“A Rumor of War,” by Phillip Caputo

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”–Matthews 24:6

A Rumor of War is a 1977 memoir by Philip Caputo about his service in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in the early years of the Vietnam War.  It is a famous memoir that was turned into a television miniseries that aired in 1980.

“Heartbreaking, terrifying, and enraging. It belongs to the literature of men at war.”–Los Angeles Times Book Review

               *****Final Rating*****

The Nonfiction Book Club met on “Rumor of War” on October 16, 2018.  The ratings, on a five-point scale, are as follows:

Readability: 4.11

Content: 3.78

Overall: 3.88

Comments include:

“This book captured me,”

Enjoyed the book as much a a book about war can be “enjoyed.”  Caputo’s “insights were very raw.”

“Worth the read” but “The Things they Carried” is better

“Loved this book”–the information, history, and author’s personal situation

****************************************

Rumor of War Life Magazine

Rumor of War Map with DaNang

Danang Province

Rumor of War HIll 327 and 268 Base Camps

Hill 327 and 268 Base Camps (1965)

Rumor of War Ambushes are Murder
“Ambushes Are Murder and Murder Is Fun.”

“Before you leave here, Sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.”
― Philip Caputo, A Rumor Of War

Discussion Questions:

1.  In the foreword, author Caputo states his purpose for writing this book. He makes clear that this is not a history book, nor is it a historical accusation. The author states that his book is a story about war, based on his own personal experience.  What does Caputo want the reader to realize about the war and the marines whose stories he tells?

Rumor-S. Vietnam Officer Executes Prisoner

Harrowing photos, including this of a South Vietnam officer executing a Viet Cong fighter, capture the brutality of the Vietnam War

A Vietnamese civilian with a gun pointed at the side of her head.

2.  What was “la cafard” (see p. 68) and how did it affect the Marines during their first two months in Danang? How did the “symptoms” of la cafard change as combat intensified? (see p. 99)

Rumor Demoralized Marine

A dirty and exhausted looking US Marine on patrol with his squad near the demilitarised zone during the Vietnam War

Rumor of War In the Thick of Things

US soldiers stand in the jungle as yellow smoke marking their location wafts into the air

3.   Caputo explains “we have learned that, in the bush, nothing ever happens according to plan. Things just happen, randomly, like automobile accidents.” How did that affect the marines who operated under these conditions?

Rumor of War Chaos

This iconic photograph, taken in 1968, demonstrates the chaos and horror of a jungle ambush.

4.  How did Caputo know the American marines were learning to hate? Why is this significant? (see p. 110)

Vietnam War, US forces, South Vietnam, December 1967

Who is the enemy here? The soldier, seen from the back, facing a Vietnamese woman hugging a baby, with a half-naked boy by her side? Or is it the young woman and her two children being confronted by an American GI? Are there not always two sides to a coin? Taken at a hamlet near Dakto in 1967.

Rumor-Woman at Gunpoint

A Vietnamese civilian with a gun pointed at the side of her head.

5.  Why did marines experience guilt mixed with pride when they found the VC soldiers’ photos? (see p. 124)

Rumor of War Leading Prisoners

A US Marine leads two Viet Cong suspects in restraints during the Tet Offensive

6.  How did the terrain and weather affect the marines?

Rumor of War Stuck in the Mud

Tank stuck in the mud during the Vietnam War

Rumor of War Rice PaddiesRumor of War Immersion Foot7.  Why did Caputo believe the entire court marshall process he went through was absurd? How did the conduct of the trial reveal that the US government continued to cling to myths and ignore reality? Rumor of War Cartoon

8.  Finally, did you think the book was effective?  How can the experiences of one soldier shed light on the entire US experience in Vietnam? What insights does Caputo provide to those trying to understand the “big picture”?

Rumor of War Soldier MaterialsRumor of War Remembering Vietnam

About the Author:

Rumor of War About the Author

Rumor Philip Caputo PhotoAmerican author and journalist. Author of 16 books, including the upcoming novel “Some Rise by Sin.”  Best known for “A Rumor of War “, a best-selling memoir of his experiences during the Vietnam War

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“Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood,”by Trevor Noah

This New York Times bestseller, is 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

Born a Crime Cover Street View

Quotes from “Born a Crime”:

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.” 

“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.” 

“The name Hitler does not offend a black South African because Hitler is not the worst thing a black South African can imagine. Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that’s especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler. If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium’s King Leopold would come way before Hitler. If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson.

“If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.” 

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”

Born a Crime Another Quote

Discussion Questions:

1. Trevor Noah opens his memoir with a story about being thrown from a car by his mother. In what ways does this story illustrate the overarching narrative of Trevor Noah’s early life?

Born a Crime Trevor-Noah-as-a-kid-in-South-Africa

Trevor Noah as a child growing up in South Africa

2. In Born a Crime, Noah seeks to dispel the myth that the ending of apartheid was bloodless. How much did you know about the end of apartheid before reading this book, and what did you learn about the history of South Africa by reading Noah’s story?

Born a Crime Appar. Image

3. One of the most impressive characteristics that Noah conveys about his mother is her faith. How did Patricia’s faith impact young Trevor, and what do you think has been the lasting impression of Patricia’s faith on Trevor Noah’s life?

 

Born a Crime Patricia Noah

Patricia Noah

Born a Crime Trevor-Noah-and-his-Mom

Source: FB/Trevor Noah posted this on Mother’s Day, 8 May – “On this day we celebrate you but everyday we honour you. The rock of the nation and the makers of men. Happy Mother’s Day, Momma.”

4. Trevor Noah learned to speak six different languages growing up. What impressed you about the ways that Trevor and his mother navigate neighborhoods, cultures, and family; and how did language make that possible?

Born a Crime Map of Languages

Map showing in which areas of the country the different African languages are spoken. Xhosa is purple

Born a Crime trevornoah-childhoodhome-soweto

Trevor Noah’s home in Soweto where his grandmother still lives.

Born a Crime Francis Noah (Grandmother)

Frances Noah, Trevor’s grandmother

5. Noah recounts his mother’s use of the Xhosa term Sun’qhela, “a phrase with many shades of meaning” including “don’t undermine me”, “don’t underestimate me,” and “just try me.” Noah recalls that Sun’qhela is “a command and a threat, all at once.” Were there any such phrases employed in your childhood, and if so, what were they?

Born a Crime Xhosa Women

Xhosa Women

6. A prominent character in this memoir is Noah’s stepfather, Abel. The name “Abel” recalls the biblical character in the book of Genesis, but his stepfather’s Tsonga name, Ngisaveni, means “Be afraid.” Those two names would turn out to be indicative of his stepfather’s public and private personas. How does Noah describe and wrestle with the issue of domestic violence?

Born a Crime Cain and Abel

“Cain Kills Abel,” by Palma Giovane

7. A notable relationship in Born a Crime is between young Trevor and his dog, Fufi. What parallels might be drawn between the way Noah describes his dog Fufi and how he describes himself in his childhood and youth?

Born a Crime trevornoah-dog

Trevor Noah reading his book to his dog. His first dog was Fufi who was deaf. This dog, of course, is not Fufi who met her demise when a burglar knocked down a wall on top of her.

 

8. Noah describes, with hilarious detail, an incident that happened when he was home alone with his great-grandmother (Koko) and didn’t want to use the outhouse. Which incidents, friends, or family members described in Born a Crime are most memorable to you?

9. Finally, was the book meaningful to you?  If so, why?  Would you recommend it to other?

Born a Crime trevornoah-maryvalecollege

Trevor Noah’s Maryvale College school photo

Born a Crime Trevor-Noah-and-father

Trevor Noah and his father Robert

Born a Crime-Trevor N Quote (Bike)

Born a Crime soon to be a movie:

http://www.africanews.com/2018/02/23/lupita-nyong-o-to-play-trevor-noah-s-mother-in-born-a-crime-movie/

Fresh Air Podcast:

https://www.npr.org/2016/11/22/503009220/trevor-noah-looks-back-on-childhood-in-the-shadow-of-a-giant-his-mom

About the Author:

Born a Crime Time Cover

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host and actor. He currently hosts The Daily Show, a late-night television talk show on Comedy Central.

“The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers,” Seventh Edition (1999), by Robert L. Heilbroner.

The bestselling classic that examines the history of economic thought from Adam Smith to Karl Marx—“all the economic lore most general readers conceivably could want to know, served up with a flourish” (The New York Times).

 

Worldly Philosophers-Cover2

 

“If socialism failed, it was for political, more than economic, reasons; and if capitalism is to succeed it will be because it finds the political will and means to tame its economic forces.” 

― Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers

 

*Post-Meeting Verdict*

On July 17, 2018, about eleven of us met on this book at PF Chang’s, Rampart.  The feedback was very positive.  Heilbroner is a an informative, enthusiastic author who made economic history interesting.  Some thought, however, that it slanted against more conservative economic thought with insufficient emphasis, for instance, on the Austrian school of economics.  Others wanted less history and more technical content.

On a five-point scale (one being the lowest, five the highest), the arithmetic mean ratings are:

Readability: 4.555

Content: 4.222

Overall: 4.000

Worldly Wealth of Nations

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

―Adam Smith

Worldly Keynes Time Cover

In the long run we are all dead.

―John Maynard Keynes

 

Alfred Marshal QuoteWordly Veblen Quote

Worldly Fourier Pic

François Marie Charles Fourier
7 April 1772
Besançon, FranceEnter a caption

Worldly MalthusWorldly Ricardo QuoteWorldly Robert Owen Bio

 

Worldly Schumpeter

Economic progress, in capitalist society, means turmoil. 

―Joseph Schumpeter

Discussion Questions:

1).  Why was the concept of “laissez faire” wa significant concept in Adam Smith’s time?

 

Worldly Invisibile Hand Cartoon

2).  Why did Malthus believe we were doomed?  What was the flaw in his logic?  What is the current state of overpopulation and world hunger?

Worldly Malthus Curve

3).  Who were the Utopian Philosophers and why did they fail to achieve their goals?

 

Worldly New Lanark

4).  Discuss why division and specialization of labor are beneficial to society.

5).  Explain Keynes’ philosophy of “priming the pump.”

Worldly FDR Cartoon Priming the Pump

6).  Explain why economics differs from the other social sciences and why it can never be reduced to simplistic formulas.

 

Worldly Economics the Queen

7).  Finally, did you find the book accessible?   Would you recommend it to someone who wants to learn about economics?

Wordly Wish I had a RockWorldly Magic of Free Market Econ

A primer: 

About the Author:

 

Worldly Philosophers-Author Robert L. Heilbroner

Robert L. Heilbroner (March 24, 1919 – January 4, 2005) was an American economist and historian of economic thought. The author of some twenty books, Heilbroner was best known for The Worldly Philosophers, a survey of the lives and contributions of famous economists, notably Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes.

Written in 1953, The Worldly Philosophers has sold nearly four million copies—the second-best-selling economics text of all time. The seventh edition of the book, published in 1999, included a new final chapter entitled “The End of Worldly Philosophy?”, which included both a grim view on the current state of economics as well as a hopeful vision for a “reborn worldly philosophy” that incorporated social aspects of capitalism.

Although a highly unconventional economist, who regarded himself as more of a social theorist and “worldly philosopher” (philosopher pre-occupied with “worldly” affairs, such as economic structures), and who tended to integrate the disciplines of history, economics and philosophy, Heilbroner was nevertheless recognized by his peers as a prominent economist. He was elected Vice President of the American Economic Association in 1972.

He also came up with a way of classifying economies, as either Traditional (primarily agriculturally-based, perhaps subsistence economy), Command (centrally planned economy, often involving the state), Market (capitalism), or Mixed.

He was a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security.

Heilbroner died on January 4, 2005 in New York, NY at the age of 85.

“Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto #4),” by Nassim M. Taleb

AntiFragile Cover

Antifragile Cartoon

The core idea behind this book is simple and quite enticing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb divides the world and all that’s in it (people, things, institutions, ways of life) into three categories: the fragile, the robust and the antifragile.

ANTIFRAGILE Hydra

The Hydra Exemplifies Antifragiility. Cut off its head and it grows two back.

According to the author, Mr. Taleb, all living systems are subject to stress, random events and disorder. Those that break are fragile, those that resist adaptation are robust. Those that adapt, gain new capability, understanding, and strength are antifragile.

Antifragile-Chart

We should all strive to be “antifragile.”

AntiFragile GraphAntifragile Convexity

Antifragile That which doesn't kill me

Discussion Questions:

1). The core idea behind this book is simple and enticing.  Taleb divides the world and all that’s in it (people, things, institutions, ways of life) into three categories: The fragile, the robust and the antifragile.  What is Antifragility?  Can you think of examples of systems that are “antifragile”?

Antifragile Sandstorm-in-Riyadh-Saudi

In the eye of the storm. Taleb says the least antifragile state in the world is Saudi Arabia

2). A reader could easily run out of adjectives to describe Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. The first ones that come to mind are: maddening, bold, repetitious, judgmental, intemperate, erudite, reductive, shrewd, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, provocative, pompous, penetrating, perspicacious, discursive, and pretentious.  What adjective would you use to describe the book?

Antifragile Stick Man

3). In that vein, while the book’s core idea is succinct and innovative, some say the book that houses it is just the opposite—A big, baggy, sprawling mess.  A hard going.  Do you agree with this assessment?  Is so, how could the book be better?

Antifragile Cartoon Boring

4). In Mr. Taleb’s view, “We have been fragilizing [sic] the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything” by “suppressing randomness and volatility,” much the way that “systematically preventing forest fires from taking place ‘to be safe’ makes the big one much worse.”   Do you agree with this view?  What, if any, solutions does Taleb offer?

Antifragile bear-prevent-forest-fires-cartoon-390x220

5). Antifragile is trying to be two things at once: a philosophical treatise and a how-to guide for living. Can you think of a way to apply the book’s principles to your life?

Antifragile Live Life Cartoon

Antifragilei Overprotective Mom

Are you teaching fragility?

6). Taleb is deeply and depressingly nostalgic for the virtues of the ancients; their stoicism, tolerance for suffering, and sharp justice.  Would we really be better off, for example, if we followed Hammurabi’s Code and put architects to death whenever one of their buildings fell down?

Antifragile Sparta

Making America Great Again?

7). Would you recommend this book to others?  Why or why not?

Antifragile Cartoon Chicken

About the Author:

Antifragile Author Picture

Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent 21 years as a risk taker (quantitative trader) before becoming a flaneur and researcher in philosophical, mathematical and (mostly) practical problems with probability.

Taleb is the author of a multivolume essay, the Incerto (The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game) an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision making when we don’t understand the world, expressed in the form of a personal essay with autobiographical sections, stories, parables, and philosophical, historical, and scientic discussions in nonover lapping volumes that can be accessed in any order.

In addition to his trader life, Taleb has also written, as a backup of the Incerto, more than 50 scholarly papers in statistical physics, statistics, philosophy, ethics, economics, international affairs, and quantitative finance, all around the notion of risk and probability.

Taleb is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering (only a quarter time position). His current focus is on the properties of systems that can handle disorder (“antifragile”).

Taleb believes that prizes, honorary degrees, awards, and ceremonialism debase knowledge by turning it into a spectator sport.

 

 

“The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America,” by Frances FitzGerald

Evangelicals-Book CoverEvangelicals Oral Roberts UniversityEvangelicals Wedding

A healing session led by the evangelist Oral Roberts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1960

A healing session led by the evangelist Oral Roberts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1960

Discussion Questions:

  1. One major question dominates author FitzGerald’s treatment, and it is suggested by her subtitle: Why should the faithful try to shape America at all? Should faith and politics intermix?

    Evangelicals Bush and Graham

    Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush greet evangelist Billy Graham in 2010.

  2. It is interesting to see how Protestant religions struggled with the Scientific Revolution and the major social changes of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Specifically whether the Bible could be read literally (inerrancy) and is free from error in matters of science as well as faith. Where do you come out on the struggle?  How do recent developments, such as exoplanet research, factor into the analysis?Evangelicals-MoodyEvangelicals-People Cover Billy Graham
  3. The struggle between a Biblical versus science-based model for society continues today in issues such as the validity of Intelligent Design theory and sex education. Is it valid to struggle governmental policy around religious beliefs?
    Evangelicals Trump

    Pastors and attendees lay hands on and pray with Donald Trump during the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors and Leadership Conference at the New Spirit Revival Center, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on September 21, 2016.

    Evangelicals Pat Robertson

    Evangelicals Scopes Trial

    Scopes Trial

  4. The book receives some criticism for focusing on the televangelists and other fringe players of the Evangelical movement and not enough on the positive contribution. Do you think this is a fair point? Did the author demonstrate a bias about her views on Evangelicals?Evangelicals-The Miracle Touch
  5. The heart of the story concerns the emergence of the Christian Right as a main player in US politics from the 1960s and 1970s up through the Bush Jr. and Obama. Yet today that force seems on the decline with the election of Trump, falling attendance, and the disinterest from the Millennials. What is your prediction for the future of the movement?Evangelicals Wheaton ColllegeEvangelicals Roy Moore Cartoon

About the Author:

Evangelicals-Frances FitzGerald (author)

Frances FitzGerald (born October 21, 1940) is an American journalist and historian, who is primarily known for Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972), an account of the Vietnam War. It was a bestseller that won the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and National Book Award.

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander

New Jim Crow Bars

“The New Jim Crow is essential reading for anyone who cares about justice, humanity, and the future of our democracy.”

—California Lawyer

“Now and then a book comes along that might in time touch the public and educate social commentators, policymakers, and politicians about a glaring wrong that we have been living with that we also somehow don’t know how to face. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is such a work. . . Alexander considers the evidence and concludes that our prison system is a unique form of social control, much like slavery and Jim Crow, the systems it has replaced. . . [She] is not the first to offer this bitter analysis, but The New Jim Crow is striking in the intelligence of her ideas, her powers of summary, and the force of her writing. Her tone is disarming throughout; she speaks as a concerned citizen, not as an expert, though she is one. She can make the abstract concrete, as J. Saunders Redding once said in praise of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Alexander deserves to be compared to Du Bois in her ability to distill and lay out as mighty human drama a complex argument and history.”

—The New York Review of Books, March 2011

 

New Jim Crow Imagery

“The Union as It Was. The Lost Cause, Worse than Slavery.” Illustration by Thomas Nast, 1874.

New Jim Crow Black Man in Prison Shower

Mass Incarceration-The New Jim Crow

Charts and Statistics:

New Jim Crow-Flag as Bars

 

New Jim Crow Incarceration Rates for Black American Men.

New Jim Crow-Prison Image

 

New Jim Crow lifetime-likelihood-of-imprisonment-by-race

 

New Jim Crow Impact+of+Drug+War
Statistics from “The New Jim Crow 

 

 

New Jim Crow Separate-but-Equal-Drug-Sentencing

 

For national crime statistics go to the FBI’s Uniform Crime in the United States reports:

https://ucr.fbi.gov/ucr-publications

Discussion Questions:

“The nature of the criminal justice system has changed. It is no longer primarily concerned with the prevention and punishment of crime, but rather with the management and control of the dispossessed.”

—Michelle Alexander, “The New Jim Crow”

New Jim Crow-Jim Crow is Back

Civil rights activists trying to stage a protest are blocked by National Guardsmen brandishing bayonets on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968.

Civil rights activists trying to stage a protest are blocked by National Guardsmen brandishing bayonets on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968.

1. Why does Alexander call mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow”? What does she say in response to these objections:

a. Jim Crow punished people for who they are—their race, which was out of their control—while mass incarceration punishes people for what they do when they break the law

b. Unlike Jim Crow, mass incarceration affects people of all races

c. Mass incarceration reflects an appropriate concern for public safety

d. Prominent African-Americans support “tough on crime” laws as a response to ghetto crime that mostly harms African-Americans.

2. And what do you think of the analogy?

3. What role do mandatory minimum sentences play in the new Jim Crow? When did mass incarceration begin?

New Jim Crow The House I Live In

4. What does Alexander mean when (quoting Reva Siegel) she calls slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration “preservation through transformation”? (p. 21)

New Jim Crow From the Back of the Bus

5. What is the role of bureaucratic discretion in the new Jim Crow? Consider both the tremendous discretion of police officers and prosecutors and the relative lack of discretion of judges. Does this suggest anything about what fairer laws might look like?

New Jim Crow Supreme Court

6. Why does Alexander say that prison sentences are only a small part of the problem? What’s the rest of the problem with the new Jim Crow?

7. What are some consequences of the new Jim Crow?

New Jim Crow where-did-the-prison-industrial-complex-come--L-JonZk4New Jim Crow Prisons and Schools

8. Do you agree with Alexander that “[t]he system operates through our criminal justice institutions, but it functions more like a caste system than a system of crime control?” (p.13)

9. Consider an analogy between the “criminals” in the War on Drugs and undocumented immigrants, who have also violated administrative regulations. Is the analogy between the statuses of “criminal” and “illegal” illuminating? Do other analogies come to mind?

New Jim Crow-Immigration

10. Consider another analogy regarding Alexander’s argument about the origin of the War on Drugs, and the origins of the War on Terror. Is the analogy, or are limits to the analogy, revealing?

11. Was the new Jim Crow inevitable? What would have had to be different to have prevented it?

New Jim Crow-Free the Jena 6

Images from the Old Jim Crow:

White tenants seeking to prevent black Americans from moving into the Sojourner Truth Homes, a federal governmental housing project, erected this sign in Detroit in 1942.

White tenants seeking to prevent black Americans from moving into the Sojourner Truth Homes, a federal governmental housing project, erected this sign in Detroit in 1942.

Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by a police officer in Montgomery, Alabama, on Feb. 22, 1956, two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. She was arrested with several others who violated segregation laws. Parks' refusal to give up her seat led to a boycott of buses in December 1955, a tactic organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by a police officer in Montgomery, Alabama, on Feb. 22, 1956, two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. She was arrested with several others who violated segregation laws. Parks’ refusal to give up her seat led to a boycott of buses in December 1955, a tactic organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

An unidentified white student slugs an effigy of a hanging black student outside Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Oct. 3, 1957, as nearly 75 students of the school walked out to protest integration.

An unidentified white student slugs an effigy of a hanging black student outside Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Oct. 3, 1957, as nearly 75 students of the school walked out to protest integration.

From left: Buddy Trammell, Max Stiles, and Tommy Sanders, students at Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, picket their school when it becomes the first state-supported school to integrate, on Aug. 27, 1956.

The Good Old Boys: Students at Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, picket their school when it becomes the first state-supported school to integrate, on Aug. 27, 1956.

Counter-protesting against civil rights demonstrations, Edward R. Fields and James Murray, members of the National States Rights Party, hang an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the party's headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 6, 1963.

Counter-protesting against civil rights demonstrations members of the National States Rights Party, hang an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the party’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 6, 1963.

Roy Lee Howlett, 14, stands beside a car painted with signs protesting the desegregation of Mansfield High School in Dallas on Aug. 31, 1956.

A fourteen-year-old boy stands beside a car painted with signs protesting the desegregation of Mansfield High School in Dallas on Aug. 31, 1956.

Klansmen form a circle around a burning cross at a rally in Albany, Georgia, which an estimated 3,000 persons attended in 1962.

Klansmen form a circle around a burning cross at a rally in Albany, Georgia, which an estimated 3,000 persons attended in 1962.

Podcasts and Media:

“The New Jim Crow: Michelle Alexander,” Things Not Seen.  An in-depth interview with the author.

http://www.thingsnotseenradio.com/shows/1509a-alexander

“Legal Scholar: Jim Crow Still Exists In America, Fresh Air (Jan. 16, 2012).

https://www.npr.org/2012/01/16/145175694/legal-scholar-jim-crow-still-exists-in-america

“The ‘Thumbprint Of The Culture’: Implicit Bias And Police Shootings,” The Hidden Brain article and podcast

https://www.npr.org/2017/06/05/531578107/the-thumbprint-of-the-culture-implicit-bias-and-police-shootings

New Jim Crow-I remember you

About the Author:

New Jim Crow Author

Michelle Alexander is a writer, civil rights advocate, and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary. She is best known for her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

 

“Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon,” by Bronwen Dickey

“If trained animal professionals with years of dog-handling experience aren’t good at visually identifying breeds, then what does that say about the rest of us?”

 

“By World War I, pit bulls were so beloved as national symbols that we literally and figuratively wrapped them in the flag. We even called them “Yankee terriers.”

 

“Dogs have evolved to understand us better over the millennia, but in modern pet culture we appear doomed to understand them less.”

 

― Bronwen Dickey, Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon

 

Pitt Bull Cover

The illuminating story of how a popular breed of dog became the most demonized and supposedly the most dangerous of dogs—and what role humans have played in the transformation.

From this:

To This:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How did you view Pit Bulls before reading this book?  Has your viewpoint changed?  Is so, why?
  2.  In Chapter Nine the book discusses “moral panic” which is defined as inappropriate hysteria about a novel, obscure, or previously ignored phenomenon.  The book gives examples of this which include early eighties claims of satanic ritual child abuse and the witch hunts that spread across medieval Europe.   Can you think of other examples?  Does it surprise you that, not just individuals, but entire cultures and societies can suffer from irrational hysteria?
  3. Reading this book reminds me of the classic “How to Lie with Statistics.”  The author also explores how unfounded opinions and speculation can morph overtime into scientific fact.  Did reading this book make you more skeptical about arguments based on statistics and data?  
  4. The book illustrates the remarkably patience and tolerance of dogs.  A mid-sized dog could, at any time, seriously maim a person.  Yet it so rarely happens.  There are only an average of thirty-five fatal dog attacks a year.  Are you surprised that, when you look at the data, dogs and men coexist remarkably well. 
  5. In addition to amazingly pronounced problem of dog breed identification, a major problem with evaluating dog breed “aggressiveness” is the myriad of variables involved in dog attacks, e.g., was the dog tethered, was the dog provoked, was the dog subject to neglect or environmental stress.  Do we lack sufficient data to make this determination?
  6. Finally, as always, did you like the book?  The writer’s style?  Did you learn anything that will stay with you?

About the Author:

Pit Bull Author

Bonwen Dickey is a contributing editor at The Oxford American. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Outside, Slate, Garden & Gun, Best American Travel Writing, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Independent Weekly, among other publications. She lives in North Carolina.

Interviews:

https://bookpage.com/interviews/19793-bronwen-dickey#.Wl5UFainHcs

https://themillions.com/2016/06/dogs-of-war-bronwen-dickey-on-pit-bulls.htm

https://www.npr.org/2016/05/10/477350069/friend-or-fiend-pit-bull-explores-the-          history-of-americas-most-feared-dog