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24th & Glory

24th & Glory: The Intersection of Civil Rights and Omaha's Greatest Generation of Athletes24th & Glory: The Intersection of Civil Rights and Omaha's Greatest Generation of Athletes by Dirk Chatelain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A engaging, moving read. The story of significant American social movements told through the lens of one neighborhood in a Midwestern city and the prominent characters who lived there. A essential read for Omahans that will be enjoyed by many others.

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The Origin of Others

The Origin of OthersThe Origin of Others by Toni Morrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, the week after her death, to read Morrison's words speaking to the crisis of our times. My favorite part was this on the stranger:

"Why should we want to know a stranger when it is easier to estrange another? Why should we want to close the distance when we can close the gate? . . .

"It took some time for me to understand my unreasonable claims on that fisherwoman. To understand that I was longing for and missing some aspect of myself, and that there are no strangers. There are only versions of ourselves, many of which we have not embraced, most of which we wish to protect ourselves from. For the stranger is not foreign, she is random; not alien but remembered; and it is the randomness of the encounter with our already known--although unacknowledged--selves that summons a ripple of alarm. That makes us reject the figure and the emotions its provokes--especially when these emotions are profound. It is also what makes us want to own, govern, and administrate the Other. To romance her, if we can, back into our own mirrors. In either instance (of alarm or false reverence), we deny her personhood, the specific inviduality we insist upon for ourselves."

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Sapiens

Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There were three places in the book where I felt an interesting idea was discussed. First was his claim that the Agricultural Revolution caused a decrease in happiness and freedom. Second was his discussion of the rise and dominance of capitalism and particularly how that tied with science. Third was his claim that Europe came unexpectedly to dominate the world because of its embrace of ignorance.

But overall I didn't find the book very interesting. Most ideas weren't new. I didn't find the writing style engaging. I ended up having to force myself to finish reading rather than put it down after a few chapters.

So, I'm unsure what all the buzz was about.

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Call It Grace

Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured WorldCall It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World by Serene Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Serene Jones has written about the life of faith as a prominent theologian, combining personal and family stories and experiences with the intellectual concepts of the great theological thinkers. A beautiful exploration of how those of us who study Calvin, Barth, Kierdegaard, Cone, etc. make sense of our lives and integrate the intellect with experience. This book will be particularly good for those who don't understand theology, not because it is an intro to theological thinking for it is not, but becuase it describes how the theological imagination works.

Jones is a fellow Oklahoman, so I was drawn to how central the Oklahoma experience is to her theological reflection. I have been slowly working on a project for the last 13 years or so to develop a theology of plains, first focused on Oklahoma but then expanded to include Nebraska when I moved in 2010. Her chapter on Prairie Theology was fun to read.

Large parts of the book are memoiristic, but they are not strictly memoir. As someone who has published a memoir, I felt there were places that her innovative genre allowed her to avoid some of the hard work of memoir. One can't and shouldn't always move to lessons and morals from one's experience. Also, she was able to pick and choose from her experience in a way that papered over some, probably because they didn't fit the genre she had created. I also felt some experiences and relationships were insufficiently examined. But many of these criticisms are somewhat nitpicky.

But I was bothered by two times when she got her facts wrong. The first was when she described leaving her Tuesday morning class and then learning about the OKC bombing (a key event in her narrative). The bombing occurred on a Wednesday. The second was the time of death for Timothy McVeigh. She only got that one wrong by an hour. But what puzzled me is that she didn't doublecheck her memory for these central stories. Nor did any of her readers or editors correct her. Nor did her editor look up all the look-up-able facts as my editor did. Strange.

While it suggest sloppy editing, it also demonstrates the way trauma scrambles our brains.

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Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23156040-those-who-leave-and-those-who-stay" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img border="0" alt="Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (The Neapolitan Novels, #3)" src="https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1411338052l/23156040._SX98_.jpg" /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23156040-those-who-leave-and-those-who-stay">Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/44085.Elena_Ferrante">Elena Ferrante</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2916968536">4 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
I am so engrossed in this series. The second installment wasn't as strong as the first but I really liked this one, the third. And now I'm salivating for reading the fourth, which I may have to bump up my list and read soon.<br /><br />I felt that this novel was very similar to Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook in the explorations of gender issues and politics. Ferrante did a nice job of showing the awakening of feminist consciousness, yet complicated by continued attraction for a man who may not be good for Elena.<br /><br />Some of the developments in Lina's character I found more difficult to understand, but this time I was less engrossed in her character.
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre DameThe Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Notre Dame burned this spring, I realized that I had never read this novel, despite owning a copy since I was an adolescent. So it seemed time to finally read it.

The novel took me a long time to get into. Like many nineteenth century novels there is so much else going on besides the central story and much development and scene setting before things really get going. When they finally do, the story is good, even if Hugo can go off on strange tangents (like the long section on the history of architecture as opposed to the written word).

But there are marvelous aspects and Quasimodo is such a fascinating character.

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