The Top 10 Books for our current Dystopia

The world’s gone a little crazy recently. I’d say especially in America, but I know we’re not the only ones having issues. I was talking with a friend and we were talking about books that we recommend, even though we may not be fans of them. And we realized that they were an essential handbook for the dystopia we see looming. So, we think you should read them too. Even if you don’t like them, they’re important.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
    1. In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?
  2. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    1. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
  3. 1984 – George Orwell
    1. A masterpiece of rebellion and imprisonment, where war is peace, freedom is slavery, and Big Brother is watching…
  4. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
    1. Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    1. The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it.
  6. Night – Elie Wiesel
    1. Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her?
  7. Native Son – Richard Wright
    1. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.
  8. The Giver – Lois Lowry
    1. Lowry’s unforgettable tale introduces 12-year-old Jonas, who is singled out by his community to be trained by The Giver.
  9. A Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
    1. A darkly satiric vision of a “utopian” future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order.
  10. All the President’s Men – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
    1. The most devastating political detective story of the century: the inside account of the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal.

Find all of the books here on this Powell’s Bookshelf.

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Will Allen and Growing Power

Zak Suhar of Juicebox has an excellent bio on Will Allen. He’s an urban farmer in Milwaukee, who’s trying to bring local food and training to his community. Three cheers. Now, go read!

Will Allen grew up on a small vegetable farm with his family in Maryland, and had a promising basketball career due to his 6’ 7” body frame. Fifteen years ago he made a drastic career change however, and became a farmer in a low-income area of Milwaukee, creating a place called Growing Power. The farm is located in an area that has little access to high quality and varieties of food, because of the poverty and unstable neighborhoods. The mission of Growing Power is a national organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. The farm strives to build sustainable food systems that create a just world, one community at a time.

I’m An Anonymous Woman Gamer

I’m An Anonymous Woman Gamer

“The first rule is: try to avoid pronouns.” A tall order, especially when it comes to the basic act of writing. And taller still given that Brittany (whose full name and publication she wishes to remain anonymous) has worked in editorial media for several years. “I mean, of course you end up using them. But if it’s on Reddit or The Guardian online-anything with comments or feedback-it’s the same: you’re going to get shit if readers figure out you’re female.”

Since the internet’s explosion into the mainstream, the idea of harassment has been thrown into the same semantic cyber-danger pot as “chatroom predators,” “identity theft,” and “Craigslist personals”. But as online experiences which have long been solitary become increasingly community-based, receiving abuse via interactive technology has become, it would seem, a given-and widely-absorbed into women’s online routines.

This most excellent post discusses the fact that most gaming spaces are not safe for women gamers. In fact most social media sites aren’t particularly safe for women. It’s a sad fact of life, but it’s not right and it’s not something that should be ignored.

I turn off chat functions as soon as I enter spaces. After too many “will you be my GF?” and less … appropriate comments, I got sick of it and just avoid it. I shouldn’t need to do that. I also shouldn’t have to play with a male avatar to avoid these things either.

It’s hard enough to make good connections via the web. It’s even harder when you’re subject to harassment simply for being female.

Excellent Essay: Why I Am A Male Feminist

This is probably one of the best written explorations of feminism that I’ve read. Not only that, the author is also African-American and shines a light on the way race and gender both affect the wider society.

I respect his ability to over-come his own internalized blocks and reach out to the younger men in his community to reduce violence.

Go read it. Now. (The Root)

I stand with Planned Parenthood

If you’ve not figured it out by now… I’m a bit liberal. *grins*

I believe that a woman has a right to choose.

But that is *not* why I’m standing with Planned Parenthood. I’m standing with them because I believe that all women, regardless of race, age, or poverty level deserve a place where they can receive birth control, health screenings, and education. Planned Parenthood provides these services in an effective manner.

I find the current attack on them to be unconscionable.

Silence is the Enemy

It’s not often that I participate in memes, but this one is important.

I’ll let the founder of it, Sheril Kirschenbaum speak first:

Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away.Why? Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help. We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them. I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

In regions where fighting has formally ended, rape continues to be used as a weapon. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote from West Africa, ‘it has been easier to get men to relinquish their guns than their sense of sexual entitlement.’ The war has shattered norms, training some men to think that ‘when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl.’ An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way over the previous 18 months. Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under. We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls. Together we can do more. Mass rape persists because of inertia so let’s create momentum.

Here is the blogger coalition site.

There have been a multitude of other posts, each with their own focus and voice. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been said, so I’ll highlight a few of the most interesting ones:

Greg Laden has an interesting post:

In a culture like the one described above, where rape of women by men is “normal” and “typical” and “happens all the time” one can certainly feel badly for the women, but can you, should you, actually intervene?

My own answer to the question is substantially different from that of the person who first told the story I relate above. The answer is: “You are asking a stupid question in a stupid way, and need to step back and think about what you are saying.”

Rape may well be a “normal” and “day to day” occurrence in this culture, simply by virtue of the fact (= tautology) that it happens all the time. But there are two reasons why one should not fail to intervene.

Tara Smith talks about the difference of rape in wartime and rape in peace and why we don’t talk about either.

Scicurious talks about feminism and rape.

Martin R. asks What is Wrong with those Men?

Jessica Palmer after providing some good resources says:

Can we change what is happening in Africa? I don’t know, but I do know that the internet is a pretty powerful tool for mobilizing a community of caring individuals. Think about your own loved ones who have been the victims of sexual violence (statistics indicate that most of us know a victim of rape or sexual abuse) and then imagine if the pain they went through were routine, even expected. Imagine that women in your country could not run daily errands without risking being raped. That prepubescent children were commonly raped multiple times, including by their schoolteachers. That the police charged with keeping order were themselves perpetrators of sexual violence. It’s hard to imagine, but I wish it were even harder – I wish it were unimaginable. Let’s do our best to make it so.

Janet D. Stemwedel is not giving up on making a difference

Zuska offers her perspective:

I was assaulted by someone I know. I would not call him a monster, though what he did is monstrous. Calling perpetrators of sexual assault monsters makes it seem like somehow we can cut them out of a crowd, easily identify them somehow, know them as in some way different from the more general group of average men. Yet this is not the case. The next time you are in a crowd, look around you. Can you tell who, in that crowd, are the men who have molested their daughters or sisters or cousins or nieces? Of course you can’t. They look like every other man. They come from every walk of life, every social class, every type of occupation.

Sciencewoman provides some concrete activities to help:

+ Call your congressperson. Congresspeople, in fact. Look up their contact information here. Tell them you have been compelled to contact them to find out what they can do to stop sexual violence against women and children in all forms, and abroad as well as in this country.

+ Donate money (or time, if you have the skills) to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders). They provide medical care to the children and women Kristof reported on, and to countless other women and children in war-torn countries across the world.

+ Donate money or time to your local women’s shelter or to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline ’cause as much as we want to think this is a furrin problem, it ain’t (although perhaps it’s not so grevious here).

+Spread the word about this blog effort – through telling your own stories to friends and family, or through getting involved in your community shelter projects.

+Join in (with your own story, or not) on your own blog. A bunch of bloggers far more eloquent than me (updated list here) are donating any blog traffic money collected in June to MSF, and more traffic means more donations. We’ll be joining in, although details are still fuzzy (as we really don’t make enough to make our traffic donation worth while – so need to figure out a multiplication factor) – I’ll post an update with the final plan. In the meantime, visit the list and read their posts on this topic, or look for their tweets with hashtag #silencehurts .

You can join the Facebook group.

Donate to Doctors without Borders.

And now, I’ll offer my voice to this.

One of my friends was raped. Her own father said she deserved it. Let me state firmly for the record: NO woman asks to be raped.

I have worked with women who turned to drugs and alcohol to cover the pain of sexual abuse.

Rape is by it’s very definition non-consenutal. It is not about sex, it is about power. And no child should ever have her own family turn thier back on her because of something out of her control. Rape is evil, insidious, dehumaizing, and scarring.

I never want another 3AM phone call from a friend in tears. You can help.

I urge you with every fiber of my being, do something. Even if it’s just spreading the word in your own blog.

Subject: ESCR under attack – CONTACT NIH TODAY!!!

I’ve gone and commented. I support stem-cell research. I think it is valuable and necessary for the development of some incredible medical technology, including the alieviation of certain types of blindness, the possibility of curing certain froms of parapalegia, and the key to Alzhiemer’s and other diseases.

That’s what I think. What do you think? Go and comment. The new guidelines are in draft form at the NIH

Forwarded message from Don Reed, national stem cell research advocate–

Dear Stem Cell Research Advocate:

The next 8 days are crucial in the stem cell research struggle.

Here’s why.

Remember when President Obama signed that document removing the Bush stem
cell restrictions? That same day he called upon the National Institutes of
Health to draft a new set of guidelines for scientists wanting federal
funding.

Those guidelines have just been issued. see
http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy/2009draft.htm

The next 14 days are the comment period for the new guidelines for stem cell
research, which American scientists will have to live with if they want
federal funding. This is the public’s only chance to shape those guidelines:
which can be improved-or made worse.

Unfortunately, there are problems with the proposed guidelines!

Not only are the guidelines far more conservative than we had hoped, but
opponents of the research are systematically flooding the comment process.

Conservative religious bodies, have launched a national campaign to attack early stem cell research by mass emails to the NIH.

*”The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a new
“Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research” campaign today, equipping citizens
to contact Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to oppose
embryonic stem cell research .” — WASHINGTON, May 6
/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ http://www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign

Is their anti-research campaign having an effect?

Dr. Wise Young of Rutgers University , “. of the 6000 plus comments that NIH
has received concerning the draft guidelines, 99% were from people who
opposed embryonic stem cell research.”-Carecure Forum
http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/showpost.php?p=1039001&postcount=12

Imagine what the enemies of research will do with a statistic like that!
Think of the State Senators and Representatives who have to fight for stem
cell funding-they will be hammered-no politician ever wants to stand alone.

Supporters of stem cell research must be heard.

To prevail, we need to do three things:

Inform ourselves,

Act individually,

Reach out to our networks

.
First, read this message all the way through; it contains background
information from the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research
(CAMR), and other sources.

Second, send your message to the government. Click on the comment box you
will find at the following url:
http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm

Third, SHARE THIS LETTER-or write your own– email all your contacts.

Any statement of support has impact. One sentence can make a difference.

Click on the following to contact National Institutes of Health:

http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm

Your comment can be as short as “I support embryonic stem cell research, and am glad some of the restrictions are being loosened.” That matters.

Anyone who clicks on the comment box, and writes in a sentence-that message
will be tallied as one citizen in support. Of course, you may say more if
you want. If you are a long-term research supporter, your letter will be put
in the expert witness category.

But if you want to get more involved in shaping the guidelines, that would be
helpful. The guidelines are politically very timid, and must be
strengthened. Problems are:

a “grandfather clause” is needed to insure that every stem cell line already
approved under the previous stringent guidelines will be eligible;

alternate sources of stem cell lines such as SCNT should not be excluded from funding, and more. (see CAMR comments below.)

But every patient advocate in America must at least click on the comment
box, and make a statement in support of early stem cell research.

Click on the following to contact National Institutes of Health:

http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm

This affects everyone in America, and the world. MORE THAN ONE PERSON IN A
FAMILY MAY COMMENT. Every adult friend or family member should click and
make a comment– as well as every scientist, medical student, every teacher,
every parent-everyone who has a reason to want stem cell therapies and
cures.

Here it is, one more time: http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm.

Or, send a letter (ideally on letterhead) to: NIH Stem Cell Guidelines, MSC
7997, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda , Maryland , 20892-7997

But whatever you are going to do, do it now. There is very little time
before the May 26th deadline.

We have worked hard, many years. We are so close. We must not falter now.

Click on the button, send your comments in-do it today, please.

And thanks. You make the difference: you are one of the overworked few who
change the world.

P.S. Here is a sample letter from Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR)

You can copy and paste into Comment section of NIH comment form and edit as appropriate for you.

Embryonic stem cell research holds great promise for millions of Americans
suffering from many diseases and disorders. I am not a scientist, but I
have been following progress in this field with great interest. Significant
strides have been made over the past decade, and the final guidelines issued
by NIH must build on this progress so that cures and new therapies can get
to patients as quickly as possible. The final guidelines should not create
new bureaucratic hurdles that will slow the pace of progress.

I am pleased that these draft guidelines — in Section II B — would appear
to permit federal funding of stem cell lines previously not eligible for
federal funding and for new lines created in the future from surplus embryos
at fertility clinics. However, as drafted, Section II B does not ensure that
any current stem cell line will meet the criteria outlined and thus be
eligible for federal funding. It will be important for the final guidelines
to allow federal funds for research using all stem cell lines created by
following ethical practices at the time they were derived. This will ensure
that the final guidelines build on progress that has already been made.

I also believe that the final guidelines should permit federal funding for
stem cell lines derived from sources other than excess IVF embryos, such as
somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Sections II B and IV of the draft
guidelines do not permit such federal funding and I recommend that the final
guidelines provide federal funding using stem cell lines derived in other
ways. If not, it is essential that the NIH continue to monitor developments
in this exciting research area and to update these guidelines as the
research progresses.

Thank you!