Half the Sky Documentary Reviewed

Did you watch the Half the Sky documentary on PBS? What did you think?

I wrote up some of my thoughts about the film at Muslimah Media Watch. In a nutshell: the inclusion of celebrities in the documentary was  incredibly disappointing for me. 

We’ve discussed some of the issues surrounding celebrification of causes and the challenges of addressing global issues from differing cross-cultural perspectives in some of our past reads, especially in Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatural Selection. While reading articles for my MMW review of Half the Sky, I came across one by Teju Cole, “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” from earlier this year. Cole is a novelist, and here he responds to some of the feedback he received for his criticism of the 2012 Kony youtube video, and more broadly, about the problematic narratives Westerners construct as they “help” others:

there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local.

That’s what I’ve been mulling over since watching the film on PBS (while I canned tomatoes! B. Kingsolver would be proud). 


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Poet Mary Oliver Shares Her Musings from “A Thousand Mornings”

A very happy Monday, gentle readers. 

I’d like to take a moment and share a tranquil and enjoyable NPR story about Mary Oliver’s new collection of poetry, A Thousand Mornings.

In the interview, Oliver reflects on her disciplined morning routine and her expressions of a wildly changing world through verse. Admittedly, there is a part of me that wishes I would adopt a similar way of starting the day and approaching the outside world with a fresh perspective. And, of course, anyone who can incorporate napping cats into verse catches my attention.

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New York Times Reports on Drop in Life Expectancy for Less Educated Whites

Though this is a news story from a few weeks ago, I thought it may be worthwhile mentioning on Broad Street Book Nerds.

It’s a rather unexpected outcome of recent research, but in late September, the New York Times reported on a considerable drop in life expectancy among white Americans with less education between 1980 and 2008.

Within the field, I imagine many epidemiologists expected we would start to see declines in life expectancy because of obesity and the rise in related chronic conditions, but it’s interesting that it has shown up in Caucasians, who are often the reference groups for epidemiologic research.

It’s important to note, however, that these outcomes are in a shrinking group of Americans and represent a widening gap in health outcomes among all whites.

It’s certainly food for thought as our book club reads Polio: An American Story by David Oshinsky, a work that touches on the perceptions in the 1930s and 1940s that certain infections targeted wealthier and more affluent white populations in America.

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Alice Walker offers essential young activist reading list

Spelman College, long known for its history as a cultural center for Black arts in America, recently hosted author Alice Walker at the Women’s Research and Resource Center.

The center, founded in 1981, focuses on women and children in social resistance movements throughout the African diaspora.

During her lecture, Walker offered solid advice for aspiring community activists:

You can only follow your own intuition and your own heart. There is plenty of work for everyone, but it starts within the self. If you just listen to what it is you have to give, what you believe in and what you love, the direction will come from you…

Walker also cited the following works as an essential reading list for young community members. Perhaps we can incorporate one or more in the Broad Street Book Nerds reading list in the coming months?

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Cornell West
AIDS, Opium, Diamonds and Empire by Nancy Turner Banks

I wish everyone a happy and healthy weekend (albeit chilly) as we venture into a new season!

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Prepping for Polio & Remembering Half the Sky

I apologize, right off the bat, for the lack of integrated links in this post…It’s time to buy a new computer that can do new-fangled things like that, I guess.  *sigh*

As we get set to tackle Polio: An American Story as our next selection, let me offer a recent news story that gives a quick update on the state of worldwide polio eradication efforts from the Associated Press. (Link: http://tinyurl.com/99h9lme)

Also, one of our past selections, Half the Sky, is being aired as a two-part documentary on PBS this week.  In the Twin Cities, the air times on tpt2 are:

Episode 1 – Monday, 10/1 from 8-10pm OR 10/2 from 2-4am

Episode 2 – Tuesday, 10/2 from 8-10pm OR 10/3 from 2-4am

If previous features from the “Independent Lens” series are any indication, then I would guess that the special will also appear on their website (Link: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/half-the-sky/) after the initial airings are completed.

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Liar’s Club Discussion 9/14

Hello all Broad Street Book Nerds!

I know it’s been a while since we connected, so I hope everyone has had an enjoyable summer working on gardening and canned goods (after our rousing discussions about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on June 29).

Our next book club meeting will be this Friday, September 14 at 7pm at Jared’s apartment (e-mail shenkje@gmail.com for directions and details). Please feel free to bring a snack to share and some engaging discussion about our current selection, The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr.

Since we’re delving into memoirs this time around, I thought I’d share an interesting link to a Slate post about the complex question: How do the individuals mentioned in memoirs feel about their roles in publication?

I look forward to pondering this question, along with several others, when we all meet on Friday evening!

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Discussion 6/29/12!

Hello, Broad Street Book Nerds!

It’s been a busy couple months as we’ve flown into summer and all of the outdoor time involved here in Minnesota. And what better time to discuss Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” right?!

This book is so popular that it has its own website! Feel free to check it out before our next book club meeting:

Friday, June 29, 7pm, Jared’s place (e-mail shenkje@gmail.com for directions)

We look forward to seeing you all there! Have a pleasant week!

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