I’m a librarian now, but for the last year and a half I had the opportunity to put my Women’s History degree to use and teach some History 1301 and 1302 classes. One topic I was constantly searching for added readings or movies on was Executive Order 9066, which gave the green light for the forced relocation and imprisonment of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States during World War II.
Oh, how I wish I’d had this book for supplementary material!
They Called Us Enemy is co-written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, and gorgeously illustrated by Harmony Becker. It focuses on Takei’s childhood experiences, when his family was sent to live at the Rohwer camp in Arkansas. Later, his parents refused to mark “yes” on a survey declaring that they were wiling to serve in the US armed forces and disavow the Japanese emporer. As “no-nos,” his parents were treated as enemies of the state, and the family was sent to a higher security camp, Tule Lake in California. It was particularly sobering to realize that his parents were about my age when all of this was happening; they lost everything and were forced into an uncertain future with very young children in tow.
Graciela Iturbide is a Mexican photographer and artist whose photographs seem to straddle the line between stark reality and another dream world. She was a creative child who dabbled with a camera in her youth, but she didn’t dedicate herself to photography until after marriage, motherhood, and the devastating loss of one of her children. She became an apprentice for the photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, honing her skills and learning to wait for the right shots.
Her career took off; she’s known for photographing indigenous communities in Mexico and the United States, but she has traveled the world to photograph landscapes and communities for international publications. When Frida Kahlo’s bedroom was unsealed in 2004, Iturbide one of the few artists granted access to the private quarters.
I’m not sure how this book popped up on my radar several months ago. Perhaps it was the bright yellow cover? Perhaps it was the Lichtenstein-inspired artwork? Or maybe the cheeky title? Whatever it was, I hella eager to track down a copy (not an easy feat since it’s a new book and a lot of libraries don’t really ILL new books). But I finally got my copy!
With Trust No Aunty, Maria Qamar — the woman behind the @hatecopy account on Instagram — has channeled her experiences as a South Asian immigrant in Canada into a tongue-in-cheek guide to handling Desi “aunties” (elders) like a pro. The book is divided into different types of aunties: The Online Stalker Aunty, The Matchmaker Aunty, The Weight-Watcher Aunty, and so forth. Handling each type of aunty comes with its own set of potential cultural minefields, so laying out different scenarios, Qamar compares rookie moves vs. boss moves to come out on top. And to help you win even more in life, Qamar offers humorous tips on surviving on a tiny budget, working out Desi-style, dating, and handling cultural appropriation.
Now that the summer semester I was teaching is over, and given recent events in the United States — What the hell is happening? I mean, I know what’s happening, but WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING? — I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some reviews that I never got around to. And what better books to start with than John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell’s award-winning graphic memoir series, March?
Told in stark black and white panels, the series centers around John Lewis’s remarkable life. Lewis, who organized alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights figureheads in his young and has gone on to fight for civil rights as a Congressman, grew up on a sharecropper’s farm in Alabama. He originally wanted to be a preacher and get away from working in the fields. He fought to attend school, and upon graduation, felt called to higher education away from the South. Still, the Jim Crow South was his life, and as he gained a better understanding of the world, he felt compelled to join the fight for civil rights. March: Book One charts his commitment to education as well as his entry into the civil rights movement, including his first encounter with Dr. King. It recounts behind-the-scenes, nonviolent strategizing among the student movement and culminates with the fight to desegregate lunch counters.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Publisher/Year: Random House Audio, 2013
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Length: 5 hours, 30 minutes
What it is: Seven months pregnant, cookbook writer and food personality Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband has been having an affair with someone she knows. Meanwhile, her well-heeled friends spend their time planning events and gossiping about The Other Woman; they suspect she’s having an affair, but they can’t figure out with whom. Sprinkled throughout the book are recipes for Rachel’s various comfort foods. Rachel just doesn’t know what to do: she wants to make things work with her husband, but she also wants him to drop dead. The book was originally published in 1983.
Why I listened to it: I was looking for a short, light-hearted audiobook. I’d been meaning to read this for a while now because it seems to be universally loved, and it didn’t hurt that Meryl Streep was the narrator (she also starred in the 1986 film adaptation).
What I thought: I think I might have to come to terms that I love Nora Ephron the screenwriter and director, but not Nora Ephron the author. Heartburn is indeed light and entertaining — I can see why people seem to love it so much, and there were moments that genuinely made me laugh — but it felt very one-note/stand-up comedy routine.
Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg by Kate Evans
Publisher/Year: Verso, 2015
What it is: A graphic novel about Rosa Luxemburg, who was born into a poor Jewish family in Poland. She was tiny (probably from malnourishment) and sickly (she would walk with a limp for her whole life), but by the age of fifteen, she was rabble rousing on behalf of the working class. She fought to be sent away to receive an education and grappled with Communism in a way that would make it accessible to the people. By her twenties, in a time when women still lacked any authority in important matters, Luxemburg had earned a PhD and made a name for herself in Germany as an important theorist, organizer, and writer whose ideas are still relevant to this day.
Why I read it: I love books on women’s history, and I loved that this one was presented as a graphic biography.
What I thought: First off, I commend Kate Evans for being able to work so much theory into the text in an accessible way! It was still a little clunky at times, but…have you ever read Marx? Overall, though, Evans did a wonderful job of showing Luxemburg as a person — someone with a fiery determination to make her ideas known, but also someone with a rich and fascinating private life. I’d never heard of Luxemburg before reading this, and I am grateful for the introduction.
You can view some of the artwork from the book after the jump. You can also read an excerpt at The Nation.