiritual growth.

Can psychedelics like ayahuasca really and truly reveal the ultimate nature of reality? Exploring ayahuasca in the context of studying the modern spiritual classic A Course in Miracles, the author answers cautiously in the affirmative. Yes, they can, but there is much inner work to be done to get there, not to mention confronting our great fear of awakening. Are you up for the greatest challenge of your lifetime, of any lifetime? Are you ready?


1. ‘There’s no plan b for your A-Game’ by Bo Eason


image via Amazon


There’s No Plan B For Your A-Game by Bo Eason is a book by the acclaimed athlete showcasing how to plot the best course in your life. There’s No Plan B for Your A-Game explains how to develop the character, integrity, and commitment it takes to become the best. Bo Eason focuses on a winning four-step process that helps you attain the skill, maintain the effort, and persist through challenges: Declaration: What do you want to achieve? Preparation: How can you make it happen? Acceleration: Where will you find the stamina to reach your goal? Domination: Why do you take others with you?

With inspiring, specific, real-word guidance, There’s No Plan B for Your A-Game teaches the best practices that lead to the best results, in every walk of life.




Featured Image Via Amazon