An Appreciation of Social Justice Literature

Reading literature is often an escapist break from life’s grim realities — such as that appalling (now somewhat amended) new Indiana law allowing conservatives to deny service to gay customers under the guise of “religious freedom.”

But literature with a strong social-justice component can also be enjoyable, because fiction of that kind not only addresses festering problems but can also feature memorable characters, great stories told in a non-preachy way, and some humor. All that is often found in the work of authors such as Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, Ralph Ellison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Grisham, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, Marge Piercy, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alice Walker, Richard Wright, and Emile Zola, among others.

I’ll add Jhumpa Lahiri to that list now that I’ve finished her 2013 novel The Lowland. The two previous works of hers I read — the short-story collection Interpreter of Maladies and the novel The Namesake — had some sociopolitical context but mostly chronicled the personal lives of their protagonists. The Lowland also focuses on a small number of specific characters — in a compelling (and melancholy) way — but devotes plenty of pages as well to India’s communist Naxalite movement against poverty and the government’s brutal response that includes the cold-blooded police murder of Lahiri’s fictional Udayan character. Udayan’s posthumously born daughter Bela also becomes an activist of sorts.

Famous novels with lots of sociopolitical context include — among many others — Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (anti-slavery), Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (which exposed horrendous conditions in the meatpacking industry), John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (which addressed severe economic inequality), Emile Zola’s Germinal (which chronicled exploitation of the working class — specifically miners), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (which envisioned a dystopia even more sexist and patriarchal than we have in real life), and Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle (which looked at homophobia during a time when the kind of anti-gay attitude displayed by some Indianans was much more the norm).

Those novels’ authors all wisely focused on how specific characters were affected by the prejudice, oppression, and other nasty things society flung their way.

Speaking of dystopian novels a la The Handmaid’s Tale, that genre is usually sociopolitical by its very nature. The question of “liberty and justice for all,” or lack thereof, is an undercurrent in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, and various other dystopian novels.

Barbara Kingsolver alone has tackled many important issues while creating three-dimensional characters who readers like or dislike. The Poisonwood Bible (evangelicalism, colonialism), The Lacuna (McCarthyism), Flight Behavior (climate change), etc.

The area of mental health? Addressed in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, among other novels.

Anti-war fiction also mixes wider issues with the stories of particular protagonists. To name just four powerful books: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Erich Maria Remarque’s A Time to Love and a Time to Die — the last being one of the most heartbreaking novels set in wartime you’ll ever read.

There are also literary works that are not war novels per se, but depict or reference armed conflict in some chapters. Examples include Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.

And then there are novels that depict the religious intolerance and hypocrisy that have such an impact on society — including nowadays in Indiana. Elements of that can be found in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (as practiced by Mr. Brocklehurst), James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain (Gabriel Grimes), and other works.

By the way, I’ve visited Indiana many times (my wife used to live there), and it’s a state with lots of great places and people. As with many other states, a minority of narrow-minded “leaders” and residents make things troublesome for everyone else.

What are some of your favorite novels with sociopolitical elements?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

113 thoughts on “An Appreciation of Social Justice Literature

  1. Dave,
    Every time I read one of your articles, I realize just how little I’ve actually read over my lifetime. Very interesting stuff, as always. And enjoyed the comments very much. Some very special ones this time. Have a beautiful spring day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, hopewfaith, for your kind words about the column and about the great comments from various people! Much appreciated. 🙂

      I think many of us (myself included) haven’t read anywhere near as much as we would like to read. So many other things take up our time. 😦

      Have a great spring weekend, too!

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  2. Morning Dave.as you mention ” Low Land” an epic novel by Jhumpa Lahiri is different from her other books. In the 1960s, India was swept up in the Country’s Naxalite rebellion against poverty and inequality into Mao-inspired revolutionary politics. The movement was basically limited to West Bengal where the leaders of the group inspired very bright students to participate later some to lose their life others jailed to lose their purpose of living.

    Story of two brothers one a brilliant student Udayan, then an idealistic student in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta (now Kolkata) the younger of two was killed by Police early on in the book and at the end of this epic novel all became clear. The older one Subhash more cautious and timid by nature..lead a monotonous life.. The story does not end there…will Subhash come out his life to make the one worth living for ?

    The Lowland seamlessly interweaving the historical and the personal lives across generations and geographies.
    The Novel expands the range of one of our most dazzling storytellers, at her finest makes Jhumpa Lahiri one of the most powerful writers of modern times.

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    • Good morning, bebe! Great information about “The Lowland”! It’s definitely a novel where one learns a lot in addition to being absorbed and “entertained” in a literary way.

      The siblings-with-much-different-personalities dynamic is a real literary archetype (Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” with its brothers and Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” with its sisters are among other examples), and “The Lowland” has a real original and fascinating take on that.

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      • So true on East of Eden. In Low Land she studied the history well in the fiction some of the names who started the movement are real, I looked them up.
        Btw..I got hold of ” Killing Floor”, there is a section at the public library with books labelled ” Honor Book”, one does not need to check them out, but most returns them. So I can take my time reading the book.

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        • Thanks, bebe! It does look like Jhumpa Lahiri did a LOT of research for “The Lowland.” Very impressive to combine that with her terrific story-telling. I guess her use of some real names makes it even more a work of historical fiction.

          Great that you found “Killing Floor”! Once again, my local library didn’t have it this past Thursday, so I took out “One Shot” instead. Have you read that Jack Reacher novel?

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          • No I have not just took a look…evidently that was the movie Reacher, good that you have not seen the movie. I am going to make a list of the books I have read…of Lee Child.
            On Killing Floor and the earlier ones are not available in our branch..good I found the book, i have a few others to read before that.

            Now I am reading a non-fiction by Roger Moore.
            What a story teller…without any malice, I like that part for the few pages I have read.
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/one-lucky-bastard-by-roger-moore/2014/10/14/4ede78ce-4e57-11e4-aa5e-7153e466a02d_story.html

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            • That’s right — the book the movie was based on! Happy I haven’t seen it. I know we’ve discussed this to death, but I can’t picture Tom Cruise as Reacher. Will probably never see the film for that reason!

              “One Shot” will be my fifth Reacher book, and the first I haven’t read in order (it’s earlier than the four somewhat recent ones I read).

              Glad you’re enjoying the Roger Moore book. Seems to have gotten a mixed review by The Washington Post, but nice that Moore is mostly kind about things.

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              • I have not read more than five of Reacher…so you are caught up and will be reading more Dave :). Yes we have discussed the film to death. But the movie is good.with great actors .
                I`ll let you know about Moore`s book after I get done unless I get bored and set it aside. I normally don`t read any autobiographies..they are mostly me, me fabrication or utter boring. Linda Ronstadt has one, so has Sophia Lauren..pass.. 😆

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                • bebe, it’s good to hear that the Reacher movie is worth watching, despite “the height issue.” 🙂

                  Before I got back to mostly reading novels, I used to read a lot of biographies — but not too many autobiographies. I agree that the latter genre is a mixed bag — some great ones, but others in which there’s a lot of ego and/or some doubt about the facts.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Dave you have read Biographies you say. So Bill O’Reilly has a new book out Killing Patton, before he has written Killing Kennedy, Killing Lincoln, Killing jesus…who will be his target next time I wonder.
                    Oh wait are those self made fictions or facts I wonder !

                    Changed my mind on Moore already after 60 pages..it is me, me and me..and those dead people . I would skim through the paged and will be done in no time ;lol:

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                    • Bill O’Reilly! One couldn’t pay me to read his “biographies.” Ha — a lot of fiction there indeed!

                      Sorry the Roger Moore book went downhill, bebe. Those “celebrity memoirs” often are disappointing.

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  3. Interesting topic as always Dave but my first thought is how rare it is for novels written to further social justice causes and ideals or to protest injustice rarely hold up as literature. Does anyone outside of academia read Stowe , Lewis, or the many “proletarian ” novels of the first few decades of the 20th century anymore. Of the ones that do hold up I’d put The Grapes of Wrath at the top of the list but of course it’s the Joad family and their epic journey rather than the attention to depression era injustice that hold one in thrall, the great and good Preacher Casey also. Perhaps it’s when the critique is less about a specific issue but more about injustice or mans inhumanity to man in a general sense that a writer has a chance to leave something for the ages. One of the first authors to use fiction to expose injustice also gave us perhaps the first great short story ever penned, Voltaire’s Candide piles on war, pestilence, rape, slavery and most any other ill one could imagine and yet somehow manages to be as exciting and even more remarkably pure fun as a first rate comic book.

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    • Thanks for your interesting thoughts, Donny!

      I agree that social-justice novels can at times be preachy, didactic, and so on, but I guess I feel that a number of them — not just a few of them — hold up as literature.

      Certainly “The Grapes of Wrath,” as you note, but I think also many of the other novels mentioned in my column (“The Poisonwood Bible,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” etc.) as well as many books I didn’t mention (“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Color Purple” would be two examples). Of course, one can argue about whether those are social-justice novels, or literary novels with some social-justice elements. 🙂

      I reread “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” within the past year or so, and while it may not be “all-time literature,” I found the plotting rather sophisticated, some of the characters three-dimensional, and the prose quite eloquent at times amid the melodrama, excitement, and righteous fury.

      Totally agree — “Candide” is a GREAT read as it addresses all kinds of things. From that earlier literary era, one could also put novels such as “Gulliver’s Travel” in a similar category.

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      • I think most of the great ones are novels that while dealing with issues of social justice were not written to advance or highlight a particular cause. Most of the ones that were become quickly dated and tend to be immediately forgettable in terms of characters and plot. If the main point is a polemical one ,no matter how worthy, the reader is bound to get bored. The examples of work that holds up such as Dickens , Zola ,Atwood and the great Russian’s, Turgenev in particular could be added ,can be read on many different levels and even thoroughly enjoyed by one who disagrees with the broader social message the work is trying to covey. I think I am very ineloquently trying to say Art has to come first.

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        • Great points, Donny! For literature with “protest” elements, the art indeed has to come first (in most cases) for it to stand the test of time. Certain sociopolitical things referenced in a novel from long ago may of course be forgotten or seem confusing decades or centuries later, so the art has to be there. (Though, in general, things like prejudice and inequality are constants throughout time and are always recognizable, even if in different forms.)

          One author who comes to mind is Sir Walter Scott, whose novels contain Scottish battles and intrigue most 21st-century American readers know little or nothing about, but we get the humanity. And there are a good number of literary flourishes.

          Then there’s the question of social-justice novels that do quickly become dated. They might or not be great literature (some are more polemical than others), just not all-time literature.

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  4. Nellie McClung, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Harris (aka Mother Jones) are three of my favourite women in history. They are not well-known, but their contributions to social justice literature and activism are certainly not forgotten.

    Nellie McClung was an Ontario-born feminist who helped to secure the right to vote for Canadian women. She also spear-headed the effort to enact divorce laws that were more fair for women, and was responsible for women entering politics and gaining jobs in government.

    In Times Like These was published in 1914-1915 (somewhere in that time frame). McClung spoke passionately about women achieving power, and issued what I could best describe as a battle cry for feminism, asking women to step outside of their gender roles and demand to be heard.

    In Chapter III, she used a perfect example of the demeaning attitudes that women had to endure. The wife of Charles XI of Sweden was pleading with him to spare the life of a prisoner. Rather than listen to her emotional appeal, this was the King’s response: “I married you to give me children, not to give advice.” McClung used that example to point out how women were viewed in society only as producers of children. In her book, she wanted to elevate all women, not just Canadian women, from broodmare status and to get them recognised as human beings.

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    • You mentioned three giants, Ana, and skillfully/interestingly described one of them. A shame they’re not better known today, but unfortunately “the history books” — in North America and elsewhere — don’t include enough about notable women, notable people of color, and notable progressives.

      Thanks!

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    • Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mother Jones have special significance to me because they both lived in Memphis. Ida B. Wells wrote for the local newspaper that is now known as The Commercial Appeal. Most of her earlier writings in Memphis were published in newsletters and discussed lynchings across the South.

      Wells’ writing was interrupted as her anti-lynching crusade angered Southerners. She escaped death by fleeing to Chicago, and that is when she began writing and publishing books on Southern legal systems. She wrote several that I like, but I think Mob Rule in New Orleans and The Red Record are her best.

      I’ve discussed The Autobiography of Mother Jones on more than one occasion, so no need for me to repeat why I’m such a fan of her life, writings, and work. She was a powerful advocate for workers and families, and the labour movement owes a lot to her dedication.

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      • Great information on both, Ana, and well worth repeating in the case of Mother Jones. 🙂 I’ve read biographies of her and Ida B. Wells (albeit many years ago), and they were fascinating/principled/courageous women.

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  5. I’m thinking Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son. A victim of circumstances who falls into a black hole of the judicial system. Some bad choices and judgment but not so much when you consider the character’s background. Interestingly, Wright wrote a short story called “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” A 17-yr. old African-American in 1940s south who makes a bad, immature decision and runs away by hopping a train. He could have turned out to be the character Bigger Thomas in Wright’s novel who maybe arrives in Chicago and starts down a bad path. It would seem Wright had the story in mind when he wrote Native Son. Almost like a sequel.

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  6. Hi Dave..what a great column..

    Watched the video this morning, When they will ever learn ?
    Now in South Carolina.
    All those officers shown in the video were there for each other covering this heinous crime. Nowhere in the video anyone was seen to rush to Mr. Scott’s fallen body performing a CPR all he did was handcuffing the victim.

    A murder was committed by a police officer who was supposed to protect us the ordinary citizens .
    Sadly another senseless death by a police officer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, bebe! Glad you liked the column!

      I couldn’t bear to watch that South Carolina video, though I’ve read a lot about it. So horrifying.

      As Kat Lib and I discussed below, white police officers killing black men for no reason (and then planting “evidence”) happens many times but is usually not caught on video. And, as you noted, no concern for the victim afterward, either.

      Yes, these police officers are people who are supposed to PROTECT citizens.

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    • The only thing more disgusting than this murderer is the fact that someone actually created a GoFundMe account to cover the future legal bills and expenses for this sociopath. I have seen GoFundMe pages for chemo patients who need help with medical bills, single parents who need assistance with their utility bills and school expenses for their children, and for college students asking for help with tuition and books. Those pages never receive over $2000 in donations, and these are from people who legitimately need help.

      George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, and the homophobic pizza shop owners in Indiana all received close to a million dollars each on their GoFundMe pages. So the lesson is this: if you’re hungry, got medical and tuition bills piling up, you’re on your own. If you’re a fake Christian who supports discriminating against gays and lesbians, or a white cop who guns down black people for the hell of it, Americans will take care of you.

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      • Perfectly said, Ana. Those crowdfunding campaigns for killer cops and homophobic businesspeople are morbid and revolting. And as you say, people in legitimate need (who’ve had bad luck rather than behaving badly) often don’t raise much money on those sites. It does make one wonder about (some members of) the human race. 😦

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        • I also don’t agree with the decision to keep his benefits going until his wife gives birth. Those of us in the real world don’t have the option to keep ourselves or our family members on the employer’s group health insurance plan after we’ve been fired. Your average person who gets dismissed from his/her job immediately loses all benefits. You either purchase a medical plan directly from an insurance company, or you sign up for high-price COBRA insurance.

          He didn’t lose his job dying heroically in the line of duty; he lost his job because he killed a man in cold blood. I have yet to see family members of police officers’ murder victims receive any type of support from the cities where they were killed. Civil court is the only place where they can pursue compensation, but that’s not always a guarantee.

          So sick and tired of these *special rules* that are in place when it comes to LEOs.

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          • I totally agree, Ana. As you note, other people (non-murderers) don’t get a break like that. And with savings from a cop salary, I’m sure that couple can afford the pre-birth/birth medical costs.

            I’m also tired of LEOs getting preferential treatment. Their pay and benefits are quite generous in return for working a dangerous job. And those who are killers especially deserve no break whatsoever.

            A life-in-prison term for that guy — please!!!

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            • I made the mistake of reading comments on 1-2 news websites. It’s not surprising that so many are attempting to spin this…”well the guy had family court warrants, so maybe he shouldn’t have broken the law.”

              Really?! If failure to pay child support was punishable by death, then there would be a lot of deceased fathers (and a few moms) in America.

              There was absolutely no justification for this shooting, and people who are trying to absolve this murderer for his crime should seek help.

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              • So dismaying to read stuff like that, Ana. The victim wasn’t perfect but, as you note, what he did was not even remotely something punishable by death. Some people will say anything to justify a white cop killing an unarmed black man — and, you’re right, people that racist and rationale-seeking need some therapy.

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        • bebe, I’m glad GoFundMe pulled the fundraising campaign for that killer cop, but sorry that vile campaign moved elsewhere.

          Yes, the Boston verdict was very good news, and I agree that life imprisonment is better than the death penalty.

          Totally different topic, but I took “The Lincoln Lawyer” out of the library today. I think you were one of the people who suggested I try reading Michael Connelly, so thanks! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Wow, I didn’t know GoFundMe cancelled that campaign. Good. Not surprising that it popped up again on FB.

          Thank you for thinking about my brother. I just found this out last night, but he was at the courthouse with our father on the day the verdict was read. Most of the family want that monster to spend the rest of his miserable life in prison, but I don’t share their opinion.

          I don’t approach the death penalty too casually. It is not an effective deterrent for crime, and I detest the “hang ’em high, hang ’em often” mindset that demands swift and brutal punishment for every single crime. But there are some crimes that are so vicious, so brutal, so violent, that the perpetrators of those crimes have forfeited their right to live. This is one of those crimes.

          Even though my brother put his life back together, there are just some things that can’t be forgotten. The images of his horrible leg injuries, the photos of my parents and sister-in-law in tears at the hospital, my 6 year old nephew having to go through therapy to deal with happened to his dad…so much heartache and sadness not just in my family, but for the other victims as well.

          If there is anyone who is more deserving of a gurney and needle, it’s Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. That’s not likely to happen, and I’m ok with that. But if he is sentenced to death, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that decision either.

          (I hope you guys don’t take my Liberal card away because I support the death penalty in some cases:)

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          • That WAS good news about GoFundMe, but then the campaign unfortunately moved to another crowdfunding site. Indiegogo? I’m forgetting.

            I hear you about the death penalty, Ana. In some cases, it’s clearly deserved. And you have a VERY personal/family stake in the Boston case.

            But the very existence of the death penalty means some innocent people may die, and some poor people and some minority people may die when they could have gotten off or gotten lighter sentences if they were rich and white. (I know you know all this!)

            You can definitely keep your liberal card. 🙂

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            • That Indiegogo site is not catching on fire as I’d expected. I’m glad to see a lot of those comments are not supportive of this cop, and the amount raised so far is quite pathetic, much lower than what Zimmerman and Wilson reached in a similar timeframe. It’s sad that it had to even go this far, but maybe the Walter Scott murder is the turning point when people finally wake up and see what minorities have been complaining about all along.

              Capital punishment is so “final” and therefore shouldn’t be taken lightly. It should not be the first response in prosecutions…but that option should not be eliminated either. I’m just looking forward to being with my fam this summer and trying to put all of this behind us. And as I’ve said before, you Jersey people had better not give us any trouble while we’re in Newark.

              I will hang out with Montclair folkz though because word on the street is they know how to party….

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              • Great that a lot of money is NOT rolling into this campaign on Indiegogo (I haven’t looked at it myself). Maybe some people have at least some sense. There was a certain amount of ambiguity (and no video evidence) in Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown, and Wilson ended up with LOTS of money. I think Wilson was guilty as hell, and didn’t deserve a penny, but I guess there was enough doubt for more people (including virulent racists) to fund him.

                I’m sure it will be especially great seeing your family this summer, Ana.

                And Montclair people do indeed know how to party, because they’re smart enough not to invite me. 🙂

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        • FYI bebe,

          The Avon outlet store has some incredible deals going on. Big bottles of the bubble bath for $3.99, lip balm for $.69, Skin-So-Soft lotion and body wash for $2.99, Skin-So-Soft hand cream for $2.50.

          I’ve posted this on Instagram for the women in my fam because they love Skin-So-Soft products…just thought I’d let you ladies know too. Have a good weekend:)

          Liked by 2 people

          • Morning Ana !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            Just noted…Skin So Soft is an excellent mosquito repellent and smells good..must look for it now. It is spring…loving it 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Dave, I’m sitting here watching the news tonight, and I’ve been seeing the horrible video of the killing of the unarmed black man in South Carolina by a white cop. Very disturbing, especially after I just posted below about Springsteen’s song “American Skin (41 Shots).” One wonders how often this has happened without it being caught on video. Talk about social injustice!

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    • That WAS absolutely horrible, Kat Lib. And, as you allude to, I’m sure that kind of thing (a police officer killing someone for no good reason and then planting “evidence”) happens MANY times without people knowing about it because it’s not caught on video. If that vile police officer gets life in prison, it would be fine with me.

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      • Does anyone think that these murders of young black men by white police within the last year, not to mention the Trayvon Martin murder by ‘community watchman’ Zimmerman are just coincidence? They all happened while an African American sits in the White House as chief executive. For better or worse, the Obama presidency has forced all this latent, guarded, denied racism to the surface to be faced and dealt with. This many ‘white authority figure murders young black man’ incidents never happened in the eight years of the Little Bush presidency. I’m not an unconditional Obama admirer by any means but I think if a white Democratic man were in that office making those ‘radical’ policy changes yes, you would have seen the usual opposition but it wouldn’t be tinged with that unspoken insult that a black man had the audacity to govern these white people’s lives. The racists are being ‘outed’ now and the judicial system unfortunately is backing them up. We thought we had progressed in racial matters and, these days, you probably won’t see lynch mobs or police turning firehoses on peaceful protesters. Why go to all that effort when one cop can kill one young black male suspected of–what? Beyond being black and walking the streets, ‘looking’ threatening to the white cop. I know, I know, there are shades of gray in all these matters. There are cases of provocation but the police reaction doesn’t have to be tinted with fear, racism and a hair trigger. I used to think Spike Lee’s film ‘Do the Right Thing’ was a bit far-fetched. I also thought when the film ‘Crash’ came out that most people would not be so open in their racism. I’m reevaluating how I see those works because they’re more applicable to today’s world than the one in which they were made.

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        • You make a lot of great points, bobess48. I think the Obama presidency has indeed brought a lot of America’s never-ending racism closer to the surface.

          Hard to say if the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers are up even higher than usual since Obama took office, or whether the increased presence of smartphone cameras and social media has made it easier to record and make people aware of those atrocities. Either way, it’s so awful and depressing to have these murders by police officers happen again and again.

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          • How many does it make, including what happened today, within the past year? Isn’t this the fourth? They’re happening far more frequently. Of course, the faster, more portable technology makes instant reporting even more instant but this is something that is much harder to ignore. Ultimately, it’s good that it’s getting reported and if we could actually face the truth, on an individual as well as collective level, we might be able to learn and grow and actually communicate without violence.

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            • You may be right that the number of killings has gone up. It certainly seems that way. And I totally agree that the more this is reported, the more the chance (albeit slim) that these executions could decrease.

              It’s promising that the South Carolina cop is being charged with murder. If he could get a huge prison term, maybe that will be a deterrent for other police officers acting that way in the future. In most cases, cops have absolutely no deterrent to stop killing unarmed black men because they are rarely ever indicted, much less jailed.

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  8. As I noted last week, I am currently reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe”. It is the first Scott book I’ve read, and I still have about 70 pages to go. This book is a little surprising, and not so much what I was expecting. First of all, Ivanhoe has appeared very little in the book (I suspect that he will save the day by book’s end). The plot, rather, seems to focus on the characters of Isaac the Jew, and his daughter Rebecca. In the book, the Saxons hate the Normans, the Normans hate the Saxons, the Saxons and Normans hate the Muslims (ala the Crusades), but everyone hates the Jews. The setting of the novel is the 1100’s, under Prince John and King Richard the Lion-Hearted. It wasn’t long after that Jews were expelled from England altogether. Scott seems to make the anti-Semitism the key element in the novel, pointing out the hypocrisy of the Christians in their dealings with these two characters, and making them truly sympathetic. Some anti-Semitism still leaks through in Scott’s writing (Isaac is often shown to have the acquisition of money be his primary motivation), but Scott is clearly trying to show the unfairness of the ways Jews were treated. Interestingly, the novel was written in 1819. At that time, the Jews in England had no rights. Not until 1829 did Jews begin receiving emancipation in England. This seemed to coincide with the ascendency of Benjamin Disraeli, a Jew who converted to Christianity, but I imagine that the popularity of “Ivanhoe” contributed to this emancipation.

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    • I hadn’t really thought of it a lot before, but “Ivanhoe” — in (mostly) showing disdain for anti-Semitism — is in part a social-justice novel. Great observation, drb19810, and well said — especially your line about various groups hating each other but everyone hating the Jews. Thanks, also, for the interesting historical info!

      And you’re right that Ivanhoe doesn’t appear in the novel as much as expected given that he’s the title character. Similar with Sir Walter Scott’s “Rob Roy.” Unlike in the 1990s movie starring Liam Neeson, Rob Roy is basically a supporting character in the book.

      Like

  9. such as that appalling (now somewhat amended) new Indiana law allowing conservatives to deny service to gay customers under the guise of “religious freedom.”

    I have often been bothered by the tendency of social justice activists to allow the narrative to trump the facts.

    The intent of RFRA statutes is too protect minority communities, especially immigrants.

    Here in Minnesota, we have 90,000 Somalis, 63,000 Hmong (Laotian) and tens thousands of immigrants from Sudan, Myanmar (Burma) and Latin American – each with their unique cultural requirements.

    RFRA statutes were designed to address such issues as:

    – Can the DMV insist that headscarves be removed for driver license photos?

    – Can a Muslim meat processors slaughter sheep and goats with a knife?

    – Can a Somali cab driver refuse a fare because of a dog? Even a seeing eye dog?

    The purpose of RFRA is cushion the interface between law and religion, so that immigrant religious practices do not conflict with the law and driving a wedge between immigrants and the rest of society.

    Diversity is not just spicy food and colorful clothes, that’s Disneyland. Diversity is people with sharply different moral and cultural values learning to tolerate each others differences.

    It worries me when we launch into a twitter storms over a wedding cakes. It just shows how intolerant both sides of the culture wars are and unprepared to deal with the really difficult challenges.

    Two years ago, I paid for my daughter’s wedding. It wouldn’t have bothered me if someone refused to bake a cake, I would have moved on. It didn’t bother me that her wedding wasn’t legal. We all moved on and obtained a license a year later.

    I just kept telling myself that tolerance is a learning process, not a legal process.

    I will leave you with a quote from a heated town meeting in a place not far away, a rural town of 30,000 with an immigrant population of 5,000.

    One member of the audience shouted at another, “My God Man, if you can’t get along with Republicans, how do you expect to get along with the Sudanese?”

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    • Thanks for your perspective on this, Almost Iowa! Lots of great information — and a “go with the flow” attitude — in your comment.

      My impression is that the original idea of RFRA in 1993 was indeed to protect immigrant religious practices. But the idea of that statute has in some cases evolved into ways to discriminate against the gay/lesbian community. In Indiana specifically, I think social conservatives there were frustrated by the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state and reacted by pushing for a statute that would allow socially conservative business owners to deny service to gay/lesbian customers. Not RFRA’s original intent, unfortunately.

      I realize that if, say, a same-sex couple is denied a cake for their wedding, they can just “move on” to another bakery. Still, it feels insulting. And the same “religious freedom” excuse was often used to deny service to mixed-race couples, and African-Americans in general, decades ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just to clarify, it is legal in Indiana (and most other states) to refuse to offer (some) public services to gay people.

        To prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation requires legislation or local ordinances.

        RFRA was falsely sold to some groups as a “religious protection against [future] local anti-discrimination ordinances” but the odds of this surviving a court challenge are just about nil.

        It is sad that both sides of the culture wars misinterpreted and over-reacted to the law.

        It is sadder still that both social progressives and religious conservatives continue to wage holy war rather than learn to accept and respect each other.

        Saddest of all, is that religious conservatives, especially recent immigrants who are far more conservative than Christian Evangelicals feel as if they are under siege and are isolating themselves from the greater community.

        Europe has a horrible problem in this regard and I would hate to see it repeated here.

        All this will pass in time.

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        • Thanks, Almost Iowa, for the thoughtful follow-up comment!

          Unfortunately, there’s so much circular logic in social progressives and religious conservatives often not getting along. For instance, I think many gays and lesbians would be more willing to engage religious conservatives if some of those conservatives would at least acknowledge that being gay or lesbian is inherent rather than “a choice.” 🙂

          Also, the U.S. is supposed to be a secular, “separation of church and state” society. Our society does allow for an enormous religious presence, but that religious presence shouldn’t be part of governmental policy or business practices (theoretically at least).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Dave, I apologize if I have hijacked the thread and veered off onto uncomfortable ground. As a father of a gay daughter, I take every opportunity I can to get people talking.

            You are right about the circular logic, but there is something at the root of this that is even more basic than understanding one another. It is the difference between courtesy and tolerance.

            Courtesy is treating everyone with respect and good manners. Tolerance is treating the people who we abhor with courtesy.

            As a society, we need to work on both.

            Our founding fathers were wise to separate church from state – but that cuts both ways. It gets dicey when the state compels people to do what they feel is immoral.

            For instance, here is a simple case. A best man is throwing a stag party for the groom and asks a Muslim or Christian baker to draw a nude woman on a cake. Neither the law or society would object if the baker refuse – because it is a moral issue.

            Yet both Muslims and Christians often feel that being asked to put two grooms on the cake would be a moral issue also.

            I do not have the solutions to these problems but I would consul against allowing the law get ahead of society. The state should step lightly on moral ground.

            This is the way I would like see things handled.

            Baker: I am uncomfortable working with a gay theme.

            Customer: I am sorry you feel that way, I’ll find another vendor – but anytime you would like to share coffee, I’d be willing to sit down and talk about it.

            Baker: I have no problem with that. Can you meet at Starbucks at noon? I will buy.

            I saw a scenario very similar to this play out at work. The two people involved have not changed their positions a bit – but have become the best of friends.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Not a hijacking at all, Almost Iowa. 🙂 The conversations under my blog posts often veer off into other topics (social issues, politics, music, movies, etc.) and I like that!

              I don’t think I have a gay child (time will tell with the younger one 🙂 ), but one of her best friends has lesbian parents and, like so many other people, my wife and I have quite a few gay friends and gay relatives. I think every business should serve them everywhere.

              I do see the point of your approach. Use a different bakery (or other business), agree to disagree, maybe even become friends despite the disparate worldviews. I think that’s wonderful. But I’m still a bit uneasy about where the line is drawn. Not provide service to an African-American couple? A Jewish couple? An atheist couple? Better to provide service to everyone. It’s not like the business owners are helping out ax murderers! 🙂

              Maybe not an exact analogy but, heck, I still pay taxes despite being morally appalled at how much of those taxes are used for the military.

              Liked by 1 person

      • “And the same “religious freedom” excuse was often used to deny service to mixed-race couples, and African-Americans in general, decades ago.”

        It is interesting how the freedom argument that states used to justify the banning of interracial marriages prior to ’67 was also used to legalise same-sex marriages today. The Loving v Virginia ruling/14 amendment is routinely cited by federal judges in their decisions to invalidate same-sex marriage bans on the basis that those bans violate individual freedoms and civil rights.

        Minority groups can’t (and shouldn’t) wait for the majority to come around and get past its phobias and -isms. The “go along to get along” strategy does not result in effective public policy. Sometimes demonstrations, advocacy, political pressure, the legal system, and if it comes to it, rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, are needed to right society’s wrongs. I admire the LGBTQ community for standing up for their rights and refusing to be treated as second class citizens.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ana, as you astutely note, there are definitely parallels between the fight for interracial marriage decades ago and the fight for same-sex marriage today. And parallels between the backlash that resulted in each case.

          Also, I agree that pressure of all kinds is often needed for history and onerous laws to change. Sometimes, being polite can work on a person-to-person level (as Almost Iowa eloquently expressed) — and that can certainly be worth a try. But, unfortunately, “civil obedience” often leads to “civil capitulation.”

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          • Achieving acceptance on a personal level is all fine and dandy, but I prefer to see change on a bigger scale. It is not the job of gays/lesbians/transsexuals/blacks/immigrants/disabled people/atheists/whatever disadvantaged group to convince the majority of their social worth and place in society. Respect people and their differences, and leave your prejudice at the door…is that too much to ask?

            People can believe in whatever they want. Problem comes in when those beliefs creep into laws, business practices, and public policies.

            Anyway, that’s just my opinion. Have a good day.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I hear you, Ana. No reason why macro and micro change can’t happen simultaneously, with the macro part of the change absolutely necessary — via legislation, the courts, etc., and of course grassroots pressure.

              As the great Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

              Have a good day, too!

              Like

    • Thanks, lulabelleharris! I’ve been enjoying the comments, too. 🙂

      I should have mentioned Harper Lee. Perhaps I subconsciously didn’t do so because I’ve included “To Kill a Mockingbird” in several recent columns (and will do so again in my next column). Still, social justice and the lack of social justice are HUGE in Harper Lee’s novel!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post, Dave, but I don’t think I have anything to add beyond what has been cited already. I know that Dickens was very active in social reform and novels such as ‘Oliver Twist’ with its demonic orphanages and workhouses, and ‘Little Dorrit’s depiction of the pointless debtor’s prisons shone a spotlight on those issues, partly because of his popularity. If he had been an unknown writing those books they wouldn’t have gotten the same level of attention for sure. Although I have never read it, Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Gulag Archipelago’ exposed the Soviet prison system to a large population that never knew the extent of those horrors, just as a century earlier, Dostoevsky’s ‘Notes from a Dead House’ (as the new Pevear/Volokhonsky translation has more accurately titled it) dramatized the Siberian hard labor camps. Fiction, by virtue of its humanizing of social institutions, can be more persuasive than all the religious and political tracts in the world. It’s also interesting to read works from an earlier era and country such as Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ which, although he changes the sex of the fictional counterpart of his great lover, is amazingly frank and straightforward in its depiction of individual characters’ homosexuality. I don’t know if France was a bit more accepting of homosexuality than England was (poor persecuted Oscar Wilde certainly thought so; he died in Paris) but it’s refreshing to read of ‘taboo’ subjects not in the guarded or coded language that certain other works of fiction have been.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Brian! Glad you liked the post — and I liked your comment! 🙂

      Virtually ever Dickens novel has some kind of social-justice element, and “Oliver Twist” and “Little Dorrit” are certainly examples of that.

      I read “Gulag Archipelago” MANY years ago, and have forgotten much of it. But it was indeed powerful, albeit perhaps a bit overwhelming in its length and detail. Interesting how Solzhenitsyn and Dostoyevsky have that labor-camp connection despite being from different centuries.

      You make a great point about how social-justice fiction, because of its humanizing and “readability,” can potentially have an even bigger impact than social-justice nonfiction.

      And excellent points about Proust’s opus and the treatment of homosexuality in English and French literature many decades ago. I think France was indeed more accepting of same-gender relationships — and, in general, more open about sexual matters, including heterosexual ones.

      Like

      • Thanks, Dave! I didn’t have time to read the entire article as I’m at work but I did notice that the author virtually name-drops every author that has ever written about New Orleans or its surrounding area. Sometime I’d like to take a literary tour of that area. I only went down once, on a 10th anniversary trip with my then-wife. Literary sites were not high on the agenda so I didn’t do much except imagine that several of these writers walked the streets where I was walking. One thing about Percy is that he not only described New Orleans and the area with which most people are familiar with such accuracy for that time period but also the suburbs and other areas that tourists usually don’t see.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’re welcome!

          Yes, MANY writers mentioned — Walker Percy, Faulkner, Anne Rice, Kate Chopin, John Kennedy Toole, Tennessee Williams…

          I’ve been to New Orleans several times, but, like you, never really focused on its literary sites and sights. I should have! But there’s of course so much else to do in that city, and all but one of the times I was there was to cover conferences that didn’t allow for a lot of free time.

          Nice that Percy described not only the “touristy” sections of New Orleans, but other parts of the city and surrounding area. Unlike Ignatius J. Reilly in the “A Confederacy of Dunces” novel he championed, Percy wasn’t scared to get out of a certain sliver of New Orleans. 🙂

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  11. Dave, I must mention, as we are on both Indiana and Social Justice, I read that as of 2010 or 2011 Indiana stopped offering education services to its inmates. Even with the evidence that education reduces the rate at which the released commit new crimes.

    I read that in “Shakespeare Saved My Life.” A memoir about leading the inmates in a supermax prison in the study of Shakespeare’s plays. Sadly though it was written by a PHD (In Shakespeare) it wasn’t as well written as the memoirs I’ve read by other people who aren’t trained in English at all.

    The book however was interesting as it did take a brief look at how literature and education helped the prisoners move to being different people. The social justice aspect was weakly addressed (the author thought she needed to remain neutral I think).

    I’m thinking I shall get your former HuffPo colleague Michelangelo Signorile’s new book with its focus on social justice and equality.

    As for fiction, I can’t help but think of the same list of books you gave. Especially the dystopian ones. But I think the message in “Maniac Magee” was the one that stuck with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Didn’t know that about Indiana and its inmates, GL. Such a shame, as well as unkind and punitive. Not to mention “penny wise and pound foolish,” as the saying goes.

      “Maniac Magee” sounds really interesting. Now on my long to-read list. Thank you for mentioning it!

      Speaking of dystopian literature, I’m finally reading Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” for the first time. Excellent!

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Fahrenheit 451” is still on my to read list. They always keep growing.

        “Manic Magee” is the story of a boy who runs away. In his wanderings he finds a town literally divided by race. What he sees, learns, and does there is the bulk of the book. Its a middle grades level story I think it was 4th or 5th grade when I read it. But I haven’t forgotten it as I have so many others over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

        • One advantage to “Fahrenheit 451” for those of us with large reading lists is that it’s quite short (158 pages in the edition I have). I just started it yesterday and I’m more than halfway through.

          Thanks, GL, for the great information about “Manic Magee”! If I get to that book, I’ll search for it in my local library’s children or YA section.

          Like

        • I don’t think I ever read anything by Ray Bradbury that wasn’t excellent. Dave, it’s quiet here today, I suppose it’s because of a long weekend and spring break. I am missing hearing from some of our regulars, but I hope they will eventually show up.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I agree, Kat Lib — Ray Bradbury is consistently great.

            Yes, fewer comments than usual, and you’re right that the holidays and spring break may have something to do with it. But things have been picking up in the past hour or two. 🙂

            Like

  12. Hi Dave, you mentioned so many great authors and books that I’m having trouble coming up with anything to add. I read some Marge Piercy books years ago, “Small Changes,” which was one of the earliest feminist books I recall, and “Vida,” about an anti-war activist from the 60’s, who also is still somehow mixed up in a radical group during the 80’s. My mind shifted to music, where there are so many great songwriters who addressed social injustice, but a few came first into my head. The great Leonard Cohen, also a poet and novelist, wrote a song called “Democracy,” which was covered by Judy Collins. Some of the lyrics were, “from the wars against disorder/ from the sirens night and day/ from the fires of the homeless/ from the ashes of the gay/ Democracy is coming to the USA.” Then there is Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” also covered by Judy Collins; “The Magdalen Laundries,” by Joni Mitchell; and “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, his very funny anti-draft story/song. A song I find quite chilling is “American Skin (41 Shots),” by Bruce Springsteen about the shooting of an unarmed black immigrant by NYC police in 1999 (Amadou Diallo). With all that has transpired in the last few years, this song unfortunately is still relevant today, and was re-recorded for Springsteen’s “High Hopes” album last year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Kat Lib! You added plenty. 🙂

      I’ve only read one Marge Piercy novel — “Woman on the Edge of Time,” which I mentioned in my column — but I’ve heard “Vida” and “Small Changes” are excellent.

      You’re right — so many musicians have done social-justice songs, including some of the most famous ones who work under the constraints of the corporatized “bosses” of the music business. You mentioned some wonderful examples. There are/were also The Clash, Green Day, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, U2 (more in its early years than now), Joan Baez, Bob Marley, John Lennon, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, etc.

      Like

      • I know we’ve discussed many of these artists before, particularly Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger. Joan Baez was probably my first true introduction to folk music and I have many of recordings on CD. My brother was the first person I knew who was into Bob Dylan quite early on. I still remember when my friends and I were all into Motown, the British Invasion, the Beach Boys, etc., I took a group of them down to the rec room and played them some of Dylan’s music and we all laughed at what a terrible singer he was. Little did we know what an influence he would have on music and become a cultural icon. 🙂

        By the way, am I going crazy, or did I not see several comments by “Anonymous” earlier in the day that seem to have disappeared?

        Liked by 1 person

        • You are not going crazy, Kat Lib. 🙂 “Anonymous” asked me to delete those comments, and intends to post again at a later time.

          I was also into the music you mentioned before I also got interested in Bob Dylan’s music. I became a fan, but not a huge fan.

          Bob Dylan’s singing? Yes, not very good at all, but somehow it often works (it helps that many of his songs are so great). Of course, some attendees at his more recent concerts say his voice can be pretty pathetic (whether from age, overuse, or him being in a couldn’t-care-less mode).

          By the way, someone on my Facebook news feed recently posted footage from what was a very early concert by a teenage Joan Baez. You may have seen the clip, but, if not, it’s part of this link:

          http://www.openculture.com/2011/01/joan_baez_70.html

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the link, Dave, and I hadn’t seen that before but it is a quite lovely song. It’s so great that we have all these clips at our disposal at the click of a mouse. Who’d have ever thought it would be possible someday!

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’re very welcome, Kat Lib!

              I know — YouTube is amazing. Seems so normal now, but what a breakthrough it was a decade ago.

              One fascinating (but often depressing) thing about YouTube is the way one can watch a musician or band in early performances from decades ago and then see more recent performances. Sometimes the performers are still great, sometimes they aren’t, sometimes they aged well, sometimes they didn’t, but seeing that passage of time so viscerally is rather sobering.

              Liked by 1 person

  13. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are some of your favorite novels with sociopolitical elements? —

    The reading of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s fictional “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” decades ago was a necessary precursor for me to approach the understanding of modern-day slavery as embodied in the forced-labor systems subsequently described by the same author in his nonfictional “The Gulag Archipelago” (centered on the Soviet Union’s gulag), Harry Wu in multiple media (centered on China’s laogai) and contemporary journalists both online and in print (centered on U.S. prisons).

    “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is not a fun read but an important one.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great example of a social-justice novel, J.J. Thanks!

      When an innocent person is imprisoned (for forced-labor reasons, political reasons, judicial-incompetence reasons, etc.) and then treated so harshly, it’s a real indictment of the people/institutions responsible for that.

      In the U.S., privatizing some prisons has made things worse. Adding a profit motive/incentive to the system leads to all kinds of abuses and injustices.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Susan! “The Jungle” WAS a riveting, devastating novel — and, as you know, it spurred some decent legislation during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Still, factory farms and the whole meat-“producing” business continue to be pretty awful today. 😦

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      • Dave, I never could bring myself to read “The Jungle,” probably because my father actually worked in a meat packing plant in St. Paul, MN, as one of his first jobs as a young married man in the 1930’s. I always found that difficult to reconcile that with the father that I knew. I’ve been an off-again, on-again vegetarian my whole adult life, mostly “on”, but I usually end up going back to eating meat for short periods of time, in spite of the horrors of factory farming.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I totally understand, Kat Lib — as good as “The Jungle” is, it’s a tough novel to read. And then there’s your father’s work background on top of that. Must have been a REALLY difficult job for him.

          I’ve been a vegetarian for a number of years, as well as mostly but not always vegan. But I ate meat for many years, and I understand that many people like it. There has been some progress here and there in making factory farms a little bit more humane; I hope that continues.

          I know you’re a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver. You may have already told me this, but have you read her nonfiction book “Animal Vegetable Miracle”? In it, Kingsolver notes that she eats meat, but does seem concerned about the treatment of animals, the quality of meat, and having it be more of a local operation. Of course, she has enough income to do something about that more easily than people like us can do!

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          • Yes, Dave, I read that book several times and found it absolutely fascinating. I wanted to immediately move to my own small farm and eat locally; however, I have virtually no experience with either gardening or raising animals. I thought Kingsolver was very compelling about her reasons for butchering her own turkeys, even though it was tough to read. I have a large supermarket near where I live that features cage-free eggs, local produce and meat from animals who have been humanely pasture-raised, which makes it easier to accept, but is of course more expensive. My favorite part of this book was her story about her young daughter’s egg business — very funny and charming.

            Liked by 1 person

            • It was indeed a fascinating book, including the written contributions from her husband and her older daughter. I loved that egg business, too! Like you, Kat Lib, Kingsolver describes a lifestyle I’m only minimally familiar with.

              Great that you have that supermarket option nearby! I have that option as well. Unfortunately, eating more healthily is indeed a more expensive proposition — another example of America’s onerous inequality.

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              • I wasn’t referring to Whole Foods, which many people call Whole Paycheck, although I have heard they are trying to lower their prices. For a few years, my nephew was giving me a gift card to that store and I would walk out with a very small bag!

                Liked by 1 person

            • You should try your hand at simple, easy gardening. It is a lot of fun and so very relaxing. Doesn’t take a lot of materials, tools, etc to maintain a simple garden. You can grow basic herbs like oregano and basil in a paper cup. Cut a whole in the bottom of the cup for drainage, keep it watered, exposed to some sunlight, and your seeds/plants will grow.

              These strawberries in my picture came from a small berry plot in my garden. I used them to make strawberry smoothies, fruit dip, and used some of the juice in the fruit flavoured salad dressing that my husband likes.

              You don’t have to be an expert to do this; paper cups, soil, and sun will do just fine. Try it, Kat. I’m sure you’ll like it.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Alas, Ana, I live in a condo development where we are prohibited against having our own vegetable gardens. We are also not allowed to have grills or even bird feeders because of severe squirrel problems. Don’t get me wrong, we have a beautiful property, with many flowering gardens and very tall trees, but as someone who had a squirrel take up residence in my condo for a few days last fall, I’m quite happy to live with the rules (especially since my beloved cat didn’t engage with the squirrel).

                Liked by 1 person

                • You live in a condo? Say no more. In grad school, I shared a house with another young lady in a neighbourhood w/ an HOA. Completely understand how strict those kind of associations/boards are with their residents. But it was a beautiful, quiet community, so I guess it was a trade-off.

                  At least they’ve carved out a little bit of nature for you and the other condo residents with the nice flowers and trees. Coincidentally, one of the books I’m reading now is like an ode to gardening and the beauty of nature. Quite humourous too. It’s called Elizabeth and Her German Garden written by Elizabeth von Arnim.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Both my parents and most of siblings were very into gardening, and I thought this was a gene I somehow missed, although most of them were more into flowers than vegetables. As someone with major allergies, I would be much more interested in growing food than flowers.

                    Liked by 1 person

        • Kat, I too spent time in the meat industry. It was a local butcher shop rather than a factory plant and even there I knew how the animals were put down. Its a hard thing to reconcile with your view of yourself as a person if you are on the big door side of the shop.

          I totally sympathize with your thoughts on your father.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, gl, when I was a small child, my mother always shopped in a neighborhood grocery where we knew the owner well, along with the butcher, Lefty. I loved going to that store with my mom every day, where she was shopping for eight of us. Of course, the owner of the store forever endeared himself to me by giving me a Richie Ashburn baseball card!

            Liked by 2 people

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