Category: History & Politics

Baileys Prize Winner Tayari Jones: Mixing Today’s America With Myths of Old

In her book An American Marriage, Tayari Jones not only illustrates societal struggles in the US, but artfully combines mythology to create a new reading experience.


Image via Amazon


An American Marriage tells the story of newlywed couple Celestial and Roy, whose marriage and loving relationship are rocked to the core after Roy is accused of a crime he did not commit. The novel looks at what happens when justice fails to be served, on race relations in modern day America, and the impact injustice and racism has on communities and individuals.

An American Marriage has been described compelling, moving, intimate, and thrilling, and it’s even been selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, as well as by former US President Barack Obama, who included it in his 2018 Summer Reading List.


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Oprah Winfrey with Tayari Jones | Image via USA Today


After winning this years Baileys’ Women’s Fiction Prize, Tayari Jones commented in an article from The Guardian, “I wasn’t expecting to win. The shortlist was so strong and I was honoured to be among them but I had no idea whether I would win.”

In discussing how the book came to be, Jones added, “Incarceration is the…boogeyman of black America…I decided to look under the bed and tackle it head on.”


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Winner of the 2019 Women’s Fiction Prize, Tayari Jones | Image via Vidya Bookstore


The novel succeeds at painting a picture of the impact incarceration has on the African American community, but there is also a fantastic side to it that lies in the realm of mythology.

Jones adds the most intriguing reveal that her novel’s heroine, Celestial, is in fact loosely based on the Greek mythology’s Penelope, wife to King Odysseus. According to The Guardian, Jones said “that every novel she has written “harks back to the Greeks”, with Celestial being a twist on Penelope, the faithful wife who waits for years for Odysseus – “only modern, independent and famous for her art”.”



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In essence, Jones’ novel is a modern telling of Homer’s  The Odyssey with a political twist. The combination of politics, mythology, romance, and drama are sure to capture the hearts and minds of many diverse groups of people. A brilliant way of taking the old and making it new.



Featured Image via WFAE

Top 3 Books to Read For D-Day Anniversary

With D-Day’s 75th anniversary this Thursday, June 6th, we at Bookstr would like to recommend three non-fiction books for you to read. From inspiring to harrows, these books will go beyond painting a picture in your mind of what happened that day but instead give you an on the ground look as well as a bird’s eye view of that day in human history.


3. D-Day: The Battle for Normandy

Anthony Beevor's "D-Day" Cover

Image Via The Telegraph


Published September 28th, 2010, this book has renowned historian Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad and The Battle of Arnhem“presents the first major account in more than twenty years of the Normandy invasion and the liberation of Paris”. It goes beyond D-Day and shows us how important that day was. From the experiences of American, British, Canadian, and German soldiers, as well as the French civilians and resistance groups, this book chronicles “more than thirty archives in six countries”.



Image Via The Boston Globe


The Guardian writes that the book “…moves from the weather drama to surveillance of the assault beaches, to individual accounts of each beach, to the breakout for Paris, the action never lets up,” and highlighted how many perspectives of the same side were shown, such as showing the Germans with “with a proper view of the difference between those who retained a moral sense and those in whom it had long disappeared”.

When asked if any accounts he researched epitomized the Battle for Normandy, Anthony Beever replied to The Telegraph that:

Well, there was a wonderful account from a young anti-tank gun officer in the Warwicks [the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment] which had been captured after trying to engage a German Panzer Division. The Germans treated them terribly well and gave them wine.

2. Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany

Stephen E. Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers" Cover

Image Via Goodreads

If you want to go further than the liberation of France and instead go from D-Day to all, literally all, that happened after it, then pick up Historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s hefty non-fiction book. Published September 24th, 1998 by Simon & Schuster, this 528 page book will move you through “ordinary men in the U.S. army” continues where Ambrose left off in his #1 bestseller D-Day. Citizen Soldiers, starting from 0001 hours, June 7th, 1944 until the end at 0245 hours, May 7th, 1945, with the allied victory.



Image Via Washington Post

Kirkus Reviews stated that “[w]ith remarkable immediacy and clarity, as though he had trained a telescopic lens on the battlefields, Ambrose offers a stirring portrayal of the terror and courage experienced by men at war” and Publishers Weekly signed off with calling the book “an excellent and engrossing new look at the Normandy invasion”

1. Operation Bodyguard: The History of the Allies’ Disinformation Campaign Against Nazi Germany Before D-Day

Operation Bodyguard: The History of the Allies’ Disinformation Campaign Against Nazi Germany Before D-Day might say exactly what it is about, but few today know the true story.

You should.


"Operation Bodyguard" Cover

Image Via Amazon

Taking a key from the maxim, “He who defends everything, defends nothing,” the Allies hired theater actors to act as troops, created fake radio shatter, fake reports on troop movements, and put General Patton in charge to give this faux army some credibility. Keying in on this fake radio chatter, the Nazis drew their focus away from the Normandy beaches.

As a result, this operation thinned out their troop movements, combined with General Eisenhower ordering the invasion on a day the Nazi believed the Allies wouldn’t attack, was able to give the Allies an edge on that day on the beach.



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Now, for curiosity’s sake, if you had to pick two books out of this list of three, which would you choose? And what will you be doing to commemorate D-Day?





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100 Years Ago Today: Congress Authorizes the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution

On this date in 1919, the 19th Amendment, which states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”, was approved by Congress. This amendment was the result of many years of campaigning, and fighting for women’s rights. It was the symbol for a large amount of progress, ever since the first convention for women’s rights took place in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. It has been a very twisted and amoral path to women’s suffrage, but this day is certainly historical, to say the least.


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“In my life, I’ve looked up to women leaders from Nebraska like Governor Kay Orr and Congresswoman Virginia Smith” Senator Deb Fischer said. “Today I’m proud to stand beside the women of the Senate to honor the suffragists and other strong women who came before us.”

It’s crazy to think about how different voting for women means today than it did 100 years ago. “It is inspiring to see how far women have come in the last 100 years” Senator Fischer also said. I thank them for leading the charge for women of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”


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Belgium Monks Make Beer History with Recipe from Lost 1700s Book!

According to The Guardian, Father Karel Stautemas, “in the presence of the town’s mayor and 120 journalists and enthusiasts,” made a startling announcement.


The 'Aliens' Meme

Image Via Cactus Hugs

The abbey, which Reuters notes has a phoenix emblem ‘with the Latin motto ‘Ardet nec consumitur’, meaning ‘Burned but not destroyed’,” was burned down in 1798 by French secular revolutionaries. As a result, the 12th century recipe was thought to be lost, but turns out the recipe, along with 300 others books, had been smuggled out and hidden within ancient archives.

Thus, Father Karel Stautemas told the awaiting crowd that, after “four years of research into the methods of monks that brewed beer in the Norbertine monastery” they had recreated the beer.



Father Karel Stautemas, subprior of Grimbergen Abbey, sips a glass of the rediscovered medieval beer in front of a stained-glass window symbolically depicting the phoenix

Image Via The Daily Mail

It seems that after rediscovering the recipes, the Monks called in some volunteers to read the old Latin and old Dutch, who revealed that the newly-discovered recipe had “details about the original monks’ brewing methods, specifically their use of hops rather than fermented herbs, which put the monks ahead of many of their contemporaries”.

The monks got to work. They did their best to keep the brewing as authentic as possible, such as using “wooden barrels and exploitation of particular local soil”, but changes had to be made. The Monks used only a few selected methods for brewing from the old manuscripts given that, as Master brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon explained to Daily Mail, “[i]n those times, regular beer was a bit tasteless, it was like liquid bread’”.

Who wants to drink liquid bread except for the person sitting to your left, dear reader?

Plus, changes keep in line with tradition, according to Father Stautemas, who said that that the monks of ancient times “kept on innovating” and thus “changed their recipe every ten years”.


2016, Abbot Erik de Sutter of Belgium's Grimbergen Abbey tastes a beer

Image Via UK Reuters

And this wasn’t their first rodeo. In 1950s the Order of Canons Regular of Premontre, located at Grimbergen Abbey in Belgium, were approached by local brewer Maes. Since then, the abbey has famously created and worked with commercial brewers to “to use the Grimbergen name and emblem on its ‘abbey beer’.”

The ale won’t be available for mass consumption until the late 2020s, but maybe that’s a good thing. The Daily Mail warns us to “be careful” because “the new ancient brew – at 10.8 per cent alcohol content it’s likely to blow your cassock off.”

Personally, I’d take my chances


Featured Image Via The Guardian

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‘Fire and Fury’ Sequel Will Arrive in June

The Washington Post reports that the author of last year’s Fire and Fury is releasing another book that will shed a light on the Trump administration’s activities.

Michael Wolff’s Siege: Trump Under Fire will be published by Henry Holt and Company in June, and it will serve as a follow-up to his prior release. Siege is expected to provide another thorough, behind-the-scenes look at the White House and the president, who Wolff describes as, “volatile, erratic, and exposed.”

Wolff shared the news via Twitter, as well as the book’s June 4th release date:



In particular, Siege will focus on the Robert Mueller investigation and the alleged ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials back in 2016.

Wolff reportedly spoke to over one-hundred-fifty sources to compile the information; however, Holt declined to disclose whether or not the sources are still currently in the Trump administration.


Featured Image via The Daily Beast.