Showing posts with label Nonfiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nonfiction. Show all posts

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,993 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge download or read it online for free
Another Day in the Death of America
by Gary Younge
On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost.

This powerful and moving work puts a human face—a child’s face—on the “collateral damage” of gun deaths across the country. This is not a book about gun control, but about what happens in a country where it does not exist. What emerges in these pages is a searing and urgent portrait of youth, family, and firearms in America today.

“Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened, "writes Leovy in Ghettoside. "Signal that no one cares, and fail to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.”

“But they can explain a great deal. The circumstances into which people are born and the range of opportunities to which they are exposed shape both the choices available to them and the process by which they make those choices even if they, ultimately, still make the choice. I have yet to meet anyone who denies that individuals have free will. But I also have yet to meet anyone who makes a convincing argument that circumstances don’t shape what you can do with that will.”


Heartbreaking book of an ordinary day in America where 10 young men are killed by guns...

Gary Younge picked November 23, 2013 as the random day to track and report on the children and teens in America who were killed by gunfire. On this day the victims numbered ten, in comparison to an average day of seven. The victims were all male, from across the United States and between the ages of 9 and 19. The circumstances varied from opening the door to an angry father to playing with a gun with a friend. Each of the TEN stories was powerful and sad.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives was a 2016 GRCA finalist in the non-fiction category. It is a disturbing, but riveting read that invokes questions of how and why we accept these tragic deaths of children as ordinary instead of taking immediate action to stop the killing.

“So long as you have a society with a lot of guns- and America has more guns per capita than any other county in the world- children will be at risk of being shot. The questions are how much risk, and what, if anything, is being done to minimize it? If one thinks of various ways in which commonplace items, from car seats to medicine bottle tops, have been childproofed, it's clear that society's general desire has been to eliminate as many potential dangers from children as possible, even when the number of those who might be harmed is relatively small. If one child's death is preventable, then the proper question isn't "Why should we do this" but rather "Why shouldn't we?" It would be strange for that principle to apple to everything but guns.”
Having finished this book I am left with the overwhelming impression that it was a book that needed to be written. Author Gary Younge is a journalist who spent many years living in the States. Although living in America, he is British and as a black man he was very aware of both the differences and similarities between cultures. One of the most obvious differences is the number of guns that are readily available in the States. I don’t think most Americans understand how shocked us Brits are to visit a supermarket in America and find guns openly on sale. Younge himself was shocked, after snow thawed in the spring and a gun was found near his house and another near his children’s school.

Every day in America, on average, ten children are killed by guns. That is not including suicides, just murders. In fact, gunshot fatalities are so common that they are often not reported. The murder of a child does not even merit a mention on the news, or a paragraph in a newspaper – especially if the child in question is poor or black. The author’s idea was a simple one and incredibly moving. He took an ‘average’ day – Saturday 23rd November, 2013. On this day, ten children were killed (possibly more in fact, but these are those that he could find). The youngest was nine years old and the eldest nineteen. You may say that nineteen is not a child. My eldest child is nineteen and he is currently at university – possibly straddling the difficult age between childhood and adulthood. One of the teenagers killed, eighteen year old Gustin Hinnant, listed his favourite movies as, “Toy Story,” and “Happy Feet.” Despite any bravado or teenage posturing, these are children…

In this book, Younge tells the stories of these children. As also befits the ‘average’ statistics around such shootings, all of these were boys. One was white, two Hispanic and seven were black. They were all from poor backgrounds, meaning that most lived the areas that experience the most crime. These boys were all individuals though and so were their stories and their deaths. These shootings range from gang related killings to an unsupervised boy shooting his friend in a town where hunting seems to be the main preoccupation and loaded weapons available and accessible.

Much of this book is depressing, dispiriting and tragic. Along with the boys stories, Younge weaves the history of gun related crimes into the text. There is the terrible statistic that between 20 and 30 percent of Chicago children in public schools have witnessed a shooting, the fact that poorer parents often do shift work and thus cannot both be at home and earning a living – leaving their children in areas they know are unsafe and, perhaps most depressing, is the fact that parents of these children are often blamed by both the media and their own community. Alongside the fact that the community is unable to face the fact that society has a role in these horrifying statistics, there is the accompanying fact that most of those interviewed seemed to accept without question the presence of guns in their country. Those who own guns can claim that it is personal responsibility and teaching safety that is important, but until America really faces the facts that they have more gun deaths than any country that is not at war, and does something about it, then nothing will change. The names below represent ten of those unlived lives that represent the sad statistics. Ten children killed by guns – every day, including today.

Jaiden Dixon
Kenneth Mills-Tucker
Stanley Taylor
Pedro Cortez
Tyler Dunn
Edwin Rajo
Samuel Brightmon
Tyshon Anderson
Gary Anderson
Gustin Hinnant

This was a very well written, intelligent and thoughtful read. I was very impressed by Gary Younge as both an author and a journalist and I certainly want to explore more of his work.
Another Day in the Death of America is an interesting and stark look at the effects of gun violence in the United States. 
Gary Young is a UK born journalist who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He decided to take a random day in 2013 and look at all of the deaths of children caused by guns that day. His definition of children is fairly expansive, but he looks in some detail at the deaths of 10 children, ranging in age from 7 years old to 19 years -- which is close to the daily average of 7 deaths. Each chapter is about one child and the circumstances of his death -- they are all boys. Some deaths are accidents and some are intentional. Most kids are black or Hispanic, and live in difficult economic and family circumstances -- but not all of them. And most of them have close ties with their mothers, siblings, friends and teachers who give a human face to what have often been short lived and brief news stories. Young's premise is that while these deaths are often tied the challenging circumstances in which each child lives, the frequency and commonality of these deaths is due to the prevalence of guns in the US and the lack of gun control. Interspersed amongst the narratives about each child, Younge presents statistics, historical information and analysis in support of his argument. Coming from Canada where guns are far less common and much more tightly controlled, it wasn't hard for Younge to convince me. But I still found this an interesting, sad and scary read -- and from the sidelines it strikes me as a very timely topic for the US and an original approach to tackling it.
The idea of this book is simple – take a random day (Saturday, 23 November 2013) and write an account of all the kids who were shot and killed in that 24 hour period in the USA. There were ten. (Note – suicides are omitted because they are never reported. So the figure is probably higher than ten.)

The author Gary Younge (a black British journalist) quickly makes clear : this is not a book about the need for gun control, although to a British reader, it may appear that it is. Gary Younge is writing about the whole difficult Gordian knot of intractable problems which has led the USA into the horrendous levels of violence it now suffers.

We do have to mention some comparative figures.

In the USA (population 323 million) in 2014 there were 15, 872 homicides, of which 11,008 were homicide by firearm

In the UK which has a population of 65 million there were 573 homicides in 2016 in total of which 51 were by firearms

There are cities in America which have more murders than the whole of the UK. Such as Chicago (population around 3 million) – 762 in 2016.


Here are the basic details of the cases in this book.

Jaiden Dixon. Grove City, Ohio. Aged 9. Killed by his mother’s deranged ex-boyfriend.
Moral of this story : sometimes there’s nothing you can do.

Kenneth Mills-Tucker, Indianapolis. Aged 19. Shot on the street, no one arrested, no motive discovered.
Moral of this story : don’t walk around at night.

Stanley Taylor, Charlotte NC. Aged 17. Shot by a 27 year old guy at a gas station. No motive discovered. No arrest.
Moral of this story : Don’t drive a car.

Pedro Cortez, San Jose, California. Aged 18. Drive by gang murder. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t be in a gang or know anyone in a gang or know anyone who’s in a gang which you’re not aware of.

Tyler Dunn, Marlette, Michegan. Aged 11. Accidentally shot by best friend aged 12.
Moral of this story : don’t have a friend who lives in a house full of unlocked loaded guns.

Edwin Rajo, Houston. Aged 16. Accidentally shot by his female best friend.
Moral of this story : if you’re going to buy a gun for self-protection against all the gangbangers in the neighbourhood, learn how to use it.

Samuel Brightmon, Dallas. Aged 16. Random street shooting. No arrest made.
Moral of this story : if you’re young and black, don’t leave the house.

Tyshon Anderson, Chicago. Aged 18. Gang murder. No arrest made.
Moral of this story : this was the only acknowledged gangbanger of the ten victims. So, I guess, the moral is you reap what you sow. But the other nine victims never reaped what they sowed. So that moral is just not true.

Gary Anderson, Newark NJ. Aged 18. Shot in a drive-by, everyone agreed it was mistaken identity. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t look like anyone else.

Gustin Hinnant, Goldsboro NC. Aged 18. Everyone agrees, shot by accident. They were aiming at the other guy in the car. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t leave the house, don’t have any friends


This book is a companion piece to another wrenching piece of journalism, Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, which I also recommend. Both books cover the same ground in different ways. But heck, there are so many others too. This is not uncharted territory. Great tv shows like Homicide and The Wire have charted all this stuff already. But it seems every time we get reminded of it, we then forget.

What Gary Younge does is lament the invisibility of these kids’ deaths (they barely register in the media, after 24 hours they’re gone and forgotten) and link them to various immense trends in American society. He interviews the families where he can (some refuse to speak); he transcribes 911 calls; he creates portraits of these kids as far as he’s able. As you can see from the summary, in seven of the ten cases no murderer was ever discovered, no arrests were made.

This book takes a snapshot of a society in which these deaths are uniquely possible and that has a political culture apparently uniquely incapable of creating a world in which they might be prevented

We get pages on the collapse of manufacturing, the implosion of the black family, the failure of politics, the corrosive segregation of the American city –He throws out various insights. Regarding the famous school/workplace/mass shootings, he remarks

They disturb America’s self-image and provoke its conscience in a way that the daily torrent of gun deaths does not

And he ploughs on to the next sad case. Okay, you may be thinking this is not a very cheerful or hopeful book. You’d be right. “Researching this book has made me want to scream” he says in the Afterword. That may be your reaction too.
5★ (Read and reviewed February 18, 2017)

I considered a lower rating, but Younge makes the subject so compelling and the people so familiar, I don't know how he could have done it any better.

WARNING: if you have lost someone through sudden violence, especially a child, this book, and possibly my review, is going to be even more disturbing than it is for someone like me, who has lived a pretty sheltered life. And he lets us into these families’ lives so well, that I’m still afraid for them all.

Author Gary Younge is in a unique position to look at the American way of life and death, and I think he’s done an admirable job.

“I was raised black and poor (though in England, where race and class interact differently), and I have two black American children.”

He says when he moved to Chicago, his son’s day care centre had a meeting on traffic awareness. The teacher recommended that parents travel the same route to school so that kids might have some sense of where they are. Then the teacher explained the routes the centre uses to take kids on outings.

“One of the parents asked whether they would continue to pass the site by the subway where there had been a recent shoot-out. The teacher smiled. ‘I knew that would come up,’ he sighed. ‘It’s a good point, and we are really going to have to get on top of it. We must talk to the children about how to handle situations like that, because the big problem in those moments is that they panic.’

I thought this was odd. Panic in the presence of gunfire seems a perfectly rational response, whether you’re four or forty-four. The problem, it seemed to me, wasn’t the panic but the shooting.”

Un-bloody-believable! He says in England, sometimes the culture feels more violent (fights and such) but less deadly.

He mentions that the first child who died on Saturday, November 23, 2013, was actually shot on November 22, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy. But he said he just chose a Saturday, because “it’s over the weekend, when school is out and parties are on, that the young are most likely to be shot.”

He also explains, “it is not a book about gun control; it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control.”

He pulls no punches for his readers, rather he tells these stories with great care and concern and with affection for some of the victims and families he came to know. They are the ones left with the empty chair at the table, the bedroom with clothes strewn around, posters on the wall. It’s impossible not to share the sudden, violent and unexpected loss of their kids.

I'll mention only a couple of stories, but there is a chapter devoted to each child and their family. How it happened that the kid was where they were, whether someone should have known better, or whether it could have been prevented. One little boy was shot point-blank when he opened the door at breakfast time to his mother’s violent, crazy ex who was the father of one of his older brothers.

The father’s own son remembered his dad had said he might opt for “suicide by cop” (to escape his troubles) but never thought to find out what that meant. The father was, indeed, gunned down, but that didn’t save the little boy.

I grew up in America a long time ago and was never aware of guns, except for hunting. It was more like the movie “Grease” where parents worried about their kid joining a gang and getting beaten up or maybe stabbed with a switchblade (flick knife). How times change.

The father of one victim said “Back in the day, when we grew up, you get in a fight, somebody might jump you, you know, but the next day you speak to the person and you keep going. But now you get in an argument with somebody, they come back and shoot you.”

These days:
“Many young people in certain areas are gang members in the same way that Soviet citizens were members of the Communist Party . . . – there was precious little choice.”

California is divided between north and south at Bakersfield: Noreños and Sureños, with special dot tattoos. They wear blue or red (nothing political!), and one grandmother said she always took away her grandson’s red shirts, in case it made him a target. It didn’t save him.

I’ve lived in Australia since the late 60s, and nobody really ever talked about or heard much about guns, except for farmers and hunters and The Mob (or whatever we called them then), until the Port Arthur Massacre led to gun law changes (see below).

“Five years after his retirement from the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by Nixon, insisted that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word 'fraud' – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Younge explains, the New York Times did some investigations in 2013 and reported:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced findings and reports on how to limit gun deaths in the same way that they produce reports on healthy eating and how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. They found, among other things, that the presence of guns in the home increased the likelihood of death rather than reduced it. The National Rifle Association was not pleased with this particular conclusion or the research in general.

Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,’ Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, told The New York Times. ‘Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.’ So the NRA used their immense lobbying power to effectively put a stop to the government’s finding out how to make people safer around guns.”

No. They were promoting the idea that one of the biggest risks to the health of children in America was the lack of safety around guns. One kid in this book came home from school to show demonstrate the gun safety lesson they'd had. He too the gun out of the cupboard, loaded it, went to put it back and it discharged, killing his friend. He understood the safety lesson . . . but not well enough to have a gun where he could get it.

Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream . . . I’ve wanted to scream at journalists and police to treat these deaths as though the lives mattered.

But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular, it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for its youth and children—for my children—but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.”

Our family sold back the only newly illegal repeating shotgun from our farm and kept the rifles and shotguns that were still okay. When we quit farming, we sold the guns, lock, stock and barrel to another farmer, along with the heavy steel cabinet that bolts to the floor.
"Brilliantly reported, quietly indignant, and utterly gripping. A book to be read through tears."-NAOMI KLEIN

I don't know who Naomi Klein is, but she is spot on with that quote. Gary Younge, an accomplished journalist, a Briton, and a black man, searches for understanding of these daily senseless killings and their anonymous victims. Like Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, this book haunts me with it's powerful message about a heartbreaking trend in the America that I don't see or even hear about. This book is so important. I'd like to quote the entire Afterward here but instead I will encourage everyone to read this book. Something has to give. 5 stars

    Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream. But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular, it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for the youth and children – for my children – but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.
    I want to bay toward the heavens, because while kids like those featured in this book keep dying, the political class refuses to do not only everything in its power but anything at all to minimize the risks for the kids who will be shot dead today or tomorrow. 

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  3,274 Ratings  ·  511 Reviews
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur download or read it online for free
The Sun and Her Flowers
by Rupi Kaur
From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
in order to bloom

“you left
and i wanted you still
yet i deserved someone
who was willing to stay”

“despite knowing
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives - sunflowers”



This long-awaited second collection of poetry by Rupi Kaur made waves; it was a ride brimming with of every kind of emotion imaginable. Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Kaur's voice is as audacious and brave as ever. She nails to perfection the specific intimate details that made her writing so achingly real in milk and honey. We have poems exploring self-love, self-hate, body-image, girls supporting girls, motherly love, feminism, insecurity, sexual assault, and so much more. I read through it in a whirlwind. I barely put it down, and it was so short I didn't even have to.

The author's smart, poised, and down-to-earth writing oozes inspiration.
4.5 Stars

Wow. Let me say I had low expectations going into this, but I was so wrong. Backstory: I'm not a fan of milk & honey. It's not a style I enjoy at all, and the entire book just felt too Tumblr and cheesy and simplistic. this blew me away. it's so different, fresh, and jaw-dropping.

it’s interesting to see how her writing has grown and evolved. there are very few short poems (unlike m&h), which i was thankful for, because in m&h it seemed like she would just write sentences with skips in it, then label them poetry, and i really hated that style. however, this utilized a lot of longer poems and metaphor and personification of nature, and although it’s still not my favorite style, it’s gotten so much better.

This book was just so much more personal. m&h felt like a ton of blanket statements and tumblr posts, but this one had quotes that actually made me sit back and go “whoa.”

“i even tried to bury myself alive
but the dirt recoiled
you have already rotted it said
there is nothing left for me to do
- self-hate”


This book adds on an entire section about immigration and refugees, and I thought it was new and powerful as opposed to only talking about feminism, the body, and self-love. also, brown girls NEED to pick up this book. there is so much positivity and messages about acceptance of your skin.

i will say, if you decide to pick this up, don't give up hope until you reach part 2. The whole first part seems like it was a step back from milk & honey? milk and honey was so feminist and focused on recovery and self-love and some of the poems in the first part were like “TELL ME I’M PRETTY I NEED VALIDATION” and stuff like that and I was like ??????? It started out really weak but definitely got better.

Lastly, another thing I wasn’t a huge fan of is none of her poems use punctuation. She had some longer poems unlike anything she had in m&h, but most of those just employed really long-winded run-on sentences and I wasn’t a huge fan of that style. Because of that, it was hard to tell sometimes when one poem ended and another begun because none were punctuated, some didn’t have titles, some were just one sentence, etc.

Regardless, I'm sorta speechless because I expected to hate this and I actually enjoyed it so much. Several of the poems gave me chills. If you gave up hope after milk & honey, definitely think about trying this from a library or something because it is a MAJOR improvement and I think its messages are valuable, and nothing about this feels like a regurgitation of a Tumblr post.
[4.5 ⭐️]

Rupi Kaur does it once again. Her poetry is blooming. Her words hit home as they always do. I mean, there's a reason why there's a surge in poetry books being sold now. She's the reason.

I love what she advocates in her poetry collections, what she stands for. How it is told in a format of stages, of growth. Following on from her previous collection (not that it is a sequel, but the format and themes are similar), the sun and her flowers is tackling the root of our own emotions and suffering, to taking it in and accepting the people around us, our ancestors and our heritage, our immigrant parents, to ultimately establishing self-love. Yes, you do come first. You are important. I feel like it's a mantra in her poetry and I love that. It's beyond empowering!

As per her usual style, the poems are direct, simple, easy to grasp and full of passion. There are underlying layers and raw thoughts and emotions beneath those words that have me wanting to savour it, reread it. Annotate the whole book and find my own meaning within it. The illustrations truly make it come to life and paint a vivid picture and emotion inside you.

I can't wait to see what else she has in store! I know I can read her work over and over again!
The Sun and Her Flowers is my anticipated poetry book this year by the one and only Rupi Kaur. Her poems are relatable and exceptionally written. This collection is divided into five chapters depending on the topic. There's love, relationships, racism, grief, refugees, empowering women etc. and my personal favorite is about self-love. It's straightforward and successfully stirred my emotions.

Here are my favorites in this collection:

we need more love
not from men
but ourselves
and each other

- medicine


you are a mirror
if you continue to starve yourself of love
you'll only meet people who'll starve you too
if you soak yourself in love
the universe will hand you those
who'll love you too

- a simple math

it felt like you threw me
so far from myself
i've been trying to find my way back ever since

.....let's find our own sun. grow our own flowers. the universe delivered us with the light and the seeds. we might not hear it at times but the music is always on. it just needs to be turned louder. for as long as there is breath in our lungs--we must keep dancing.

I love it. It is organized and has minimalistic illustrations. Just like milk & honey, I really enjoyed it and I shall look forward on her upcoming books.
Rupi Kaur. You never cease to amaze me with the power of your simplicity and rawness. You speak for so many. 🌻

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al Franken

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  11,067 Ratings  ·  1,926 Reviews
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken download or read it online for free here
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
by Al Franken
From Senator Al Franken - #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum - comes the story of an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that.This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect.
It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.
It's a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.
In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics.

Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves.


I would almost consider moving to Minnesota in order for Al Franken to be my senator.
At last, here is a book which answers the burning question: why is Al Franken not funny anymore?

The short answer, of course: he’s a senator, and senators aren’t supposed to be funny. The long answer—the central idea of this thoughtful (and funny) autobiographical narrative—is that he’s still very funny, very funny indeed, but, for most of the last ten years, has tried his very best not to be. His fellow Minnesotans, like most regular Americans, want elected officials who keep their heads down and work hard, not needy jokesters who keeping calling attention to themselves. And Franken—who is just as serious about being a senator as he once was about being a creator of comedy—has labored for a decade to be a workhorse not a showhorse, doing whatever he can to make life better for the people of his home state.

Franken puts it better himself: “[this book is] the story of how, after spending a lifetime learning how to be funny, I learned how not to be funny.”

But the book is, of course, about other things too: his mentor Paul Wellstone, what a political campaign is like, the policy issues (health care, gun control, campaign financing) Franken cares deeply about, his incremental legislative victories, how the senate changes your sense of how Washington works, and how “you must work hard to make sure that it doesn’t change who you are.”

I finished this book in the days following the congressional baseball shooting, and I was heartened to read of Al’s friendships with Republican senators: writing country songs with Orrin Hatch, listening to “Bob and Ray” tapes with Pat Roberts, trading amiable quips with Jeff Sessions (Jeff’s wife Mary—friends with Al’s wife Franni—knitted Al’s grandson Joe his favorite baby-blanket.) In fact, Al seems to have good things to say about most of his Republican colleagues. (Except for Senator Ted Cruz. One must have standards, of course.)

The best thing about this book, at least for me, is that Franken, after all these years, has finally become comfortable enough with himself to be both funny and serious at the same time. He can follow an exposition of public policy with a devastating witticism (or a dumb joke) and both seem equally appropriate expressions of a complex, interesting man. Franken takes pleasure in publicly uniting the comedian and the senator, and his obvious pleasure in this process makes the book more serious—and much funnier too.
Al Franken: Giant of the Senate is a 2017 Twelve publication.

It’s always a slippery slope when reviewing a non-fiction politically based book. However, in the states, the current political polarization makes it even more of a challenge.

But, never fear, this review will not be a political commentary. Franken's views fall within party lines, and if you are a democrat you will agree with him on most issues, and if not, you do know going in what his values are and what his political opinions will be, so I won't delve into those here.

‘They tell you in this country that you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And we all believe that. But, first you’ve got to have the boots”

Al Franken wasn’t really on my radar, politically, until after the 2016 election. I watched all the confirmation hearings, and of course anyone following politics will know Franken asked some pretty tough questions and caused quite a stir by asking what on the surface were pretty innocuous questions. He had done his homework, which is more than I could say about most participating in those proceedings. And...

I loved it!!

I knew Franken had been a writer for Saturday Night Live and had been elected to the senate, representing the state of Minnesota. But, since he does not represent my state, I never heard much about him or how he was doing in his job as senator.

But, once I saw him in action, I was very impressed and couldn’t wait to read more about his life.

Franken is naturally funny. He doesn’t have to work at it at all, coming up with hilarious quips right off the top of his head. However, in Washington, these folks are not exactly known for their sense of humor. Therefore, Al has had to tone down his humor in order to be taken seriously, to appease other members of his party, and of course to keep himself from saying something that might get him in hot water.

He does a great job of balancing his gregarious personality with the seriousness of his job, and frankly, it’s too bad, other members of Congress worry so much about making jokes or laughing at the absurdity of politics, or at their own party.

But, Franken is able to release a bit of his pent -up humor in this book, which detailed his very interesting journey into politics, the messiness of campaigning, raising money, mistakes he made, the challenges he faced, and his hopes for the future.

I was impressed by his sharpness, his work ethic, and how he plays the political game. It is obvious he and his wife have a strong relationship, and he enjoys his family, which was very refreshing.

Al will surprise you with how prepared he is, how serious he takes his responsibilities, his willingness to work with those on the other side of the aisle, his openness, and sense of fair play.

Al is a democrat through and through, but even if you are not, you have to love the dedication, the sincerity he exudes and believe me, with only one notable, (and spot on), exception, Al gets along, and is respectful to his Republican counterparts, working side by side with them to actually see results.

I thoroughly enjoyed Al’s humor, the glimpse into his personal life, looking back on some memorable SNL skits and personalities, and reading about Al’s tenuous political beginnings. His journey has been very interesting! Al has a larger than life persona and I believe his state is lucky to have them on their side.

This book also has some marvelous personal photographs, and his grandchildren are simply adorable!!
I'm sure I'm not the only non American who has become obsessed with American politics over the last year or so. At first it was close to a prurient interest. As time goes by, it feels increasingly like what's happening in the US is relevant to my children's future environmental, economic and physical well being, so the interest feels more real and more personal. And I know I'm not alone...

So it's some comfort learn more about Al Franken -- to know that there are dedicated people willing to serve in public office with reason, compassion, common sense and the long view.

I listened to the audio, and it held my interest from beginning to end. I'm not sure there's any particular organizing principle to Franken's memoir. It is part personal history, part gossipy anecdote, part random thoughts about politics and life, and part pointed thoughts about politics and the future. It's not funny, but there's a lot of humour sprinkled throughout.

It left me thinking that Franken is someone worth watching. It left me thinking about the importance and meaning of public service. It left me thinking that it's important not to give in to an overwhelming sense of cynicism when thinking about contemporary politics. It reminded me to speak positively to my kids about the importance of political engagement.

I'm sure Franken has some flaws, but as you can see the audio of his book hit all the right notes for me and made me a true fan.
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken is a book I was so ready to read and it did not disappoint. 
He started the book by going all the way back to his beginnings in comedy then on up to being a Senator. The reason for this was to show how hard it was to run for office after being a comedian and having every joke thrown in his face by both parties. This was an excellent book about how the inside of politics work and doesn't work. The inside of how corrupt some of these guys are. It told of Franken's tough times and his good times. You laugh with him and laugh at him. You laugh at the goofy politicians that think they are better than everyone else. The best chapter in the whole book is the one on Ted Cruz. Oh my gosh! Loved it. During the election, my family called Cruz the 'pedophile' because he looks like what we imagine a pedophile would look like. In Franken's book, he calls Cruz the 'pedophile' and I laughed so hard. Definitely worth the money and the time. Love his books anyway but this is just awesome.
In the current political climate with congressional hearings, a special prosecutor, and a chief executive who demands fealty as if he were a "godfather" it was good to read a political manifesto in the form of biography that with drips with sarcasm and humor. 
When one thinks of Al Franken, Saturday Night Live (SNL) comes to mind, and the “serious” laughter his writings, i.e., RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT, and appearances produced. His new autobiography is in the same vein as he uses his life story as a clarion call for a progressive agenda and a fight against alternative news and/or reality and the lies that are perpetrated regularly by certain politicians and supposed news outlets.

AL FRANKEN: GIANT OF THE SENATE describes the evolution of a belief system that began at an early age, particularly as a young teen reacting to Lyndon Johnson’s work to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act signed into law. From that point on we witness Franken’s intellectual growth using his comedic sense through high school, college, a career on SNL, and a second career in the United States Senate. As Franken matures emotionally and politically his commitment to a progressive agenda for the American people (as well as Minnesota!) emerges. But make no mistake for Franken to be successful he had to suppress his public humor to avoid political pitfalls

The key event in his career was the death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone; his mentor, teacher, and intellectual role model. For Wellstone “politics was about improving people’s lives.” Franken presents a wonderful chapter encompassing Wellstone’s life’s work and positive goals for the American people. Franken explains the type of person he was and how he was influenced by his progressive agenda. Once Wellstone and his family are killed in a plane crash he was replaced in the Senate by Republican Norm Coleman who stated “I am a 99% improvement over Paul Wellstone.” For Al Franken it was “game on.” Franken believed in Wellstone’s core, that “we all do better, when we all do better,” a mantra that Franken has worked for since his time in the Senate.

Franken explores in detail his campaign against Norm Coleman. Faced with Republican obfuscation, distortion, and outright lies Franken was welcomed to the wonderful world of what he calls the “Dehumorizer,” or how his opponent would do or say anything about his opponent’s past and present be it fact or fiction, in the 2008 campaign, mostly fiction. Franken would defeat Coleman by 312 votes, but it took over eight months to finally join his Senate colleagues as Coleman’s team dragged the results through the courts and in the end never really conceded. Fast forward, eight years later Franken was elected by a 10% margin. It is interesting how the Obama people did little to assist Franken, no matter what he did even Democrats could not wrap their heads around a former SNL comic becoming a serious politician.

The most interesting aspects of Franken’s story rests on the legislative process which is bound in hyprocracy by both major parties, though perhaps a bit more by Republicans. He cites a number of examples dealing with the 2009 Stimulus package which finally passed despite Republican opposition which led to a slower recovery than was necessary. This allowed Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to blame the slow recovery on President Obama. This is the same Senator who stated once Obama was elected in 2009 that it was his primary purpose to make sure that the new president would not achieve any successes. It is also fascinating that certain congresspersons who voted against the stimulus took credit for it when it created benefits for their own districts.

Franken takes the reader behind the scenes as the Senate votes on legislation. In particular a “disclosure bill” designed to offset the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. The cavalier attitude of a number of Republicans is offered in their own words, of course funded by the Koch Brothers and their “Federalist agenda.” Franken goes on to eviscerate Texas Senator Ted Cruz in a chapter entitled “Sophistry.” Franken is proud of the fact that he hates a colleague who in two short months managed to turn almost his entire party against him. As is Franken’s methodology throughout the book his comments are sardonic, humorous, and sarcastic, but below the surface the Senator from Minnesota is seething.

A major theme of the book is a clarion call for Democrats to turn out and remove Republicans from power. If it is not done soon, Franken argues President Trump will continue to dismantle the achievements that Obama was able to attain. Franken tries to be upbeat throughout as he rests on his comedic talent. But, after watching the Senate Intelligence Hearings and Trump’s response congressional hearings televised on what seems to be a daily basis, a special prosecutor, and a chief executive who demands fealty as if he was “the godfather” it was good to read an uplifting political manifesto in the form of a biography that the past few days we all must be careful because what we are witnessing cannot be good for our country, which seems to be what motivates Franken each day-what is good for our country.
"I can't tell you I'll always get it right. But I'll tell you this: I'm going to keep fighting as hard as I can in the coming months and years to protect our children, our values and our future from Donald Trump." - Al Franken, from Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken.

This is absolutely the book America needs to read right now. I want to just acquire a crate full of copies of this book and pass it out to people. Franken manages to be both hopeful, realistic and funny all at the same time when writing about the inner-workings of the US government. It's amazing.

It is difficult for me to write an unbiased review of anything Franken has written - he has been a major influence in my life. Growing up, I watched Saturday Night Live reruns with my parents. I saw a lot of classic SNL - Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Belushi, Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Molly Shannon, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Will Farrell, Tina, I just started naming SNL people off the top of my head and just kept going, there. But yes, and, of course, Al Franken.

I can't even begin to describe how much of an influence Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them was on my political development. I borrowed the book from my dad because a) it looked funny and it was by a guy I knew to be funny and b) the title. Seriously, how could you not read a book called Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them? As I made my way through the book it was like a veil was being ripped away from my eyes. I suddenly became interested in the political. I suddenly started watching the news and actually paying attention to what they were saying. I started reading the newspaper and Newsweek - the actual content, not just looking at the pictures and reading movie reviews. I got really into this TV series called The Daily Show. I started noticing the every day hypocrisies in my rural hometown. I started questioning the official narratives we were fed every day. I started questioning the narrative I was fed in Lies, and started fact-checking the claims within the book myself. This, incidentally, is how librarians are created, children.

Lies woke me up and shoved me into politics. My terrible hometown, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Dan Rather and my local library did the rest.

Al Franken: he's good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like him! Especially me.

I was naught but a wee little teenage girl in one of the reddest counties of my traditionally blue state. In 2004, there was not much I could do politically, except go to a Kerry rally and then be sad when he lost. And be horrified at how happy my oblivious classmates were that Bush had been reelected. Really, guys?

Anyway! This brings me, finally, to Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.

When I heard Franken was running for Senate in Minnesota I thought "hell yeah!" And then proceeded to stop caring because a) college and b) I do not now, nor have I ever, lived in Minnesota. I was too busy paying attention to local news, getting kicked out of my room by my evil freshman roommates, and worrying about whether or not the economy was going to get so bad that my parents would lose their jobs and I'd have to withdraw from college and go straight to work. And, if that happened, would there even be any jobs left for me? Ah, 2008. What a crap year. Anyway, I squeaked through 2008 and didn't have to leave school, and next I heard, Al Franken won! Yes! Awesome! I immediately stopped paying attention. Then I heard there was a recount? Oh no, how dare they try and steal Al's victory from him! ...and then I stopped paying attention because school. I was glad when I finally heard that Al got his seat in the senate, but I didn't pay too much attention because a) not from Minnesota and b) college. What does this have to do with the book? Well, the book covers pretty much everything that I missed - why he decided to run for senate, what the campaign was like, and just how difficult it is for a comedian to adjust from being a professional funnyman to a superserious political-type. No eye rolling during terrible speeches. No snarky comments during a hearing.

This book is for everyone - it's for anyone who is frustrated at the gridlock in Washington, who is sick of partisan malarkey, or who have lost faith in our democratic process. It is for anyone who watched the disaster that was 2016 unfold with tears in their eyes. It's for anyone who has ceased to see their representatives as human beings and more like soulless ghouls who feed on campaign donations.

The best thing about this book is how Franken portrays his colleagues across the aisle not as demons, but as people making decisions he disagrees with (and think are evil). The sight of certain Republicans makes my blood boil, but Giant of the Senate reminded me that, as much as I dislike them, they're still people, and we need to work together if we're going to help everyone. At the same time, though, he fights for truth in politics:

"[I]f we don't start caring about whether people tell the truth or not, it's going to be literally impossible to restore anything approaching a reasonable political discourse. Politicians have always shaded the truth. But if you can say something that is provably false, and no one cares, then you can't have a real debate about anything."

Amen, Al.

Thank you, Al Franken. Don't ever stop fighting for the people, for our country and don't ever stop being funny, even if you have to wait five years and put it all in book form. And don't ever stop telling stories about how awful Ted Cruz is, I could read those all day. Like, in book form. Nudge nudge.
I thought Al Franken was funny on Saturday Night Live (“When you point your finger at someone else, you point three fingers back at yourself. And your thumb at God, I guess”), but as far as I’m concerned his work as a pundit is where he’s really distinguished himself—both as host of his own radio show on Air America and as the author of Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and The Truth (With Jokes) (all of which are excellent and worth your time). Reading and/or listening to Franken for any length of time makes it pretty obvious that he’s a person who values honesty and accuracy, and he’s clearly carried this quality into his work as a senator.

Franken is a very good, very funny writer, and you could absolutely do worse than getting your facts from him. (Back when Republicans wanted to privatize Social Security to “keep it from going bankrupt,” for instance, it was Al Franken who did the math that convinced me that Social Security was in fact in no danger of going bankrupt, and I’m quite comfortable having him as my source.) Giant of the Senate is more of a straightforward memoir than any of his previous books, and all of it was interesting—the parts about his childhood, the chapters about SNL, etc.—but nothing was more fascinating than when he decided to enter politics. The chapters recounting his first campaign, the recount, and his time in the Senate were completely riveting to me, in addition to providing a lot of valuable info about how Washington actually works. In this age of Trump, a lot of us are spending at least a little time trying to influence our elected officials, and if you’re looking for an overview of the whole situation, again, you could do much worse than reading Al Franken.

A lot of politicians “write books” while they’re in office, or running for office, and these are mainly just boring PR tools ghostwritten by someone else, but that’s not the case with Giant of the Senate. For one thing, Al Franken wrote this himself, as he’s done with all of his books. For another, this book is totally honest, contains a fair amount of cursing, and pulls no punches when it comes to Trump or (most hilariously and informatively, in my opinion) Ted Cruz. The book also talks a lot about the art of and necessity for compromise. Franken is realistic about this as well—he knows that compromise is sometimes frustrating, but he also knows it’s the only way to make things happen. He quotes Barney Frank: “The only person I’ve ever voted for who I’ve agreed with one hundred percent is myself. The first time.” But ultimately Franken’s stories of reaching across the aisle are more encouraging than dispiriting. I’ve heard he doesn’t plan to run again in 2020, so here’s hoping he goes for broke in the time he has left in office. We need more elected officials like him.
I wish all politicians had the same dedication and loyalty to their constituents as Senator Al Franken. I've always liked him, whether on SNL in the 70s or more recently grilling Trump's unorthodox cabinet nominees. He is not supposed to be funny or swear now that he is in the Senate, but I would say he just can't help it. So many examples given of what he was aching to say at certain times, things he was sure would have just killed. He restrained himself then, but shared the lost opportunities in the book. Laugh out loud funny.

He is what he is. Since he joined the Senate rather late in life, he isn't a career politician and actually cares more for the people who elected him than he does about the politics. He cares more about providing people with health care than about getting re-elected or any sidestepping agendas like keeping the Koch brothers happy. And most of all he cares about the truth -- you lie and he'll call you out, show the evidence of it being a lie, and will probably write a book about what a lying liar you are (I'm talking to you, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly). And to our Liar in Chief, to whom the last chapters were devoted. (Al's worried but also optimistic. I'm just worried.)

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  92,554 Ratings  ·  11,013 Reviews
Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur download or read it online for free
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is a writer and artist based in Toronto, Canada. With a focus in poetry, she released her first book of prose and poems in November 2014. Throughout her poetry, photography, illustrations, and creative direction she engages with themes of femininity, love, loss, trauma, and healing. When she is not writing or creating art, she is travelling internationally to perform her spoken word poetry, as well as hosting writing workshops.



milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose.

It’s difficult trying to review this because every poem is extremely personal, tender and exquisite in its own way.

So I decided to feature some of my favorite ones:

“you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness on my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and not easy
for the mind to follow”

“i struggle so deeply
to understand
how someone can
pour their entire soul
blood and energy
into someone
without wanting
anything in

- i will have to wait till i’m a mother”

“when my mother says i deserve better
i snap to your defense out of habit
he still loves me i shout
she looks at me with defeated eyes
the way a parent looks at their child
when they know this is the type of pain
even they can’t fix
and says
it means nothing to me if he loves you
if he can’t do a single wretched thing about it”

“he only whispers i love you
as he slips his hands
down the waistband
of your pants

this is where you must
understand the difference
between want and need
you may want that boy
but you certainly
don’t need him”

“i am a museum full of art
but you had your eyes shut”

“people go
but how
they left
always stays”

“what i miss most is how you loved me. but what i didn’t know was how you loved me had so much to do with the person i was. it was a reflection of everything i gave to you. coming back to me. how did i not see that. how. did i sit here soaking in the idea that no one else would love me that way. when it was i that taught you. when it was i that showed you how to fill. the way i needed to be filled. how cruel i was to myself. giving you credit for my warmth simply because you had felt it. thinking it was you who gave me strength. wit. beauty. simply because you recognized it. as if i was already not these things before i met you. as if i did not remain all these once you left.”

“loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself”“you tell me
i am not like most girls
and learn to kiss me with your eyes closed
something about the phrase—something about
how i have to be unlike the women
i call sisters in order to be wanted
makes me want to spit your tongue out
like i am supposed to be proud you picked me
as if i should be relieved you think
i am better than them”

“other women’s bodies
are not our battlegrounds”

“you were a dragon long before
he came around and said
you could fly

you will remain a dragon
long after he’s left”

“you look at me and cry
everything hurts

i hold you and whisper
but everything can heal”

“how you love yourself is
how you teach others
to love you”

“what terrifies me most is how we
foam at the mouth with envy
when others succeed
but sigh in relief
when they are failing

our struggle to
celebrate each other is
what’s proven most difficult
in being human”

(Most of my favorite quotes were from the healing section, and it was pretty though trying to narrow it down to my preferred quotes.)
Breathtaking - Brutal - Beautiful

Rupi Kaur's poetry is unlike traditional poetry. For one thing - this small book feels like a graphic poetry novel.
Many of the pages had a familiar 'looking-style' which short poems have....but with the delicate, simple, drawings, I forgot I was reading poetry. The drawings tell a story --we feel the emotions from the them before we even read the words. In essence,
capturing bruises women have experienced.

The book is divided into four sections: hurting, loving, breaking, healing.
This book honors women.....addressing chaos with, loss, trauma, abuse, healing, and femininity.

It's real. It's raw. It's relatable.

I say again.... 'beautiful'

"If you were born with
the weakness to fall
you were born with
the strength to rise".

  makes you grateful for your love of reading because it makes you understand how powerful words can be. It fills you with peace, acceptance and joy. You know that moment when you read something and you think. 
I needed years and a lot of pain to come to the same conclusion, if only I would have read this book earlier, it tells everything with such clarity”. I will recommend it to anyone who’s sad, depressed, down, heartbroken or lost. Basically the message is accept your flaws, move on, life is flux, don’t let anyone make you feel unworthy. Be a shark. A nice, feminine, gentle shark. But a shark.
You are every hope I’ve ever had in human form.
Love knows life has been hard enough already
You said, if it is meant to be, fate will bring us back together. [...] It’s us you fool. We’re the only ones that can bring us together.[...] Isn’t it such a tragic thing. When you can see it so clearly but the other person doesn’t.
Don’t mistake salt for sugar if he wants to be with you he will it’s that simple
You’d rather have the darkest parts of him than have nothing
You whisper I love you What you mean is I don’t want you to leave
Like I am supposed to be proud you picked me
But I swear you will get through the hurt will pass as it always does
Nothing even matters except love and human connection
You have to stop searching for why at some point you have to leave it alone
If you are not enough for yourself you will never be enough for someone else
terrifies me most is how we foam at the mouth with envy when others succeed but sigh in relief when they are failing

I’ve heard THE PRINCESS SAVE HERSELF IN THIS ONE and FORTY RULES OF LOVE are similar to milk and honey.
To be simply put, this isn't a book meant to be loved or raved about. It is just meant to be read.

I feel as if the people giving it three stars or so went in expecting it to ravish them, thrill them but it was not meant for that. Why on earth would you seek something so much more from a book that was written so truthfully, with feelings so raw that the hurt and the bitterness and the sorrows behind the words will never dull?

This was her story. She isn't asking for you to judge if it's "exciting" enough because it's not a fiction meant to be critiqued. Life isn't always "okay and then what?" Sometimes you can get stuck before you even try to move on.

if you were born with
the weakness to fall
you were born with
the strength to rise

I am so moved by this. These were words she had woven out for herself and now we are allowed to read them and take them to our hearts, too.

you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness on my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and not easy
for the mind to follow

Honestly, I am a young woman, a college student, surrounded by women who dumb themselves down and go out of their way to impress boys-because they think that'll give them happiness, in the end, and it may, but it will be what they think happiness is rather than what it actually is. But I've never felt more alive than when I was happy with myself, even if it was a small thing. And this poetry encourages self love beyond anything. It normalizes it. You can't get anywhere in life if you're holding yourself back.

The doodles were so wonderful! Sincerely, they made me want to rip out the pages and put them up on my walls so I can look at them and remind myself of what is and what isn't and how I should grow, too.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  61,529 Ratings  ·  8,571 Reviews
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah download or read it online for free
Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man's coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.


I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

I was really surprised when Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart's successor on The Daily Show . I inherently knew that they wouldn't pick someone with a sense of humor and style identical to Stewart's, but I felt that Noah was so different that his selection meant the show would have a really different feel, which might not appeal to long-time fans of the show. But I always root for the underdog, so as he was getting savaged by critics and fans in his first few days on the job, I kept hoping he'd be able to tough it out and show the stuff—comedic and otherwise—of which he was made.

After reading Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood , I realize that I needn't have worried about Trevor Noah. For a child growing up in South Africa in the last days of, and the tumult following apartheid, he faced crises far greater than dissatisfied fans. And if he could be raised during such a crazily illogical time in a country where more violence, racism, and mistreatment went unreported than caught the media's eye, he'd have no problem skewering the insanity of our political system, especially leading into the election of 2016!!

"On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime."

Born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, Noah literally spent his earliest days hiding indoors. His parents, who never married, couldn't be seen together, and because his mother looked so different than he did, she couldn't walk through the streets with him, because at any moment someone might accuse her of kidnapping another person's child. Yet while their lives dealt with crushing poverty, violence, and racism from all sides, his deeply religious mother never let anything bother her, or stop her from raising her son to know he was loved, and to know that he truly could accomplish anything he wanted, despite all of the obstacles in his way.

"She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her."

Born a Crime provides a first-hand account of the last days of apartheid and its aftermath, and what it was like to grow up as a mixed-race child, where he wasn't white enough to be considered white, nor was he black enough to be considered black. While at times this had its advantages, for the most part, it left him on the outside looking in, having to handle everything on his own, fight his own battles, struggle to find people who genuinely liked him for who he was and not the novelty of his skin color, and rebel against a mother who only wanted him to behave.

If you go into this book expecting to laugh hysterically because of Noah's day job, think again. While the book does include some of the wry humor that has begun endearing him to fans, this is an emotional, brutal, and educational story of a life which flourished despite the odds stacked against it. This is a book about growing up in a culture of poverty and crime, and how easy it was to get caught up in that, especially when it was one of the only ways to make money and be able to feed, clothe, and enjoy yourself. It's also a book about fear, how it motivates you, how it paralyzes you, and how it threatens to take away the one thing you cherish more than any other.

More than anything, though, this is a book about the unwavering love of a mother for a child she chose to have. She knew it would be difficult raising her son in the age of apartheid, and in fact, she had no idea when he was born that it would end anytime soon. But Noah was a remarkable child, and while he exasperated, frightened, and upset his mother from time to time, she knew he would accomplish great things one day (as soon as he stopped putting cornrows in his hair and hanging out with those awful hoodlums he called friends).

I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about apartheid, which I really didn't know much about. Noah is a good writer, and delivered his narrative much as I've heard him deliver his lines on The Daily Show . This is a funny, thought-provoking, and emotional book, although I felt that some of his anecdotes went on a little too long, while others didn't go on long enough. I also would have liked to have learned how he went from his upbringing in South Africa to one day hosting an acclaimed television show—other than passing mentions of things he did, I have no idea how he made the leap.

I've heard some people say that the audio version of this book is brilliant because Noah reads it himself, but if you read the print/digital version, you can still hear his voice through his words. Noah's story is a lesson of the inequities of the past, and a warning for what is still possible to happen again in our world. But this isn't heavy-handed; it's fun, insightful, and very compelling.
Funny guy- The very charming Trevor Noah
    "People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing."

Trevor Noah

By the time Trevor Noah was born in 1984, Apartheid, the system that institutionalized segregation and racial discrimination in his native South Africa, was already in its last throes. But young Trevor still got to experience plenty of the negative effects of that horrific system.

The relationship between his black African mother and his white Swiss father, was legally prohibited by the 1927 "Immorality Act", a crime that could carry up to 5 years in prison. These laws were not a mere abstraction, they were actively enforced by the authorities.

Noah did a good job at giving us a condensed version of the history of Apartheid. He explains how it was used to create fissures among the black population, and give us an insider's perspective of the real life consequences it had in the lives of millions of people.

My sense is that this book was written with a Western audience in mind, so he takes the time to compare Apartheid to similar repressive movements in other parts of the world, such as the removal of Native Americans, European Colonialism and Slavery and the Jim Crow era in America.
On this topic he remarks:

    "In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid."

These stories, beautifully written, are set in a world quite like our own but at the same time utterly different. Maybe "through a glass darkly". 
Who goes to church three times on Sunday to Black, White and Coloured ones? Who goes to jail for (not) stealing a car rather than face the wrath of his mother? Who gets a prom date with the most beautiful girl around, but one who doesn't speak the language and is extremely unsociable to boot? None of these things are extraordinary in this world,

Who could perform rap at a Jewish school to a wildly-enthusiastic audience and create deadening silence in one second asking respect for Hitler? Repeatedly. I'm not going to spoil this one. It's a brilliant story, very funny, and sadly critical too. Two worlds collide, black and white, and neither understand why the other is so offended.

In what world can a man standing in front of a policeman not be identified on the video they are both watching of his best friend shoplifting and he with him? But he isn't. Because of the exposure of the video the black figure appeared black but the coloured one, Trevor, appeared white. The police were unable to link in their heads the features of the man on the screen with the one in front of them who was a suspect, because he was white. These South African policemen were blinded by their prejudice. Which was rather lucky for Trevor, and he is our hero.

He's mine anyway.

This is a fascinating book that will take you deep into the world of the non-white life of South Africa mostly since apartheid ended. It's funny and tragic, heart-warming and wtf did you do that for. It's tribal and urban and mostly very third world. It's quite something to incorporate all those elements and boast only in ways that are more to do with accomplishment than with ego. But if you don't like politics this isn't for you. Every single incident no matter how funny, how light, and they aren't all, drives home that race decides everything in South Africa.

I listened to it in the car. The audio is brilliant. narrated by the author (which is why I got it on audio, that's one of the great advantages of the media listening to an author tell his own tale.) It's a 10-star biography.
In Born a Crime, Trevor Noah takes us on a journey from his childhood being born a crime in apartheid South Africa. 
Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. This memoir is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Side note: Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah - his mother - was a powerhouse, a strong woman in every sense. She's a warrior and I only wish I could be a half of the person she is. Also, I love the advice she gave her son—I even wrote a few pieces down to remember:

“Abel wanted a traditional marriage with a traditional wife. For a long time I wondered why he ever married a woman like my mom in the first place, as she was the opposite of that in every way. If he wanted a woman to bow to him, there were plenty of girls back in Tzaneen being raised solely for that purpose. The way my mother always explained it, the traditional man wants a woman to be subservient, but he never falls in love with subservient women. He’s attracted to independent women. “He’s like an exotic bird collector,” she said. “He only wants a woman who is free because his dream is to put her in a cage.”

This passage had pretty much changed the way I think, the way I precept the world.

“She’d tell me not to worry. She always came back to the phrase she lived by: “If God is with me, who can be against me?” She was never scared. Even when she should have been.”

The piece stuck with me.

Truly though, this memoir was enlighten, brimming with emotion, and I love it when children pay tribute to their hard-working mothers.

“There was no stepfather in the picture yet, no baby brother crying in the night. It was me and her, alone. There was this sense of the two of us embarking on a grand adventure. She’d say things to me like, “It’s you and me against the world.” I understood even from an early age that we weren’t just mother and son. We were a team.”

My mind and heart were fully transported while reading everything Trevor went through to get to where he is today and everyone that took part of that journey.

And even though some of the stories kind of broke my heart, Trevor Noah always managed to bring in his gold humor to ease the tension. There are a couple of chapters that have taken a hold of my soul and won’t let go because either they were extremely hilarious (TREVOR, PRAY & LOOPHOLES) or entirely heart-shattering (MY MOTHER’S LIFE)... or both.

Slowly and surely, I came to admire Trevor Noah's character and honesty even more than I did before. And I'm pretty sure that I'll end up watching and rewatching his stand-up shows so that I can stop tearing up at the mention of his name.
A book *treasure*!

Trevor is a likable! A charming- guy!!! Listening to him speak is almost magnetic.
Being thrown out of a car? By his own mother? OUCH! Trevor had my attention in the palm of his hands.

The ongoing - ongoing - and ONGOING ....dramatic stories Trevor shares about his childhood --were life lesson building blocks. Trevor did the building!! He used every life experience to his advantage-- and that's extraordinary!
Poverty, abuse, Religious upbringing, crazy chaotic living conditions, a powerhouse one-of-kind mother....Trevor is a thriving survivor!!!!

We also get an excellent intimate understanding: .....of the rigid former policy of segregating and economically and politically oppressing the non-white population....
from the direct experience of Noah being born in South Africa during the laws of apartheid.

A child who was often guided to play indoors, ( hiding), a 'positive' lifetime result 'today' is that Trevor says he can sit and enjoy his own company for days on out. He is never bored!
.... sadness of course - tragic times -horrific injustice.....
but Trevor Noah is warm - charming -filled with love and light!!!! Funny too!!!

Ghostland by Colin Dickey

Ghostland by Colin Dickey

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  2,166 Ratings  ·  465 Reviews
Ghostland by Colin Dickey download or read it online for free
Ghostland by Colin Dickey
An intellectual feast for fans of offbeat history, Ghostland takes readers on a road trip through some of the country's most infamously haunted places--and deep into the dark side of our history.

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America's ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie homes," Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as "the most haunted mansion in America," or "the most haunted prison"; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget.    
       With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living--how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made--and why those changes are made--Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved. Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we're most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.


“Do I believe in ghosts? No, but I am afraid of them.”
- Marie Anne de Vichy Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand

One summer, around the time I was in middle school, I spent a week at a friend’s family-farm in central Minnesota. The farmhouse was a familiar type, nestled in a copse of trees and surrounded by otherwise-treeless fields. The house was old and sprawling and had been subjected to several additions over the years, so that the interior was filled with odd nooks and corners, with shadows and strange sounds.

And it was haunted. Or so I was told before even setting a foot inside.

The ghost was a woman who – I believe; vagueness is essential to ghost stories – would have been my friend’s great-grandma. She’d died many years before. In the living room she had a tchotchke cabinet with glass doors that locked with a key. The key had disappeared at some point, and the doors were eternally locked. No one had touched those knickknacks in decades. They were as they’d been when the great-grandma died, frozen in time like Miss Havisham’s furniture.


Sometimes at night [cue a flash of lighting, a peal of thunder], if you listened closely, you could hear the metallic click of a key entering a lock, and the slow thin squeal of the locking mechanism as it turned…

I’d like to say I felt some otherworldly presence that night. That, perhaps, I heard a sound that might have, could have been, a key from a different dimension turning a lock on a cabinet filled with ridiculous figurines. I didn't though. Never heard a thing. That didn't stop me from being terrified. I didn’t leave my room all night, afraid I’d see something in that living room as I made my way to the bathroom. I came very near to peeing my pants.

I’m sure most people, whether open to the supernatural or not, have a story like this. We live in a haunted world and ghosts – or at least their stories – surround us.

Colin Dickey wanted to know why. In Ghostland, he embarks on a journey across the United States to give us “an American history in haunted places.” In doing so, he expounds on the reasons these stories exist, and why they have endured.

Dickey divides the book into four quadrants. The first covers haunted homes; the second haunted businesses (such hotels, restaurants, and brothels); the third haunted public places (such as prisons and cemeteries); and finally, haunted towns (where Dickey eschews classic ghost towns in favor of major metropolises). He explores places that are both well-known, such as the “House of Seven Gables” in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Cecil Hotel, in Los Angeles, as well as others that are less famous, like Cathedral Park in Portland, Oregon.

I venture that most readers will be familiar with many of the places Dickey visits. The restless spirits of the Stanley Hotel (aka the Overlook, from Stephen King’s The Shining) and the Queen Mary are no secret, especially if you have ever spent five minutes watching The Travel Channel. (For the record, I have spent more than five minutes, while drinking more than five wines).

Dickey, however, is not out to give you a typical ghost tour. He is – quite frankly – almost disinterested in the purported ghostly occurrences that drew him in the first place. There are times when he introduces a location without even bothering to relate the predicate ghostly tale. If you are fascinated by the supernatural, I suspect this might be a disappointment. Dickey is clearly a skeptic – by the end that skepticism has almost become impatience – but proving or disproving the paranormal in any methodical way is not his purpose.

In other words, this is not a literary version of Ghost Adventures. Instead, Dickey has a more cerebral goal. He is out to interpret the meanings behind each tale. To do so, he utilizes a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses history, psychology, sociology, architecture, and literature. Taken on these terms, this is a fascinating book. Dickey deftly segues between fields, mining insight and significance from anything from the construction of a house to the factual contours of an alleged haunting. Ghostland reads very smoothly. Dickey’s fluid prose, coupled with his boundless curiosity, makes this very engaging from beginning to end. (At less than 300 pages of text, it is not a huge investment of time in the first place).

There are weighty topics here, weightier than I expected from a book called Ghostland. In one chapter he talks about spiritualism and its role as a religion in which women were not placed in a subservient position. In another he discusses the role of race, specifically the absence of black ghosts, in the spook stories of the south. I enjoyed his handling of this material, which he presents briskly but intelligently. I appreciated his look at a familiar topic from a fresh viewpoint.

That said, I did not love this. Ghostland belongs to a genre I call the Historical Road Trip. The success of a book in this genre, like the success of an actual road trip, rests largely with the driver. Like any road trip, there are good stops and bad. (Dickey’s literary visit to Binghamton, NY, is as dispiriting to read as a literal visit to Binghamton, NY). As the driver, Dickey disappears for large stretches, writing mostly in an objective, third-person manner. That’s a shame, because some of the best parts (such as his visit to the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis) come when he relates his experiences in the first-person.

Dickey comes across as a bit of a pedant. He states that he’s not out to disprove paranormal activity, which is strictly true. However, he is out to undercut the historical premises that underlie the ghost stories themselves. This has the same effect, and sort of kneecaps his own topic. By the end, I thought of Dickey as that friend we all have, the one who is constantly correcting everyone else by saying, “Well, actually that’s not true…” (For the record, I’m that friend in my friend group).

This book is missing the vital element of fun. I like how Dickey engages some heavy topical issues, but that engagement doesn’t necessarily require the utter absence of joy. I mean, this is a book about ghosts! Reading this is a bit like signing up for a cakewalk college course, say Intro to Schwarzenegger Action Films, and then showing up to find out you’re in Organic Chemistry. Okay, this isn’t exactly Organic Chemistry. Still, there should be humor here. There should be interesting characters. Instead, everyone he interviews is dead (pun intended; this book could’ve used some puns) serious about whatever they’re saying. I can only imagine how a different writer, such as Sarah Vowell, might have handled this subject.

Because this book is so grave (another pun, again intended), Dickey’s conclusions as to why people believe in ghosts run the gamut from snarky (he posits that some folks have too much time on their hands) to farfetched (such as lingering guilt over taking this land from American Indians). The easy answer, and I think the right answer, is that belief in ghosts comes from the same place as faith in a god. It is the hope in life after death. Evidence of a ghost means there’s evidence that things don’t just end with our last gasping breath. That’s both comforting and terrifying.

We live in an old house with creaky wood floors and doors that don’t quite fit into their frames anymore. Thus, as day settles into night, there are noises galore. I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ve been sent downstairs by my wife (weapon-free, mind you), to see if anyone is breaking in. (It’s never been fully explained what I’m supposed to do if someone actually is breaking in).

Being something of a storyteller/bullshitter, I am fond of telling people that the house is haunted by the ghost of Charlie. Charlie lived in the house before us. I know this because we still get his mail. I also know that he died, though in a hospital. Like any good ghost story, this one combines a single thread of truth with a lot of outright fabrications. Sometimes, though, when I’m sent downstairs to make sure the front door is locked, and it’s late at night, and the lights are off, and the house is sighing and slouching in its foundation, I start to wonder if I’m going to run into Charlie in the hall, going about his business as he had in life.

I never do, because Charlie’s ghost is something that doesn’t exist. Just as ghosts don’t exist. I know this with my head. My heart, though, is giving me a more complicated message. One, that despite their nonexistence, ghosts are scary. And two, that part of me hopes my head is completely wrong. That ghosts are real. That life goes on, even after death.

Ghostland is a not-spooky, but thoroughly entertaining, examination of ghost stories and haunted locales throughout America with the express intent of debunking the paranormal and better understanding how ghost stories reflect on our past and present.

Given the book's dark cover and the timing of its release, it seems necessary to reiterate that there's nothing particularly creepy about this book. The author dug through family trees and historic records until he unearthed every inconsistency or blatant lie associated with famous ghost stories or well-known haunted locations. He actively debunks one ghost story after another.

The author posits that ghost stories are malleable, changing throughout the years to accommodate society's various needs:

Paying attention to the way ghost stories change through the years -- and why those changes are made -- can tell us a great deal about how we face our fears and our anxieties. Even when these stories have a basis in fact and history, there's often significant embellishment and fabrication before they catch on in our imagination, and teasing out these alterations is key to understanding how ghosts shape our relationship to the past.

In addition to stories of ghosts, the author examines several haunted locations, revealing details spanning from the evolution of their (sometimes) bizarre construction to their rise in popularity as a notorious haunt. The more unusual the house, the author states, the more likely it'll cause unease among its neighbors and the more we seem to require some kind of story to explain its construction. Additional locations explored include haunted bars and brothels, hotels and restaurants, asylums, graveyards, and more.

Though it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the book, it sometimes feels as though the author drifts off on a tangent. For example, a chapter that begins by introducing a notoriously haunted house eventually segues to a discussion of Spiritualism, which ultimately leads to an examination of a woman's right to vote. These shifts in narrative are never a point of contention for the reader, because all of the information is well-researched and tied together seamlessly.

This is how ghost stories are born, after all: not from a complete story so much as from bits and pieces that don't quite add up, a kaleidoscope of menace and unease that coalesce in unpredictable ways.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places is a skilfully crafted and compelling book that will appeal to fans of American history, trivia, haunted locales and ghosts.

GHOSTLAND is a stirring and expertly written historical account of our ghosts, the ones we celebrate and the ones we hide. 
This is not a cheesy ghost hunters TV show in book form. Dickey deconstructs the folklore and myth surrounding the US's most famous/notorious hauntings. This is a book about how ghost stories happen, how they are created, how they evolve, how they reflect our history and how they often bury the history we don't want to face. His chapter/essay on Salem is one of the most astute I've ever read. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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