We Were Eight Years in Power By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book Review

Impressions

It is thought that the first documented African slaves arrived on these shores in the year 1612.

This book is so rich in historical benchmarks and telling(s) of times and people that sculptured who we are as a nation. There’s little space in this review to highlight all the points discussed. They are all so very relevant.  So, I’ll speak to a few.

I was waiting a long time for this journal and the writing is better than I’d hoped. In each generation an African American author presents to the world a treatise that paints a vivid picture in eloquent terms that speaks to the heart. This compilation points the way to understanding the deeper aspects of our culture. The results of Mr. Coates’ research is a brilliant and honest body of work and art.

He began with our most recent history

We saw Barack Obama as the quintessential choice for POTUS 44. This was a prideful offering representing how we view not only African America but America’s values.  Our gratification did not stem from just the color of his skin, rather the fact of his bona fide, the character with which he conducts his life.

The author captures this sentiment superbly.

To many of us in Chicago Barack Obama is the incarnation of what the old dreamers back in the day and just up from the south envisioned as what was possible. Barack is considered an expression of all that is good in our culture. Mr. Coates’ details of the times and social conditions that surrounded that election is brilliant journalism. His firsthand account of the primary and general, of Michelle’s roles during those history making moments should be a must read for aspiring journalists.  It goes beyond simple social studies.

We’re the hidden American culture

The book explores candidly how Michelle Obama’s middle-class upbringing seemed to be a subject of discovery for many Americans. The debates about whether she was a proudful American or not grew into a national phenomenon. It raged on explaining how the anathema amongst the White populist justified the events leading to the formation of the Tea Party. This aspect of American cultured cannot be defined or explained enough. Coates clarified in painful detail this false narrative that helped propel theories as fact that the first African American President is not a true American, in some quarters he lacked human attributes. It’s a painful reminder.

This book peels a way so much of what White American has chosen not to address or understand about our post World War II parentage.  Come up from the south they built communities where our doctors were black, the lawyer, real estate brokers, grocer and butcher were all people of color. It was considered disrespectful to patronize a white business when there were “our people” needing the work. African America enjoyed with pride insular communities. The author captures this recollection with care and great understanding.

 “The South Side was almost a black world unto itself, replete with the economic and cultural complexity of the greater city. There were debutantes and cotillions as well as gangs and drug addicts, Mostly, there were men like Fraser Robinson, black people working a job, trying to get by. The diversity and the demographics allowed the Robinsons to protect their kids from the street life, and also from digest, personal racism.”

Reparation; to make amends, to bring whole what was taken.

Coates’ views on the “banditry” of African Americans debates brilliantly the reasons for his heartbreak on this subject. The robbing of African Americans of heritage and vows of reparations is explored in this book. He explains the machinations surrounding broken promises made of forty acres and a mule to the various failed social reforms I’ll address later in this review.

The only thing missing in this chapter is the harsh reality of the lack of economic value our country still holds for its African American communities.  I’ve not to date viewed a plausible quant study on the cost to the Negro culture. It is indeed worth taking a knee for. According to the statistics in this book there’s continued harshness visited upon the African American, we’ve certainly earned the right to peacefully protest these egregious symptoms of imbalance.

It is hard to convey how needful it is for everyone to understand that we are not a “Photonegative of each other” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Honesty

Coates uses as example social economists like Patrick Moynihan who lent his brilliance to creating various iterations of social programs meant to alleviate the Negro plight. Most failed and instead of them becoming teachable times, they more than often created deeper chasms of social wrongs. These social experiments have left indelible societal scars that will last for generations.

The end of marginalization is a many generational and much wish for event. And yet here we are again…more “the other” than ever…. or so it sometime seems.

Story/Plot/Conflict

Where do we go from here?  This story seems ageless but this writing will rank among the finest example of journalism.

The plot is yet to be discovered. Not until the current American culture comes to understand the nature of marginalization and its hideous influence on socio-economics and sovereign survival. Will this “plot” ever be understood.

The conflict lies in the need to dismiss and not read books like this that bring some understanding to the why of our selective ignorance about each other.

Critiques This work is a must read for everyone. No matter the country or culture there are lessons in this book that are needful to humanity. Ta-Nehisi Coates joins the esteem ranks of this generation’s finest author.

Thank you, Mr. Coates

God A Human Story By Reza Aslan

Book Review

Impressions

A monotheism experiment – “the climax of the fairly recent belief in a single, singular, nonhuman, and indivisible creator God as defined by postexilic Judaism, as renounced by Zoroastrian Dualism and Christian Trinitarianism, and as revived in the Sufi interpretation of tawhid; God is not the creator of everything that exists. God is everything that exists.” ~ God A Human Story

Nothing prepared me for this uplifting treatise on the intelligence of our evolution. We may be nature’s experiment, but humanity has always initiated its own exploration of the neural pathways that explain not only who we are but also how we are to each other.

 

The author Reza Aslan offers an explanation on how religions are constant constructs in evolution and is the creation of our civilizations.  So I ask have we engineered religions as guideposts to our evolution. Or is religion an organic living thing that progresses with civilizations.

This essay is not a read for those who understand or live religious dogma as an unchanging thing written on stone tablets. Rather this author explains concepts of the many religions we’ve embraced in clear and unambiguous terms. And his book is the brilliant product of much work. It comprises mountains of organized, substantive research and a discourse on the evolution and sometimes devolution of humanity’s faiths.

Divine humanization

From Lord of the Beasts to a redefined god stripped of carnal form to become a dehumanized god…”without shape or form – utterly transcendent and apersonal.” From God A Human Story

It is reasonable to surmise that the growth of religions becomes part of a learned pattern of thought that manifest by way of cellular memories. The disparate events in discoveries of cave art depicting similar objects of deity in other times and spaces begs the question, is there cellular memories embedded in our DNA.  And, do these objects contain a formula for organized religions necessary for humanity’s socialization?

Although bioresearch has evolved to a place that aggressively challenges what we don’t know about the cell and the intelligence fueling its organelles, it is safe to say that they may harbor information about the origin of the phenomenon we call organized religion.

For me the most compelling argument made by Mr. Aslan on how we struggle to awareness is in the advent of Marduk.  He was central to one of  the longest lasting religions that arrived during Babylonian times when humanity was grasping for an inclusiveness. In a society led by Cyrus the Great and when Judaism was still new and Yeshua ben Joseph (Jesus) wasn’t born yet, the kernels of a culturally changeable society came to be.

The preponderance of evidence reasons that Cyrus the Great constructed an inclusive nation that respected values of a culturally fluid civilization.   While slowly dehumanizing its center of worship, a god name Marduk.

Our imagination driven by what we understand dictates our need to make gods in images and traits we know best…ourselves.

It requires a brave heart

One must enter into the labor of religious research with an open mind and heart.  Reza Aslan owns both with a healthy dash of skepticism and bravery.

In my opinion, to argue the relevance of the constructs of our belief systems requires extreme courage. The evolution of religion is the tender under belly of all human cultures.  They compose the most personal self-identification of societies and sovereignty. It composes what we understand as the collective reasoning.

I wouldn’t, shouldn’t and couldn’t comment on this read as an essay on opposing religions. Rather it’s a talk on how our ‘systems of faith” evolved to reflect our relative truths.

This author delves very little into the nature of the societies that constructed these religions. In my opinion because Mr. Aslan’s course of study and this book is centered on the far more important stuff of explaining how religions work and its mind numbing effects on human progress.

Survival

Our objects of worship served to explain the unexplainable while aiding our survival as a specie.  Are we in the midst of embracing and expanding the precepts of a dehumanized religion?

This is genius writing on comparative religions and the processes of its creators and inheritors.

Story/Plot/Conflict

An extremely ambitious book becomes an easy read on the roots of religions and thoroughly researched story of comparative ideologies.

The cultural timelines and borders appear almost a blur.  The author clarifies those lines that seem to disappear in the miasma of disparate teachings of scholars separated or compromised by secular belief systems.

The book explains in simple terms how the conflict lies in man’s reasoning for living and the need to look elsewhere for guidance and comfort.

The human story preaches how the varied forms of deification and religious fables have endured and colored how we see experience our religions. This author makes this 12,000 to 14,000 years tale seem like mere steps in discoveries of whom we are and how beliefs have inform our lives.

Main Character

God

My Critique: Even for the most august of theologians can experience epiphanies in this read. This writing has the rare flavor of pure objectivity.

Genre: General audiences and an enlightening read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soul of the World By David Mealing

 

Published by: Orbit Books

Impressions

This is an epic and deeply ambitious read. Military battles and the politics of civil war come to life in a fantasy world filled with magic.

Marching to the mantra of Liberté égalité fraternité

The great reveal in this story is the wealth of battle theaters. Strategic scenes bring to mind the time of the 47 Ronin, the French Resistance during WWII, the US Civil War echoes a call to arms for, liberty, equality, and brotherhood. It is a reminder of humanity’s need for warfare that goes unaltered. But this telling of war also includes love and betrayal that accompanies magic.

The concept of tethering a leyline to bind paranormal powers is a fascinating concept. Also, the acquiring of spirit powers from slain beasts is an almost forgotten legacy from the original tribes of earth. Even to the contrivance of words like Trithetic pulls this reader to thoughts of the commonality of religions that dot humanity’s history. Each chapter of this book effortlessly explores the diversions between opposing cultures while magic seems to be the binding force.

The transition from chapter to chapter and the development of storyline was, for me, extremely enjoyable. It kept this reader wondering how the main drivers of the tale could eventually come together and become heroines and hero. I felt the disappointment at the loss of friends and fellow soldiers. I laughed at the ribald in your face language from wine laden lips.

My Favorite Characters

Chevalier-General Erris D’Arrent is a fictional embodiment of strong character and bravery. She has the qualities we’ve come to love in superheroes.

Steeped in the old tried and true traditions of his tribe the Sanari Guardian Arak’Jur is my second favorite character. Putting aside the pain of loss and war, he learns how questioning the unquestionable becomes an important tool for survival.

Story/Plot/Conflict

Three must fight. Three must die. Three must rise

This novel is about a fantasy world that finds its fated path darkened with civil war. The journey is also about the politics of court intrigue, love, and death. But soldiers and the resistance yearning for a renaissance are fighting in an enchanted world where magical shamans speak truth from gods. Streets and sewers run red with blood. And tribal guardians assume the power of the animal spirits they slay.

Evil takes residence in the hearts of the oppressed in the cities of the Gands and Sarresants. Three women from divergent cultures define the outcomes of this war between good and evil in a fantasy world in the grips of a fight that may never end.
Who among the gods will survive and who among men will ascend to the Veil. Their weapons of choice are warding spells, binding powerful magic and the power of spirit guides.

Main Characters

Sarine Thibeaux is a street artist inhabiting the slums call the Maw. A freebinder, she possesses innate and rare abilities. Inside her lies a hidden secret that will change and save her world.
Chevalier-General Erris d’Arrent is a military fullbinder. Born to a blacksmith and trained by the military, she becomes a formidable commander and leader of her world New Sarresant.
Arak’Jur is the Sanari Guardian leader. He embodies the strength of his tribe and is the protector. His leadership balances the wisdom of the seer the Ka or shaman with the spirit powers of the beasts he slays.
Llanara is the ambitious young Sanari woman. A betrayer and once the lover of the Guardian Arak’Jur, the forbidden evil of the gods twist her mind and heart.

Critique: David Mealing work is as ambitious a tale as sand worms and desert planets. It is a long read….but well worth the journey. Finely edited, the transitions and development of characters was spot on. Not just a good read….a must read.

Genre: Adult Fantasy Adventure, violence and war

I rate this 5/5 stars

Goodreads and buy sites

An Unnatural Vice By K.J. Charles

Book Review

Impressions
My first time reading this author and I am going back to the well. Her descriptive language pulled me into the world of a London that has fascinated me. This is a view of the raw unvarnished realities of a time when monochrome morality was worsen by pollution leaden fog and “poor houses”. I am in London. Slipping and sliding on fog-wet pavers and stepping onto high kerbs.

This writing developed beautifully with its careful transition to faith fulfillment and an unrepentant love between two men who are polar opposites.

Seduction

“The sane, sensible, lawyer part of Nathaniel’s mind was screaming Danger! But it was being drowned out by the blood pounding in his ears. Lazarus’s slightly parted lips, those wicked eyes, the scruffy half-grown beard, all of those were making his mouth dry, but it was the sheer unrelenting will of the man opposite him that was turning attraction into urgent need.” – An Unnatural Vice

Halfway through the read and my favorite character is Justin Lazarus. His seduction of Nathaniel is haunting. Justin’s jaunty arrogance that belies self-hate and extreme cynicism, for me, was heart stealing. It seems Nathaniel’s notice of the charlatan’s unusual and perhaps uncanny good looks begin this tale of love and self-discoveries. This was a story begun in a drawing room on Hanging Sword Alley and it began nicely for me.

It is one thing to include jargon of period and culture and another thing completely to weave it into the read in ways that add ambiance. It is wonderful to receive an education while being seduced between the covers of this book.

Of course, this is also a tale that never seems to grow old, the seeming endless breach between the obstinacy of conservative ideologies versus preachers of neo-progression

Story/Plot/Conflict

Something is definitely afoot when bodies are showing up at his friend’s door and family heads are mysteriously committing suicide. Of course, it’s in Victorian England where upstanding people do these things when scandal knocks at the door. But the wealthy journalist and family friend Nathaniel decides to right the wrongs and in the process finds his world, reshaped.

He must obtain the assistance of the London Seer. Born of the gutter and abandoned at birth Justin Lazarus is a self-made man who profits as an unapologetic lair and cheat. Preying on the lonely and bereft, he enters Nathaniel Roy’s life. Antagonism, mutual want, and uncontrolled passions change them both…but at what cost.

My Main Characterizations

Nathaniel Roy (Nathan Royston) He is rich, powerful, large in statue, and filled to the brim with conservatism. Nathaniel felt only contempt for this charlatan that would use the pain of other’s loss as a tool to extort monies. But his empty heart is rapidly filling with the scent of Justin.

Justin Lazarus slight of built with uncanny grey eyes he exemplifies how a man coming of age in the wretched slums can find his own path to fame and riches. Unapologetic love allows him an escape from self-destruction and the discovery of self-worth.

Critiques
Put simply…this is good stuff and a good read. Thank you K.J. Charles