Front Table - 10/22/2020

October 22nd, 2020

On our Front Table this week, find perspectives on the challenges of citizenship, from an exploration of the role of school curricula in constituting an informed electorate, to the long legal and political history of deportation in the United States. Browse anytime at semcoop.com.


Geraldine Woods

In 25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way, master teacher Geraldine Woods unpacks powerful examples of great sentences. The hundreds of memorable sentences gathered here come from sources as wide-ranging as Edith Wharton and Yogi Berra. With dry humor and an infectious enjoyment that makes her own sentences a pleasure to read, Woods shows us the craft that goes into the construction of a memorable sentence. Each chapter finishes with an enticing array of exercises for those who want to test their skill at a particular one of the featured twenty-five techniques, such as onomatopoeia (in the Sound section) or parallelism (in the Structure section). This is a book that will be treasured by word nerds and language enthusiasts, writers who want to hone their craft, literature lovers, and readers of everything from song lyrics and speeches to novels and poetry.
 
 
(Haymarket Books)
Diane Fujino

The first book to comprehensively examine how the Black Panther Party has directly shaped the practices and ideas that have animated grassroots activism in the decades since its decline, Black Power Afterlives represents a major scholarly achievement as well as an important resource for today's activists. Through its focus on the enduring impact of the Black Panther Party, this volume expands the historiography of Black Power studies beyond the 1960s-70s and serves as a bridge between studies of the BPP during its organizational existence and studies of present-day Black activism, allowing today's readers and organizers to situate themselves in a long lineage of liberation movements.



 
 
The Bookshop of the World (Yale University Press)
Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

The Dutch Golden Age has long been seen as the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, whose paintings captured the public imagination and came to represent the marvel that was the Dutch Republic. Yet there is another, largely overlooked marvel in the Dutch world of the seventeenth century: books. In this book, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen show how the Dutch produced many more books than pictures and bought and owned more books per capita than any other part of Europe. Key innovations in marketing, book auctions, and newspaper advertising brought stability to a market where elsewhere publishers faced bankruptcy, and created a population uniquely well-informed and politically engaged. This book tells for the first time the remarkable story of the Dutch conquest of the European book world and shows the true extent to which these pious, prosperous, quarrelsome, and generous people were shaped by what they read.



 
 
John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Maybe Christianity is actually true. But at least two problems make the thoughtful person hesitate. First, there are so many other options. How could one arrive at a rational and confident conclusion? Second, why do so many people choose to be Christian in the face of so many reasons not to be Christian? Christianity has become the most popular religion in the world. Why? This book begins by outlining a process: how to think about religion in a responsible way, rather than settling for such vagaries as "faith" and "feeling". It then clears away a number of misunderstandings from the basic story of the Christian religion. The second half of the book then looks at Christian commitment positively and negatively. Why do two billion people find this religion to be persuasive? At the same time, how does Christianity respond to the fact that so many people find it utterly implausible? Can I Believe? refuses to dodge the hard questions as it welcomes the intelligent inquirer to give Christianity at least one good look.



 
 
Ralph J. Gleason

During his nearly forty years as a music journalist, Ralph J. Gleason recorded many in-depth interviews with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. These informal sessions, conducted mostly in Gleason’s home, have never been transcribed and published in full until now. This volume reveals fascinating, little-known details about these gifted artists, their lives, their personas, and, of course, their music. Bill Evans discusses his battle with severe depression, while John Coltrane talks about McCoy Tyner's integral role in shaping the sound of the Coltrane quartet, praising the pianist enthusiastically. Included also are interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Jon Hendricks, and the immortal Duke Ellington, plus seven more of the most notable names in twentieth-century jazz.



 
 
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X (Liveright Publishing Corporation)
Les Payne and Tamara Payne

In 1990, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Les Payne embarked on a quest to interview anyone he could find who had known Malcolm X. His goal was to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X. The result is this historic biography. Setting Malcolm’s life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century’s most politically relevant figures “from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary.” Introduced by Payne’s daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who completed the biography following her father’s death, The Dead Are Arising is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.



 
 
E.D. Hirsch

In How to Educate a Citizen, E.D. Hirsch continues the conversation he began thirty years ago with his bestseller Cultural Literacy, urging America’s public schools to educate our children more effectively to help heal and preserve the nation. Since the 1960s, our schools have been relying on “child-centered learning.” Essential knowledge has been dumbed down by vacuous learning “techniques” and “values-based” curricula. Administrators and educators have believed they are teaching reading and critical thinking skills, yet these cannot be taught in the absence of strong content, Hirsch argues. The consequence is a loss of shared knowledge that would enable us to work together, understand one another, and make coherent, informed decisions. Hirsch charts the rise and fall of the American early education system and provides a blueprint for closing the national gap in knowledge, communications, and allegiance. How to Educate a Citizen galvanizes our schools to equip children with the power of shared knowledge.



 
 

Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini

From Syrian civilians locked in iron cages to veterans joining peaceful indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, human beings have been used as shields for protection, coercion, or deterrence. Over the past decade, human shields have also appeared with increasing frequency in antinuclear struggles, civil and environmental protests, and even computer games. The phenomenon, however, is by no means new. Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini demonstrate how the increasing weaponization of human beings has made the position of civilians more precarious. They show how the law facilitates the use of lethal violence against vulnerable people while portraying it as humane, but they also reveal how people use their own vulnerability to resist violence and denounce forms of dehumanization. Ultimately, Human Shields unsettles our common ethical assumptions about violence and the law and urges us to imagine entirely new forms of humane politics.

 


Threat of Dissent: A History of Ideological Exclusion and Deportation in the United States (Harvard University Press)
Julia Rose Kraut

From the Alien Friends Act of 1798 to the evolving policies of the Trump administration, the United States has passed laws in the name of national security to bar or expel foreigners based on their beliefs and associations, even though these laws sometimes conflict with First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and association, or contradict America's self-image as a nation of immigrants. In Threat of Dissent, Julia Rose Kraut investigates this history of ideological exclusion and deportation in the United States. She explores the intricacies of major court decisions and legislation, without losing sight of the people involved. We follow the cases of immigrants and foreign-born visitors, as well as the lawyers and organizations who challenged the constitutionality of ideological exclusions. By reminding us of the legal vulnerability foreigners face, Kraut calls our attention to the ways that ideological exclusion and deportation reflect fears of subversion and serve as tools of political repression in the United States.


 

Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World (Penguin Books)

John Freeman

In the past five years, John Freeman, previously editor of Granta, has launched a celebrated international literary magazine, Freeman’s, and compiled two acclaimed anthologies that deal with income inequality as it is experienced. In the course of this work, one major theme came up repeatedly: Climate change is making already dire inequalities much worse, devastating further the already devastated. But the problems of climate change are not restricted to those from the less developed world. Galvanized by his conversations with writers and activists around the world, Freeman engaged with some of today’s most eloquent storytellers, many of whom hail from the places under the most acute stress–from the capital of Burundi to Bangkok, Thailand. The response has been extraordinary. This is a literary all-points bulletin of fiction, essays, poems, and reportage about the most important crisis of our times.



Tragedy (Yale University Press)
Terry Eagleton

In this compelling account, eminent literary critic Terry Eagleton explores the nuances of tragedy in Western culture—from literature and politics to philosophy and theater. Eagleton covers a vast array of thinkers and practitioners, including Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, and Slavoj Žižek, as well as key figures in theater, from Sophocles and Aeschylus to Shakespeare and Ibsen. Eagleton examines the political nature of tragedy, looking closely at its connection with periods of historical transition. The dramatic form originated not as a meditation on the human condition, but at moments of political engagement, when civilizations struggled with the conflicts that beset them. Tragedy, Eagleton demonstrates, is fundamental to human experience and culture.
 
 

Margaret MacMillan

The instinct to fight may be innate in human nature, but war—organized violence—comes with organized society. War has shaped humanity’s history, its social and political institutions, its values and ideas. Our very language, our public spaces, our private memories, and some of our greatest cultural treasures reflect the glory and the misery of war. War is an uncomfortable and challenging subject not least because it brings out both the vilest and the noblest aspects of humanity. Margaret MacMillan looks at the ways in which war has influenced human society and how, in turn, changes in political organization, technology, or ideologies have affected how and why we fight. Drawing on lessons from wars throughout the past, from classical history to the present day, MacMillan reveals the many faces of war—the way it has determined our past, our future, our views of the world, and our very conception of ourselves.

 

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