The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

radKate Moore’s The Radium Girls is a narrative nonfiction account following the effects of radiation poisoning on the women who once worked with radium-based paint in American factories. The newly discovered element Radium was, in the early 20th century, used to create glowing paint to illuminate watch and clock faces, but with dire results for the factory workers who painted them, as radiation poisoning due to exposure to the paint took hold. Kate Moore’s account details a combination of the factory workers’ medical travails, their fight for legal compensation from the radium companies, and their personal lives.

At first it is difficult to relate to, or even tell apart, the many different women whom Moore introduces in the opening chapters. I did not find her initial descriptions of each of the women to be very compelling, but as the book progresses and Moore is able to focus on the individual women in depth, they become more fully-depicted and engaging.

Once the opening chapters have passed and the characters are established, Moore’s thorough and careful research deepens the reader’s insight into the time period and into the lives of the women. The use of quotations from contemporary headlines and even from personal journals creates a sense of realism and a small glimpse of what it was like to live the life of one of the “radium girls”. Their strength begins to shine through when Moore allows them to speak for themselves through quotations such as “It is not for myself whom I care. I am thinking more of the hundreds of girls to whom this may serve as an example”.

These quotations also add to a gripping narrative style, as the words of the women, the doctors, and the lawyers create something close to dialogue between them, even within the constraints of nonfiction. It is difficult not to feel the injustice of the women’s situation in the face of comments such as “You don’t have anything to worry about” (completely false) and “radium will make you girls good-looking!” from company managers. The sense of immediacy is also owing also to the blunt descriptions of illness: “All the girls looked far older than they were, with faces that had curiously slack skin around their chins, where their jawbones had been removed”. This combination of the women’s own voices and frank illustrations of the effects of their unsafe working conditions both engages the reader shows the reader the importance of the radium girls’ story.

Overall, Kate Moore presents a moving and thoroughly researched portrait of the women and their struggle against the radium companies for themselves and for those still working in dangerous conditions.

Reviewed by Caroline G ’18

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Settle for More by Megyn Kelly

setFor my last book I read the autobiography, “Settle for More,” by Megyn Kelly. This book starts off at the beginning of her life. She was born in Bethlehem, NY, and lived with both of her parents and her two siblings. Megyn lived an ordinary life; went to public school, was an average student, and took high school social drama. Megyn attended Syracuse University, and then Albany Law School. After a lot of hard work she became a lawyer, which brought her to many places around the country. We learn about her life in Chicago, Washington D.C, and then New York. My favorite part of this book is the second half of it. This is where she talks about her time as a journalist on Fox News. Megyn was in charge of helping with the Republican Party debates. She tells her side of the story when she and Donald Trump had their differences, and she explains her reasoning behind every question she asked in the debates.

I picked this book because I have enjoyed watching Megyn Kelly on TV, and I found it interesting that she is from the same area as I am. This book encourages hard work, and teaches us that hard work pays off. I have read many autobiographies, but this one sticks out as the best one I have read. Megyn doesn’t just tell us about every important detail in her life, but also teaches us through her mistakes, and successes. She realized she was on the wrong path in life: “spending your life pretending you are something other than what you are is unsustainable,” and was able to get herself back on track embracing her best self.

One important lesson I took out of this book was to never go to bed angry at someone that you love. In the beginning of the story we learn about Megyn’s close relationship with her father. One night they got in a fight because Megyn wanted the most expensive class ring. When her father told her that they couldn’t afford it, she stormed off too her room angry at her father. That night her father had a heart attack and died in his sleep. After her father’s sudden death Megyn said “the answer was that I had gone through a major transformation the past year and a half, and as I changed myself for the better, better things started coming to me. I was settling for more. And “more” meant more from myself”. This book has taught me to never settle for less and always work hard.

Reviewed by Caroline G ’18

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind ​by Yuval Noah Harari

sapEvery page of Yuval Noah Harari’s ​Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind​ is packed with a plethora of such intricate history and neat thoughts that I truly do not know where to begin. Harari leads us through the history of Homo Sapiens, starting from how our species wiped out all other human species (Contrary to popular belief, we are not the only humans to ever exist.) to what is going to happen post-humans, or post-Homo-Sapiens to be exact.

The development timeline of Homo Sapiens has three major milestone, for now: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution and the Scientific Revolution (which triggers the Industrial Revolution which triggers the Biotechnological Revolution.) Harari suspects that the rise of the Biotechnological Revolution which brings about nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, genetic engineering, etc might be the end of Homo Sapiens once and for all. Soon we will be replaced by genetically engineered post-Homo-Sapiens capable of living forever.

The most interesting section is the Cognitive Revolution. Before the Cognitive Revolution, forager bands couldn’t not sustain more members than the Dunbar number of 150. The Cognitive Revolution solved this problem with the evolvement of imagined orders, or “intersubjectives” that exist for as long as we believe they do.
“Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have been living in a dual reality. On one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so

that today the very survival of river, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.”
Prominent examples of intersubjectives are religions, countries, laws and money. In the natural world, none of these things actually exists. However, because most humans believe they exists so they are as real as any rivers, trees or lions. Objective matters exist independent of human consciousness, like the galaxy or the ocean. Subjective matters exist solely in our imagination, like the imagined friend you used to have when you were a child.

“The intersubjective is something that exists within the communication network linking the subjective consciousness of many individuals. If a single individual changes his or her beliefs, or even dies, it is of little importance. However, if most individuals in the network die or change their beliefs, the inter-subjective phenomenon will mutate or disappear.”
Harari lays out these intricate matter to the readers in an informative and engaging fashion. Sapiens ​is a page turner for those who are eager to learn about how humans become humans. If anthropology, history, biology and psychology ever had a child together, this would be it.

Reviewed by Nghi L ’18

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

gunsWhy did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents? This is a question seems too broad to be explained, but the answer is in fact unfolded in an ambitious, impressive nonfiction book called Guns, Germs, and Steel, covering over 13,000 years of human history.

In the book, Jared Diamond introduces his analysis by starting with his experience in New Guinea. He was inspired by his friend Yali, a local politician, when he asked Diamond, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” While most anthropologists would quickly relate this to racial differences, Diamond focuses on environmental differences surrounding different cultures. He then gives his thesis statement for the book: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among people’s environments, not because of biological differences among people themselves,” also known as geographic determinism.

Through the four parts, twenty chapters of the book, Diamond keeps emphasizing geographic determinism, one of his main theories; that it is geographical and environmental features, rather than human intellectual ability, which determines the path of history. For example, the Fertile Crescent was the site of the earliest human agriculture because it held the greatest number of different species of plants that could be domesticated and farmed efficiently—annual hermaphroditic crops. As population increases, agriculture provides the stable food supply that civilization requires, so these regions have the advantage of abundant domesticable plant resources.

In addition to Diamond’s theory, his analytical approach and writing style are also impressive. He aims for a scientific approach to the study of history, using experiments to figure which causes are related to certain effects. As history is a complex field, it is difficult to isolate the causes of historical events because there is no experiment that can be used to identify an independent variable’s effect on a dependent variable—there are so many causes to analyze. Nevertheless, Diamond believes that there are ways historians can make their approaches more scientific; for instance, they can compare two civilizations with similar environmental conditions, thereby doing better at examining the effects that longitude and altitude have on technology diffusion. Although this is a human history book, in general, and can seem daunting to read, Diamond does a great job at keeping his language straightforward and content clear. The in-text illustrations including figures, tables, charts, and pictures are cleverly used and well connected with text to help with comprehension. Besides, in every chapter different questions are thrown in to be analyzed, and they are truly interesting and mind-blowing. Have you thought about: “why did Europeans succeed in domesticating the horse while Africans never domesticated the zebra”, “why did the New Guineans near Australia develop agriculture and elaborate technologies while the aborigines did not?”, and “who came up with the idea to domesticate a crop?” …… These distinct differences of Guns, Germs, and Steel from a history textbook have worked to attract people to read and learn history.

In the epilogue, Diamond concludes that there are four underlying environmental factors that determine the course of human history: 1) availability of wild plants and animals for domestication, 2) barriers to diffusion and migration within a continent, 3) barriers to diffusion and migration between continents, and 4) population size and density. While some of Diamond’s arguments are beautifully constructed, some other facets are not thoroughly analyzed. However, just like Will Hamblet comments in his book review, Diamond should be praised for his attempt to bridge disciplinary fields to shed light on thousands of years of history.

Reviewed by Nina X ’18 guns

Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates

betweenInspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me tackles the American racial crisis and sentiments of the necessity of securing one’s black body. Through his own personal narrative, Coates writes to his 15-year-old son, Samori, to explicitly portray many of the inevitable hardships that his son will face throughout his lifetime and that America’s dark past is to blame for the “black body’s destruction.” Coates’ novel is not so much that of a call to action, but instead an explanation of America’s lack of progress regarding racial injustice and also touches on the prevalence of the unconscious belief of superiority that is ingrained in the minds of white people.

Coates tells of various impactful moments in his life which span from his childhood through late adulthood. Many of these events were momentous in confirming the nearly complete lack of accountability concerning police brutality and many also served to illustrate the societal standard of being “twice as good,” which Coates asserted that black people are universally expected to meet. Coates relates the outcome of his experiences to the America’s history of the exploitation of “black bodies” and attempts to utilize these personal experiences as a platform to answer questions of racial injustice for his son. A powerful and poignant story that Coates tells is of his schoolmate Prince Jones. Although they were only acquaintances as Howard University, Coates describes that he always had a special affinity and appreciation for Prince. Many years after their college career had ended, Coates recalls the day that he heard a report on the news of a black man who was murdered at the hands of a police officer. The victim had driven to visit his fiance in northern Virginia, when he was suddenly shot down by a county police officer. There were no witnesses and when the police officer was interrogated, he claimed that the victim had attempted to run him down with his Jeep. Unbeknown to Coates at the time of the report, this black man was none other than his old companion, Prince Jones. Through this anecdote, Coates’ position seems to be that due to America’s horrid past, it is nearly impossible for black people to escape the looming danger of being disproportionately discriminated against, whether that be a threat, prison sentence, or more drastically, a victim of murder.

Coates captivates us by poetically illustrating the horrors of America’s past and that the idea of “race” is detrimental to everyone, but most prominently to black men and women. In his confrontation of today’s societal climate, Coates reminds us of only a handful of the victims of police brutality: Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown to name a few. He uses these victims not only as a sad reminder of the entrenched belief of police officers, that they have the power to obliterate a life, but to also emphasize the fragility of the “black body” to his son. In a more direct address to his son, Coates asserts that black people love their children with a certain “obsession” due to the prospect of the “black body” being broken down instantaneously by this society. He surmises that black parents would like to kill their children themselves rather than seeing them “killed by the streets that America made.” In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we see a similar ideology when Sethe attempts to kill her children before the slave catchers arrive at her home. Coates effectively conveys the gravity of America’s racial crisis and solemnly describes his fears and reasoning for them. Between the World and Me is a compelling book that is thought provoking, moving, and powerful. I highly recommend this book and hope that the reader is able to consider the inherent injustices of America.

Review by Sharde J. ’18

Bad Feminist Essays by Roxanne Gay

bad If you were to ask any Emma girl on campus if they could think of a day where they were catcalled or anything else of that manner I’m sure that the majority of girls asked could give you countless examples. It is a shame that women go through life being reminded, even unconsciously, that we are not equal to men in society and in life itself even on a physical level. To fight for social equality of the sexes is the main goal of feminism. This word has different meanings for different people and Roxanne Gay within her collection of essays explains what her take on the word truly means and calls herself ironically a ‘bad feminist’. Roxanne asks many questions within her novel about society and women’s representation, but none more prevalent in today’s society than, “There are all kinds of television shows and movies about women but how many of them make women recognizable?”

Roxanne takes you through her life in her collection of essays, as she originally is conflicted in calling herself a feminist as she did not think that she ‘fits the bill’ of what a feminist should look like. When she did finally don the name for herself she did not want to be considered a ‘good feminist’ because that would lead to her, in Roxanne’s mind, to be put on a pedestal that she does not think she should be put on. She also struggles with her own life. For example she struggles with how one of her beloved music artists, “Kanye’s disdain for women overwhelms nearly every track- but then there’s a song like ‘Blood on the Leaves’ that is so outstanding you can’t possibly dismiss the album entirely. We are constantly faced by this uncomfortable balance between brilliance and bad behavior.” There are always contradictory situations in life. There are always things you want to like and partake in but know that they are ultimately wrong no matter how ‘hip’ they might be in our current society. To be a public figure that people would want to emulate, that person would then have to be perfect Roxanne thought. She acknowledges that she has not led a perfect life as that the rest of us could understand, since no one person is perfect. In her Essays Roxanne points out how she understands that she is not the perfect role model, but hopes that others can learn from her mistakes rather than make the same mistakes she did and her own life experiences.

When Roxanne moved to a new town when she was younger she found herself in a new area with no friends, family, or support system. She lived with her boyfriend at the time, but she did not want to be that girl whose world revolved around her man. Her answer to this dilemma was Scrabble. She found her new niche of people as she immersed herself in Scrabble culture. She began by just playing Scrabble online with new friends, but then found herself immersed in Scrabble tournaments held at events that Scrabble enthusiasts of any level could take part in. Roxanne soon found herself having to brush off many sexist remark from men who perceived her to be young and naïve about the subject even though by this point Roxanne was anything but a newbie to the world of Scrabble. Apparently Scrabble is a man’s game. Who knew? She was conflicted on how to react to these crude remarks, as she did not want these men to think that she was the person they believed her to be. In the end, Roxanne did not make her give her retort back at the men because she knew that she could not change their minds on how they perceived her. It was not worth it, Roxanne thought, to start a public argument about these little remarks. She learned to brush off sexist’s remarks and comments because she knew that these remarks or comments did not actually define her as a person.

With the topics of sex, work life, rape, the media, and being African American Roxanne is not afraid to speak her mind for what she believes in. She gives her own personal experiences in her essays. From struggling with her weight during her childhood at fat camp, wishing she could change the color of her skin while wanting to emulate the typical ‘American girl’, dealing with sexism in her daily life and specifically in the life of a scrabble player, Roxanne gives so many more stories that show the struggle of a woman in today’s world. Roxanne throughout her life struggles with her own definition of feminism as her life experiences each help to carve away her own understanding of its purpose in the world and eventually she refines her understanding of the word. “Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate… Feminism has helped me believe in my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard.”

Reviewed by Elizabeth L. ’18

 

 

 

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

breath            When Breath Becomes Air, in its most simplistic form is a book about death: you find out Paul has died on the very first page. The novel is written as an autobiography of a young, vibrant, soon to be doctors life. You will spend countless pages reading about his successes: his multiple degrees from the World’s best universities, his engagement to his beautiful wife Lucy, and his mastery of neurosurgery. However, while reading about Paul’s life, it is absolutely impossible to forget the fact that this incredible young man is dead. Slowly, as you begin to turn more and more pages, the true story starts to unfold: the aches and pains, the fights with his wife, and eventually, the PET scan which decided his fate.

Nearly every cancer novel has a twist. Either the protagonist finds love in the chemo ward or is on his deathbed when it is miraculously discovered that he is cured. When Breath becomes Air breaks every one of these stereotypes. The novel is raw and honest. Paul documented every moment of his life: his hopes, his fears, his times or despair, and his bursts of energy. Paul found a way to make light of such a depressing topic. When Paul wrote to his close friend to share the news of his terminal cancer, he said, “The good news is I’ve already outlived two Brontës, Keats, and Stephen Crane. The bad news is that I haven’t written anything.” His writing style is so simplistic yet so meaningful that as a reader, you will feel as if you are living every moment of his life with him. Caution, however, this will most likely lead to tears at his death.

I chose this book this book because I have had quite a few run ins with cancer in my family, most recently, with my brother. I know the frantic feeling of being in a hospital which Paul Kalanithi conveys so well in this passage – “At moments, the weight of it all became palpable. It was in the air, the stress and misery. Normally, you breathed it in, without noticing it. But some days, like a humid muggy day, it had a suffocating weight of its own. Some days, this is how it felt when I was in the hospital: trapped in an endless jungle summer, wet with sweat, the rain of tears of the families of the dying pouring down.” I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy hospital reads.

Reviewed by Emma W ’18

 

Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates

coates           Inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me tackles the American racial crisis and sentiments of the necessity of securing one’s black body. Through his own personal narrative, Coates writes to his 15 year-old son, Samori, to explicitly portray many of the inevitable hardships that his son will face throughout his lifetime and that America’s dark past is to blame for the “black body’s destruction.” Coates’ novel is not so much that of a call to action, but instead an explication of America’s lack of progress regarding racial injustice and also touches on the prevalence of the unconscious belief of superiority that is ingrained in the minds of white people.

Coates tells of various impactful moments in his life which span from his childhood through late adulthood. Many of these events were momentous in confirming the nearly complete lack of accountability concerning police brutality and many also served to illustrate the societal standard of being “twice as good,” which Coates asserted that black people are universally expected to meet. Coates relates the outcome of his experiences to the America’s history of the exploitation of “black bodies” and attempts to utilize these personal experiences as a platform to answer questions of racial injustice for his son. A powerful and poignant story that Coates tells is of his schoolmate Prince Jones. Although they were only acquaintances as Howard University, Coates describes that he always had a special affinity and appreciation for Prince. Many years after their college career had ended, Coates recalls the day that he heard a report on the news of a black man who was murdered at the hands of a police officer. The victim had driven to visit his fiance in northern Virginia, when he was suddenly shot down by a county police officer. There were no witnesses and when the police officer was interrogated, he claimed that the victim had attempted to run him down with his Jeep. Unbeknown to Coates at the time of the report, this black man was none other than his old companion, Prince Jones. Through this anecdote, Coates’ position seems to be that due to America’s horrid past, it is nearly impossible for black people to escape the looming danger of being disproportionately discriminated against, whether that be a threat, prison sentence, or more drastically, a victim of murder.

Coates captivates us by poetically illustrating the horrors of America’s past and that the idea of “race” is detrimental to everyone, but most prominently to black men and women. In his confrontation of today’s societal climate, Coates reminds us of only a handful of the victims of police brutality: Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown to name a few. He uses these victims not only as a sad reminder of the entrenched belief of police officers, that they have the power to obliterate a life, but to also emphasize the fragility of the “black body” to his son. In a more direct address to his son, Coates asserts that black people love their children with a certain “obsession” due to the prospect of the “black body” being broken down instantaneously by this society. He surmises that black parents would like to kill their children themselves rather than seeing them “killed by the streets that America made.” In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we see a similar ideology when Sethe attempts to kill her children before the slave catchers arrive at her home. Coates effectively conveys the gravity of America’s racial crisis and solemnly describes his fears and reasoning for them. Between the World and Me is a compelling book that is thought provoking, moving, and powerful. I highly recommend this book and hope that the reader is able to consider the inherent injustices of America.

Reviewed by Sharde J ’18

 

 

 

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25489625-between-the-world-and-me

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

coverHave you ever wondered what it would be like to start up a multi-million dollar company from scratch? Well, if you have thought about this or have had other entrepreneurial thoughts, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight might just be the book for you.

Knight’s memoir about creating Nike is a refreshing reminder of the hard work and failure that one day (hopefully) molds itself into success. Nike’s journey was not always smooth going as many people would imagine. When Bill Gates was asked to give his opinion about the memoir, he said that “the only thing that seems[ed] inevitable in page after page of Knight’s story is that his company will end in failure.” Of course, today, when Nike’s sales top thirty billion dollars, “failure” does not seem to run through people’s minds. However, throughout this novel, readers time travel back fifty years to when knight started his company by selling imported Japanese athletic footwear out of the back of his Plymouth Valiant.

From the very beginning pages of Shoe Dog, Knight spills all of his secrets unlike many CEOs of this day and age. Knight does not fit the stereotype of a typical, courageous entrepreneur and throughout the memoir, he is incredibly tough on his failings. From taking weeks to tell the girl who would on day be his forever partner that he liked her, to hugging himself when he was nervous, he still managed to comprehend his vision to do something different than everyone else with his life and create his own shoe company. As Knight writes, “So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.” If you want to learn more about Nike and how it started or you are interested in the factors that go into owning your own business I strongly recommend reading Shoe Dog.

Reviewed by Maddie ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Thanks to WordPress’s delayed publication feature, I can write this on a Thursday and publish it on a Friday. How awesome is that?

It’s 3 p.m. and that means that we are currently outside in the library courtyard, celebrating Sasha’s hard work and perseverance while also honoring the memory of a grandmother (Katie ’16 and Jen ’20), who passed away last year.

Why is this event worth noting on a book review blog you ask? Well let me tell you. This project was inspired by the book, Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder by Dr. Richard Louv.

cover

Sasha read this over summer vacation of her Sophomore year at Emma. If you’ve ever spent time with Sasha, you know that this nature lovin’ Colorado girl is outside as much as possible. She was bothered by her classmates’ indoor lifestyle and felt that they needed  encouragement to get outdoors, to unplug, and to enjoy Mother Nature.

Sitting upstairs, studying in the library, Sasha looked out over the overgrown, underutilized library courtyard, and was inspired. Could this be transformed into a student centered outdoor space? Could this transformation serve as a Signature project?

It could and it would! Read about her journey here.

If you are interested in environmental psychology, I encourage you to read this book.  It’s also great for parents and grandparents who are thinking about their children’s screen time.

It’s finally spring time. Let’s all go outside and climb a tree, make a fairy house, build a sand castle, or my favorite, just lie in a hammock and read a good book.

patioreading