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Story connects us in ways we will never know. This just in: here is a letter passed on to me from a friend who gave REVOLUTION to her 72-year-old aunt in Texas. It now becomes a primary source document for future researchers. Just as important, it serves to show how a heart becomes awake and aware in the world. I was the storyteller for Mary, and now Mary is the storyteller for me. This is how it works. I am grateful. xo Debbie ============ January 23 Oh, Sally,
Thank you so much for making me aware of Revolution. It has unleashed a torrent of conflicting emotions and memories in me, none of which were completely forgotten, but largely dormant.
On one hand, it reads like a barn burner, and I do not want to put it down. I love the way she worked photographs, gospel and folk song lyrics, and headlines as page dividers creating a sense of the onslaught of information which occurred that summer. (It does remind me of your saying fiction can sometimes convey events better than dry history. But she does include a lot of what to me is not dry history.)
On the other hand, because of the flood of memories and the poignant strength of the emotions they evoke in me, I can only read it in segments, sometimes as much as a chapter, but usually less. Than I have to meditate on what is happening in me, in the story, and in our country now.
Since it was published by Scholastic Press, I guess it is geared to middle schoolers. My only sorrow is that many adults who would benefit from tumbling into its pages will not find out what they are missing....
For myself, I read the book on about five levels. Four come from memories: the first as a middle schooler, one in high school, one the summer after graduation from college (1963), and one in 1964 when I was at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. The fifth is that of an aging Democrat who worked the phones for Obama in 2008, delighted in our long-term success.
The student at Gilmer Junior High got in the car with your grandfather, heard the news about Brown vs Topeka on NBC news (and later CBS) and asked Grampy, "Does that mean I will be going to school with colored kids?"
In high school, I heard Larry Pittmon and others threaten to get baseball bats and beat up N----rs who tried to come to Gilmer High. An elderly Black had died, and the relatives who went to California and elsewhere had come to town in their finest to attend the funeral. This was at the same time that the Airborne and the National Guard were confronting each other at Central High School, Little Rock. In our ignorance of how groups like COFO would operate, rumor had it that the fancy dressed black people were members of the NAACP planning to integrate the school.
The summer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I had attended a workshop by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and then stayed in Dallas to learn typing at a business school. Having no TV of my own, I went to the apartment complex recreation building to watch the march. That night I joined one of the Black members of my class with her boy friend in the Hall Street Ghetto in Dallas for supper. We talked for hours about what that huge crowd meant for the future of Blacks in America.
The next summer, after my rookie year as a Dallas public school teacher, I had a job with the State Department in July and August, 1964. Mother and Daddy honored my experiences in college in a sit-in on the SMU campus and in that workshop the year before by letting me write the editorial response of The Gilmer Mirror to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Public Accomodations Act).
Then I traveled to DC in late June, went to the White House as a guest of Lady Bird and Lyndon the night of my 23rd birthday, and went to work in the Personnel Department of the State Department.
The deputy director of the division I was in was a Black man. A fellow deacon of his church, the assistant superintendent of the DC schools, was shot down that summer as he drove back from his reserve duty at Ft. Bragg. He was a reserve Colonel in the US Army who was chased down after buying gas by hooligans in a pickup and shot. I can still see him that Monday morning when I came to work telling the Personnel Services Division chief, an older (55-60) white woman of the shooting.
Unlike the volunteers at Freedom Summer who sweltered in Mississippi, I got to go to the cool serenity of the Washington National Cathedral and hear a mixed choir of over 250 voices sing in thanksgiving of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
I read the headlines in the Washington Post about their efforts as I went to Capitol Hill to see the War on Poverty legislation accepted in the US Senate after the House had approved their portion.
Then in August, I joined Nana in New York City, attended Hello Dolly with Carol Channing (my adventuresome summer like Sunny wonders about) and to the New York World's Fair. From there we took the train to Atlantic City.
Selling pennants and buttons to raise funds for the Democratic Party as a Young Person for LBJ, I met youths from Philadelphia, MS who were there with representatives of the Freedom Democratic Party of Mississippi. When they learned my mother was a delegate, they lobbied me to ask her to vote for their group to be seated.
I told Nana about them, but LBJ was trying to court Mississippi votes, and did not want to ruffle more feathers until after the election. She of course did what LBJ wanted.
It would be four years later when I had promised Nana I would take the first job I was offered that I went to work for the Dallas OIC. You know what an impact that had on me. I was tempted by the Peace Corps, but Nana would never have let me go to an undeveloped country. I always think the Lord had a hand in the fact that OIC gave me my first job offer after grad school.
Well, enough meditation for now. I still have half the book to read, and I am mentally compiling a list of people to make aware of it. I definitely will see to it our Intermediate and Junior High Schools as well as the Upshur County Library have copies.
If you with to share these reflections with your friend, the author, you are welcome to do so. I am so proud you made me aware of it. Thank you so very much.
From bound manuscripts to the National Book Award dinner, from home to far away, from family to friends to strangers to new friends, from schools to conferences, from high to low, from hard work to a few lazy days...
0 Comments on the characters of fall as of 1/25/2015 2:17:00 PM
REVOLUTION HAS COME which side do you choose? our world moans and groans under the weight of “progress” while our trees die from acid rain and our rivers, once teeming with wildlife, are suffocated by our excess The future of our world, our children, are abused, silenced and tossed aside like pieces of trash with…
Friends, I am Mississippi as I write this. I have an essay at the Nerdy Book Club blog today, about birthing Revolution in Mississippi. I wrote it on the eve of my trip. I am still in Mississippi, with family, until tomorrow, when I come home and write about my adventures in schools, in bookstores, and in my own heart.
In the meantime, you can read the Nerdy post and then catch up visually with
Late September and October 2014 saw Hong Kong experience its most significant political protests since it became a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997. This ongoing event shows the inherent creativity of language, how it succinctly incorporates history, and the importance of context in making meaning. Language is thus a “time capsule” of a place.
China, which resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong after it stopped being a British colony in 1997, promised universal suffrage in its Basic Law as the ‘ultimate aim’ of its political development. However, Beijing insists that candidates for Hong Kong’s top job, the chief executive, must be vetted by an electoral committee made up largely of tycoons, pro-Beijing, and establishment figures. The main demand of the protesters is full democracy, without sifting candidates through a selection mechanism. Protesters want the right to nominate and directly elect the head of the Hong Kong government.
The protests are a combination of movements. For instance, the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” movement is a civil disobedience movement that calls on thousands of protesters to block roads and paralyze Hong Kong’s financial district if the Beijing and Hong Kong governments do not agree to implement universal suffrage according to international standards.
The humble umbrella has become the predominant symbol of the 2014 protests – largely because of its use as protection against police pepper spray. I’m sure you will have seen the now-iconic photograph of a young student holding up umbrellas while clouds of tear gas swirl around him. Thus, the terms “umbrella movement” or “umbrella revolution” came into being.
Yellow or “democracy yellow” as the colour became known, became the symbolic colour of the 2014 protests. As the protests wore on, yellow ribbons have been tied to fences, trees, lapels and Facebook profile pictures as indicators of solidarity with the “umbrella movement”.
How yellow and the crossed yellow ribbon became the symbol of the campaign for democracy in Hong Kong is unclear. The yellow ribbon often signifies remembrance (“Tie a yellow ribbon round that ole oak tree”, a hit song from 1973 about a released prisoner hoping that his love would welcome him back). Perhaps it relates to the fact that in 1876, during the U.S. Centennial, women in the suffrage movement wore yellow ribbons and sang the song “The Yellow Ribbon”. Interestingly, one political party in Hong Kong’s uses the suffragette colours (green, white, and violet) as its political colours.
From previous colour revolutions, we know that colour is significant (Beijing saw it as a separatist push, and the interchangeable use of “umbrella movement” and “umbrella revolution” did not help). Historically, in imperial times only the emperor could wear yellow. Nobles and commoners did so on pain of death. Yellow has now become a colour for the masses.
A blue ribbon movement also arose, signifying support for the police and against the action of the occupiers; the “blue ribboners” were also known as the “anti-occupiers”. Currently, Hong Kong society seems divided between the pro-occupiers and the anti-occupiers. Subsequently, there has been massive “unfriending” of people on Facebook. Thus arose a new verb: “to go blue ribbony”; as in “my friend said the group chat [FB] has gone blue ribbony so she left.”
Numbers have always been important in Hong Kong’s recent history. In 1984, with the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the year 1997 became important as that was the date of day Hong Kong “reverted” to Chinese sovereignty. The first opportunity to ask for universal suffrage was 2007 (denied), and then 2012 (also denied).
“689” is the “the number that explains Hong Kong’s upheaval” (quipped The Wall Street Journal). Invoked constantly in the streets and on social media, “689” is the protesters’ nickname for Hong Kong’s leader. The chief executive is elected by a 1,200 member Election Committee made up mostly of elite, pro-Beijing individuals after first being nominated by that committee. C.Y. Leung, the current chief executive, was elected by 689 members of that committee. This small circle election is at the heart of protesters’ frustrations, so they use “689” as an insult that emphasizes Leung’s illegitimacy. When they chant “689, step down!” they indict Mr. Leung along with the Beijing-backed political structure that they see threatening their city’s autonomy and freedoms. There is an expression “689 冇柒用” (there is no 7 in 689), where “柒” means “7” and “7冇柒用” means “(he is) no fucking use.” Interestingly, “689” could be read as “June 1989”, the time of the Tiananmen protests in Beijing.
In addition to protest songs such as ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna (naturally), ‘Do you hear the people sing’ from Les Miserables, and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, just to name a few, a very mundane ditty served as a tool of antagonism. This was the song “Happy Birthday”. Employing the happy birthday tactic was used by protesters when others shouted abuse at them. Singing “happy birthday” (sàangyaht faailohk, in Cantonese) to opponents, which served to annoy and disorientate them no end.
Chinese characters are made up of components called ‘radicals’. After the now iconic photograph of a young student holding up umbrellas while being tear-gassed, an enterprising individual came up with the following character扌傘, a combination of two ‘radicals’: 手 for “hand” → becoming 扌 on the left and the character for “umbrella” (傘) literally, a hand raising an umbrella. The definition for this character is to “to protest and persevere with peace and rationality until the end”, explaining that “with the radical ‘hand’, the word symbolizes the action of opening an umbrella”. The character ultimately has the meaning of “withstanding, supporting and not giving up the faith”.
The protests in Hong Kong are an ongoing phenomenon. The outpouring of linguistic and semiotic creative has been breath-taking.
Feature image credit: Hong Kong Protests, by Leung Ching Yau Alex. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
One week in the life, and what a week. Monday I started out for North Carolina, with REVOLUTION, and Sunday night, last night, I sat in the tutti-fruitti chair at home in Atlanta, with Masterpiece Theater and my phone, watching and texting along with my Mississippi cousin, Carol, a long-standing tradition. Some of the life between those two moments is captured below in phone photos -- I miss my camera! But I did not miss my friends. They were right there, all along, right beside me, as you will see, accompanying me and championing me and coaxing me forward, in person and online, and certainly in my heart. I kept up my travel-marathon training on the road (for a trip I'm taking in Feb/March, which we'll get to). More to say on the other end of this string of photos, including a little about next week in NYC. Thanks for coming along with me!
Jandy Nelson: THREE booksellers hand-sold me your book on this tour. I got two photographs. Booksellers loved I'll Give You the Sun. I love you! And your wonderful new book. Busting my buttons over my former student's success!
This will be a quiet (hahahaha) week of getting ready for the National Book Award events in New York City next week. We leave in six days. I have a fabulous black dress. I bought some bling for my dress. I am returning it. I called the shop and said, "I forgot! I'm going to be wearing a medal!" Because I am. REVOLUTION is a National Book Award Finalist. I am so proud of my book. I love my book. I love my publisher, Scholastic, for publishing the book I wanted to write. I love the NBA judges for recognizing my book. I love the process. I love the books REVOLUTION is keeping company with this season. I love the lofty ideal of writing from the heart the story that is asking to be written. I love having the opportunity to share that story with as wide an audience as possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you... that's what I want to say, over and over again. It has been such a rush, such a trip, such an excitement, such a delight, such a surprise, and such an honor. I am forever grateful. See you all in New York next week.
I've been knitting a lot lately, working on fleshing out my little etsy shop. I let it go for such a long time, and now that I've decided to get it going again, I'm overflowing with ideas!
I have Big Plans to do some drawings of knitting, and a genius licensing idea (I think - you know how those can be), all of which will take quite a bit of work, of course. But that's OK! I just have to figure out how to fit it in with the Children's Book art, and the Un-Still Lifes I've started with the "fine art" side of myself. The same old story we all have I guess - not enough hours in the day.
Some day, in the future, when we CAN make clones of ourselves, we'll be saying "Remember back in the old days, when we only had ONE of ourselves, and had to do everything in just 24 hours a day? How on earth did we do it?"
If that sounds far-fetched, just think back to not so long ago when we didn't have anything digital or cellular or even cordless, for that matter. Remember that first fax machine?! Lordy.
On the flip side - I started watching that new show "Revolution", where the world has gone 'dark' and there's no electricity or anything (except there IS - in secret), and everyone has to do everything the old-fashioned way. I like the way the little village looks - kind of old-timey but with left over modern stuff. I wish they'd focus more on the actual "this is how life really is now", the day-to-day, mundane, domestic side of things, rather than the hunting everything (and everyone) with a cross-bow side of life, but of course that's interesting too. I've always loved those shows on PBS where they go back in time to Pioneer days, or Edwardian or Victorian times, or WWII, and have people try to live that way for a few months, and slowly go mad (and love the part where they get to go back to real life, and head straight for the shower and some fast food and TV.)
Anyways. I'm pretty sure knitting will always be around, whether we have power or not, so I'm going to soldier on with my ideas.
And while we still DO have power and the internet and stuff, you might want to check out this cool website, if you haven't already: http://www.folioacademy.com
Will Terry and Wayne Andreasen have teamed up to create a website full of really cool art videos you can buy, to teach you how to do all kinds of art things. They've just updated it, so its cooler and even better than it was before! There's traditional drawing and painting, as well as a lot of digital art stuff, children's book tutorials and even 3D!
Picking out five books on the founding of the nation, and its leaders, is not an easy task. I could easily have listed twenty-five that were important to me. But here goes:
Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776 (New York, Oxford University Press, 1968)
This book remains the best single volume history of the American Revolution through the Declaration of Independence. This isn’t flag waving, but a warts and all treatment in which Jensen demonstrates that many of the now revered Founders feared and resisted the insurgency that led to American independence.
Merrill Jensen, The American Revolution Within America (New York, New York University Press, 1974)
Obviously I admire the work of Merrill Jensen. Lectures delivered to university audiences quite often are not especially readable, but this collection of three talks that he delivered at New York University is a wonderful read. Jensen pulls no punches. He shows what some Founders sought to gain from the Revolution and what others hoped to prevent, and he makes clear that those who wished (“conspired” might be a better word) to stop the political and social changes unleashed by the American Revolution were in the forefront of those who wrote and ratified the US Constitution.
Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York, Knopf, 1992)
While this book is far from a complete history of the American Revolution (and it never pretended to be), it chronicles how America was changed by the Revolution. I think the first eighty or so pages were among the best ever written in detailing how people thought and behaved prior to the American Revolution. I always asked the students in my introductory US History survey classes to read that section of the book.
James Thomas Flexner, George Washington and the New Nation, 1783-1793 (Boston, Little Brown, 1970) and George Washington: Anguish and Farewell, 1793-1799 (Boston, Little Brown, 1972)
Alright, I cheated. There are two books here, bringing my total number of books to six. Flexner was a popular writer who produced a wonderful four volume life of Washington in the 1960s and 1970s. These two volumes chronicle Washington following the War of Independence, and they offer a rich and highly readable account of Washington’s presidency and the nearly three years left to him following his years as chief executive.
Peter Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies (Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, 1993)
This collection of fifteen original essays by assorted scholars scrutinizes the nooks and crannies of Thomas Jefferson’s life and thought. As in any such collection, some essays are better than others, but on the whole this is a good starting point for understanding Jefferson and what scholars have thought of him. Though these essays were published twenty years ago, most remain surprisingly fresh and modern.
John Ferling is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of West Georgia. He is a leading authority on late 18th and early 19th century American history. His new book, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation, will be published in October. He is the author of many books, including Independence, The Ascent of George Washington, Almost a Miracle, Setting the World Ablaze, and A Leap in the Dark. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Category: Young Adult Dystopia Keywords:Dystopia, End of series, Revolution Format:Hardcover, ebook, audiobook Source:Purchased
With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.
Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered. Kimberly's Review:
This is a hard book for me to review because I loved Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden trilogy, so much.
Without giving too much away, Rhine has escaped the mansion only to find herself at Reed's house, Vaughn's long estranged brother.
Searching for her twin brother, and trying to come to terms with her feelings for both Linden and Gabriel, Rhine embarks on a quest that will answer her questions once and for all. But not all the answers are what she wants them to be. And some of them she wishes she never knew.
I had a lot of problems with Rhine in this book. I loved her in the first two books- independent, strong willed and wanting nothing more than to survive and go home. And while this Rhine isn't that far from the old, she is slightly different. She's been through so much and she's very damaged by the events of the previous two books. But instead of making her more sympathetic, I felt more distant to her character. Her urgent need to find her brother, and then once she does eventually find him, she doesn't scream at him all of the evil she's encountered. (This will make sense once you read the book) I was so frustrated with her! She's also super confused about her feelings for Gabriel and Linden, which just became grating on me. I'll explain.
I am probably in the minority, but I have to say that I am probably on team Linden. Yes, he's pretty dense and should have been paying more attention to the evil that was his own father. But Linden's character grows exponentially during this final book and so by the end, I was hoping that she would end up with him. He was always my favorite of the two, between him and Gabriel and though the sister wife thing does creep me out, I still think Linden is the better choice. However, this of course proves problematic because he also has Cecily, his youngest wife still on his arm.
Cecily has also grown. In Fever, book two, the story took Rhine away from both of them and when she returns, they've both matured. While I can't say I like Cecily, I don't mind her and in fact, I may actually have respected her by the end.
What is strange is that Gabriel is mostly absent in book three. This is supposed to be her big love interest! It really hurt my feelings towards Gabriel because he was MIA for so long. I re-attached myself onto Linden. Sorry Gabriel, but even when you were the main character in Fever, I still wasn't a fan. I don't think you had a strong enough personality, and I never really understood what Rhine saw in you.
Now let's talk about Rowan. Rowan, the brother who Rhine is after. Rowan, who is barely a character at all in book three. I'm really sorry but I don't get it. There is nothing special about Rowan and as for their deep, twin relationship, I didn't feel it. He seemed like a secondary character that just appeared for plot sake. I wasn't emotionally invested in Rowan. She searched the country, confronted dangers and evil, for this guy?
I read books two and three right after the other and they move very fast. I love how the story flows so quickly you can get lost for hours in the world. Their world is scary, mean and unforgiving. There's a lot to like about The Chemical Garden trilogy. I love the freshness of the story and felt like the characters were always in real danger, just escaping by their skin. I love the big reveals during the end, including Rhine's revelation and Madame's secrets.
Overall, I enjoyed Sever and the entire series. While I didn't have a great sense of the characters or motivation behind them, the plot was fast and I wanted to know what happened next. I would recommend it for older YAs as well as adults looking for a dark dystopian.
The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”
With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.
The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.
I have such a hard time reviewing this series. I am not a fan of the series in general, but I have to admit that there is something so totally addicting, I cannot help but need to know how it all ends.
There's a lot of action in this final book which keeps the reader engaged and the pages turning.
Honestly though, there's so much about this story I just don't get.
Like - Where is everyone?
There is only one regime in place that is ruling everything (bad guys) and one in place that oppose them (good guys). Once the rebels take that over, they can control everyone. Where are the rest of the people? (And don't tell me they all got blown up because that is a lie) Other rebellions outside of this area? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
How is this girl going to lead the country? Juliette suddenly decides she is the most capable of being the leader and she is going to rule. Okay, now even very young monarchs who come to power have years of training, education, learning language and politics. Juliette can barely complete full sentences and she's convinces an entire army that she should rule on pure strength alone. She doesn't make a case at all about her leadership abilities, her plans for the future, her thoughts on uniting the nation. No, she breaks things with her enormous physical strength and everyone else is staring at her going- Wow. We'll follow you.
WTF? She has declared herself supreme ruler when she can barely control her feelings and gives no indication that she understands anything about the politics, world views, different cultures and societies.
Why is anyone letting Juliette make the decisions? Is it just because has a boyfriend who is rich and has food and shelter? Is it because she has super human strength? Juliette still does not scream leadership material even by the end of the book.
<shakes head> huh?
Okay, let's give in for a second and forget all I said above and that Juliette is the most capable of people willing to put everyone and her followers first. Let's say she's going to unite everyone, lead them to green grass and bunnies and rainbows. Let's say it's in her and I just can't see it.
But then, what about this horrific love triangle???
Honestly, I think my main problem with the book are the characters. The three main characters, Juliette, Warner and Adam, are all thought to be a certain way. They are introduced to the reader as a certain person and the reader believes it. That is, until the rug is pulled out and I have to re-learn everything I thought about the characters. Sometimes this technique works. But when it's done to all three of the main characters, and none of them feel justified, I have to call foul. Juliette's switch is probably the slowest, most normal of them. It starts in book one (shriveled in a corner, oh but quickly she wants to fight) and then does it again in book three. But Adam and Warner's 180 degree change was so unnatural, I feel like it was just the author's way of appeasing the mass.
If you're not familiar with the series, Warner aka Big Bad, was a really awful character. He was cruel to our Juliette and yet, by book two, everyone was in love with him. Adam, the sweet boy she knew before she was imprisoned, was left by the wayside. Now to have to justify Juliette being with Warner, she has to:
1. Make Warner honorable and awesome and loving and kind and
2. Make Adam awful and cruel and mean and ugly.
I'm sorry but this just makes me want to scream. Sure, maybe this was all planned. But it's such an abrupt changes of these characters make me think of one word:
Cyborgs have replaced the real Adam and the real Warner and they're not getting them right.
But alas, no. These changes were the real thing. (Why?!?!)
Also, there was a whole lotta drama. D.R.A.M.A Like over the top drama. I mean, I'm all about teen angst and all but sigh. It was a lot and slowed down the momentum of the book.
Kenji is my favorite character by far and he steals every scene he is in. Funny, warm and human, I love how he reminds everyone that they are alive. I also loved James, Adam's little brother. He brings some much needed innocent and comic relief, especially his fun scenes with stoic Warner.
I have to admit that though I can't say I liked the series because I had such major problems with it, Ms. Mafi does something right. She creates a story with great dialogue. She keeps the pace going and even I had to read the whole series to find out what happens. I guess that counts for something.
And so it begins again, a new book to shepherd into the world. Here are some catch-up shots from ALA Midwinter in January, in Philadelphia, PA. Here are some of the inside pages of REVOLUTION that my editor David L. and I were working with up to the last second, trying to get just-right, sitting at rehearsal the morning of the Scholastic brunch. We'd done this at NCTE, too, the previous November,
This quote, from Russian Menshevik Lydia Dan, is one of the epigraphs to my work in progress (one of them), a novel about Russian and Ukrainian revolutionaries.
Lydia Dan, a nice girl from a nice upper middle class family of Russian Jewish intellectuals, ended up touring Moscow factories agitating for workers rights among people she had barely a common language with, staying the night with prostitutes to avoid being picked up by the secret police, marrying not just one but two revolutionaries, losing her child, choosing the wrong side (Trotsky’s Mensheviks over Lenin’s Bolsheviks), and living long enough to see a revolution she dedicated her life to, turn distinctly sour and bitter.
“As people we were much more out of books than out of real life,” Dan says, in an extended interview with Leopold Haimson published in The Making of Three Russian Revolutionaries. She means that in her young days, she and her fellow idealists who sat up or walked the streets all night discussing the revolution to come, had seen nothing of ‘real life’. They got their world view from reading Marx and Chernyshevsky and Gorky; the first time Dan actually met a real-life prostitute all she could think about were scenes she had read in Maupassant. They were so busy theorizing about the revolution, and inhabiting its weird, underground, anti-social existence of ideas, that they did not know how to hold down a job, pay a bill, mend a coat, look after a baby…
For me, writing about such people a century later, the quote has a second meaning. Dan and her fellow revolutionaries seem to me like characters out of books: utterly recognisable in their loves and hates and idiocies and heroics, but larger than life, more vivid and interesting, coming from a complete and absorbing world that exists safely between the pages. In other words, fictional.
These last few months in Ukraine, I’ve met the contemporary reincarnation of Dan and her fellow revolutionaries. They are here in all their guises: the ones who make bombs and pick up guns, the ones who write heartfelt tracts or disseminate poisonously attractive lies, the ones who look after the poor and the dispossessed, the ones who spy and betray, the ones who are ready to die for ‘the people’ and the ones who kill, rob and torture people in the name of making a profit.
Again and again, I keep coming across characters who are straight from 1917.
It’s all amazing, amazing material for my novel, of course. But I realise that maybe I am more like Dan than I thought. My ideas for that novel came more out of reading than from experience: I thought those revolutionaries were safely between the pages.
It is terrifying to realise that the people who are tearing a country I love to pieces, or trying desperately to hold it together, are in fact, much more out of real life than out of books.
From the rocky coast of Maine to the shores of northern Florida to the cornfields of Indiana, there are hundreds of sites and landmarks in the eastern United States that are connected to the American Revolution. Some of these sites, such as Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, are better known, and others are more obscure, but all are integral to learning about where and how American independence was fought for, and eventually secured. Beginning with the Boston Common, first occupied by British troops in 1768, and closing with Fraunces Tavern in New York, where George Washington bid farewell to his officers on 4 December 1783, this map plots the locations of these sites and uses The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook to explain why they were important.
When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. An old version of Firefox, the free Web browser, was infamous for its “memory leaks”: it would consume increasing amounts of memory to the detriment of other programs. Bugs in the software actually do slow down the system. We all know what the solution is: reboot. We restart the computer, the memory is reset, and the performance is restored, until the bugs slow it down again.
Philosophy is a bit like a computer with a memory leak. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, its very success slows it down. Philosophy begins to care more about philosophers’ questions than philosophical ones, consuming increasing amount of intellectual attention. Scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of Windows’ “blue screen of death”; so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops. The world may be undergoing a revolution, but the philosophical discourse remains detached and utterly oblivious. Time to reboot the system.
Philosophical “rebooting” moments are rare. They are usually prompted by major transformations in the surrounding reality. Since the nineties, I have been arguing that we are witnessing one of those moments. It now seems obvious, even to the most conservative person, that we are experiencing a turning point in our history. The information revolution is profoundly changing every aspect of our lives, quickly and relentlessly. The list is known but worth recalling: education and entertainment, communication and commerce, love and hate, politics and conflicts, culture and health, … feel free to add your preferred topics; they are all transformed by technologies that have the recording and processing of information as their core functions. Meanwhile, philosophy is degrading into self-referential discussions on irrelevancies.
The result of a philosophical rebooting today can only be beneficial. Digital technologies are not just tools merely modifying how we deal with the world, like the wheel or the engine. They are above all formatting systems, which increasingly affect how we understand the world, how we relate to it, how we see ourselves, and how we interact with each other.
The ‘Fourth Revolution’ betrays what I believe to be one of the topics that deserves our full intellectual attention today. The idea is quite simple. Three scientific revolutions have had great impact on how we see ourselves. In changing our understanding of the external world they also modified our self-understanding. After the Copernican revolution, the heliocentric cosmology displaced the Earth and hence humanity from the centre of the universe. The Darwinian revolution showed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through natural selection, thus displacing humanity from the centre of the biological kingdom. And following Freud, we acknowledge nowadays that the mind is also unconscious. So we are not immobile, at the centre of the universe, we are not unnaturally separate and diverse from the rest of the animal kingdom, and we are very far from being minds entirely transparent to ourselves. One may easily question the value of this classic picture. After all, Freud was the first to interpret these three revolutions as part of a single process of reassessment of human nature and his perspective was blatantly self-serving. But replace Freud with cognitive science or neuroscience, and we can still find the framework useful to explain our strong impression that something very significant and profound has recently happened to our self-understanding.
Since the fifties, computer science and digital technologies have been changing our conception of who we are. In many respects, we are discovering that we are not standalone entities, but rather interconnected informational agents, sharing with other biological agents and engineered artefacts a global environment ultimately made of information, the infosphere. If we need a champion for the fourth revolution this should definitely be Alan Turing.
The fourth revolution offers a historical opportunity to rethink our exceptionalism in at least two ways. Our intelligent behaviour is confronted by the smart behaviour of engineered artefacts, which can be adaptively more successful in the infosphere. Our free behaviour is confronted by the predictability and manipulability of our choices, and by the development of artificial autonomy. Digital technologies sometimes seem to know more about our wishes than we do. We need philosophy to make sense of the radical changes brought about by the information revolution. And we need it to be at its best, for the difficulties we are facing are challenging. Clearly, we need to reboot philosophy now.
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Image credit: Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park. By Ian Petticrew. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Cuba was an island playground for Lucia and her little brother Frankie, after school was disbanded by the new leader, Fidel Castro, until their parents insisted that they always stay at home. The revolution had begun with bloody evidence in plain view in the city squares. Her father lost his banking job. Valuables from their home were taken by the revolutionary soldier. Lucia’s parents pay to have her and Frankie flown to Miami, as part of Operation Pedro Pan in which parents sent around 14,000 of their children to Camelot (the term for the presidency of John F. Kennedy). For a while they are in an orphanage. But fortune shined on them as the director remembered a kindness that their father had done for his family. He knew of a home in Nebraska where the two of them could be together. They find themselves in the home of chatty Mrs. Baxter and not-so-chatty Mr. Baxter who introduce them to farm chores, hand-me-down repaired clothes, thrift and American Christmas. Lucia attends high school and experiences its cliques and first "like." Frankie is crazy about baseball and his new friends. Will he forget Spanish and his parents? Why are telephone calls so hard to complete and so expensive to Cuba? Will she ever see her parents, best friend or Cuba again?
When the demonstrations began in Cairo last week, communication with the staff at our newest distribution partner, American University in Cairo Press was immediately disrupted. As most of our readers know, the Egyptian government suspended internet and cell phone service in Cairo, and the only way the AUCP representative in New York could contact the home office was via a spotty land line connection. Fortunately, we’ve since learned that all AUCP staff are safe and sound, and communication has improved somewhat in recent days. But as you’ll see from AUCP editorial director Neil Hewison’s harrowing account below, the Press itself – which is situated close to Tahrir Square – was directly affected by the unrest. We continue to wish our colleagues in Cairo well, and hope to have periodic updates from Neil in the days ahead.
We are all fine. Many dramatic events over the last few days. Particularly disturbing was the battle for the Interior Ministry just up the road from my house, which went on for eight hours on Saturday: we heard and watched the police firing tear gas and live fire (including automatic weapons) and the protesters ducking into back alleys to make and throw Molotov cocktails. Also very disturbing the violent clashes that are happening right now on Tahrir Square, while the army stand and watch.
Feb. 2 - A crowd of 2 million at Tahrir Square (Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
I’ve been out each morning since Sunday, seen the destruction, the tanks on the streets, the neighborhood watch groups armed with sticks and knives, the civilians directing traffic rather more efficiently than the police ever did, and the protesters in Tahrir Square of all social hues, well organized, with their own food, drink, garbage, and security services in place, and with some very imaginative, witty placards: “Just go! My arms ache!” – held up by a 10-year old boy, “Talk to him in Hebrew, he might understand.” One man cradled a cat that carried its own mini-placard in English: “No Mubarak.” Another man sported a banner with the crescent and the cross and the simple statement “I am Egyptian.” They renamed the square Martyrs’ Square and painted the name in giant letters on the tarmac for the constantly circling helicopter to see. They set up a display of placards discarded as people went home at night, all set out on the pavement under the sign “Revolution Museum.”
Our AUC Press offices were trashed on Friday. The police had broken into the AUC to use the roof of our wing to fire on protesters at the junction of Sheikh Rihan and Qasr al-Aini (we found empty CS canisters and shotgun cartridges up there). And persons unknown ransacked our rooms. Drawers and files emptied, windows broken, cupboards and computers smashed. But it could have been much worse. Meanwhile, the violence may get worse before it gets better.
I’m well stocked with food and water, and there’s a good gang of neighborhood lads downstairs with makeshift weapons to keep our b
As the situation continues to unfold in Egypt, and as the White House continues to walk a fine line between support for democracy and support for a new regime which may not be as pro-American as Hosni Mubarak’s was, Publius, the author of the Federalist Papers may lend us some wisdom.
It may surprise some people, but Publius was no fan of democracy. “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention,” Publius wrote in Number 10. The mob cannot rule, though the mob may delegate power to those who can. And that was the genius of 1787 – a full decade after the American revolution, it bears repeating. Revolutions are negative acts where old worlds are shattered; founding, on the other hand, is a positive act, where a new world is created. Egypt has had her fair share of revolutions, and it is high time for a founding that will make a future revolution unnecessary.
But who should the supporters at Tahrir Square anoint to be the leader of a new Egypt? Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm, Publius warned us. The irony of this weekend’s hagiographic celebration of Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday is that the Framers of the US Constitution had hoped to create a system so that we did not have to wait for virtuous men any more, as the history of a capricious world had only done before. Egypt will become a republic when she no longer awaits a Nasser or a Sadat or a Mubarak. Even ElBaradei should not be mistaken for a messiah.
How would Publius have handled the Muslim Brotherhood? Certainly not by banning it, as Hosni Mubarak did. Instead, Publius would have proposed that Egypt bring as many political and religious groups as possible to the negotiating table, and let ambition counteract ambition. “A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy,” Publius wrote, “but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.” If the Muslim Brotherhood supports suppression, then the solution to it is not more suppression, but to engulf it with groups who support liberty.
Finally, Publius’ greatest innovation arguably laid in the fact that he proposed an entirely new constitution, not a mere amendment to the Articles of Confederation, as was the charge of the Continental Congress in 1787. Vice-president Omar Suleiman is apparently now overseeing a committee to oversee amendments to the Constitution, focusing in particular on provisions that would allow the Opposition to run for the Egyptian presidency. This is not a good idea because the Egyptian constitution needs more than piecemeal change. In particular, even the Opposition has been co-opted into believing that Egypt’s problems could be solved by having the right person assume control of the presidency. But the problem lies not just in the manner by which the president is selected, but in the size of the office. Publius stated it well in Number 51, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place
Western observers have been celebrating the role of Twitter, Facebook, smartphones, and the internet in general in facilitating the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt last week. An Egyptian Google employee, imprisoned for rallying the opposition on Facebook, even became for a time a hero of the insurgency. The Twitter Revolution was similarly credited with fostering the earlier ousting of Tunisia’s Ben Ali, and supporting Iran’s green protests last year, and it’s been instrumental in other outbreaks of resistance in a variety of totalitarian states across the globe. If only Twitter had been around for Tiananmen Square, enthusiasts retweeted one another. Not bad for a site that started as a way to tell your friends what you had for breakfast.
But skeptics point out that the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square continued to grow during the five days that the Mubarak government shut down the internet; that only nineteen percent of Tunisians have online access; that while the Iran protests may have been tweeted round the world, there were few Twitter users actually in-country; and that although Americans can’t seem to survive without the constant stimulus of digital multitasking, much of the rest of the world barely notices when the cable is down, being preoccupied instead with raising literacy rates, fighting famine and disease, and finding clean water, not to mention a source of electricity that works for more than an hour every day or two.
It’s true that the internet connects people, and it’s become an unbeatable source of information—the Egyptian revolution was up on Wikipedia faster than you could say Wolf Blitzer. The telephone also connected and informed faster than anything before it, and before the telephone the printing press was the agent of rapid-fire change. All these technologies can foment revolution, but they can also be used to suppress dissent.
You don’t have to master the laws of physics to observe that for every revolutionary manifesto there’s an equal and opposite volley of government propaganda. For every eye-opening book there’s an index librorum prohibitorum—an official do-not-read list—or worse yet, a bonfire. For every phone tree organizing a protest rally there’s a warrantless wiretap waiting to throw the rally-goers in jail. And for every revolutionary internet site there’s a firewall, or in the case of Egypt, a switch that shuts it all down. Cuba is a country well-known for blocking digital access, but responding to events in Egypt and the small but scary collection of island bloggers, El Lider’s government is sponsoring a dot gov rebuttal, a cadre of official counterbloggers spreading the party line to the still small number of Cubans able to get online—about ten percent can access the official government-controlled ’net—or get a cell phone signal in their ’55 Chevys.
All new means of communication bring with them an irrepressible excitement as they expand literacy and open up new knowledge, but in certain quarters they also spark fear and distrust. At the very least, civil and religious authorities start insisting on an imprimatur—literally, a permission to print—to license communication and censor content, channeling it al
When the demonstrations began in Cairo, communication with the staff at our newest distribution partner, American University in Cairo Press was immediately disrupted. AUCP editorial director Neil Hewison has been sending dispatches to update us on events and the state of the Press itself – which is situated close to Tahrir Square. We continue to wish our colleagues in Cairo well, and hope to continue receiving periodic updates. You can read Neil’s previous accounts here and here.
Photo by Lesley Lababidi
The mood of celebration in Egypt after the resignation of the president is uncontainable. Egyptians know there are unanswered questions and uncertain times ahead, and the country’s woes have not been wiped out overnight, but they have achieved something that a few weeks ago was unthinkable, and they are proud not just of that achievement but of the way they did it: The 25 January Revolution, as it is being called here (from the date of the first protests), has been an incredibly impressive peaceful mass movement (sometimes confronted with sickening violence) of young and old, men and women, rich and poor, whole families, all out there day after day in Tahrir, a name now as familiar to the world as Tianenmen (though with happier connotations). The indomitable spirit of the people, cowed for thirty years by a coarse and brutal dictatorship, was humbling. The scenes of the protesters cleaning the square before leaving—sweeping up, clearing garbage, repainting fences and curbstones, washing graffiti off tanks and walls—were the sign of not just a new-found voice but a new-found pride and determination to clean up the country both literally and metaphorically.
In the meantime, we’re putting our vandalized offices that overlook Tahrir Square to rights and are very happy to be back at work since Wednesday, with great plans for a whole range of new books on the new Egypt that aim to reflect and catch up with the spirit of this extraordinarily intelligent, creative, pacifist, determined, patient, total people’s Revolution.
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For your reading pleasure, I present Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.
Revolution is an phenomenal story. I don’t use the word “phenomenal” often but, in this case, no other word would do. There are many things that make Revolution worthy of such praise: Andi, the protagonist; Paris, the setting; Virgil, the musician; just to name a few. However, I’m going to discuss Andi’s relationship with music.
On a technical level, I don’t know much about music having never learned to play an instrument. But, the thing is, Andi made me want to learn. She speaks of music with such immense passion and understanding that I wanted to feel and hear what she does.
Andi gives music dimension, history and life. Her passion for it is so great, that you, the reader, find yourself as captivated by it as she is. Beethoven and Radiohead are no longer simply names of famous musicians but geniuses of their craft.
Few novels can accomplish such a feat, and Revolution is one of them.
It was inevitable that a novel featuring my three favourite historic figures (Diego Riveira, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky) should find its way into my supermarket basket. How glad I am that it did!
The Lacuna is a well-researched and beautifully written epic novel that captured my imagination and held my attention from its early pages. It combines modern and ancient Mexican history with modern US history and an anti-war message. It tells the life of Harrison Shepherd, an American boy growing up in Mexico, and later of his career and exile in the USA. His story is interwoven with that of famous artists Riveira and Kahlo, and the Bolshevik leader, Trotsky.
Chancing to meet Frida Kahlo in the market place one day, he offers to carry her basket, and not discouraged by her rather scornful reply, he follows her home – the start of a complicated life-long friendship and his first job in the Riveira/Kahlo home.
Shepherd makes himself indispensible as a mixer of the best plaster, a fine cook and a secretary. When the household takes in exiled Russian leader, Leon Trotsky, Shepherd becomes his main scribe and translator. His diaries give colourful descriptions of the vibrant personalities he lived amongst and of a life under constant threat of attack.
After Shepherd’s death, he makes his way to small-town American and establishes a new life as an author. He leads a reclusive life and tries as much as possible to be unnoticed, but his novels are overnight successes and draw a lot of attention from women (in which Shepherd) is not remotely interested) and from the media.
As McCarthy’s witch-hunt against Communism draws momentum, Shepherd comes under suspicion by his former association with Riveira, Kahlo and Trotsky and is drawn into an ugly legal battle.
Will he clear his name? You will just have to read this fascinating and entertaining story to find out. Highly recommended.
By Steven A. Cook
As Cairo's citizens drove along the Autostrad [last] week, they were greeted with four enormous billboards featuring pictures of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. With Turkish and Egyptian flags, the signs bore the message, "With United Hands for the Future." Erdogan's visit marks a bold development in Turkey's leadership in the region. The hero's welcome he received at the airport reinforced the popular perception: Turkey is a positive force, uniquely positioned to guide the Middle East's ongoing transformation.
I had learned from Kholoud that Aly would be in Cairo this week. So, as soon as I arrived on Monday night I called while walking through Tahrir Square. He picked up but the reception wasn’t good. He said he was also in the Square, that he was headed to drop off his bags, and would call later. I didn’t hear back from him.
Several calls and SMSs went unanswered. I figured that he was simply busy and that we would eventually meet this week for the next in our series of interviews that we’ve held since I first met him in early March this year.
Aly, tall and burly with a handsome face, has shared passionately in these interviews his commitment to the revolution. He, along with Kholoud and so many others in Alexandria were direct participants in the events of January 25th and beyond. (The coverage of Alexandria’s role in the revolution has been pitifully inadequate). When I first met him, Aly had just been injured in his hand and shoulder in a battle with security forces as they attempted to destroy incriminating documents.
Over the months, he, like all other activists, expressed increasing disappointment with the lack of substantive change. Aly’s narrative was unique among those I’ve talked intensively with, however, in his growing conviction that real change would require an escalation in violence on the part of the protesters. In July, he labored heavily with his own growing awareness that the regime’s corruption extended far beyond its recently deposed leader. But, rather, the violence, exploitation, and abuses of power are endemic throughout all sectors of society. He articulated that one grave implication of that for him might be that he would end up having to fight those he knows and is close to, perhaps even his family members.
Just a few weeks ago he wrote in an email, “The situation is getting more complicated and I am not optimistic at all with the coming elections. . . I am wondering . . . how could we break this system, what else is needed? I am believing that we need more violence against these structures and those leading it.”
Then, two days ago here in Cairo, in classic revolutionary form he posted on Facebook: “It is by all means the time of revolution, emancipation(s), and …love. SO For God Sake Revolt or die in Shame. It is the correction of the Egyptian Revolution Path; from War/revolution to politics and Again in the correct road from politics of the coward elites to the WAR/REVOLUTION of brave young generation who fights in the first lines, behind the enemy lines and in front and against the heavy machines of war and suppression. They shoot by their heavy equipment and we shoot by faith, believe and anger. Tomorrow we will not die, tomorrow we will be emancipation from who we had been, a new life is going to born from the heart and mud of the battle field of our revolution.
I had an immediate sense that Aly would be acting out this admonition himself, and even wrote to a colleague that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he would soon be a casualty of this newly reenergized revolution.
Last night at about 10pm I thought to try one more time to reach him. A voice picked up and identified himself as Aly’s friend. I could hear Aly in the background overruling his friend’s decision to turn me away and he took the phone. He was excited to talk, as was I to hear his voice. It wasn’t a surprise, but no less difficult, to hear from him that he lay in the hospital with bullet wounds to his head and body. He said that he “would love so much” a visit and, getting directions from Ayman, I hastened to
Frantz Fanon died of leukaemia on 6 December 1961 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA where he had sought treatment for his cancer. At Fanon’s request, his body was returned to Algeria and buried with full military honours by the Algerian National Army of Liberation, shortly after the publication of his most influential work, The Wretched of the Earth. As a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), which had been engaged in a war against French colonial rule in Algeria since November 1954, Fanon had made his mark as a journalist for the FLN newspaper El-Moudjahid. Writing in an angry and confrontational style, Fanon justified FLN violence as mirror violence: a liberational act against the inherent violence of colonial rule. This in turn became the core of his argument in The Wretched of the Earth. Expanding outwards from Algeria to the rest of Africa and Asia, Fanon talked of violence in mystical terms – a necessary stage in the forward march of history that would purge Africans and Asians of any inferiority complex in regard to European colonial powers.
Born in 1925 in Fort-de-France on the French-ruled Caribbean island of Martinique, Frantz Fanon opposed the right-wing anti-Semitic Vichy Regime which was established in the wake of the Third Republic’s defeat by Nazi Germany in 1940. Horrified by the widespread support for Vichy amongst the island’s colonial authorities, Fanon took flight in 1943 and made his way to French Algeria, which had passed into Free French hands after the USA and British landings in November 1942. There he joined the Free French forces, fighting in Italy and then Germany where he was wounded in the back during the Alsace campaign. Decorated for bravery, Fanon stayed on in France to study psychiatry and medicine at Lyon University.
Living in France confronted Fanon with the racial contradictions of French republican ideology. It made him realise that for all the talk of liberty, equality, fraternity espoused by the Fourth Republic, a French Caribbean man like himself would never be seen as a true citizen. The Republic might claim to be universal but in reality his presence was unnerving for a French society where whiteness was the norm and blackness was equated with evil. It was a painful experience that led him to write his first book, Black Skins, White Masks, in 1952. Published by Seuil, this was a pioneering study of racism as a psychological system where, Fanon argued, black people were forced to adopt white masks to survive in a white society.
In October 1953 Fanon began working as psychiatrist in a hospital in Blida just south of Algiers. At this point French Algeria was fraught with racial tension. Nine million Algerians co-existed uneasily with one million European settlers. France had invaded Algeria in 1830 and annexed the country not as a colony but an integral part of France. On 8 May 1945, just as Nazi Germany was defeated, mass nationalist demonstrations across Algeria had called for the establishment of an independent Algerian state. In the town of Sétif in the east of the country, these demonstrations produced violent clashes that led to the death of twenty-one Europeans and ignited an Algerian uprising. However, the French response was brutal and throughout May eastern Algerian was subjected to systematic repression. Yet, although French order was restored, fear and mistrust was everywhere. More than ever the settlers were determined to thwart any concessions to the Algerian majority and the result was a blocked society. Frustrated at their lack of political rights, a small number of Algerians formed the FLN in October 1954 which, through a series of coordinated attacks across Algeria on 1 November, sought to overthrow colonialism through violence.
As Algeria slid into war, Fanon saw the psychological impact of French rule at first hand. Struck by the number of Algerian patients s
Nearly a year has passed since the huge crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square rallied to overthrow former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yet, the Egyptian public remains loathe to articulate a coherent vision for Egypt, and “that is the challenge going forward,” says Steven A. Cook, CFR’s top Egypt expert. He says that the next crucial step will be choosing a hundred-person group to write a new constitution, which could to lead to a crisis between the interim military-led government and the newly elected Islamist parliament. Meanwhile, the United States, which has been a close ally of Egypt for decades, finds itself having to deal with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and as a result, Cook says, “there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time.”
Interviewee: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
With the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution [January 25] only a couple of weeks away, do Egyptians think they are better off now than they were when Mubarak was in charge? What about U.S. officials, are they happier or more worried?
For the most part, Egyptians are happy to see the end of the Mubarak era, which was not an era of prosperity. It was not an era in which they could participate. It was an era of corruption and authoritarian politics. There remain supporters of the old regime, although they are a relatively small minority. The big question is what does the so-called silent majority–that the Egyptian Armed Forces consistently looks to–want? It’s unclear without major nationwide polling, but you do get a sense that what these people want is change. They came out in large numbers to vote in the now-concluded parliamentary elections. They want change. They want prosperity. They do not want the authoritarianism of the previous regime, but beyond that, it’s entirely unclear what Egyptians want. And I think that that is the challenge going forward.
There is supposed to be a hundred-person constitutional assembly created to write a new Egyptian constitution, which is to be followed by a presidential election. Is that going to be easy?
The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon. And I think that that’s been and remains a problem.
Is Washington content to watch this uncertainty unfold?
The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon.
U.S. policymakers find themselves in an unknown environment. Egyptian politics have been quite scrambled. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood–the Freedom and Justice Party–is slated to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the seats in the new People’s Assembly, followed by the Salafist al-Nour Party, with some 25 percent. Neither of these groups has historically held worldviews that conform to American interests in the region. So there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time. And that’s due not only to Islamist politics. People associate Egypt’s strategic relationship with the United States with Hosni Mubarak, even though it began before him, and people don’t believe that it served Egypt very well. As a result, I think there are going to be changes, and I think that that is certainly cause for concern. American policy makers are aware of the changes in Egypt, and they’re struggling to find a poli