"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August Books

American Nations by Colin Woodard  -- Do you ever wonder why Americans seem so divided?  In this book the author tells about the eleven nations that make up North America. He argues that the reason we have divisions now is because we've always had divisions.  From New England which had a more communal Puritan base to the Deep South settled first by the sons of English slavelords who lived in Barbados, to the more libertarian Far West and the Scots-Irish throughout Appalachia -- this book covered the beginnings of each nation, what they fought for and against and how their influences linger even today.

These were some things I shared as trivia questions on Facebook. I'll include them in my notes here since they are already typed.

In the early 1600s the Netherlands was the most modern and sophisticated country on Earth, producing art, laws, business practices, and institutions that became standards for the rest of the world. They invented modern banking, creating at [their bank] the first clearinghouse for the disparate coins and currencies of the world, all exchangeable for [their money], which became the preferred medium of international exchange.  (pg. 67)

"Rather than trying to produce cash crops for export, the Borderlanders embraced a woodland subsistence economy...Life in Britain had taught them not to invest too much time and wealth in fixed property, which was easily destroyed in time of war. Instead, they stored their wealth in a very mobile form: herds of pigs, cattle, and sheep. When they did need cash, they distilled corn into a more portable, storable, and valuable product: whiskey, which would remain the de facto currency of Appalachia for the next two centuries."  (pg. 104)

In South Carolina the backcountry made up three-quarters of the colony’s white population but had only two of forty-eight seats in the provincial assembly; this arrangement led one agitator to denounce the planters for keeping “half their subjects in a state of slavery,” by whom he meant not blacks but Borderlanders like himself. Here few “loyalists” cared about Britain, but they aligned themselves with the king simply because he was fighting their lowland enemies.  (pg. 137)

"When confederal and federal authorities started trying to collect taxes and seize property, the Borderlanders took up arms and tried to leave the union they now thoroughly disapproved of.  This Appalachian resistance movement raged for more than a decade ... It began in 1784, when people in the western territories of North Carolina (now eastern Tennessee) became disgusted with Tidewater control. Their solution was pure Borderlander: they created their own sovereign State of Franklin on nobody's permission but their own. They drafted a constitution that prohibited lawyers, clergy, and doctors from running for office, set up a government in the village of Greeneville, and passed laws making apple brandy, animal skins, and tobacco legal tender. They even applied for membership in the Continental Congress and were supported by seven states; opposition from Tidewater and the Deep South delegates denied them the necessary two-thirds majority."  (pg. 160)

Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories by Anna Badkhen -- I found this book at a dollar store for $1 and it was very much worth it.  This Soviet-born journalist shared stories from war zones and places of famine all the while telling stories about life back home in Russia and friends she'd met along the way. Each chapter talked about food shared in these places and she includes recipes.  And they are often written with funny things thrown in there.  Like when she boils a lobster for the first time and is glad her sons didn't get to see it because it was a bit more traumatic than she thought. And when she talks about caviar, she doesn't bother with a recipe, but writes "wait! you have caviar? Can I come over?"  I enjoyed her sense of humor even though much of the book was about sad things. These were just two bits from it that I shared on Facebook.

"In preying on the women of a vanquished nation, the fighters continued a millennia-old tradition that proliferates in all wars.  Japanese troops raped Chinese women in Nanking in 1937 and early 1938; Allied troops raped all the women they could lay their hands on in defeated Nazi Germany in 1945; Hutu men raped Tutsi women in Rwanda in 1994.  In this century, Somali nomads called the Janjaweed raped women farmers in Darfur. In Iraq, I have interviewed Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Sabean women who had been raped by men of other sects or religions. Rape is a common front line of war, a front line that often remains hidden because of the stigma attached to sexual violence by many societies, and because in many societies, the targets - women and girls - are considered less important than men, the fighters." (pg. 90)

In speaking about reporting across the Middle East, the author says "the Jewish state is a country That-Must-Not-Be-Named, and that the very mention of the I-word is bound to rile someone.  This is why Western reporters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Gulf States refer to Israel among each other as 'Dixie' - as in, 'Justin Sullivan from Getty Images and I worked together in Dixie in 2002.'"  (pg. 140)

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson  -- Travel journalist talks about his days exploring Australia. I enjoyed the tidbits of information about places to visit and the people, sights and so forth. His humor was an added bonus.

Many non-native animals were introduced to Australia and "the consequences for native species have often been devastating. About 130 mammals in Australia are threatened. Sixteen have gone extinct - more than in any other continent.  And guess what is the mightiest killer of all? According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it is the common cat."  (pg. 137)