#BookReview: The Taste Of Ginger by Mansi Shah

Blatant Racism Deeply Mars Otherwise Universal Story. This is, without a shred of a doubt, the most racist book I’ve seen published this Millenium, at minimum – and to think that the normally *very* solid Lake Union Publishing allowed it under their banner is very discouraging, indeed. While I would never say a book should not be published at all, this is one that no major company – particularly one so large as Amazon – that claims to stand for diversity, inclusion, and equity should ever stand behind. White / America is EVIL according to Shah, and everything wrong in Preeti’s life is because she had to try to fit in with “White America”. Bullcrap. You take the commentary about everything White and/ or American being so evil out of this tale and look at just the remaining elements of struggling to fit in, to find oneself despite parental desires, to have your parents accept you as an adult… and you’ve got a universal tale that applies no matter the race. *Everyone* goes through these struggles, even in cultures where it appears different. But no, Shah here had to go the racist route and destroy what would have otherwise been a solid, maybe even transcendental, work. While some might think I’m being a bit generous here with 3* based on this write-up, the univeral elements here were done quite well while examining their particulars within Indian culture, particularly looking at both the Indian Diaspora and Indians who never leave the subcontinent – nor want to. And that is where I am confident in still allowing it the three, despite such blatant and rampant racism. Recommended, begrudgingly.

This review of The Taste Of Ginger by Mansi Shah was originally written on December 29, 2021.

#BookReview: Loserville by Clayton Trutor

Intriguing Look At Atlanta And Professional Sports History. As I sit to write this review, the Atlanta Braves are less than 90 minutes from First Pitch on Game 5 of the 2021 World Series – and with a 3-1 lead over the Houston Astros, Atlanta stands a chance at winning the series in front of the home town crowd before the sun rises again, its first in 26 years. And yes, I’ve made it a point to read this book – which I’ve had on my ARC Calendar for seemingly a couple of months now – this particular weekend, for exactly this reason.

Here, Trutor does a phenomenal job of showing the full history of the first decade of professional sports in Atlanta, with all five of its major league teams at some point in the late 60s to early 70s – my parents’ own childhood, on the exurbs of the very town in question. Indeed, Trutor speaks of the *development* of things that were well-established by my own childhood in the same region in the 80s and 90s, such as the Omni, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the Georgia Dome, and even Underground Atlanta (which apparently had been redone by the time of my childhood, as it wasn’t nearly so infamous then). He then does a great job of showing how while Atlanta was the first Southern City to acquire these franchises, there were (and are) several other Southern Cities that have largely followed Atlanta’s model over the decades since… with similar results, for the most part.

There are arguably two weaknesses to the version of this text I read: On a style side, the final chapter, covering in broad strokes what happened in the other Southern Cities that tried to follow Atlanta and how they turned out over the years, is a bit of an abrupt ending. Apt, but abrupt.

The other is that Trutor tends to argue that race played quite a bit of a role in the development of Atlanta Sports and what I came to know as the Geography of Atlanta. I wasn’t alive during the periods Trutor mostly covers, so I can’t speak to those periods as the Native Georgian I am. But I *can* speak to one move Trutor covers, if briefly – the Braves’ move from Turner Field to SunTrust (now Truist) Park over the last decade, where fans are finding their seats as I type this to hopefully watch their hometown baseball club win the 2021 World Series. I was actually there for that one, and as one of those fans on the northern Perimeter I can attest to a lot of the fears about safety and finding a good (yet not overly expensive) parking spot at Turner Field. (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where I saw my first Braves games as a child and even a monster truck rally or two, was demolished right around the time my age began having two digits in it, so I can’t speak to issues there.) I can also attest that the new Battery design is much more conducive to getting me to spend money in the area immediately around the park, which is something the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium / Olympic Stadium / Turner Field site has never offered. But these are observations from a native who has been to the relevant areas throughout his life – vs a Vermont-based academic.

Even with these differences though, Trutor’s work here is truly well written and solidly documented – roughly 20% of this copy was bibliography, and the prose here is enlightening and engaging without ever going too deep into “academic speak”. Fans of Atlanta and Georgia sports or history are absolutely going to need to read this book, and indeed fans of major US sporting in general should fine quite a bit here to be illuminating. Even people who decry “sports ball” will find an utterly fascinating read about a little-documented series of events that has come to shape, in parts, the entirety of American professional sporting. Very much recommended.

This review of Loserville by Clayton Trutor was originally written on October 31, 2021.

#BookReview: Citizen Cash by Michael Stewart Foley

Detailed Examination Of Forgotten Elements Of A Legend. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and others of that generation via Country Gold Saturday Night on the radio in the late 80s and early 90s. My family would pile in the pickup truck, parents in the cab, myself and my two younger brothers in the back, and we would ride the backroads in the boonies of northwest Georgia between Atlanta and Chatanooga, listening to the radio and feeling the wind buffet our bodies. Honestly some of my most fond memories of the carefree era of my childhood, and Johnny Cash played a role there – a role he never knew about. And while I’ve known of him since then as a country music legend, I had never considered his politics or messages.

This book changes that.

This book, with its chapters focusing on specific elements of Cash’s political beliefs and how they developed, is less biography and more analysis of how the given message came to be espoused by this particular man and why. It shows that at his heart, Johnny Cash was a man who empathized with the low and down trodden. How his own childhood on a Depression era sharecropper farm came to shape much of how he saw the world, and how even his service in the US Air Force in Germany during the Korean War era would come to shape his views of the Vietnam War a decade later. The text does not shy away from Cash’s well known (and well documented) struggles with drugs and alcohol, even showing where Cash himself was hypocritical on the issues at times – ordering his wife never to touch alcohol, even in some letters where it is quite clear he himself is drunk while writing them. At the same time, it doesn’t spend much time on these particular facets or even his wives, the controversy surrounding how he eventually got together with June Carter, his various kids, or any other aspect an actual biography would. Instead, this text uses biography more as background and scaffolding to show how Cash came to the political positions he did and how he came to espouse them.

Truly an interesting take on a genuine legend, and very much recommended.

This review of Citizen Cash by Michael Stewart Foley was originally written on October 28, 2021.

#BookReview: We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia

Mostly Solid Work A Bit Misguided By Its Own Biases. This is one of the more comprehensive books I’ve found about the actual issues facing Autistics in the current world (circa 2020) – well, in the US anyway. Discussions of education, gender, housing, personhood, etc are mostly solid and mostly problem free, focusing on numerous interviews the author has conducted over several years combined with well documented (roughly 32% of the text of this Advance Reader Copy I read) research.

It even has two *extremely* good points:
1) “We don’t know what Autism in and of itself looks like. We only know how autism informed by trauma presents itself.” -Cal Montgomery
2) From the close of Chapter 9: “People who are not Autistic often assume they are acting benevolently by hand-holding those on the spectrum. But despite their best intentions, there is an element of condescension in thse actions because it assumes that non-Autistic people know what’s best. But it is Autistic people who live with the condition of Autism – for all of its positives and negatives – as well as the consequences of any collective action meant to help them. If there is going to be policy that has seismic impact on their lives, they deserve to have a say it in, no mater how they communicate. Furthermore, while many parent advocates, clinicians, and other “experts” may have good intentions, centering their voices continues to give them power that should lie with the Autistic community. To achieve any true sense of freedom, Autistic people need to take this power back.”

HOWEVER, the fact that the discussion routinely ignores and even outright dismisses the needs and challenges of white Autistics and/ or Autistics who *do* find meaningful employment in the science and/ or technology sectors means that the book fails to have truly the comprehensive discussion of the condition that it seems to seek to have. In ignoring these facets, it doesn’t truly “change the Autism conversation” in any truly helpful manner, as it blatantly ignores and dismisses a key component that can actually do quite a bit of good in trying to address all of the other issues the narrative does go in detail on. We Autistic technologists can create the very technologies Garcia sometimes points to as being needed, in part because we ourselves truly do live with these very same issues – and thus, we don’t actually need a neurotypical trying to approximate some solution, as we can create a solution that works for our own particular case and allow for it to be customized to fit other cases as well.

Ultimately this truly is a very strong look at the state of Autistic society today and the issues Autistics face in trying to fully integrate into larger neurotypical societies, it simply missed its potential to be so much more. Very much recommended.

This review of We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia was originally written on March 14, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Unique by David Linden

This week we’re looking at one of the most precise science books I’ve encountered this year. This week, we’re looking at Unique by David Linden.

Given the topics Linden discusses here – among them sex, gender, sexuality, race, experience, even memory and sense – it is incredibly easy, maybe even tempting, for many authors of science books to wax at least somewhat political even while discussing the science of a given topic. Indeed, many do.

Linden does not, and that is one of the greatest strengths of this book.

Instead, Linden focuses *exactly* on where the science of the issue currently is, and says it with a fair degree of specificity. Such as instead of saying “many”, he’ll say “30%” – even if the exact number may be 27.84% or 32.16%, “30%” is close enough for those of us just trying for a general understanding of the topic at hand, and far more precise than many authors will give. Further, if the science is changing or inconclusive on a given topic, Linden notes this as well, at times even clearly noting where he himself has reviewed the research at hand.

Ultimately, the book does a truly remarkable job of explaining what we currently know about the science of human variance and how all of these combinations form to make an individual… well, an individual. Truly a remarkable read, and one that many would do well to read. 🙂 Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ BookBub review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: Unique by David Linden”

Featured New Release Of The Week: Republic of Wrath by James Morone

This week we’re looking at a a truly fascinating history of just how fragmented America has been seemingly from its very founding – including incidents just prior to the Civil War that would make even the most heated activists of today blanche in terror. This week we’re looking at Republic Of Wrath by James Morone.

Unfortunately I’m facing a form of “writer’s block” these days that is barely allowing me to write a Goodreads level review, so that is all I have to offer this week.

Excellent History Lesson. I’m a guy that prides myself in knowing more about American history than most. (Well, let’s be honest, my normal line is that I know more about most than most, and that generally holds true – even when people know far more than I do about a given topic.) Anyways… 😀 This book did a phenomenal job of bringing forth quite a bit of American history that even I wasn’t aware of, particularly in my acknowledged weak area between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. For example, despite how heated American political discourse feels at times over the last couple of years in particular, apparently there was a point in the lead-up to the Civil War where *Congressmen* routinely brought knives and guns *onto Capitol Hill*. Indeed, one line Morone quotes from a Congressman of the time is that those that didn’t bring a knife and a gun brought two guns! While the ending of the narrative, with Morone’s recommendations of how to fix where we find ourselves, is more “your mileage may vary” level, the lead up to that point is a solid look at American history, if hyper focused on the general premise that all conflict came from either race or immigration – which is a bit disingenuous at times, but the analysis here isn’t so flawed as to claim absolute exclusivity to the premise. Absolutely a must-read for Americans and really anyone wishing to understand how America has arrived at its current place in time. Very much recommended.