Imagine waking up in Cairo on January 25th of 2011. Trying to call your loved ones, but to no avail. Trying to turn on your lights, but to no avail. Turning on your television, and witnessing the people of your country violently turning on the government in the historical site Tahrir Square. In light of the low wages, corruption, lack of freedom of speech, and police brutality that plagued the nation, millions of protesters from various social, economic, and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Violent interactions between the police and the protesters resulted in almost 1,000 people killed, and over 6,000 left injured.
Image Via The New Yorker
The role of women in the revolution needs to be discussed more. Prior to the revolution in 2011, women only accounted for 10% of protestors in uprisings. However, in 2011 in Tahrir Square, they accounted for about half of the protestors. Together with men, women risked their lives to defend their fellow Egyptians and defend the square. The reason why there was a huge increase of female presence in the protests is attributed to the improvement of education, especially throughout younger women. Quite an empowering moment not just for Middle Eastern women, but women around the world.
Image Via Al Jazeera
Women and the Egyptian Revolution: Engagement and Activism during the 2011 Arab Uprisingschronicles the 2011 revolution in Egypt through the viewpoint of women, with various first hand interviews with female activists. It looks at the history of gender throughout Egypt and discusses the possible outcomes for the future possibilities of women’s rights within the country. The author, Nermin Allam, blends social movement theories and the lived experiences of women during the uprisings, leading up to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Female engagement in political confrontation throughout the Middle East is a highly under researched topic, and this book is a crucial contribution to the field.
Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The proclamation was declared by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863, but the news did not reach Texas until two-and-a-half years later. Since then, generations have celebrated the day as Juneteenth and forty-five states recognize it as a state holiday.
As we remember this historic day in United States history, below are ten powerful quotes by central figures about the ugly history of slavery and this holiday’s meaning.
Image via CNN
1. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglas.
2. “I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” – Harriet Tubman.
3. “We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it. One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.” – Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X.
Image via CNN
4. “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
5. “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.” – Malcolm X.
6. “My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they gave the sweat of their brow and their blood in slavery so that many parts of America could become prosperous and recognized in the world.” – Josephine Baker, legendary entertainer and activist.
Image via CNN
7. “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” – Abraham Lincoln.
8. “Where annual elections end where slavery begins.” – John Quincy Adams.
9. “…the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free… And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.” – Haye Turner, former slave.
10. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” – Texas Rep. Al Edwards.
“What is Millennial culture?” probed American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis in an interview with the Sunday Times.
There are innumerable answers: destroyers of deadbeat chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Aeropostle, winners of participation trophies, helpless crybabies who can’t fit houses into their avocado budgets. Fed up is as good an answer as any. It’s admittedly difficult to define any generation in a single sentence, particularly if that sentence is a condescending remark from a man who is “not really bothered” by politics—a facet of society some might consider to be the essence of culture (come on, didn’t all our favorite throwback punk music drop in the Bush years?). Ellis went on to clarify his statements.
“There’s no writing,” Ellis insisted, hot off the publication of his first release in nearly ten years. “None of them reads books.”
Image Via Pew Research
Statistically, he’s incorrect: Millennials (widely defined as those born between 1981 and 1996) read five books per year on average, one higher than the national average. They’re also more likely than any other generation to visit the public library and have a documented preference for print media, which has helped to keep indie bookstores alive in a more digital era. According to Forbes, Millennials “read more than older generations do—and more than the last generation did at the same age.” But he’s right about one thing: he’s certainly provocative.
“My ability to trigger Millennials is insane,” he boasted to The Guardian, which we imagine was not one of the blurbs on the jacket of his latest book—White, a non-fiction collection as confrontational as its title. In an interview that The Washington Postdescribed as a “multivehicle pileup of a Q & A,” he described his collection as provocative rail against political correctness. When asked to describe his political stance, he said, “I think politics are ridiculous,” to which the interviewer replied: “maybe don’t write a book about it.”
Nothing so vulgar as knowledge can stop Ellis from promoting his novel. He states his political opinions proudly and unabashedly. “Trump does not bother me more than what has been going on with the ‘woke’ left,” Ellis explained. He is critical of the fact that, while many among the ‘hysterical left’ see Donald Trump as a sexual predator, he “[doesn’t] know” whether or not any women actually came forward with allegations (they had, several years prior). Ellis feels that others are too “worked up.” He has never voted in a Presidential election.
When accused of being right-wing, Ellis replies, “you really have read me wrong.” He was recently profiled for Breitbart.
To his credit, Ellis doesn’t care what you think of him—which is probably for the best. It’s not so difficult to understand his disillusionment with the literary world, considering the magnitude of his former role within it: the most promising freshman Bennington College had ever seen, a prodigy by all definitions. But inherent in any prodigy is youth—the unique impact of accomplishing great things before anyone else gets the chance. His legacy is as much his writing as it is his cocaine-fueled escapes; the personality cult of characters he surrounded himself with, the ‘Brat Pack,’ a full cast of epithets with himself as the bad boy. In White, he identifies that his artistic mission is “to present an aesthetic, things that are true without having to be factual or immutable.” He, like his work, is as much idea as execution.
Image Via Rolling Stone
When Ellis realized he was no longer young, “something began to crack, and the crack began to spread, and I began to get depressed over this notion of disappearing,” he admits. “I realized, at a certain point, that the younger generation was supplanting me.” That, to clarify, is the younger generation that doesn’t read (even though they do). It’s the generation filled with those who “don’t care about literature.” It’s impossible not to wonder whether or not he’s referring to literature as an abstract concept or simply as a reality he no longer inhabits. It’s true that there may be less of a cult of personality surrounding authors now than there had been in the past—in the 80s, Ellis’ brightest decade. But I am one of the Millennials on the other side of his accusations, and so I do not remember. What is literature to Bret Easton Ellis? What exactly is it that we’ve forgotten?
“Own it, snowflakes,” reads the opening line of Ellis’ blurb, “you’ve lost everything you claim to hold dear.”
Personally, I am among the youngest Millennials, born in the last weeks of 1995—that porous landscape between generations, the liminal space for those of us who can remember 9/11 but were still teenagers during the conspicuous rise of ‘identity politics:’ “transgender” mentioned in a State of the Union address, same-sex marriage legalized, racialized abuses of power brought closer to the forefront of our cultural consciousness.
I am not offended to be told that Millennials don’t read (I do, voraciously) or write (I am right now). I am not offended to be called a snowflake, especially considering that, hitting multiple letters on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, there are far worse things for others to call me. I am curious as to why political outrage qualifies as “hysteria” when Ellis finds none of the same senselessness in his own vitriol, nothing childlike in describing triggering Millennials as “delicious” as “eating frosting.” And what are we to expect? This is the man who made his name from the journalistically-chronicled shocking indifference of a group of drugged-out teenagers in Less Than Zero, written with a callousness and emptiness that time has not bothered to take.
Image Via Quotefancy
“I think I am an absurdist,” he says, which is an odd thing not to know.
Does an author have any obligation to present the truth? Does an author need to consider the larger political climate, the cultural context of a work, as part of its meaning? Is nihilism an artistic statement, or is it a cop-out? Does an author have any obligation to understand the things he’s commenting upon?
Regardless of the answer, it’s clear that Ellis doesn’t.
March was Women’s History Month—but, while we appreciate the sentiment, we also know that women make history every month. In the entire world, men outnumber women only slightly, with a ratio of 102 men to every 100 women. We also know (or should know) that, in certain region, the infanticide of female children has impacted this figure. In the United States, women outnumber men. And yet, women’s stories are frequently placed into their own categories. Women’s stories are frequently deemed less universal. This week, we delve deeply into those stories: the professional, the political, and the historic. So often, women’s stories are all three of these things at once. (Let’s just note that these stories in particular share one more important quality—they’re damn good reads.)
So, although it may be April, here are Bookstr’s Three to Read: Women’s History edition. Why? Because we know it matters!
our HOT PICK:
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.
When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media–the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.
Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams–even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.
Women never have to apologize for their success. So it’s complicated to realize that we are often expected to. This book is a fascinating look at the career trajectory of an accomplished professional at the height of her power. Ruth Reichl asserts herself and her capabilities as she takes on a massive leadership role with talent and personality, inspiring all readers to not only live their dreams but also CRUSH them. Beyond the feminist elements of Reichl’s boss rise to success, Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoiris a colorful story of big-time creative professionals, sure to add plenty of flavor (bad pun, accurate description) to your reading list. Reichl has also written a number of other successful books that draw upon her relationship with food, including the successful Delicious!: A Novel. As a bonus, this cover design is especially inventive—we look at the tantalizing first page of an open, glossy magazine, a nod to Reichl’s role in Gourmet that perfectly captures the feeling of such a prestigious publication. Also, we love food. We assume you feel the same.
our COFFEE SHOP READ:
The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade–codename Hedgehog–the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days.
In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resistance organization–the only woman to hold such a role. Brave, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. Marie-Madeleine’s codename was Hedgehog.
No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance–and as a result, the Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including her own lover and many of her key spies. Fourcade had to move her headquarters every week, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, yet was still imprisoned twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape, once by stripping naked and forcing her thin body through the bars of her cell. The mother of two young children, Marie-Madeleine hardly saw them during the war, so entirely engaged was she in her spy network, preferring they live far from her and out of harm’s way.
In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson tells the tense, fascinating story of Fourcade and Alliance against the background of the developing war that split France in two and forced its citizens to live side by side with their hated German occupiers.
Culturally, we’re fascinated with female spies and operatives: consider the sheer number of listicles starring Hedy Lamarr, film actress, inventor, and WWII radio operator. Perhaps its appeal comes from something inherent in the subversion of gender roles. War is a man’s game, pop culture and history dictates. But, if that were true, why are women so good at playing? The reality is that men are frequently the ones writing the history they populate, removing the narratives of these compelling women. In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson explores the multifaceted life of a fascinating woman—a woman whose motherhood (and womanhood) does not make her any less of a Nazi-fighting badass. Olson is a prolific writer of non-fiction, and you don’t have to take my word for it: former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dubbed Olson “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.”
OUR DARK HORSE:
Based on exclusive interviews and access to the Supreme Court archives, this is the intimate, inspiring, and authoritative biography of America’s first female Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor- by New York Times bestselling author Evan Thomas.
She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her class at law school in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings–doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.
She became the first-ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona State Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the Supreme Court, appointed by Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at fifty-eight, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.
Women and men today will be inspired by how to be first in your own life, how to know when to fight and when to walk away, through O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family and believed in serving her country, who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for the women who followed her.
It’s a rare biography that fully juxtaposes the human with the historic, the personal with the political. The New Yorker contributor Evan Thomas‘ First: Sandra Day O’Connoris one such work… and it’s worth putting first on your reading list. While the biography may center around O’Connor’s professional accomplishments, it also portrays her as a complex person. All of us craving that Game of Thrones content (specifically, the gossip and artifice of power dynamics) will feel the hypnotic pull of the Supreme Court’s political intrigue… without as much of the baggage of contemporary political discourse. There’s an inherent (if slightly voyeuristic) appeal in looking at the secret side of stories we’ve seen play out on the news, people we’ve seen on television made whole and complete. Thomas grants us access to rivalries hidden from the media, to the intimate accounts of friends and colleagues. This biography captures that same appeal of reality television—just with fewer beach hookups and parking lot fights. (By ‘fewer,’ we mean absolutely none. Just to clarify.)